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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.

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