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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)

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