Sunday, October 10, 2010

killing bugs

      This is a topic I've been meaning to blog about for about six months, since I moved into my new place.  My room is in the basement--its nice, fully finished, half bath, some windows.  Its just that bugs from the outside can somewhat easily come in--and being in the basement, I've had a bunch of visitors, mainly in the arachnid and blattaria families.  At first I felt bad killing these bugs--they were more plentiful in the spring with the change of seasons.  I became a ruthless bug killer.  I do always say a little prayer when I kill them, and pray that they skip many lifetimes and come back as a cute puppy!

      But still, with SO much bug killing, I can't help but feel a little bad.  These little spiders are kind of cute, and like to build webs in this one corner of my bathroom.  I let one chill for a while until the web had expanded and I got caught in it.  Sometimes its easy to catch them and take them outside.  Other times its a show-down, especially with those fast silverfish, and I usually win with a definitive "sat nam!"(which I say when I kill them).

    So my sister, who is in school for wildlife ecology (I think?) is taking a bug class, and since its starting to get cold in upstate NY, she asked me if I could kill and collect some bugs for her.   Funny she should ask, right?  She explained the method of execution---catch them in a net, put them in the "kill jar".  A kill jar consists of a jar with a lid, with a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover to asphyxiate the insect.  Then I move the bug to another jar with ethyl alcohol to keep it fresh.   How many bugs does she want me to kill---oh about 20, if I can, she said.  I got my first catch this weekend---it was an injured silverfish, so it was pretty easy to lure into my jar of death.  It feels slightly more cruel to let it die a noxious death rather than just smash it.  But being a good sister, I will comply and pray for many fortuitous future lifetimes for the victims.

    Ahhhh, Sat nam, sat siri akal, my little crawly friends.....

Monday, May 17, 2010

bring it with you

I've been going though a rebellious period the past few weeks.  Staying up late reading, doing a skimpy sadhana, eating some fish,---the byproduct has been me growing increasingly angry and frustrated....with myself.   The more I purposefully do things to throw my yogi-ness out of balance, the more I KNOW what I want to be doing.  Beneath the rebellion lies the truth--the anger at myself for not doing what deep down I know I want to be doing.  But since I have something holding me back, my soul goes "ok, we'll change some other stuff around to stir up that inner fire to get you moving".  So there you have it, a coup d'etat in my own mind!

Today I was alternating between states of sudden exhaustion and enraged frustration at work.  So when I got home, I decided to take a nice walk in the rain.  It was 'Seattle-ing', spraying down a delicate veil of mist (reminded me of Ireland..ahh...).  I was chanting and starting to feel better when I got the urge to walk in the direction of this one shop, even though I knew it was closed on Mondays.  I found myself at one of the small parks neighboring the Potomac here in Old town.  This one was very small, and on the left there was a row of closely packed trees whose branches made a lovely canopy.  I went to stand under them and looked up at the ceiling of green, shading me from the falling mist-turned-drizzle.  I don't know what moved me to do so, but I put both of my hands on the trunk of the tree and just stood there, feeling the presence of the tree and how it affected me. 

I've always felt very protected and calm in the presence of trees.  As a child, I was always outside in the summer, climbing trees and making tree-forts.  One of the best was in this huge pine tree in our backyard--my mother can attest to this, as every night she would make me take off all my sap-laden clothes on the deck, then instruct me to run inside to the bathtub and not touch anything on my way.  I could never quite scrub off all the sap and Mom would give up too since I'd just be out there again the next day!

I was transported back to a special memory that has always stood out.  It was a late summer evening, and I was sitting in a tree in our front yard.  I didn't know it at the time, but I was definitely meditating.  I remember feeling so peaceful, looking out on the yard and the neighbors' hourses, and I got a sense that all was well everywhere,  and there was nothing to worry about.  I realized that God was wherever I was and you could converse with God whenever you wanted.  And I found that experience of talking to him/her/it that night in the tree.  Then my mom called me in for dinner, and with a sad reluctance I climbed down.  Today when I was standing with this other tree in the rain, a voice told me to stay with that feeling, that moment where I had to climb out of my tree. When I left, I felt a profound loneliness to be separated from that place where I experienced God, that inner peace and contentment.   I was young, maybe 8 or so, and I had the feeling that someone needed to vindicate what I'd experienced, that it wasn't really real.  So I buried it externally, but internally I've always come back to it for peace and reassurance.

As this was processing in my mind, I felt tension disperse in my hips and legs and disperse into the ground, growing roots like the tree in front of me.  Trees give stability, safety, a presence always available for people to lean on or use for shelter.  I heard "bring the tree with you" - take that strong trunk, put it in your heart, and when you need to be reminded of peace or to feel grounded, lean on that within your being.   As a nice physical example of how to do this, a very loud horn from a ship not but 100 feet away let out a big ol' bone-jarring howl.  My body jumped and torso turned to look in the direction of the noise, while my hands and arms instinctively bored down against the tree for support.   I noticed that when this happened, the act of pressing with my hands into the tree kept my heart open.  Usually, with shocks to the nervous system like that, I feel a pressure and a tightening in my chest.  What a fun demonstration of the benefits to human-tree partnership!!

In our hearts, we can re-create whatever place that serves as our sanctuary and always be in there.  We don't have to leave it to go to dinner!  Eat dinner there! Sleep there!  Its a state of being and relating to things, rather than a physical place. 

...although its a beautiful blessing to have a place where the outer can reflect the inner, and for this, I am happy for trees :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Coming out

As I tied my turban today, I felt like I was going into battle.  I slicked my hair back neatly into my rishi knot, covered it up snugly with a spare chunni.  Curled my first turban layer, then the second snugly around my head...maybe a little too snug today.  Took my stretchy chunni, which I had soaked and washed in bleach last night, and wound my head its the final layer of whiteness, all while reciting "Gobinday, Mukanday, Udaaray, Apaaray, Hariung, Kariung, Nirnaamay, Akaamay". 

No, I wasn't about to go take up arms---I was going to sing a concert!  But this was my first professional concert where I was wearing my turban.  Having been wearing my turban most of the time for the last year, I had recently made the decision to wear it all the time---the only time I haven't been was when singing.  

I am constantly awestruck at how the universe puts things in your path to support you.  Driving to the church I started to get nervous again, and as I did, I passed a parked car with a humongous Adi Shakti decal in the rear window.  Then after the concert, I had a women come up to me and ask "Are you a 3HO Sikh?"  It turned out that this woman's daughter and grandchildren were in the dharma for a long time.  There were other interesting exchanges I had with some of the concert-goers, and felt very grateful to my turban.  Its interesting, because I think my turban actually helps me sing better-- emotionally, I feel protected and contained, and physically, it reminds me to keep my head up! 

Becoming a Sikh today is a different landscape than it was 40 years ago. It seems many of the 'first generation' of 3HO Sikhs experienced an "immersion conversion": living in an ashram, working in a yogi business, being with other sikh/yogis most of the time.  There just aren't those kind of opportunities now for people who are entering this path now.  Granted there are some, but for the most part,  this transformation happens in the context of our established lives.  Sometimes there's a sangat close by, sometimes the closest one is a 6 hr drive.  So what I've been thinking is...go out and make the sangat.   Interact with those that are in your life, do the things you have always been doing, and bring that light, confidence and spirit of the Guru to all situations.  Its not just Sikhs who have a monopoly on Khalsa--- I am frequently inspired and uplifted many Christians, Jews, Agnostics and Atheists on a daily basis.  My heart opens for the opportunity to connect and share with people from different backgrounds.  I have a hope for myself that living as a Sikh, singing and just being, I'll be able to bridge different worlds and live the truth that we are all one. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Becoming lighter

Last year I started playing around with tithing.  Tithing is the age-old practice of giving one-tenth of your income, usually to a religious instituition.  Its totally non-denominational and cross-cultural; tithing has history in Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism.  In some European countries like Germany and Sweden, you can opt for the government to automatically deduct a "church tax" from your overall taxes, and they will allocate the funds for you (  Most other religious and spiritual systems have a practice donation or alms-giving as well. 

Yogi Bhajan explained the concept of giving ten percent of your money just as he did sadhana, where you give ten percent of your time towards your spiritual development each day.  Then you are covered in that area-- the universe gets all happy you gave to it and then its happy to give back to you.  Its just like breathing----you have to empty your lungs before they can be filled.  Ok, so usually we empty more than one-tenth of our lungs, but you get the picture. 

Traditionally you give back to people or organizations that have helped you on your spiritual path, or to organizations that you support.  I've thought a lot about this exchange of energy.  So we earn money by working, effort turns into money.  That money becomes an extension of ourselves in a way-- first law of thermodynamics "Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only change forms"(flashback to high school physics...).   And how we use that money is a extension of our our personal conduct and represents in what we place our values. 

I was sitting in rehearsal last night thinking about this, and I was looking through the program for the concert tomorrow.  There are a LOT of people who donate to the Cathedral Choral Society.  I thought about how that money helps keeps Bach alive, keeps the office people employed, artistically and spiritually enriches the community and the people who come to the concerts, and pays the musicians and singers....oh that's me!  So these people I don't know at all are contributing to my livelihood.   And for me, the act of singing is spiritual therapy, and being able to give and share via my voice is a great service my soul needs to do.  So who's really giving and who's receiving? 

Last monday I didn't have to work (thank you mr. presidents!) and I took care of a lot of mundane things.  One thing I did was increase my month dasvandh donation (working up to one-tenth).  I got to thinking about all of last year--what would the amount be if I donated one-tenth of everything I earned last year?  Granted, I did donate some, but not that much.  Well, I was looking in the thousands of dollars region, and I couldn't do that in one big batch.  So I donated one-tenth of one-tenth, which was in the hundreds of dollars region.  The amazing thing is that after I hit the "complete" button on Paypal, I was giddy with excitement.  I literally felt lighter---it was the exact same feeling I had after I taught my first Kundalini yoga class.  I now recognize why--when we are given any amount of wealth, be it money, time, talent, wisdom, knowledge, we are required by nature to pay it forward.  As social creatures I believe we have an innate human need to share and express that joy with others.  If we don't, the joy of that event doesn't have an outlet for expression.  It becomes a burden and that heaviness leaves no room for new joys. 

Literally 30 minutes after I donated, I got an email from a friend and colleague about 2 singing opportunities in the coming months--each paying a total sum greater than the amount I just donated.  Is that awesome or what?  Not only did I help out a great organization with my donation, but I got more opportunities to give.  When I give through singing, its like a direct line from my soul to the universe, not using the money as a middle man.   Ahh, the lightness of being. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The kindness of neighbors

Did you know that its been snowing?  Well, if you where anywhere in the Mid-atlantic region in the past 5 days, you are keenly aware of this.  I've talked to more of my neighbors these past few days that in the 2.5 years I've lived in my current house.   There's nothing like a major weather event to bring a community together.  Firstly, there's about 1 snow shovel per 10 people, and Home Depot was not well stocked before the storm hit.  So we have to share.  With that, I've experienced a sense of community spirit and helpfulness that I never have before living in this area.  My parking spot is in the corner of the lot, so after the first 20 inch snowfall, the plow truck scooted all the snow directly in back of my car.  I knew this was a monumental task for me to do alone, but I just started in.  Quite amazingly, after an hour of shoveling, 2 neighbors came over to help when they were done with their spots.  Then 3 more came, so there were 6 of us removing this HUGE snowdrift from behind my car (also helping to free up the cars around mine).  It would have surely taken me alone 4 hours, but we did it in 2.  Then again today, after yesterday's snowfall, I went outside, inquiring about when a shovel would be free.  One guy asked which car was mine, which I pointed out to him.  I told him to knock on my door when the shovel was free, and he said "Ok, but maybe we'll just shovel it for you".  I surely thought he was kidding.  I went back out 2 hours later, and him and his friend had cleared out my car!  And I don't know which house they live in so I can't thank them personally, but I am so grateful for their kind actions. 

We live so cut off from each other, even though we literally live on top on one another in condos and apartments, squeezed in next to each other in narrow townhouses.  I'm thankful for anything that shakes up this false sense of separation and forces us to talk to one another and help each other out.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who actually is happy about all this snow and this experience of storm camaraderie; I can see it in other people's faces as well. Its naturally how we are meant to live--working together, helping each other out, socializing on a daily basis.  I hope that we can continue to work towards re-establishing a sense of community in our non-storm affected lives. 

I learned something today....

Sat nam!  Its been a year coming that I wanted to start a blog.  I even got this domain months ago, but it took a 'snowpocalypse' to actually get me to start writing.  But don't you fear, I've been writing posts in my head for months.  If you've ever watched South Park, then you are familiar with Stan, and how he always says "You know guys, I learned something today".  My mother lovingly pointed out this similarity between Stan and myself, to which anyone who knows me can readily attest.  

I used to think that once I committed myself to a spiritual path, or found the right teachings, all my problems would go away and I would be a happy fat laughing Buddha all the time.  Well let's see....Laughing?  Oh, I have my moments.  Fat?  No, but I do like chocolate.....Happy?  I'm learning that this is state of mind we create internally, regardless of our environments.  About me: I'm a yogi by way of Kundalini yoga, and I've found a great solace and spiritual calling in the Sikh faith.  I'm almost 4 years into my Kundalini yoga adventure, and I'm finally understanding that you have to LIVE a spiritual path; finding is great, reading about it is wonderful, but at some point you have to wo/man it up and claim it as your own.  This is know in yogic philosophy as Dharma, a way of righteous living.

For the great majority of us, enlightenment isn't a state that once you experience, you set up camp and live there indefinitely.  For most of us, we are graced with various moments of clarity and peace for varying lengths of time.  We strive to make those experiences more frequent and lasting through our personal spiritual disciplines. With each experience and expansion in our consciousness, we challenge the boundaries of self and our place in the Universe.   When they happen, I find myself naturally constructing a narrative.  This narrative has a two-fold purpose: to make a deep truth experienced in my soul, in my right brain, coherent to my 'everyday self' or left brain personality; and to share this discovery with others.  I find my soul is very childlike---it discovers something beautiful and shiny, and wants to turn to a friend and say "look what I found!".    Its my deepest prayer that we can share our experiences, learn together and support each other on our earthly journeys.