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i haven’t been on here too much for a couple of years now. and the only reason i can give is, well, babies :). and it isn’t as though writing isn’t always with me, knocking on her window, asking to be allowed in…but titanic shifts, and some collisions and catastrophes as well have occurred, and sometimes my impulse is to keep those things which feed my soul the most at arms length until i come back off the ledge.

at other times i think poetry melts into the very fabric of our lives, and speaks her lines through the days that we live through, the arc of our bodies as we pull ourselves out of bed, it’s ruffled shape when we lay it back down at the end of it all. poetry will always find voice in life, because poetry is life, but what a thrill to feel her shaping herself through the words that move through me, as well, once more…

i now have so much that i have always ached for, and although i continue to build toward the shoreline of my highest calling, of my emancipated life with each new blessing, i was told recently that i would live when the possibility of death had made her presence felt and because of these gifts (of blessings and of the threat of their loss, both), gratitude-gratitude-gratitude has begun to supplant desire as the new heartbeat of my life.

poetry has a way of growing us up, of lending a solemnity, even to the celebration. of ordering the un-orderable into sweet lines, and unexpected conclusions. she is always here, but life feels more when i answer her gentle knock at the window, and agree, yes, you may flow through me once again…

if we have connected on here in the past, would you write a line of greeting? i would love to hear from all of you.

 

here is a poem to my daughters.

 

to make the two of you

 

broken along every axis

to make the two of you

 

remade by fire

the slow burn of waiting

of worry, and not knowing

 

the sharp burn

of bottomless pain

that re-births me

alongside you

 

but then it’s all eyes

both of yours

and of mine

 

of conversation in real-time

divorced from the watery depths

 

i knew you well

when you were inside

but now we meet again

 

no more tubes, or secret touch

no more nurses, or monitor lines

no more separation by long

hallways i struggle down

 

no more sovereignty derailed

no more recovery time

 

now it’s just peace

in between the constant, daily

shifts as the continental love i feel

laps up against your brilliance

 

she said, ‘it’s like your heart

has jumped out of your body,

and is running around outside.’

 

i say, my heart is not big enough

to contain my love for you

 

turban tan
means
the mark of my identity
has blossomed
on my skin

means
sun-filled days
have seen me
basking

memories
imprinted
on the flesh
of my brow

but for them
it meant

identity exposed
amidst horrified
flight

a death
sentence
written
in melanin
contrast

culpability
for the death
of a lady

vengeance gained
through the
burning
of blood

they couldn’t run
fast enough
hard enough
long enough

no amount
of courage
could change
the course
of those
hot days

brows aside
their sikhi
was bone deep

couldn’t be
removed

neither flame
nor bullet
nor blade
could extinguish
the heartbeat of
Your Name

Let grief stretch you open

Let it burst through doors
to the darkness that’s inside

Let it swallow whole
every tear
every wasted moment

See the light it illuminates
around the bodies
of your loved ones

How stark it makes
every sound
every heavy movement

Let forgiveness seep in slowly
like cracks in a wall
in the floors
up above

When your building comes tumbling down
know that grief can be your architect of
happiness re-born

sohila

i was singing good night, and then you were there. a soul passing through time and space, alighting on words that spilled like waves.

it had never come like this before, this song…such bottomless ferocity. such passionate longing. such grace.

i never knew you in life, but i felt your sweetness in passing.

i wish you good night in the best way i know how. in the best way Guru Sahib has given me to say it. and i wish you the most miraculous dawn.

chosen

i can feel power slowly seeping back through my toes again…so easy to throw ones body to the side, to experience the marginalization of ones soul…these are the steps i take. 1.2.3. feet touching a ground which is equally mine, if its anyone’s…like when the word ‘Khalsa’ fell from my lips in repeated gasps as i gave birth to you…you, my precious little one, pulled me back into myself, just as you were coming out…

and i saw then, just as i see now: that i am Khalsa. no. even more precious. i’ve been made Khalsa. i’ve been seen by the most Blessed Eyes, pulled from the crowd, raised up, despite myself, despite these fears. despite all i’ve ever been, or all i will become. i am Yours. and i will always have the honour of knowing that.

may every being discover the preciousness of their uniqueness. may each being discover You within. may we, each of us, equally discover that way in which we have each been chosen by You.

 

evacuation

attempts to evacuate public spaces of difference does (different forms and severities of) violence to everyone. it is based on the false perception that it isn’t possible to support secular values in society and embody a personal-collective path to God. the so-called ‘charter of values’ is all the more painful coming from a political party that represents a people who have experienced violence and oppression and who have their own aspirations for sovereignty.

and odes to inconsistency: individuals must remove any trace of religiousity, and yet a crucifix can remain in the Quebec legislature?

sovereignty is every person’s birthright. the clothes i wear, the hair i keep, the particular, unique ways i express my connection to Universal Consciousness are not on the table for the state to give or not give to me. it is for me alone to claim.

and just practically speaking – if we want to ensure the perpetuation of us vs them thinking, the best way is to deprive all individuals (but especially majority white peoples) of the opportunity to come in contact with a wide-range of difference in public spaces – we hide away those who are differently-abled, ‘non-white,’ who live on a gender and/or sexuality continuum that exists outside of heterosexual man/woman, those whose spirituality is literally worn on their sleeve, and more.

the most powerful medicine for fear and xenophobia is relationships with others who walk differently then you – how much more difficult that becomes when the appearance of sameness becomes legally mandated.

Kabuki-the-Alchemy

design by: ken tanaka

the kirtan which transports me the most is that for which each word is a cry of desire – words woven into song filled with Her Presence and Absence all at once.

the cry can be either soft or strong, but the ones that touch me most deeply are always marked by a kind of tearing…gentle melodies that flood – in the moment, a temporary tide that drowns out the noise inside…

it was the gentle and precise lasoo that Vaheguru used to draw me in. it is the wave that keeps pulling me back whenever my own spirals of desire spin me out…

kirtan is the temporary tide that drowns out the noise inside – the alchemical gift of attaining pure silence through sound –  the Song of Your Name, Your Name… filling me again, again, again…

to merge

there’s nothing to escape from here
nothing to tie away inside

corners call
but i hold myself in this breeze

my mind keeps swirling
sleepy eyes open slowly

seeking gold in a landscape of grey

if merging is my destiny
what is the use of holding on?

if Guru is this ocean
from what am i seeking escape?

Vaheguru! what kind of dance is this
that tears me up inside?

my mind seeks a reason

someone

somewhere

some act

that explains this void in me

but answers don’t lie
in a space that can never be filled

they only lie
in that moment
when our eyes lock

and i get pulled into your arms
to merge

again, and again

in the shelter of our love

Guru Sahib stood in a circle around me. each One looking with eyes filled with love. Their words came without sound – We are, each one of Us, here for you…

all that is required, always, is a reaching-out towards Naam.

of pulling it into my heart. gently. continually.

like lighting a candle, it begins to flicker in soft repetition. when the breezes that sweep through my life blow it out, i am called to re-light it. again and again and again…

presence and wholeness woven into the fabric of my life. the gift of Naam streaming into this small heart of mine. how large it makes me want to become. i want to light the whole world with it’s warmth. i want each of us to feel this peace.

later, head to the floor in dabar sahib – a whisper – you are always whole in Me,  you are always whole…

i am always whole in You.

and i want always that this small heart of mine remains a candle that flickers with the light of Your Name.

happiness

i keep feeling like the only decision i ever really have to make is whether i want to be happy…truly and deeply.  i can imagine a world of bliss, and even if in the moment i cannot see the evidence in the world around me, that i must keep a hold of that vision with each and every piece of me seems like the most important task.

and whenever i feel fear, hurt, dissonance, i must ask: what can i do for myself to nourish all that’s inside? how can i give love? how can i soften the edges of this pain?

that’s when i realize: the feel of breathe moving through my body is here. Waheguru, Waheguru, Waheguru plays on my lips. Guru whispers the answer to every query deep within my mind. inspired action always leads to more freedom, more peace.

i know that i am here to experience happiness. i know that we are here to dance in love with one another. i know that we can create so much goodness in the world through service to each other. i know that for every wound that exists, there is a surge of renewal waiting to enter in.

none of this would be the same without you, though. so,what i really want to know is: will you dance this dance with me?

night passes into morning, passes back into night once more. i become lazy, losing a hold of my will – i forget discipline, and leave all my clarity behind. i forget Self, and the self i am when yoked to You.

i see myself reaching through the fog, my hand grasping onto Yours. Your name permeates my mind. this Love that We share is a dance of pleasure and pain – suffering gets fired up inside, burning away this ever-creeping blindness. the sight of You pulls me up onto a ledge with the widest possible view. there is no behind or forward at this height. only pure, clean air that clears all the dust inside.

 

suK duK sm kir jwxIAih sbid Byid suKu hoie ]5]
sukh dhukh sam kar jaaneeahi sabadh bhaedh sukh hoe ||5||
Those who see pain and pleasure as one and the same find peace; they are pierced through by the Shabad. ||5|| (pannaa 57)

 

suixAY dUK pwp kw nwsu ]8]
suniai dhookh paap kaa naas ||8||
Listening-pain and sin are erased. ||8|| (pannaa 2)

duality

“You are not here to come and correct people. You have come here to correct yourself. But if you correct yourself, then you will find that you will correct others also.”

– Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omCpLbe9zuM&feature=related)

it feels so easy, so tempting to slide into viewing the world in terms of manmukh and gurmukh – so many rules and standards with which to measure those around us. we see different practices, different understandings of Guru’s message, and suddenly we stop seeing the person before us – they become less-then in some way, our vision blurred because we’ve mistaken the ideal for a weapon to be used against them.

there are descriptions throughout gurbani about what makes a person a manmukh and what a gurmukh. these descriptions help me to see the millions of moments, every day, when i am facing and receiving guidance from my mind, and how often i distance myself from Guru ji. how often i turn away from the guidance that He continually holds out towards me.

it doesn’t feel right to see these descriptions as tools to judge others – instead, i see all of the admonitions throughout gurbani to see only God, all around. in you and in me. and to move beyond the duality of us and them all together –

Dhanaasaree Mahalaa 9 ॥ Kaahe re ban khojan jaaee …: Dhanaasaree Mahalaa 9. Why do you go looking (for God) in the forest? Although he is ever detached, he dwells everywhere. He even abides with you. ||1||Pause|| Like the fragrance which remains in the flower, and like the reflection in the mirror, the Lord dwells deep within (all). (Therefore) search for Him within your own heart, O brother. (Siri Guru Granth Sahib, ang 684).

the understanding that Guru Sahib is in all of us must extend beyond concept – it must be a conviction that we can apply to our life everyday – to apply to the thoughts and judgements we have about others, and to our day to day interactions, as well. in order to be continually challenged to strip away the layers that exist between each one of us, and ultimately, between our own selves and the Ultimate Truth that is Waheguru.

cathedral walls

i found myself walking between cathedral walls that stretched up metre upon metre. paced slowly through a prayer room filled with affirmations of healing and peace. candles tucked in tight between each other – cozy, flickering, vibrating to the intentions of those seeking relief. and then back again into cathedral space. filled, open, towering silence that reached up towards You.

i felt Guru Sahib present, like a breeze floating between us all, and i knew in that moment, in the way only bodies can know – that Guru Sahib is for all of us. that She manifests for each of us in particular ways through time and space. these gifts which Guru has given me – the gift of Name, these five kakkars, are Her blessings to me.

and, Guru has also given to others spectrums of gifts and forms of worship – unique and unifying moments of insight into You. these are Her blessings also.

Guru Sahib is for all of us. which is to say – that Love is here. Connection is here. Truth that pushes through mind, and our resistance, remains ever present, waiting to lead us home again.

even though fall is approaching, tiny blossoms keep popping up through the rich earth that lays along my path. i look at them, curious, a small smile playing at the corner of my lips. i know you, i think to myself, as i reach out to stroke delicate petals. before contact, i experience a remembering – oh! it’s you!

this is what happiness looks like, what it feels like to come home. this is what unfolding, what break through, what peace have always been waiting to reveal…

i find myself slowly sinking into the promise we have already made to each other. and that sinking-into feels like a warm cocoon bent out of branches i’ve been gathering for ages. and even though, like all cocoons, this one holds the promise of transformation, instead of shielding me, it seems to be exposing me and my heart even more.

we’re a little shaky, standing out in the wind in this way. we aren’t used to this degree of safety. this amount of possibility. to taking steps in love and faith. yet here we are. shaking in the wind. together.

i used to think of the heart as an organ of fire. but the only things that have been burning are things i shed long ago. what is real is shining more and more…

all these demons of mine. getting in the way of union – swirling around our feet, threatening downfall with every step. until i reach down to discover – they’re as soft as the underbelly of every kitten i’ve ever loved. as meek as i felt when my own ego kept exposing every tender part of me. you know, i’m starting to have the feeling that true surrender means looking around in a landscape of black, and then stepping off the edge into what seems to be more…

the thing is, i kept seeing a cage door swing open, with us in each others arms, and trees lining our path. the sun was always there when we were together, beckoning us with her soft rays. i’m completely in love with Guru. and it means that i can finally, fully, be here for you too.

it seems so obvious now how perfect you are for me. now that i’ve finally let go.

i’ve torn myself to pieces. but Your Hukam kept reminding me of what I never knew I knew – that Love is always there. Waiting. Hungry. Eternally Patient, and in the alchemy of surrender, ready to shower a bliss beyond possibility.

i love what is happening here. i am swirling in a nexus of re-birth. the person i had always hoped i could be is being born through a canal of love. what should be worn down and discarded is being challenged. defences rear their heads, while parts of me try to hold on to a pain i befriended long ago…i am vulnerable because i want to be. i am growing because i want to. i am struggling to find words, to find meaning, to find ground, to find balance because all of these things are valuable to me.

i want break through and break down, and to be a better person. to let go of ideas of being a better person. to see the better person i am. to re-locate the nexus of my life away from ‘me’ all together. to centre myself in collectivity, to see you in me and me in you and to release my body onto a breeze that floats me down once i jump off this cliff i myself have created…i want i want i want….

us.

i want a total lack of want. i want what ‘wants’ to peel away, exposing the glow within. for radiance to be the default i continuously reach for, no matter how far i leave her behind. radiance when hurting. radiance when lost. radiance when distant. radiance when close. radiance when alone. radiance when full. radiance when with you. and radiance when apart.

you, Radiance, You.

i know

i know that silence and stillness are there. that my insides are reflected in the world around me. even you are a reflection of all that is inside. so when i encounter confusion, resistance, disconnection – i know. i know. i know.

i know that these things spring from a disconnect in me. Guru is always in splendour. always surrounded by light. and my blindness only means i’m looking in the wrong direction. i’m looking out, when i should always, already be looking in.

take one step, see self                                                                                         take two, i see you

i can’t hide any more what’s not inside

it’s empty

a vessel for naam i’ve been trying to fill with                                                         notions of self

constructions finer then a spider’s web

a light breeze comes in                                                                                     this mansion collapses into a home                                                                       made for you and me

to get through the door                                                                                         you have to bow low

you have to leave pride                                                                                         this growing distance                                                                                             and each piece of skin behind

true union demands self-sacrifice

He’s asked me to give up something that’s not even there

the hardest path

head in hand, and heart bursting through the seams

contractions have begun. the pain is temporary. i realize – the only way i’m getting out of this womb alive is if i shed my skin. become liquid, organs pressing into a stream. ideas about self are left with no chance to expand.

imagining myself without form, panic grips at my throat. if i have no lungs, no mouth, no throat – how will i breathe? but it isn’t air that keeps me here. if i disperse, bits of You will feed the pieces of me floating in the breeze.

panic is waking me up. i sense that something is dying. a struggle is taking place in this body of mine. there is no enclosure that actually exists. no limits that could possibly be imposed. just fear-you, fear-you, fear…

Oh, Waheguru! i want to throw all the pieces of me to the wind. to become liquid, and cast this skin of mine aside.

cocoon cracks open. wispy strands surround my back, pulling me forward, reaching out towards a family glowing with love.  sadh sangat still grows, is shaping itself in my heart. and also – manifestation is here. unfolding. the power of each thought, each throbbing prayer of hope and desire is pushing through the rich earth of my intention. the warm rain of your blessing falls all around me.

they stand before me, and i feel melted, made liquid in the glow of their presence.

indecision has a way of thrashing about. it cuts softly, subtlety, un-noticed until you stand, and the pieces of you crumble into a dusty pile on the floor.

the words you’ve said to me stand in stark contrast to the life i’m living right now – i hold onto them like jewels on a line – a necklace of divine love that leads me back to you.

i want to weave your words into a blanket i can carry – wrap myself, coccoon -like. i want to re-birth myself into a state of security, where change comes and goes, but this feeling remains the same.

it’s a world where all thought and doubt gets wiped clean. and the soft, subtle cutting i myself impose becomes a thing of the past. like all other pain, doubt becomes a thing i can pity and see clear through.

i love you, too.

pre-conceptions overlook the lush valley of my life like circling mountain ranges. each step taken remains tied to their view. ideals are tricky things. i’ve always idealized them – defended their role in upliftment. but now i’m beginning to see how i’ve wielded them like weapons against the impulses of my heart, against Guru’s hukam as it unfolds before me, against the very real, living, throbbing, loving humans in my midst.

i have a mountain print hanging in my home – it has travelled with me throughout adulthood, has survived falling out a window, being soaked in the rain – has been nailed up onto wall after apartment wall. whenever i’ve looked at it, i’ve felt pulled upwards. it has always been a focal point of inspiration for me.

but i’ve begun to wonder whether my mountain range is actually starting to weigh me down. obscuring the path forward, instead of helping to guide the way.

things will get emptier before you recognize how full you are again. don’t forget – bani. sing often. run always. hold onto small, nourishing moments with food and herbal infusions that stream into your blood and strengthen tendons that allow you to stretch ever further.

Guru Sahib is always there. She’s in your bloodstream, seeping in-between chromosomes, making Her mark on your mother’s, mother’s, mother’s mitochondria – creating destiny through flesh, and never letting you go even when you feel utterly alone.

i feel enclosed by Her woven cocoon. sticks have been bent, intertwined, from trees that never die. i curl up like a young animal inside, trusting, breathing lightly, my own eyelashes soft against my cheeks. i never once betrayed You. i never could. We were always in this together.

receiving Naam feels like Guru Sahib has attached an additional cavern to my mind. when used, it fills with light that melts into the rest of my body. when unused, it’s emptiness remains present and throbs to be filled again.

it means emptiness becomes more profound. and when i’m filled, the light crests over boundaries that once held sway. the light crests smoothly – like water over sun-touched stones. in the daily dusk of my own withdrawal, Your light crests over the boundaries that once held sway over me.

love

sharp points of contact remind me of who i am. the fog lifts and every feel-able part stings. the breeze that lifts my heart doesn’t normally reach these caverns inside…love and pain love and pain love and pain love and pain love and pain love and pain…

i want Love, but how to escape from this descent each time?

freedom has always meant escape for me. but lately i’ve been digging ant size caverns through the hardest parts inside, and instead of leaving the work undone, i’ve been wanting to dig deeper…

freedom from the parts of me that seek escape is the most meaningful pursuit right now. stand still. the quaking means things are breaking. calcified injuries split open. it isn’t a bloody process. the breaking just creates dust that the wind takes away. like a living body inside of a statue, i’m breaking out of my own shell.

i’ve never perfectly married what i know and what i do – when you’re always running, it can be harder for lessons to catch up. when i’m still, i feel fear.

but over time, i’ve become gentle enough to treat her softly. to hold fear tightly, and let her know that she too has a home inside. i expect she’ll change the way i have, the way home changes all of us – softening the corners of resistance and helping us melt into Love once more…

patient, ancient parts of me have begun rustling in the background. murmers surface to remind me of who i am. gentle taps on the shoulder re-direct my course. sometimes what is right is not knowing. so much abundance is around me right now – why the insistence on answers? sometimes what is right is not knowing. not knowing is sometimes the best way forward…

in moments of waking i see – simran expanding like a dark pool in the centre of my chest. less tolerance for anything that takes me away. more desire to melt. a re-making of my body, as hair grows and more of me becomes available for You.

ancient parts are stirring, and i await next steps as You reveal them to me through time.

bowl as womb
water taking life
giving birth
to a new me

body bereft of self
fateh from my lips
but i am no longer here

i am already with her
suspended in her love
i know what it means
to know love

i didn’t know what
more could mean

now i know
more is what happens
when tethers become
unbound

i see you
and approach from behind
the sun falls in the sky ahead

your face is left in shadow
i know we will meet
but suspense is
the flavour of our love

my feet march resolutely on
i leave behind
each moment of almost
each almost connection

the sun goes down
a hardness sets in

the villi of my heart
breaking off in the wind
too many sensors
in search of their perfect other

meet me in a room
millions lie behind me

door closed
i meet you naked
the way i’ve always been

the only way joining can occur
away from closed doors
yet enclosed in this room
together

i step out of my skin
and leave the past behind

i leave my very own skin

shadows keep my organs in
up the ladder to this room
the one i’ve always looked beyond

i can see you
your face lit
by the light streaming in

love in all the spaces
that our bodies
and this room creates

the shadows leave
and there is nothing left
to keep our insides in

maybe i should break my own silence, despite not feeling ready. i keep wanting to be here. but my mind always follows up with, ‘but you’re not in the right space yet’…

but, why should i perfect myself before revealing what is happening inside? i am struggling right now, it’s true, despite everything being completely okay, and even amazing. besides, i know exactly how to get back to where i want to be. and that’s by doing all of the things that are missing right now – having let go of sadhana…allowing the tide of depression overtake the precious treasure of daily practice…

i think sometimes when you get exactly what you’ve been waiting for, the moments of unexpressed difficulty, impatience, and pain that have lead up to that moment begin to fill a rising tide. i’m finally in a safe, nourishing, self-directed space for the first time since leaving canada and i think that, ironically, this may be why i’m feeling so down.

or, maybe it’s just the nascent tide of yearly depression that comes with the season.

regardless, i’ve been feeling more keenly the challenging aspects of living away from home. of being on my own. of the desire to move gracefully through throngs of staring, unknown people – when inside i feel like doing random, absurd things in response. like the other day, when i stood by a chaat stall, and a good 30 people watched my every bite. while i pretended i didn’t notice, and my brain cycled through different, outrageous responses, none of which surfaced to break the ice.

the true benefit of right now is that the social experiences i am having are pulling back the thin veneer of social competence that i so dearly construct! and the challenge of pushing through the barrier of flesh and space to actually say, ‘hello’ feels so huge, the difficulty of it literally begs to be addressed.

the good news is – i finally have my panjabi lanugage classes set up (once a day, monday to friday from 11am to 1pm). i am staying in a beautiful little apartment with my own kitchen, bathroom and entrance. the family i’m renting from is very loving and generous. chandigarh is relatively easy to navigate. and i have a new computer on which to pound out my ma thesis. and the best news yet – i still have two months to learn as much as i can. to take advantage of the opportunity before me, from which to launch into my future.

i’ve been in a bit of an in between place here…unsure of my role in relation to the project i came here to be a part of. the upside has meant the space and time to adapt to delhi. so much has been resonate. little details of how things are done. the heat has melted away small physical issues that are usual in canada. the food is just what i crave – salty, oily, spicy. i’m drinking lassis and chai like there’s no tomorrow. i think there must be something about the reverence for the cow that is making the dairy here work for me :).

right now i’m staying in a guest house. i am free to come and go. although i usually don’t leave without my travel companion, i have attempted a few of my own excursions, mainly to gurdwara when i’m craving that space. i wish i could go more, but nightfall is around 6PM here, and i get nervous being out on my own past then. my lunch and dinner is usually provided at the guest house. i do my laundry in a bucket. i sleep with fleas, all of us protected from mosquitoes by a bed net. until now, i have accessed the internet down a little, easy-to-bypass ally way off the main drag in delhi gate.

i have access to things i don’t normally have in canada – the prepared meals, a cell phone, almost complete control over my time. it’s like being on vacation, except that every excursion out of the guest house is a bit of a psychological and energetic undertaking. mainly because there’s still so much to learn about how things are done here. every purchase is a dance. there is, of course, a lot of starring to absorb, a need for greater awareness of my surroundings. a bit of fear that is mainly nervousnesses about how to react should an emergency of some kind occur – the police here walk around with ak-47s and all of the ones i’ve seen so far are men.

in fact, i think one of the most difficult things to deal with right now is being surrounded by mainly men all the time. that, and the fact that i have to fill out my husbands/fathers name on every form applying for something (i.e. the internet – note the men filling out forms don’t have to indicate who their wife/mother is). i had a vision of a movie about a girl who woke up one morning in a world filled with only men – in the streets, on the magazines, on tv – even the women were men wearing wigs, and when the dogs looked up at her to bark, they had little man faces. i’ve been really blessed to be with the travel partner i am with right now. but i guess i am missing more time with women. that too will happen, once we head off to east india in a week or so.

people who are visitors here, especially non-Indians, like to talk about the contrasts in this country. about the sharp divides between the rich and the poor, between men and women. i can’t help but notice the hypocrisy of that type of comparison. i don’t mean to minimize these divides which are great (or to idealize things either), but women have access to a level of political power here that is unheard of in canada (for example, women politicians in canada make up 21 percent of elected seats, but at least 33 percent of seats in india must be filled by women). and while the poverty that i’ve seen so far is unlike anything i’ve witnessed in canada, the ‘third world’ conditions that most native peoples live in in canada are conveniently tucked away in reservations that are unseen by the white majority.

so while the inequalities here are more blatant, they are also part of a continuum of inequality that exists in canada, and worldwide, too. everyone, everywhere is struggling against similar economic forces that render certain people more disposable then others. and the creative ways that people find to redefine themselves are just as inspiring – women’s cooperatives, and other self-help groups, massive marches composed of tens of thousands of people, development projects that originate from the communities themselves, and respond to their needs as they define them.

in the next couple of weeks i will be learning more about some of these efforts, and i look forward to sharing my discoveries with all of you.

last night i had a dream. i was having brain surgery when the doctors realized that i only had a limited amount of time to live. i was dying. they stopped the surgery. there was nothing else they could do to help me.

i woke up laughing gently at myself. It’s TRUE –

WE ARE ALL DYING AND ONLY HAVE A LIMITED AMOUNT OF TIME TO LIVE!!!

choice

i have been struggling to pray recently. a challenge with implications for every corner of my life has swept in, and i have felt a disconnection from God, and a separateness from my own practice of devotion. these are the moments we are always preparing for – the storms that reveal the necessity of strength and groundedness. but i feel no strength in me, only fear in the face of an impossible decision. an awareness of my separation from others as it sinks in that i alone am responsible for making this choice, and no amount of facts, or dreaming, or discussion can alter the innate sense from the beginning of what it is that i should do.

how to be, when you know what to do, but don’t feel the courage inside to carry out your choice?

actually, more and more i have felt that it isn’t us who choose choices, but that it is choices that choose us. and that it is our challenge to live up to those choices in the best way that we can. to carry them out with dignity and courage.

i don’t know if i have it in me. if i can face what is required of me. but, maybe that is the one prayer i have in me at this time – that God grants me the courage and dignity to carry out what i know in my heart to be right. and that i may return to Him in my early mornings to continue the bond that we began, to continue that build up of strength and grace that life requires.

hair

it has been through the removal of my hair that i have realized it’s power and sacredness, and through it, the power and sacredness of every part of my body. in fact, one of the light bulbs that went off for me in my early discovery of sikhi was the principle of maintaining one’s hairs. this brought to the fore of my mind experiences throughout my life that had to do with my own body’s hair – of a general ambivalence toward removing it, of feeling ashamed of my leg hair in gym class as a twelve year old girl, of receiving the message throughout my life that body hair on women is undesirable.

about four years ago i decided to shave my head. it was the result of many factors, one of which was a strong impulse to push back against the sexualized attention that i received from men in public spaces, and also of responding somehow to the existence of cancer in members of my family past and present.

this experience caused a crashing in of many things all at once: loss, release, autonomy, liberation, emptiness. i had held the idea for a while of doing this sometime in my life. suddenly i had done it, and it didn’t exactly feel the way i had expected it to. namely, i didn’t feel like myself anymore.

now my hair is back to the length it was before the shave, and the longer it gets, the more i feel at home in my body.

i think, generally, the removal of hair means different things for women then it does for men. for example,  it is usually directly related to our perceived sexual desirability and this of course is a primary role that women are expected to fulfill in relation to men (which is a  complex thing, because they are also stigmatized for expressions of sexuality as well).

some women respond to this role by fulfilling these expectations in ways that they experience as attractive and empowering. for example, getting dressed up, using make-up, getting a hair cut, etc. i think that these choices can be powerful ways for women to relate to their own bodies and the world around them, and that they need to be respected.

there is a very narrow band of gendered behaviour that all of us are expected to walk, and this narrowness causes us all to adapt and survive in the best ways that we know how, based on our own histories, personalities, and the resources at our disposal. the key is to find the ways that are the most soul-fulfilling for ourselves, and then to make those happen with wild abandon!! to respect our own choices, but of course, to figure out what those are first…

what i love about sikhi is how it draws on natural tendencies that i already have (i.e. an ambivalence about removing my hair), but then pushes me a little further to challenge (in this case): my own experience of the attractiveness of my natural body  (how destructive, after years and years of socialization, to look at my own body and struggle to see the beauty amidst the hairs!!), my fears about how others will receive me in the world, and of course, my ego, ego, ego…

the thing is, i want this challenge. i want this widening open. this step into the unknown, where even my ego fears to tread. and like each of the 5 k’s, hair can thus becomes a powerful (and beautiful!) tool in the journey towards Waheguru. an unmasking of my fears – of laying them on the table, to be burned away by the grace of God.

breaking through
the blockade of mind
expressions of ego
fall to the floor

i try and try
and try again
to re-identify
myself to you

around and around i go

until the spiral
concentrates
into a centre that is
empty, but whole

no longer alone

impossible to leave
but, there is no where else
i would rather be

i’m on your path now
laid out, stone by stone

fingers griping tight
around hands that pull me through

i want to break everything
tear down mind
tear down false starts

tear down every moment
we’ve been apart

i want to tear open this heart

and feel it beating
unenclosed
as i sink down
smitten
lost
found
bound to you now
and forever

i will bring all of who i am.

or at least, the pieces i will be at the time.

i couldn’t wait for summer.

for the first time in my life, i can’t wait for october…

i recently spoke with a friend who shared that he sees himself becoming more open to the saint aspect of the warrior-saint concept in Sikhi. my journey, and challenge, right now is to open up to and explore the warrior aspect of that duo…

the theory and practice of nonviolence has played a huge role in my life. i became a vegetarian as a teenager, and after i left home i began to more consciously integrate principles of nonviolence into my life (including active resistance to injustice in my community). buddhism fed conceptions of non-harm that shuttled me through engagements with police, other activists, journalists, non-human beings, my parents, partners, friends. when i say ‘shuttle’ i don’t mean that i ‘swept’ through these moments in relation to others with fluid grace – like life in general, this time was marked by painful messiness, inspiration, hollowness, strength, mistakes, victories, as well as moments ofbliss and pure connection.

nonviolence was a base for me that helped to guide my decisions and my understandings of myself in the world.

i was devote (read: arrogant). i had found an answer. no. the answer. adherence to nonviolence already had so much evidence in modern history to support it’s power and potential for creating change. why couldn’t everyone see that this was the way?

what has remained with me from this time? the utter sacredness of life. what has begun to shift? the idea that i know what someone else should do to resist oppression, that i know what is the most effective methodology, that i know what will herald in the kind of revolution that our world and all the living beings on it are crying out for. i don’t know where this leaves me. maybe just that i have seen and that i still believe in the power of nonviolence, and that this is my home for action in the world is absolutely still true. but i also need to acknowledge that i’m not in control of the world. and to attempt or imagine control over others is a violence, too.

how does this connect to the warrior concept in sikhi? here i need all of your help! so please share your thoughts on this below. here are just some beginning thoughts…

first, i want to acknowledge the possibility that nonviolence and warriorship are not mutually exclusive. the experiments in nonviolence that have been carried out throughout history often required a fearlessness, and sometimes, a willingness to sacrifice ones life, just as required in any other sort of battle. these campaigns were also not ‘passive,’ but challenged authority and injustice with a fierceness informed by love.

from what i understand about warriorship in Sikhi: defensive action is supported, especially to protect others. for women especially, i see warriorship as an invitation to push back against the acquiescence/obedience that can inform so much of our behaviour, especially towards men. a painful reality is that so many of the women i know have experienced sexual assault. so many of us navigate the streets in our own communities in fear.

what could the concept of warriorship offer to all of us (wherever we identify or not on the gender continuum) in the movement towards safety, and affection without fear of harm?

the element on my mind the most right now is – outsidership. an uncertainty about how to enter in. i just recently began wearing the kara, and even that feels so vulnerable, as i spent the week putting it on. then taking it off. then putting it on again…

first i would think: ‘sikhi is primarily about one’s relationship to God, not about appearance or identity. and maybe you aren’t even sikh! and do you even need to have a label? and what about histories of colonialism that have made available a panopoly of spiritual and cultural traditions for your personal indulgence? and what if (my greatest fear of all) this feeling of God-connection leaves? what if this is just a passing phase? a stop on your spiritual journey? what if this isn’t real at all? and you aren’t even baptized, so why wear any of the 5 k’s at all?’

but there is something about this hesitation that intrigues me, as well, and I can’t help but wonder – is there something underneath?

and then fears come up like – imposition, taking up space, not belonging, of being exposed, of participating in cultural appropriation, of trying to be something i’m not.

so then i would take it off.

then i would think: ‘yes, sikhi is primarily about my relationship with God. and when i wear the kara, i feel accountable to that relationship in a particular way, like – if i’m going to have the privilege of wearing this, then i better walk the talk.’

and so it has functioned in this way for me, of reminding me of God when I look down to see it on my arm, and also of motivating me all the more to do my prayers.

so then, i would put it back on.

i must sound so neurotic :).

well, that was last week. and this week i have worn it almost constantly, still with some discomfort and uncertainty, but only when i get stuck in my mind. for more information about what that’s like, please re-read the preceding paragraphs.

at least four times :).

i am still not convinced that this is essential to my worship of God. but that it is important to understanding more about who i am, and that it may hold an important clue about attachments that i have to being able to “blend” in particular ways, of eliminating as much as possible elements in my physical appearance that would draw attention, or make me feel vulnerable, i think it does help to highlight these things. and that is work that i’m willing to engage with and explore further…

guru

i have fallen in love

he is not here
but everywhere
he is not separate
but rides a breeze
into my heart

i have fallen into truth

bold torrents
of rain
wash
everything
away

warm concrete
after the storm
begs to be
broken

i have fallen deeply

his song
fills my mind
until sitting
becomes living
and living
is only the time
i’m not there

i have fallen out of mind

my head
fills my hands
not yet
but in my dreams
i have let it go

i have fallen to pieces

everything
broken
bits of me
more beautiful
then before
more integral
then the veins
that use to
hold me together

i have fallen into you, my guru

my life
and my heart
bursting
streaming
settled
in your hands

writing is translation
this piece is writing me
it’s writing itself out

even thoughts come
on waves of words
death by knife,
death by lack of movement

words return to pull me out

what is translatable?
pools of dark emotion
surround my feet
my mind is empty
what more can words say?

just so long as death
stays away long enough
for me to know you

Your Name, Your Name

the pool is calmer now
a cemetery in the garden
translation’s my only chance
to understand who i really am

where is God?
and what is all around?
and where else is there left to go?

in the end
you touched my mind,
and finally,
there was nothing left to say

vow

i have taken vows for the first time in my life. after discussing the possibility with my mom, she shared with me that the only commitment she had ever made on behalf for her future selves was when she got married. i’ve tried to never speak on behalf of my future selves (perhaps it would be more honest to say – i have never had the opportunity to give myself to something so great as to be worthy of them). but then, suddenly, it was happening, and both past and future selves collapsed into a single me. the ground beneath time’s marching feet disappeared, except for the second it took for me to say, ‘yes.’

i received several warnings that i would be challenged most strongly after i received amrit. indeed, in the months since, the beauty and power of the experience has shone a painful light on the accumulated, unconscious behaviours i have inherited and developed over a lifetime (and perhaps for longer). now that i’ve committed myself to something greater then me, more then ever before, unconsciousness is no longer an option. blending into the background and becoming pre-occupied with what i imagine to be the perceptions of others is no longer an option. apologizing for my own existence is past now.

none of these things have ever served me. but now, when i indulge in them i don’t just betray myself. i betray my connection to the Divine, as well.

the overwhelming challenge has been facing my own humanness, my own smallness and fragility in the face of this gift. i have already failed countless times, have felt the sting of my heart breaking in the face of the small betrayals that I myself inflict.

it’s strange how the heart becomes heavier the more pieces that break off. but i feel that this is a testing time. i trust that facing myself in the eye is the necessary pre-requisite for the mountain climbing ahead.

last week i was honoured to be part of a workshop titled, ‘deepening our strength,’ which explored the role and need for a radical spirituality, especially in the context of working for social change. in my segment, i suggested a series of questions for people to consider when exploring a religious/spiritual tradition outside of their families’ history.

i want to emphasize that these points are not intended to be used to screen or judge others. these questions are intended to support self-reflection. i ask them first and foremost of myself. my thinking on cultural appropriation has been inspired and deepened by a surge of online writing on this topic, which i highly recommend for further exploration:

http://theangryblackwoman.com/2009/01/15/what-is-cultural-appropriation/

http://yogavita.wordpress.com/2008/07/21/cultural-appropriation-in-action/

http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/04/cultural-appropriation-bingo-proving.html

http://iheartthreadbared.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/linkage-the-feather-in-your-native-cap/

Questions to Think About if You Find Yourself Drawn to a Faith Outside Your History

1. Does adopting this tradition increase your social capitial? Your social mobility?

2. Do you bring a sense of entitlement to your use of other traditions? For example, do you appeal to the principle of universalism existent in many traditions to justify your use of components as you see fit?

3. Do you position yourself as practicing a purer, more authentic, more orthodox/more in-line-with-the-founder’s-vision-of-the-faith? (i.e. other sikhs/buddhists/muslims are mired in cultural baggage, but we are free to practice this tradition as it was meant to be practiced!)

4. What is your relationship with members of the greater community from which this tradition comes? Are you involved in supporting their struggle for: autonomy/decolonization/mobility rights/freedom from racism? In what ways are you honouring the peoples from whom this tradition has come/within whom this tradition lives?

5. Most faith traditions include moral codes/restrictions and require a daily discipline. Are you cherry picking the ‘fun stuff,’ securing your spiritual ‘high,’ but discarding the aspects that take work and require you to confront your ego – and which challenge the Western quest for pleasure (including spiritual pleasure) as a ‘right’?

6. Is there a balance between the visible components of the faith and the practices that are done in private? Is your relationship to this tradition mainly aesthetic? Are you ‘performing’ a faith?

7. Are you working to familiarize yourself with the history of the greater community? The history of Sikhs is filled with persecution and resistance. Are you aware of the many sacrifices that have been made to enable this path to All-That-Is to exist into the present? Of the great loss of life and the continued repression of this community today?

8. Are you doing the work to learn necessary language skills?

9. Many faiths emphasize self-development and community service. Is your relationship to this tradition regulated solely to a ‘self-help’ role?

10. Are you benefiting financially from this tradition?

One of my favorite writers and thinkers, Trinh Minh-ha, emphasizes the role offunction versus intention. She points out that we are born into a field of power that precedes our birth, and which shapes our choices and also the meaning and impact of those choices, whatever our ‘intention’ may be (thank you to one of the above bloggers who referred me to this concept by Trinh). Our role, as i see it, is to be as aware as possible of our impact on others, so that we can make an informed choice about the best path to take, one which causes the least harm to all beings.

The steps that those of us from the ‘West’ take in Sikhi are always going to be marked by the privilege of access and mobility that we were born into. These points are an attempt to clarify the motivation and commitment that we have in order to ask the question of ourselves, ‘Why am I here (in this faith)?’ To ensure that we keep front and centre the deep, deep honour that it is to walk this path, by the grace of the Guru.

form

now is the beginning of the rest of my life. i know that things are going well when i feel filled with hope and excitement for what is around the corner… and that is overwhelming how i’ve felt since returning home.

though coming back has offered challenge and inspiration both. the most obvious cause is my adoption of dastaar. every morning before i wear it, i feel stirrings of terror. but once it’s on, absolute certainty. this is right. and i am me now. fully.

besides, my own terror often has a way of daring the softer parts of myself to take a deeper look into what is going on inside…

that being said, the space i felt (and feel) most nervous about entering with this new form is not: family spaces, public spaces, employment spaces. the place i most fear is: grad school. it’s a place i have already marked with my own insecurities. and i know well the incisive self-righteousness that can evolve out of a place focused on the power of the mind alone. i know because i have judged and critiqued and torn apart those around me based on the analysis that my mind has conjured. and now i carry with me a vulnerability – a marker of religiousity.

but even more then that, the combination of my body and kara and dastaar leaves me (appropriately) vulnerable to questions about ‘appropriation,’ and even ‘theft.’ realities which my ego has worked so hard to distance myself from – as part of a defensive response to the reality of racial violence. of white supremacy. of global structures of benefit and loss based on a complex of attributes, including colour, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, ability, political affiliation and more.

because now i no longer carry the self-protection of ‘clearly not taking.’ though the truth is, although in a more obvious form now, i have always been in debt to many different peoples in the world. and the largest debt is to those with the least access to movement, to mobility upwards in this society, the indigenous peoples of turtle island whose colonization built the framework for the opportunities that i have. but also, to all the peoples worldwide who are pre-emptively blocked and judged and boxed based on where they are born, what language they speak (or don’t), and more. and from whom philosophies about the world, spirituality, art forms, ways of dress, and more are taken, commodified, re-packaged, diluted, and made palitable to a white audience.

because of these realities, my encounter with Sikhi isn’t ‘innocent.’ and since, as mentioned above, i was born in debt to other peoples, the obviousness of my debt to sikh peoples simply exposes a truth that was always there.

the experience of Waheguru in my life, and my attempts to express my love and devotion to Her are the two things onto which i seek to centre my life, not in the hopes of denying or running away from the complication of what it means for a person like me to walk the path of Sikhi, but in the hopes of facing this complication fully, unflinchingly, and openly with others. because i think that true gratitude demands this kind of openness. and through my service to the khalsa panth (whatever that service may be, however it may evolve through time), i hope to express both.

cleanse

i had avoided amritsar for as long as i could. had felt a kind of premonition that it was unsafe for me. so, when i first came to panjab, i stayed in chandigarh. though i kept feeling, i must go to amritsar. of course, it was an obvious necessity. still, i hesitated to make the travel plans. and a couple of times, when i made them, something would prevent me from leaving. but then occurances in chandigarh revealed the need for departure. and so i decided – i will go and return within the day. visit darbar sahib, and then come back to sleep in chandigarh. during my first day there, i thought, i will stay for the night. and on the second day, i thought – perhaps i will stay for a couple more? in the end, i stayed for ten blessed days that changed me in ways i have yet to fully understand…

that first morning as i approached darbar sahib, my body began to shake. emotions battled inside my chest. i remember travelling towards the sun, and feeling overwhelmed. how is it possible that i ended up here? how is it possible that only one year before i felt placed on this path, while sitting in a dark, lonely room, and now manifested before me, was the most beautiful, the most divine place of all?

it was awe that shook my body. and gratitude that squeezed itself down my cheeks. and inside, words kept repeating: i am blessed, i am blessed, i am blessed, i am blessed…

and then i was there. and darbar sahib was in front of me. but it wasn’t the sight of it that moved me the most, although, it truly is a beautiful thing to see. it was the sacredness that was pouring out, engulfing everyone who came near. suddenly, i was inside, leaning on her walls, eyes closed, soaking up the energy, the music, Presence, the focus of those around me who were riding the same wave…

however, it wasn’t long before i realized why i had feared this place. because in amritsar, things began to happen inside. emotions began to sharpen. soon, i didn’t feel together at all. in fact, the only time i felt some peace was when i was actually in the complex. otherwise, all i could feel was pain. the equanimity that had grown during my time in chandigarh, evaporated. i kept asking myself – why did i feel so out of control? although hard, i felt that i must stay in Amritsar longer, and figure out what was happening inside.

and so after a quick return to chandigarh to pick up the rest of my things, i moved back to give myself over to the process that had begun. and the funny thing is, and i realize how strange this may sound, but there was literally a line on the road between amritsar and chandigarh where the emotional haze lifted, and i felt like myself again. and again when i returned to amritsar, i likewise felt the tide overrun me as i re-entered the city that had become my battleground…

and so, my daily struggle began in earnest. waking in amrit vela, soaking in the power of kirtan and sadhana as i sat in darbar sahib. returning to my room, sleeping, waking, nitnem, kirtan, food, shower, sleep, wake, nitnem, kirtan, food, shower, sleep…

and still the waves of everything kept raging: hurt and sadness, anger and impatience. frustration and fear and the temptation of death around every corner.

all i could do was experience what was happening. i walked a lot. i took care of my body as well as i could. focused on the daily rhythm of paath. soaked up the healing sight of beautiful darbar sahib every evening during rahras. sat inside her as often as i could.

until the day before i was set to leave. when suddenly, it was over. like i had been listening to the sound of raging waves, and then, silence. whatever process had been occurring was done for now. and i was free to go, to continue the battle in a more subtle form in the day to day life that lay before me.

If hands, feet and body are covered with dust,
their dust is washed with water.

When clothes are soiled with urine,
these are washed with soap.

When mind becomes polluted with sins,
it is washed by colouring it with Name.

(Jap ji Sahib, 19)

space

i recently faced a time of uncertainty. constantly felt tempted to make some kind of clear cut decision. to assert some control in a situation that triggered many emotions and pre-programmed reactions. but, somehow through the grace of Waheguru, was able to watch things unfold with some distance. and this made all the difference.

a part of me kept asking, ‘i wait to be shown what is right here. i wait for your guidance.’ and, indeed, today a big piece of the puzzle fell into place.

which isn’t to say that i didn’t become overwhelmed and unbalanced throughout the process (just to be clear, i did)! but there was enough positive momentum inside myself to be able to return to that space of observation. and that is what makes all the difference between complete loss of self and balance. a tiny, little gap. it is through that space that sanity is realized. it’s the alleyway that leads back into the Sun…

emotional forces, intertwined with vichars and hopes and dreams past, can cast such a strong net over the mind and body. the experience can be so overwhelming, it is only natural to respond with suppression. with flight. indeed, it can even feel virtuous to go down that path…but this is ultimately self-defeating, because in the end, i don’t feel that we can ‘win’ against such forces.

i think about the idea that energy cannot be destroyed, but can only be transformed. i have found for myself that holding space to observe and allow emotions as they emerge has been the most effective way for me to move through them and, ultimately, to let them go when their time with me is done.

people and situations will, through time, give you all the information you need to make the decisions that are right for you. and i have often found, that when you make the right decision for yourself, it ends up being the best decision for everyone else involved as well. which just reaffirms the fact that we are all one big mega-organism of beingness, and that, because of this, my happiness and needs cannot fundamentally be in competition with anyone else’s.

which is why that little gap is so important. because when i hold onto that space, i do so not just for myself, but for each person i interact with. and for all the moments that we share together. and it is my the hope that i can bring the best of me into such moments, in support of my own and others movement towards God-within.

surrender

settled and settling in panjab. the beginning of my trip seems a lifetime away. i have gone through change. i am changed. a lot of reflection on sikhi has occurred. about me within it. i have taken the opportunity of being here to test certain limits. who am i? and what commitments are authentically discovered? i keep asking – what brings me closer to Self/God? what pulls me out of that place? and is the end result ‘sikhi’? or is it something else?

the argument that certain things should be done simply because we have been told to do them cannot ever sit well with me. especially not in regards to teachings which emerge out of something as contestable as historical processes. power concentration and the violence it wrecks has a way of weaving into history, justifying itself through stories and even ‘spiritual’ practices. and what does one do when two seemingly equally valid claims completely contradict one another?

my approach has been – to hear the arguments made regarding what should be done. to remain open. to chew over and taste the meanings. if possible, to practice the claim. and to come back to the questions – am i closer to Self/God? am i further away? do i feel neutral?

i think that this process is essential, because there are a wide range of claims regarding sikhi, regarding rehat, regarding what the Gurus truly said, and what was meant by their decisions and actions. as the Guru Granth Sahib is silent on many topics, and the sangat itself is so naturally diverse, it comes back to the individual to sort out what is ‘true.’

i don’t think that this approach grants license, especially for those coming outside of panjabi culture, to take on the identity of being sikh, regardless of the spiritual practices that one embraces. cultural appropriation is a callous way to gain spiritual well-being, and i think that consciousness of the ways that ‘sikhism’ is integrated into ones life as an outsider is key to honouring this path.

we are all students, all children of the greater Reality. but i think that to be sikh is a particular way of engaging with the divine relationship. sikhi respects all paths, but i don’t think this is the same as integrating all paths into one. such an approach is a unique characteristic of the ‘new age’/interfaith movement, which i would argue is in fact a particular path in itself, and distinct from sikhi.

what do you think?

i feel that in life, surrendering and questioning are equally important. in the end, i am only willing to do the first to God, and i resolve to always do the second with everything else.

mountains
float bodies
down

inverted precipices
pushing up
breaking ground

collapsing sound
into a single
moment of

hush

i am here
now filled
with the
sound of you

guided by Your hand

waiting for
the next
clear sign

take a stand

watch us fight
for the smallest
piece of cordoned
off land

take more then what is granted

break apart
every line
every piece
every separation

from the start
remember
in your heart

is the hush that
screams the loudest

drown all sound
feel the ground shake
feel it break

all these lines
that we draw

take more then what is granted

mountains
pushing
bodies off

these cliffs become
my mentors
my boundary
rejectors

towering collectors
of the fragments
that are me

floating down
all around
the lines that
i have drawn

the blade inside

another awakening. another integration of multiple selves. i didn’t realize how fragmented i’ve been. i never knew so many different pieces of myself could come together in this way…

oh, gatka. how wonderful you are to me. these classes mean more to me then: beautiful movement, self-defense, other-defense, strengthening my body, connecting with others, pain management, limit pushing, skill development. they mean: total integration of self. they mean finally landing fully into my body and into all of who i am.

i have always felt a blade inside. i watched it and didn’t know how to relate to her. she came out in certain areas of my life. the further i dived into nonviolence, the less i knew what to do with her. confusion ensued. more like – fragmentation of self. very rarely, this ferocity would come out. once when a woman was being hurt. other times when i would encounter someone who i felt was abusing their power. i would feel so angry, so self-righteous. i would lash out verbally. it was hard to come down afterwards. it hurt so much to discover how much hurt could occur in the world.

and then last year, it happened to me. more directly then ever before. i was attacked. and nothing came out of me. no ferocity, no inner blade. nothing to stop the tide of violence. the confusion inside myself only increased. afterwards, i found myself able to make and take the space i needed for healing. aware and open to my own tides of sorrow and hurt as they rose up and eased away through the healing process. this part i knew how to do.

what i didn’t know how to do was how to stand up for myself. narratives of forgiveness and understanding competed with the shock. i never imagined that i would react the way i had. years of cringing in the presence of anger, of being taught how to be a person who is a woman in this society had solidified into a moment of defenselessness that was wide enough to let someone else through.

i had always brought up the problem of politeness in workshops on conflict transformation. politeness can be one of the most insidious forms of conflict avoidance, of dishonesty, of acquiescence to power imbalance and injustice. it can also be a way to demonize the expression of emotions like anger, frustration, etc. which is handy when you want to shut down attempts to address conflict that actually challenge what is happening.

i don’t want to be polite anymore when someone is invading my space. i don’t want to think about what their needs are, and how embarrassing it might be for them if i called them on their behaviour (honestly, these are some of the things that go through my mind when my space is being invaded). i want to have a level of skill that will allow me to use exactly the amount of force (whether through body language, words, or actual martial technique) that is required to disable the invasion. to use it with restraint, and not from a place of anger or retaliation, but out of a sense duty to myself, and actually, to the other person as well. out of respect for their highest self, which (for whatever reason) they are not able to act from in that moment.

i’m going to India for six months, and am submerged in preparations – a graduate program to apply to, an article to revise, a paper to write, a passport to renew, a visa to apply for, funding to coordinate, tuition to somehow pay in the absence of $5000…boxes to pack, friends to visit, family members to reassure, body to strengthen in preparation for new viruses, new bacteria…

it has been easier to give in to overwhelm-edness, even though i am filled with excitement as well. in order to go with the flow i have had to regularly step back, breathe, and then consciously connect with Guru Sahib, before diving back in.

and then, there’s the stream within that whispers, “India, India, India.” and the vision that keeps me steady is me, sitting on the plane, no more planning, no more rushing – just the essential surrender that will be required from that moment onwards as i let go of control over where i will be when, what i eat when, how much sleep i will get when, how much people time/alone time when…

virtually my entire life right now is seemingly governed by my desires and needs, but when i’m there it will be six months of being a guest in the small homes of those i meet, and in the big home that is India – the country.

not that desire isn’t shaping this trip. desire for change is there, as well as the desire for movement away from some things, and towards others. to experience: the newness of myself in a new place, the newness of others around me, of different spaces and perspectives. different lives and dreams of attainment. fundamentally, the desire for continued self-movement within the spirals of human connection – of self-and-other-evolution. maybe this could happen here. why leave? another, smaller voice asks inside…

for so long now i have seen leaving by people like me to ‘do work,’ ‘development,’ and even ‘activism’ as part of the problem. and now i find myself here – funded to leave. and i hope i never fall under the illusion that i have anything to offer that cannot be offered more effectively, more efficiently, less destructively by someone there (except that, by accident of birth and the intentional violence of colonialism – i will be the one funded to live, work and learn there). my only hope is that my presence and interactions will provide something that moves towards balancing everything that i will inevitably take.

and then there is the hope that all i do end up taking – including, especially, everything i learn from the women that i will be working with – will somehow contribute towards that balance, by informing my work and research once i return to canada to the benefit of communities here.

maybe i need to let go of the idea of balance all together. i cannot re-make the world, eliminate or even transform each damaged piece i see. but i can walk the path unfolding in front of me as best as i can. breathing life and love into the pieces that i do have the blessing and opportunity to shift.