Wednesday, December 13, 2017

December Reflections

It’s December, so I have started to reflect on everything I have learned and shared on the blog this year. It was a year full of interesting challenges and adventures. I got to do lots of travelling, visited Gurdwaras across Canada, and attended the Sarab Rog Ka Aukhad Naam Camp again. Most of all, I am grateful for the time I got to spend at home and at our local Gurdwara. By sanjog, I met many Gyani Jis in the last few months that taught me the power of praying together, of sangat, and of chardi kala. 

Over these last two years, I realize now how transformative my spiritual awakening was. I spend a lot of my free time looking within myself. I went from not understanding kathas, to voluntarily listening to them and sharing what I learned. I went from not having a set spiritual routine, to doing prayers, Ardas and reading a Hukamnama each day because I now understand this is how we speak to Guru Ji and how Guru Ji guides us. I went from rarely picking up a Punjabi book to reading long books to my family about how to reach the temple of the mind (Sunn). From being shy about talking about religion, I now share what I have learned passionately with others. I started seeking out our history to hear about the resilience, strength, bravery, and role models that lived what we teach in Gurbani. My journey shows that we all have the capacity to transform, shape ourselves, to grow and to heal.

I wrote a lot of posts about the Laavan/Anand Karaj this year, which talked about the mind’s journey to its marriage with Waheguru, as well as physical marriage of two individuals. The first laav told us about making the Guru center of our married life and making efforts to do Naam Japna; the second told us about being truthful and authentic; the third told us about filling the mind with love for God; and the fourth showed us how to surrender and merge with Waheguru. It really solidified what marriage means in Sikhi. I was inspired to read about the marriage of Bibi Bhani to Guru Ramdas Ji because they did sewa together, raised their children together, prayed together, and remind us to put God first. The Laavan also shaped my understanding of where I am in my journey and reminded me of how my relationship with God influences all others and needs time and attention. 

Sometimes I look back at what I have written in the past, I wince a little (did I really write that?) but I also think about how far I have come in my learning and ways of thinking. Working on my spirituality this year has given me more love and understanding than ever before. I criticize and judge less, and have more empathy and forgiveness. For example, I used to get really angry about unsolicited advice from “Aunties” and “Uncles” because I felt they were interfering, but I remember one of my friends said this was a way for people to start conversations and connect with us. When I started listening, I realized the useful wisdom they are passing on from their life experience. Changing my thinking allowed me to have space to listen and engage without being defensive.

Spending time learning about shame has really allowed me to learn about how unrealistic gender expectations drive anger, criticism, shutting down/disengaging, or people-pleasing. It helped me to realize the value in recognizing that we don’t have to be defined in boxes of “independent woman” or “traditional woman”, because we are taking away individuality. Empowerment is about women their own choices, whatever they may be. Having read about men’s experiences, and heard them in real life, I started to understand how this also needs a conversation to shape our society’s future. It is only last year that I fully understood how our culture and male privilege shapes how South Asian women think of ourselves. I wanted to give that topic attention because we don’t talk about it, it changed how I understood myself, and it helps to understand what changes need to be made to shift the situation. These last few months I suddenly also realize we need a conversation about the shame and expectations that men face, and the box that we put them in as well. I deconstructed a lot of my own beliefs and started to understand how to hold space for that vulnerability, change my thinking, and commit to doing better. I wasn’t ready to listen before but I am now. It helps to see we’re all in it together and need to commit to supporting each other through our struggles. 

Spiritual knowledge helped to teach me that kaam, krodh, lob, moh and hankaar fuel the thoughts that create our conflicts, and that I needed to let my mind sit in a neutral space to solve problems and work together towards a solution. I learned from Brene Brown's work that our minds often make up their own stories based off of our own insecurities and fears (which she calls our "shame gremlins"). This is the same idea- that maya feeds our minds with these stories that aren't true. For example, someone doesn't say "hi, how are you" and you think "he's mad", or "she avoiding me." In reality, it may have nothing to do with the stories we make up. Instead of exaggerating minor interactions, this has caused me to stop and think "am I making up a story? should I check-in with this person and see what's happening?" It really helps to do that in order to connect with others and maintain healthy friendships. 

The beautiful thing about learning about shame is I learned about vulnerability and I learned about how to be open. I didn’t realize how far I had come until last week. When the Gyanis came over to our house, they talked about how my gift of singing and art was a talent given by God. At that time, I remembered being 12 and we were all painting a projected image onto a giant poster. Even though we were tracing, my teacher took this time to tell me that my art was bad and I had no talent. My singing was apparently no good either. For the longest time, I just felt that the things that gave me joy were things that I was “not good enough” at. I continued to do art and kirtan, but I struggled with my insecurity. Last year I started singing kirtan at the Gurdwara every Wednesday in the summer, and now every Sunday. I would sit on the stage and sit on random days for long periods of time. I started a Youtube channel, I started posting my paintings on facebook and this blog. It was vulnerable to share the things that I was most insecure about, but they were also the things that gave me the most joy. So suddenly to go from being called “not enough” to being told by these world-famous singers that I had talent, made me realize that I’m so glad I was courageous and shared my art and sang kirtan, or I would never have known. If I hid in the fear that I was not good enough, they wouldn’t have seen my art or heard my voice. So I learned a lot about the overcoming my fears, letting myself be seen, and going for what I want even if it doesn’t always work out.

I am so grateful to get to share my experiences and knowledge of Sikhi, and I hope all of you are learning along with me. May God bless us with opportunities to grow together and may we work towards reaching our goal of being “Jeevan Mukht” in this life! Let us cleanse our mind of durmat mehl by listening to katha, kirtan, and doing Simran. All other work will happen, by our destiny may we meet together in sangat and fulfill our purpose. 

"Bhae Parapat Manukh Dehuriya, Gobind Milan Ki Eh Teri Bariya": This human body has been given to you. This is your chance to meet the Lord of the Universe (Ang 12). 

1 comment:

  1. Wow

    Someone wanted to do Masters Thesis, was denied, but wrote about his thoughts anyway

    THE Shapes of Stories of our lives
    A kurt vonnegut infographic

    My take on visually presenting Kurt Vonnegut’s theories about archetypal stories, designed after researching the subject.

    It’s really exciting for me to see this piece spread through the web, podcasts, and social media. Thanks to its viral reach it has also been featured in many books and learning materials.