Sunday, April 30, 2017

Weekend Drawing

I was free this weekend so on Friday, I was trying to figure out what would be the most fulfilling things I could do, that could help to refuel me. Interestingly this was a harder question that I thought. I realized I actually find myself hungry for more in life and I need to shake things up a little. If I ask myself that same question I posed to you guys months ago- what do you discuss and who do you discuss it with, I have to reflect and say a lot of my relationships are still based on conversations about maya only. Am I spending time with people who inspire and challenge me, who will be there for me when I need them? Can I actually be honest in these friendships in sharing both what is important to me and equally what I am struggling with and afraid of? These are important questions to ask and re-evaluate every once in a while. So many times I have been challenged by the desire to be accepted and want other people’s approval instead of expressing myself for who I am. It leads you down the path of hiding yourself for the convenience of other people. I used to try hard to correct the conclusions people jump to, and their misinterpretations, and eventually I realized that no matter what you do, people kind of just frame things the way they want and it has nothing to do with you. It took me a long time to be able to put I into practice, but I finally have gotten to the point of just knowing who I am and what I need. So one of the things I did was I drew this picture last night. When I am insecure, I look at the Kaur inside me and ask if she needs approval from someone and it reminds me that I answer to God only, not other people. It reminds me not to change just for other people’s approval. I invested most of my time this weekend meditating on God because this is the one thing I am certain about. I have no doubt that spending a moment in remembrance of God is a good use of my time and the one most important relationship that really deserves more attention. After this weekend, I am feeling thankful and looking forward to God’s direction in finding what I need next. Sometimes the most important companions in life are met unexpectedly. Sometimes life requires patience, sometimes we need to take a leap of faith and go outside our comfort zone. 

Celebrating Accomplishments

One of my friends shared this article about Harnarayan Singh, the first Sikh to broadcast an NHL game in English, and I thought I would pass it along. It is really inspiring to read his story, starting with the hard work it took his parents to build a life in Canada, and the things that he had to overcome himself. It’s a proud moment for the Sikh community. 

For more background on Harnarayan Singh’s journey:

Friday, April 28, 2017

Sikh = Learner

The most fundamental aspect of Sikhism is learning. To be a Sikh is to be a learner. When I was going to bed last night, thinking about how tired I am of writing exams, I actually realized how much I love to learn. Don’t get me wrong- I’m dying to be done school, but I realized that I am quite passionate about learning and teaching in my free time. For example I enjoy reading books and talking to other people about what I learned, or sitting down with my parents every night to talk about the great and challenging things I experienced and to hear about the katha my mom heard on tv, etc.  When something horrible happens and I call or text someone about it to debrief, I am getting ideas and learning how to manage it better next time. I hear about how people got to where they are today. I guess I just never really realized that all of these things, that have been so much a part of my daily life, are just another form of learning. So much of our learning is informal and even just our mind absorbing what is subtle.

There is a lot of prestige that comes with formal education. Formal education certainly does give us a lot, which is why I always encourage my friends graduating from high school to get a degree. It’s not only practical, but also important for our development. I think, though, that by attaching status to formal education, we underestimate the value of the education we get from simply seeking our own learning. My schooling has given me the opportunity to do the sewa and to make money so I can feed my family, but that’s temporary. There is a big limitation to what that type of education can give me because it can’t come with me when I die. If I don’t pursue my own learning into the meaning of life, how to reach God, and continue to learn, then I will have defeated the purpose of everything. What use is my multiple-choice exam on internal medicine if I don’t pass the test of life? So I think it’s important to remember really how important our regular, daily learning is. If I compare simply the education I have done versus someone that has merged with Waheguru, they have done a million fold more work in being able to stop their thoughts and connect with God. It takes dedication and passion.

Lastly, just like we have thousands of opportunities to learn, we have thousands to teach and share what we learn. I would encourage each of you to use those opportunities because our relationships in this world (friendships, family) are for learning, teaching and growing. It's so important to spend time with people who challenge you to grow and to become a better version of yourself. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pictures from Surrey Nagar Kirtan

I had a chance to make a day trip to Surrey to participate in the Nagar Kirtan. There was an estimated 400,000 people in attendance. It was really great to be in sangat singing shabads together and remembering the history about the creation of the Khalsa. Here are some pictures:

Friday, April 21, 2017


It’s Sikh heritage month and I saw a post on facebook about the story of our Minister of National Defense, Harjit Sajjan. When he was younger he was friends with a gangster and subsequently turned his life around, became baptized, joined the Vancouver Police department and then served in the Canadian Forces (1). It was inspiring to read about the work he has done. It also made me think about the image of perfection, and what we expect from other people. Maybe some people would label his past as a skeleton in his closet, but he is quite open about how it has actually shaped him. Without his background from when he was younger, maybe he would not be as passionate today about speaking to youth about staying away from gang life.

There’s a lot of effort that we spent towards building the perfect image and reputation. A large part of that goes into not appearing to have any difficulties and coasting easily through life. Somehow you have to be successful without the hardship. I think it is unrealistic for us to put people on pedestals and not expect them to make mistakes. It is unrealistic to expect people not to have weaknesses, and insecurities. It’s simply being human.

When we look past “perfect” and actually get to know people, their stories are amazing. I think in this sense of striving to look perfect, we lose real opportunities to connect with people and we lose authenticity. Yesterday I had this really great conversation with a pharmacist and we were talking about the culture of medicine. I’ve talked about medicine many times with colleagues but it usually ends up with people just piling on complaints and it’s a negative space. Instead, he listened, then asked questions and really tried to understand what it was like in my shoes, and shared his own experiences about his training. Instead of being a list of complaints, this was a meaningful conversation about how our experiences shape us, how we learn from what doesn’t work and how we change things for the future. I think the key to that whole conversation was that instead of pretending his job was perfect and he enjoyed every minute of his training, he was honest, and I did the same. We can accomplish something far more important when we actually just relate our experiences. After all, isolation and feeling like you are alone in your experiences is quite possibly one of the worst things we can do to a person and connection does the opposite of that. I think in general, the people in our life that don’t judge us when we are honest about our struggles and mistakes, and that support us in our growth and learning are the ones to keep close. In order to do that of course, we have to be willing to let go of our desired image. It’s different when you say “of course I understand Gurbani” and you don’t, versus saying “I have a hard time understanding Gurbani” and working on it together. I know I’d much rather be in the second situation of having that opportunity to work on it rather than just pretending but we have to be willing to actually be seen. I’ve learned the hard way that not everyone has the ability to learn to put themselves in your shoes, or relate, and some people simply don’t even care, but every once we meet someone who reminds us of how important it is to let go of showing people what we think we are supposed to be, and be willing to share and be seen for who we are. In each interaction we also have the opportunity to also sit as the listener, let go of judgement, and place ourselves in someone else's shoes and try to understand and relate our own experiences as well. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Practice Sitting, Practice Listening, Practice Living

When I went to the Gurdwara on Friday, my mind was full of thoughts. I have to admit I can sit for quite a while to listen to kirtan, or katha, but I usually have a harder time sitting to listen to the Akhand paath because my mind wanders too much. Aunty Ji was reading very clearly and slowly, in a loving soothing voice and I found myself just settling in over time. At first my mind was bouncing around, and I kept opening my eyes. I kept thinking about how I was wearing my pants from work, and how uncomfortable it was, but each time I closed my eyes again and just listened. Over and over, the mind bounced around but eventually, it stopped and I let go of the world and I absorbed. Surprisingly it didn’t take long to settle but when we are anxious it feels like forever. I think this is what holds us back so often- we invest a couple of minutes and if we can’t get our mind to calm down, we stop doing our Simran, stop listening to the Bani and give up. All it would have taken was a few more minutes maybe and we would have let go of our anxiety.

It is such a gift to have the opportunity to be able to sit and listen to Gurbani. There is the step that brings us to the Gurdwara, then to sit in the main Darbar so we can hear the Gurbani, then to actually not just hear but to listen. To listen the mind needs to focus. Then from listening comes understanding and incorporating into our lives. Although I am not yet at the stage where I can understand Gurbani without reading the translations, I am able to recognize shabads I usually sing and remember a little bit about the meanings when they are being read and I think the more we read and listen, the easier it gets. For example we memorize 6 pauri Anand Sahib just by hearing it every time before the Ardas. One of the doctors I worked with this week said “if you try, you have a 1 to 100% chance of succeeding. If you don’t try, you have a 0% chance of succeeding.” I thought that was a very powerful message for life- it’s always worth trying. I managed to sit for an hour and by the end I felt like this had been probably the most meaningful thing I’ve done this week and I felt blessed to have spent this weekend sitting in Sangat and remembering Waheguru. May Waheguru continue to bless us with these opportunities, and may we continue to practice, continue to try, and continue to make efforts to meet Waheguru. In all of our actions may we continually practice living by the principles of Sikhi. Just look at your own life and see how much practicing has brought you- where you are now versus where you were a few months or years ago. Just from listening to Gurbani we get thousands of benefits. Don't underestimate that power.