Written by Sat Kaur of Nelson, BC
Becoming a Sikh was a slow process for me, and I feel every aspect has touched my soul at different times. I was a new Kundalini yoga student at Guru Ram Das Ashram in Toronto when I blithely signed up for an Akand Paath, and that night was more transformational than any yoga practice I’d ever experienced. I went home at 2am, woke my husband and said, “Everything is different now”. By the Grace of God, he was completely willing to make space for me to answer the call of my soul and begin to more deeply explore, and then to embody, the life of a Sikh. So yes, sadhana and simran sustain me daily, and I feel proud in my bana, and I’ve always loved being a vegetarian. Yet I think my surrender to the Guru that night, and my husband’s complete surrender to me becoming an entirely different person than the wife he’d known, was the beginning of me being most touched by the opportunity to practice and experience Sikh dharma as a householder. This path has deepened my relationship to God, developed patience, and helped me to truly “see God in All”. Growing up in a Catholic home, I loved God very much but praising God felt contained within the Church building, and I felt separate from God. Practicing my faith as a humble householder has given me the grace of deepening my ability to meditate (even with a wriggling child in my lap), to practice compassion for self and others (yes, God still loves me even if my sadhana was shortened so I can lie down with my sick child), and to experience a depth of surrender to the present moment that I feel would have eluded me as a “renunciate Zen meditator” which my perfectionist, ego-based little self had been! So, being a living example of a middle-class, “normal” North American wife and mother who by God’s Grace gets to live and breathe every moment as a sacred acknowledgement of God, and a sacred offering to God, is most enriching for me.
Bana was a challenge for me, working in a busy law firm in a large urban center. I was a spiritual cross-dresser, shedding the power suit immediately upon coming home from work and dressing in modest, flowing white clothes! It was such an immense relief to shed the armor that I wore all day, trying to gain power through dressing like a man. Now when I wear bana I feel completely protected—who needs giant shoulder pads now!? I live in a small town, and am the only person who wears bana. I feel proud of my projection and feel a responsibility to present myself in a very tidy, modest way. Recently I went out to dry my hair, walking my dog by the lake. I assumed because it was so early that no one else would be around, but a student was also there walking and was very startled by the missing turban. Everyone was graceful about it, but it made me realize that people rely on me to be consistent and that really, upon reflection, I hadn’t felt one hundred percent being out and away from home without my head covered. So my vision for the future is to continue as I am, wearing bana and loving it, and having fun interacting with people who ask me about the turban or the clothes!
Bani was a challenge, as my left-brain wanted to translate but my soul simply wanted to sit in the sound current. Now, the sound of someone reading the banis is very soothing for me even when I can’t place exactly what is being said. I read five prayers daily, and listen to them if a circumstance arises that I can’t read—for example during a teacher training, I’ll walk with an iPod and listen, so I can have fresh air and stretch and still have that “rahao”, that pause that the banis unfailingly provide. The prayers are like a little stepping stone through the day, or a touchstone. In future, my vision is to learn to read the prayers in Gurmukhi.
Seva is important to me, and I love any opportunity to serve others. I’m a Virgo and we’re very often Karma Yogis, so it feels natural and right. My mother was always helping the neighbors, making food to share with others, and serving in the community as a Girl Scout Leader, member of the Catholic Women’s League, and teaching Sunday school. So I was blessed to have a seva role model from the beginning, and that felt so resonant when I became a Sikh. My vision for the future is to balance self-care with serving others, so I don’t get burnt out. A strong sadhana and scheduled “down time” are two steps I’m taking to support that.
Simran is such an awesome gift. Keeping my mind attuned to God has finally, finally become my most prevalent habit, it feels less like work than it used to. I love waking up and rolling over in the night and hearing some prayer running through my head—and I feel it is very healing to be always clicked on the 24/7 Jaapa channel, I’m so lucky. When I catch myself in some worrisome thought or undisciplined place in my mind, I allow a mantra or prayer to rise up and am humbled at how soothing it is. My vision for the future is to learn to play the harmonium so we can have live music.
I originally thought sadhana was just insane, the whole thing. I wasn’t into prayers, especially not something reminiscent of a Catholic mass in unintelligible Latin. I don’t like cold water any time, I loved yoga but not so early…it only took a few sadhanas to fall in love with the whole thing and now if I miss sadhana the whole day feels kind of “off”, even for my family. So now, it just feels simple, it’s just something I do.
Sadhana has had a profound impact on my life, in keeping me committed in a healthy, balanced way—before, commitment felt very hyper-third chakra, very “gung ho”. Now sadhana feels like a strong thread running through the tapestry of my life, and holding the whole thing together in a seamless flow. Following a healthy vegetarian diet and practicing and teaching Kundalini Yoga keep my body strong and my mind clear. Serving in my town in the homeschool community, at the local food bank and as a teacher gives my life a sense of purpose beyond meeting my own needs, and that service is like breath to me. Raising my children to be soulful young men of integrity, curiosity and compassion and seeing the inherent spiritual purpose in that family life has enriched all my days, and by modeling that I support transformation for others as well as myself.