Travel Journal

Uprooted

It’s been a while since my last post. The past year was unbelievably challenging both spiritually and musically. I experienced a lot of growth both as a musician and human being. I wasn’t able to write about those challenges as I was living through them. Today I am going to share with you the unexpected twists which have taken center stage in my life recently, as well as share about the other major shift I went through late last year.

During the crazy year of Covid, I was able to apply with Indian immigration each month for a permit allowing me to continue living in India. In late January when I applied for extension, I received a phone call telling me I wouldn’t be allowed any further extensions. I had exactly 10 days to leave India to avoid any penalties.

Before moving to India, I joked with a friend that India had summoned me and would probably spit me out one day. Strangely, that premonition came true. The challenges of putting my affairs in order, arranging a way to make payments on my rental home so that I wouldn’t loose my furniture and kitchenware, not to mention emotional stress and depression were at times overwhelming.

I messaged my dear Papa right after receiving the news. It would have been around 1 am Utah time. Minutes after sending him the message, I was surprised to see a reply. He had been lying awake and heard his phone chime. His intuition told him it was me and that he should get up and look at the message. Several times this uncanny connection has manifested between us and I am always in awe of it.

My last 10 days in India sped by and before I knew it, I found myself back in suburban Utah. The biggest heartbreak for me is that (currently) flights to India for tourist visa holders are not allowed. I cannot return. I don’t know when I will be able to return.

During my last days in Punjab, I took pictures and video of things that in beautiful or humorous ways represent India to me.

Things I love about India:

And I took time to visit with my loved ones as well as spending time to sit and take ishnan at three special Gurdwaras Santokh Sar, Kaulsar Sahib and Darbar Sahib.

Mehtab took time to explain to me the ingredients in the Organic India tea packet Apparently they are now including rescue vehicles in their fine herbal formulas. 😂

But the big life changes really began earlier last year. I had been struggling mentally and emotionally for months. By mid October, a final breaking point came. I knew I had to leave everything I was doing. I packed a large suitcase, ordered a cab and headed to a hotel across from Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple). I knew I didn’t want to leave India, but otherwise I had no idea of the future. I wanted to continue my music studies somehow, but I knew I would never live in my Chheharta apartment again or go back to the life I had been living there. Perhaps, I’ll share more about the spiritual journey that figures into these events in a later post if there is interest.

I sat for hours at Darbar Sahib, day and night. I spent hours in my hotel room meditating and listening to spiritual lectures. Some days I was inspired to spend a little time working on the illustrations for my book. The meditations and purification I went through were intense. I knew nothing more was required of me than to sit with and feel what was happening to me. To not push it away, cover it or try to “make it better”. Just accept and be witness to what was happening.

Flowers For Guru Gobind Singh’s Birthday at Darbar Sahib

During this time, I was guided to a home for rent, two minutes walk from the Golden Temple. It is an old home, with wonderful character, which had been vacant for a couple of years. The landlord was in the process of painting and making basic repairs. I arranged to rent the house and then became ill with a fever and bad cold. I spent the next week sleeping in a dark room of a friends house, who also lived near the temple. I was so grateful for the meals and care my friend and her family provided for me. By the time I was mostly healed, the rental home was ready for occupancy.

My new home

As we move along the Spiritual path (and we all are whether we know it or not), things periodically happen that help us physically integrate the shifts we experience on energetic and subtle levels of consciousness. In traditional Buddhist monastery settings, it isn’t unusual at all for people experiencing profound spiritual shifts to be put to manual labor to help ground them. I soon found myself struggling with a cough and bronchitis as I carried furniture and house plants up several flights of stairs. I knew it was no coincidence that I was given this manual labor on the heels of my spiritual shifts.

I began to settle into my new home and really felt more at home in India than I had ever before. I love old town Amritsar.

Old Town Amritsar

Strangely, my belongings fit in the home as if they had been bought for it specifically.

The Sitting Room:

My Bedroom:

A week after my move, I began attending a music academy in the local village of Jandiala. Once a week or so, I would board a public auto rickshaw and travel about 30 minutes to the rural music academy which was beautifully surrounded by fields of sarson saag, baingan and scattered with trees.

At the Music Academy:

I would room at the academy for 3-4 days, studying with students from across India, then return to my home near the Temple. My soul was inspired by being able to practice with many wonderful Indian natives – professionals and beginners. I became aware of many subtle things in sound and pronunciation after just a few weeks. It also made me realize how I could follow this study a lifetime and still never be as adept as my little friend Meher.

I gained autonomy and confidence as I was on my own in a whole new way, living in a new area and having to travel further than ever before on a regular basis. I loved living so close to Darbar Sahib as well as being directly across from one of the other sacred Gurdwaras, Kaulsar Sahib.

Walking to Darbar Sahib from my home

By mid January, I was settling into my new routine. I decided to delve deeper into my spiritual practice with an “at home meditation retreat” package offered by Adyashanti.org. In retrospect, I feel this retreat helped me keep the calm focus and surrender demanded by the situation of having to leave India.

After the meditation retreat, I once again received manual labor to assist the integration of the spiritual work as I carried my belongings down several flights of stairs to distribute my beloved house plants and perishables to neighbors. Then I did my best to decide what to bring on my journey and what to pack away safely for who knows how long until return to India is possible. All that while feeling heartbroken. Sometimes life just seems to keep ramping up.

Inside Darbar Sahib

I arrived in Utah to the arms of my family and friends on January 31st. Thank you to everyone who expressed their joy at my return. It really has helped ease the pain of being uprooted so violently.

So the funny thing is, for a long time in India, I was itching to find some way or ways to be of service and give. I would do Seva at Darbar Sahib occasionally, but I longed for some situations that would allow a more personal relationship with the service and who was actually being served. Suddenly, I am back here and I have been blessed with SO many wonderful opportunities to serve. Whether by cooking nutritious meals for my family, cleaning, doing yard work, helping my Dadi Ji (Grandma) put her socks and slippers on, helping a friend in need or just being a listening ear. I have experienced a deep inner joy from the daily opportunities to serve.

I discovered this interesting Seva of cleaning the drinking bowls used at Darbar Sahib’s sacred corner water wells with special sand

I also feel I have been recalled for now to serve the Dharma. Last month I began teaching a new, weekly Kundalini Yoga with Gong/Meditation class. You can join me Thursday nights from 8-9:30 pm at Yoga Sunné, in Cottonwood heights. I am really grateful for this opportunity to teach the amazing students who have been coming to class each week.

One interesting phenomenon has been that after spending so much of my life with Indians, I feel a great kinship. A few times since my return, I have seen Indians in the grocery store or on the walking trail. I feel a joy, seeing what feels like my fellow countrymen. I want to reach out. Then, I realize oh yeah, I just look like a white lady to them. They can’t see what makes me feel bonded with them although we are strangers.

But then again, maybe India is seeping into me too. In the airport in Delhi, the security officer scanning me asked, “Are you Punjabi? You look Punjabi.” Then, just yesterday, I had a delightful conversation with my seven year old niece, Kendall.

Kendall

We were on the grass, eating our Easter picnic dinner when she suddenly yelled out, “You’re INDIAN! You look Indian and wear Indian clothes AND you know Indian!” (I think she meant I knew Punjabi) I was chuckling. Then, she inquired in a serious tone, “I’m pretty sure were family, right?” I replied yes, indeed we are family. Then she cheered forth with, “Then I’m part Indian too! No wonder I love Indian food!” I couldn’t help laughing at that point 😂

Who knows what the future will hold? I am so grateful for these past two years that although by far the most challenging in my life, have also been the most enriching.

Flower Seva for My Family

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