Me, me, me. My life is so awful, everyone else around me is moving ahead, reaping benefits, being happy, while I’m stuck here like a little rain cloud. That’s how I felt recently, like a bitter, miserable person that I didn’t want to be around, let alone inflict my company on anyone else! And I know that most of you will be able to relate, because we all go through it at one time or another, life can get the better of us.
Me, Myself & I
I felt like I was consumed with myself and as a result I couldn’t help but to benchmark my accomplishments against all of my friends’ who I thought were in such better positions than me that it made me sick to my stomach with jealousy. I didn’t want to look at their smiling faces because all I’d see was my sour face reflected back in their eyes. What was I doing? Where was I going? When would it be my turn? My ego had held me captive and I wasn’t even attempting to break free. Me, myself and I by Beyoncé was playing in my head and every time it stopped, I was right there to press Play and start it up again.
It’s like I relished in the misery. It was strangely satisfying to feel sorry for myself, to play depressing music and cut myself off from my friends and family while I wallowed in self pity. I was constantly tired and going to bed at 8pm out of sheer exhaustion from focusing on so many different negative thoughts all day long. My mind felt like a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth, unable to break free from the game, unable to rest.
A Basics of Sikhi Intervention
Then one day I was sitting on my bed after work on YouTube and randomly stumbled upon a Sikh-Muslim street debate in my Recommended Videos. Out of curiosity I clicked on it to see what the big fuss was about, it had almost a million views. The Sikh guy with the turban and beard, Bhai Jagraj Singh, stood out to me at once. He was the epitome of rationality and eloquence. The power of his belief in Sikhi really hit me hard and my instant thought was wow, this guy is something else. You could tell that he didn’t have a wandering, restless mind like me. I couldn’t even imagine what it would feel like to have that much faith. After watching that video, I found links to dozens of others from the Basics of Sikhi channel, devouring one after the other. I hadn’t felt the urge to delve into Sikhi before this, so it was oddly addictive finding out so much about the religion that I was born into but had never known much about (something that I talked about in one of my very early blog posts).
I started watching videos about people’s individual journeys into Sikhi, regular people like me, and I was captivated hearing their tales. I watched videos about the 10 Gurus and what each one did for the Khalsa panth, reminding me of the bedtime stories that my Mum used to read me, (which I’d long forgotten). I also found videos on what the basic fundamental meaning of being a Sikh is, the different types of prayers and the purpose of each one, the role of women in Sikhi, the Sikh view on death, on sex before marriage, on homosexuality, on karma, and how Gurdwaras should really be run, things that I’d always wondered about, but never made time to find the answers to. In addition to Bhai Jagraj Singh, who was in that first video that I’d stumbled upon and had successfully whet my appetite for Sikhi, I also found myself learning so much from Bhai Baljit Singh. Both of whom I am eternally grateful to, and although Bhai Jagraj Singh is no longer with us, I hope to be fortunate enough to listen to Bhai Baljit Singh’s katha in real life one day.
But anyway, after spending a couple of days glued to my laptop screen, I sat back and let out a big sigh. And then I suddenly started sobbing uncontrollably. But not in a sad way, it was more like a big cry of relief. I started talking to Waheguru and thanking Him for giving me this experience, because it felt like a gift. For the first time in a long time, I actually felt content and at peace, so I decided to carry on learning more. One of the things that has struck me the most is how the Gurus explicitly warned against the disease of Haumai (self obsession) and Maya (illusion) which is essentially what I had fallen victim to.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always imagined that I’d get married in a Gurdwara, but largely for aesthetic purposes if I’m being totally honest. It looks like a beautiful ceremony, there will be some great photos, and that’s just what everyone in my family does! But one thing that I could never understand was why the reading of Anand Sahib once the couple had completed the chaar Laavan, would always leave me feeling like I was buzzing inside. So I looked into the actual meaning of the Anand Karaj, bliss ceremony. The couple are essentially entering into a union with Waheguru, becoming two bodies with one soul that has His blessing; the whole ceremony has a completely different meaning to me now. And that ‘buzzing’ feeling that I’d always experience at people’s weddings, makes so much more sense to me now, it’s like I could feel the power of what I was witnessing the couples partake in, before I even knew what it meant. And now I think that everyone should have to undertake a course before they have an Anand Karaj, to truly understand its significance as well as the importance of each of the chaar Laavan, because most of us have no idea what they mean, we just worry about making sure that someone siyaanaa will be there to nudge us when it’s time to get up for the next Laav!
Like many kids born into Sikh households from my age group, I’ve also known the Mool Mantar since I was a child, never really knowing the meaning of it, but being able to recite it on demand. But since I’ve delved into what each word means, it feels so powerful to recite the words slowly and out loud. Even war cries from Guru Gobind Singh Ji like: Waheguru ji ka khalsa, Waheguru ji ki fateh; jo bole so nihal, satrsriakal; and deg tegh fateh, panth kii jeet, have brought me to tears after I found out what they actually meant. Hearing a recital of Chaupai Sahib the other day, gave me chills on a humid day!
Re-thinking My Actions
I’m also finding myself thinking twice and readjusting my initial plan of action before doing little selfish things that ordinarily I wouldn’t even think once about. For example, neglecting to clean up after myself because I know that someone else will do it, or contemplating whether or not to hold the door open for someone a few steps behind me, or whether or not to give up my seat on the train to someone in more need. And even just smiling at people that I make eye contact with on the street, instead of having my hard “London face” on all the time! Because we should all have daya (compassion) for one another.
The reason why I’ve started altering my usual habits is hard to explain. It’s like I can feel Waheguru’s presence inside me yearning for me to do better, to be better, because They see that I have the potential in me. I now have a sense of sharam (guilt) that I previously didn’t have and I feel an obligation to do Them proud. Thoo chith aavehi teri maeiaa – You enter my mind by Your kind mercy- and honestly, I hope and pray that that feeling stays with me, because it’s encouraging me to become a better person.
A Heightened Awareness
After learning of the 5 moral evils that we all battle with: kaam (lust), krodh (anger), lobh (greed), moh (attachment) and ahankaar (pride), I also feel like I have a heightened awareness of the words that come out of my mouth, the company I choose to keep and also what I fill my ears with. So I’m actively trying to tame my sharp tongue by thinking before I speak, and having meaningful conversations with my friends that don’t just consist of bakwaass and nindiya (slandering). I’ve also felt an urge to stop listening to music that leaves me feeling miserable, or overly reflective, or fired up, or bitter. When I put my headphones in and block out the rest of the world, the lyrics that I hear are powerful enough to affect my mood, so I want to choose to stay in a good mood and listen to uplifting, positive words only. I’ve also subscribed to receive a daily Hukamnama to my phone every morning and reading it truly gets me in the right mindset to properly start the day when I’m on the train to work.
Opening My Eyes
I just can’t explain the feeling I get from discovering more about my faith, it’s like up until now my eyes have been half closed and now I’m seeing things that have always been infront of me with full vision. It’s like I was always linked to this higher power via an invisible cord but the chord has suddenly become visible to me, I see that it’s been in my hand this whole time. It really makes me want to be a better person, to not think about myself so much and to trust fully and completely in Waheguru.
When my mind is unsettled and I’m overthinking, I feel lost, like I need answers and guidance. And that feeling of uncertainty and desperation makes me lash out at those closest to me. But I don’t feel such a pressing need for answers now, I just want to have faith, because that strengthens my mind and you just can’t beat that feeling of serenity, it’s indescribable.
My Mummy Ji
The more I learn about Sikhi, the more I feel closer to my Mum too. In the last 10 years or so she’s become more in tune with Sikhi, she goes to weekly santhiya classes at the local Gurdwara and reads Gurbani from her gutka everyday. What I’ve noticed since she’s embarked upon this journey is how unwaveringly calm she’s become. She used to be so up and down, one minute happy and the next snapping at us for no reason! But these days she’s in a constant state of santokh (contentment), regardless of anything. E.g. when it suddenly starts raining outside and there are clothes on the washing line, or when my nephew kicks his football onto her palak patch in the garden, or when her chunni gets caught on something and tears, she remains content and always manages to find the silver lining. Even people who have only met her once comment on her positive and calming energy. I know that it’s down to her connection with Waheguru and I hope to emulate that one day.
The Connection Has Always Been There
I’m also so thankful for the fact that my parents pushed for my sisters and I to all go to Punjabi school and learn how to read and write Gurmukhi when we were younger, something that I never truly appreciated until now. Not to mention I’d been referring to it as “Punjabi” and had no clue that the entire script was largely created by our second Guru, Guru Angad Dev Ji.
Being fortunate enough to visit Hemkund Sahib and go on a Panj Takt Yatra with my parents, places that most people dream of going to and often never get the chance to see, also never really phased me before now! I mean I remember visiting Hazur Sahib in Nanded, Maharashtra and going to do Simran with hundreds of other Sikhs at 1am and feeling like I could’ve sat there praying all night, when my usual reaction is to complain of an achy back after 10 minutes of sitting on the floor with my legs crossed! And then listening to a Gyani Ji do katha there the next day, about dealing with death just after my Fufar had just passed away, actually brought me to tears; but alas, once that trip came to an end, I didn’t really give Sikhi a second thought.
Even when it comes to the name I was given, I’m only just recognising the power of having a name that translates as “the one who attains the Guru’s shelter” and being born on 13th April, Vaisakhi, the date that the Khalsa panth was created by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1699. And how the number 13, which I’ve always considered my lucky number, is considered auspicious from the well-known sakhi of Guru Nanak Dev Ji when he worked as an accountant in Sultanpur Lodhi. I have been unknowingly connected to Sikhi in so many ways since I was born, but I just didn’t realise it.
Knowledge Is Power
In learning more about my faith, I also want to learn more about the history of the land from which Sikhi originated: Punjab. I want to fill my mind with knowledge, instead of being consumed with selfish thoughts and nindiya. So I’ve ordered lots of books that will hopefully teach me more about our rich and powerful ithihaas. I want to learn about Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s empire, the East India Company and the British Raj, 1919 Jallianwala Bagh, partition, 1984 Amritsar and Delhi, the thousands of enforced disappearances from 1984-1995, as well as the current state of Punjab today. I want to know as much as humanly possible about my roots, because knowledge is power and I’ve always said that I’d read up on these topics one day, so I’m making “one day” today!
One Step At A Time
I’m only on the first step of my journey, on this panth (path) there’s so much more that I want to learn, in addition to doing Seva and reading Gurbani, but I’m happy to say that I already feel much more calm and at peace than I did at the start of this year. I’ve also felt no need to consume alcohol nor have I experienced cravings to eat meat recently, whether that’s linked to my recent discovery of Sikhi I’m not sure, but I’m happy to run with it!
By no means am I proclaiming that I’m suddenly a “good” person or that I’ll never make another mistake from now on, or that I now believe myself to be better than anyone else; errrr I’m only human mate and defo still the weird little sarcastic girl that I’ve always been, just ask my sisters! What I mean is, I’ll never be perfect or have all the answers and this journey will be one that takes time and a lot of effort on my part, but with Waheguru’s kirpa I’ll be able to consistently keep at it and better myself a bit more everyday and ultimately make Him proud. 🙂 Thav charanan man rehai hamaaraa, apanna jaan karo prathipaaraa (May my mind remain ever attached to Your feet. Treat me as Your own and cherish me.)
I guess it comes down to the fact that there’s a bigger picture, something that’s much greater than me, it’s taken some time but I’m finally starting to see it.