Monday, November 28, 2011
Sat Nam everyone. This morning I peeled myself out of bed and my husband and I left our hotel at 2:30 in the morning for a windy and cold motor rickshaw ride to the Golden Temple. For the first time in our visit to Amritsar the streets were quiet. Sopurkh wrapped his arm around me, giving me comfort that I wouldn't go flying out of the rickshaw as our driver careened around the corners and over the unavoidable bumps and pot holes of the empty streets.
Upon arrival to the Golden Temple, the number of early rising devotees was astounding. I remember the sacred Parkarma (marble walkway around the Golden Temple) being virtually empty at this time of the morning in 1990 when I spent a few months in Amritsar. Every morning we would go to hear the sacred music of Asa Divar. It was one of the most incredible and transformative times of my life.
As we arrived, the gates to the Golden Temple were just being opened and a group of about 200 devotees poured in. We joined them to go and bow our heads. As we came to the threshold of the Golden Temple I brought my forehead to the marble of the threshold... something I had prayed for, remembered, and longed for all of these years. We made our way to where the Guru sits and gave our prayers and bowed. My usual spot on the bottom floor was already completely full. In conjunction with much of the energy of my life these days, I suddenly became a newcomer in a place I was once familiar with.... searching, and finding something new.
We made our way up one of the narrow marble staircases. The smell of the marble was almost sweet, bringing me back to my earliest memory of being at the Golden Temple when I was six years old and used to run up and down the staircases to find the Sevadaars serving the sweet and blessed treat called "Gur Prashaad." On the second floor we found a seat by a window that still allowed us to hear the beautiful Gurbani Kirtan. The morning air came through the window bringing in the sacred waters of the nectar tank that the Golden Temple sits in. The alchemy of the golden walls, the soft marble, the wind, the water, and the nectar of the Divine Gurbani Kirtan brought me right into my heart center. I could do nothing but close my eyes and receive the blessings of Guru Ram Das. Sopurkh and I sat for quite some time in the bliss of this energy.
At about five am it was time for us to go back to our hotel. We made our way out of the sanctum of the Golden Temple and passed over the walkway to bring us to the Parkarma. We were just in time to see our beloved Guru, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, being brought out onto a beautiful palaquin of gold, covered in fresh flowers. The Siri Guru Granth Sahib is a collection of writings from the Sikh Gurus and saints of the Hindu, Muslim, and Sufi tradition that was solidified as our Guru by the tenth master Guru Gobind Singh in the 17th Century. Sometimes people wonder how I can bow to a Guru that is not in a living body form of a human. I can't explain it, but there is this energy that my soul is just connected to. As I caught a glimpse of the Guru, I dropped to the floor and bowed my head, and just started crying. My Guru, my Guru.... total surrender, love, and peace. The tears flowed as the Guru made its way to the Golden Temple, carried by loving devotees amidst the powerful horn being blown, and chanting.
On this day of Monday, of Gratitude, in the vibration of Thanksgiving, in the blessings of the Golden Temple... may your day, your week, your life and your next breath be filled with the remembrance and nectar of God's Name.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Sat Nam everyone. This Gratitude Monday I am grateful for the flow of the Ganga River.
Swirling around rocks that have become smooth with her touch.
Singing a song of joy into the hearts of those who listen.
Carrying prayers, ashes, and love.
River of hope
River of light, River of life.
Connected to all Rivers.
May your waters become clean.
Now that I have lived at the banks of the Ganga for the past three weeks her song has gotten into my heart. She serves 450 million people from start to finish. We are close to her origins where her waters are still relatively clean. However she suffers such incredible pollution that the sacred river which has been the giver of life for thousands of years is actually now a source of disease for many who live on her banks. It is an incredible tragedy, and yet a powerful wake up call for all of us... whether we live on the banks of the Ganga, any other river, or any source of water. Our water is sacred. This gratitude Monday I am grateful for the gift of clean water, and pray that as a humanity we have the capacity to keep our waters sacred and clean. Please see this website started by Swami ji to clean up the Ganga River. May you be inspired as I have been.
Song of the Self - join us in Costa Rica, March 10-17, 2012
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Jap Preet's allergies are gone completely. She is running around the Parmarth Niketan ashram joyously. In fact we had dinner with Swami ji last night. It was so beautiful. Through love and kindness Swami ji found out the foods that she loves to eat and had them brought in. Jap Preet was in bliss and giggles enjoying her new connection.
The 11.11.11 course was incredibly beautiful for me. I attended many of the classes and found my spirit rising, my heart opening, and my fears releasing all with Guru's blessing and grace.
Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit a very beautiful place. It is called "Ramana's Children's Home and Primary School", or as it is called here "Ramana's Garden." It is a place where street children who are at risk can come. All of the children are untouchables. They have a full academic program, they learn English, they are given organic vegetables and dairy from the school itself, and are given clothing. It was founded and is run by an amazing lady named Prabhavati. In fact this school is only one of her many humanitarian projects in India. She is a lady from the West, yet has lived here in India for the past 30 years or so. In hearing her story, it by no means an easy task. However the results of her work have brought miraculous transformation in the lives of thousands here. One of her graduates now works in a local travel agency because of his good English and people skills. Two of her graduates are now going to Miri Piri Academy and are at the top of their class. All of the children will be completely able to go to university. Being in India and seeing the street children every day... you know that this kind of work that is going on is totally the work of angels.
The school children gathered together so that we could play music to them. (Please see this video my husband made.) Little did I know that they would perform "The Sun Shines on Everyone", a song from our children's album. There is a volunteer music teacher who comes every year from America and she has taught the children this song. For me it was such a heart opening experience that I could barely take... as is very likely in India... when these things happen you just have to surrender. The youngest child in the room was four, the eldest was 16. If we were to understand their individual stories and histories before the school came into their lives it would be unbearable. Many of these children come from the kind of poverty and abuse that is beyond our comprehension in the West. But... as the children sang to us... there was more joy, more vibrancy, more gratitude then in any other children's group I have every sang with.
For this reason, we will be working with Ramana's Garden to help fundraise with them. I encourage you to check out the school by seeing this film, here. If you would like to donate please check out their web site. Our dollars in the West go a long ways and and brings us into the Divine Flow of of the Universe where all things are possible. If you are like me, it is hard to know where to donate money. There are so many organizations out there and with many of them you are not quite sure if your money is really going somewhere. I want you to know that as we walked through that school, saw the little steps made for the children, the swings, the clothes, the garden, and the pure brilliant glow on their faces... you can be assured that this is a good place to give to.
Monday, November 07, 2011
Sopurkh, Jap Preet and I made it to Rishi Kesh! After a very intense European tour it was a minor miracle. We had one powerful concert after the next with the incredible and devoted band... Ramesh Kannan on vocals and percussion, Thomas Barquee on piano and vocals, and Scott on sound. I am so grateful to each one of these guys for pouring their heart and soul into this tour.
Jap Preet, my daughter, had some allergies act up in our last concert city, Barcelona, to the degree that Sopurkh (my husband) and I were talking about having him take her back to the States while I went to India without them. By Guru’s Grace we decided to keep our plans and met up with a new crew in India.... Todd Boston on guitar, Harimander Jot Singh on tabla, and Simrit Kaur our assistant who is a gift from Guru Ram Das. She has been taking care of all of the logistics of our journey in India, and also has been able to take care of Jap Preet with so much love and care, that I can’t even believe how blessed we are.
Being here in Rishi Kesh has been incredible. The teaching tent for the 11.11.11 course is right next to the Ganga River. In moments of silence during the classes, one hears the swift and joyful flow of the river. It is a very deep experience to take in Her loving presence while practicing the sacred science of Kundalini yoga, chanting together, and meditating.
Gurmukh said something poignant this morning in her class.... “India brings out all of your neurosis for healing.” I had a very powerful experience of that yesterday.
Sopurkh and I taught a class with the beautiful guitar accompaniment of Todd and the earthy balance of Harimander Jot’s tabla playing. After the class I was completely blissed out. For sure I thought... the rest of this day is just going to be so relaxing. Little did I know what was to come.
After the class Simrit brought Jap Preet to us and we just hung out in the back of the tent, taking in the good vibes of the very inspirational class taught by Guru Singh. I was so grateful to be with Jap Preet. Her allergies have been coming up still in India and we have been struggling a bit with that still. I admit to feeling some guilt and fear about her allergies, and on a deeper level I have been feeling heavy in my heart about our choice to take such a young one traveling with us. I try to protect her from as much as I can, and keep our time together as focused as possible. In the midst of everything it is sometimes a struggle. As we sat in the back of the class it felt so relaxing, so special. Nobody seemed to notice. We kind of had this little family bliss moment. Then as if orchestrated by God a lady came back with a camera asking if she could take a picture of me. I so much just wanted to be with my daughter. I looked at her and with some emotion that I just couldn’t keep in, said no. And then another lady came and asked the same thing too. This time with a little anger I said no. “I just want to be with my daughter”, I thought to myself.
As the hours progressed it came time for Arti, a ceremony that the ashram does at the banks of the Ganga every night. I had been asked to go and sit with the rest of the presenters by Swami ji who takes care of the ashram. All of the the boys of the ashram who study with Swami ji were dressed in their orange robes and were assembled under an archway of the ashram that stood over a set of cascading marble steps that touch the waters. People began gathering. I was carrying Jap Preet as we walked towards the spot where I thought Swami ji would be sitting. One of the orange robed boys stopped us and pointed to another a sitting area, a kind of dock that rapped itself around in front of the Arti location. I explained to him that I had been asked to come and sit next to Swami ji... but he motioned in a very authoritative way that I should go with the course participants to sit on the dock. The combination of just teaching, being a little out of my body, and perhaps being in India made for a kind of inner feeling of surrender... alright let’s go. So we went and sat down on the dock. It was so peaceful there. The coolness of the river felt so good after the warmth of the day. We watched as people gathered at the Arti site and did prayers into the fire. Jap Preet was so peaceful as the chanting began. I was completely savoring the moment with her feeling the rough travel days of our journey melting away. Then Simrit got a phone call from one of the administrators of the ashram. I was being asked to go and sit near Swami ji. I let out a big sigh and decided to take Jap Preet with me because I didn’t want this precious moment with her to end. We all went. When we got close to where Swami ji would sit it was just packed with people. In an attempt to find a space to sit I tapped a lady on the shoulder who I knew from the kitchen here at the ashram and asked if we could sit next to her. She looked around where she was sitting and said no... that she didn’t think there was a space for us. This wave of frustration passed through me as the place was filling up so fast, it didn’t feel like there was any hope of us finding a place and I proceeded to turn around in a flury of frustration as our little group followed me. We went back to the dock. Back again I thought to myself. I just want to be with my daughter anyway. I don’t need to be a part of a ceremony. The most important thing for me right now is to be with my daughter.
Swami ji arrived. He sang so beautifully, so sweetly. Then it happened again. The same temple boy who had turned us away a little earlier was there with one of the staff members of the course. You must come and sit with Swami ji I was being told. I just couldn’t take it anymore.... I said it with all of my emotions this time... “I am here with my daughter, I can’t come!” They left.
Swami ji arrived and sang so beautifully.
The Chardi Kalaa jatha played some of the most inspirational and soul stirring Kirtan I had every heard.
But I was still reeling from what had happened. Why can’t I just be with my daughter and enjoy this Arti experience?
Finally the end of the ceremony came. By this time Jap Preet was asleep, totally peaceful. It was announced that each of the teachers of the 11.11.11 course would light a candle. I decided to leave Jap Preet with her Papji (and my husband) and made my way through the crowd again to go and light a candle next to Swami ji. Upon arriving he welcomed me in warmly. I was too late to light an unlit candle... but he motioned to have me light an already lit candle. To finish the ceremony Swami ji invited me to sit behind him. I found myself next to Gurmukh. She leaned over and asked with knowing eyes... “Are you ok?” I said to her “Yes.” But as she turned away and I found my eyes falling on the rushing waters of the Ganga, a voice inside screamed... “No, I am not ok! I am in pain! Pain from deep within about my daughter’s allergies, about the struggles of our travels, about something that has no words.” The pain found itself out of me in a few tears that rolled down my cheek. I gave it to the river, I gave it to God.
The ceremony ended and we followed Swami ji back into a room where he talked with us for a few minutes about work that he is doing to help clean up the Ganga river. I felt this kind of lightness of being from him. It was very nice to be in his presence. He did not really talk to me. But as I got up to go he looked over to me and asked, “So, you are with your daughter now?” I said “yes” quickly. But as I walked out of the room it began to sink in. Yes, now I am with my daughter. She wasn’t with me in my arms. But I am with her. As the fears of my heart emptied out, there was space for her.
I knew at that moment that it was all God’s play, God finding ways through all of these people to open my heart and heal.
Please forgive me if I have shared too much. I only wish you to know that this kind of healing is possible for all of us.
With love, prayers and blessings from Rishi Kesh,