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Spirituality

i was sitting inside the san juan bautista parroquia in the center of coyoacan in cdmx today and suddenly, i felt an overwhelming rush of emotions. this isn’t new to me, as an empath and highly sensitive person. it just is. particularly, though – i’ve realized – in spiritually charged spaces.

it’s funny, growing up – i vividly remember resenting and rejecting sikhism. it felt forced. i was told to go to the gurdwara and my mother tried, tried, tried. i didn’t get it. maybe she didn’t have the words she was looking for. regardless, i thought i was an atheist, i thought religion was silly. i didn’t understand how anyone could believe in this higher being or power that we couldn’t see, couldn’t “prove”. i often looked to my books and felt that i needed science, literature, something “academic” to show me it was real.

i stumbled through much of my life, identifying as an atheist while unknowingly participating in spiritual acts.

by the end of my college career and months into living in oakland, i caught myself in the act. lighting sandalwood. carefully walking the incense around my room, even to my darling cat. my mother’s spirit moved within me. her soft worn brown hands blessing me with sandalwood, as she carried it throughout our home and back to the altar.

while in oakland, i began learning about meditation, devouring article after article on higher purpose and soul-searching and spirituality. i’ve read more about sikhism in the past year than i have my whole life. i was drinking dramatically less. (i realize now that my drinking was truuuuuly numbing my spirit and i, as a highly sensitive person, cannot be drinking like the folks around me – a truth i still struggle with.)

you know one of the craziest things? i believe in signs. i always kind of have. again, i was always a bit of a contradicting atheist. this past year, as i’ve been delving deep into spirituality, i remembered a third grade project that i had to participate in.

we had to pick a part of the brain and write a basic report. any part. the teacher gave us a huuuuge list of examples. my little ten-year-old self wanted to write about none other than the pineal fucking gland. the pineal gland. the pineal gland!?

as in the third eye, the crown chakra. this realization blew me away. this realization came days after i (kid you not) tried to attempt astral projection all week. in third grade, i i did not have a single clue about the pineal gland but i remember that it struck me at the time. the universe just knows what we need, right? the universe is constantly trying to light our path but we miss the messages.

one of the first books i devoured, too, was a book on astrology. a book right off my late grandfather’s book shelf: the birthday book.

the signs only continued, though. my first boss in a salaried job, right out of college, is spiritual. she does not speak about it directly at work but she doesn’t intoxicate her body in any way. she believes and preaches “selfless service” – a tenant of sikhism, in fact. under her mentorship, i opened my eyes.

then, months later, i found myself joined by a new co-worker and we found ourselves speaking of spirituality, rituals, cleansing our bodies and leading more compassionate, selfless lives. it was because of her that i felt encouraged to join the east bay meditation center’s people of color sangat, another tenant of sikhism. without sangat, we are not held accountable and i was definitely struggling. i am so grateful for her friendship and sisterhood in this spiritual journey.

and you know, though some of my closest chosen fam are 300 miles away from me… i have been saying these past two years: i feel like i need to be in oakland, i am meant to be in oakland right now. and how incredibly true that has been.

today, i sat inside the church for quite a long time. quietly. meditating. feeling. tears threatening to fall. this journey is a battle but i’ve come so far. i spent junior and senior years of my undergraduate career drinking every day, transforming into someone selfish and suicidal. though i still drink, i rarely remember when the last time was when i do choose to drink. progress. i was un-disciplined in my vegetarianism but i feel such a deep roaring motivation to stick to it. progress.

i have spent so many days on this trip, beating myself up for not knowing enough spanish and for just being out here to vacation while offering no services but i forget to give myself love for the internal work that is pushing through. i feel as though there is love, creativity, and compassion bubbling beneath layers of self-doubt, laziness, and lack of action.

it is all coming together. this trip has opened my eyes to so much, has solidified so much of my strength and power. i feel affirmed in my self. i’m constantly growing and constantly asking myself hard questions, unafraid to be honest with at least myself. for that, i am proud.

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i have always been an explorer, a wanderer, always wondering “what if?” and since i was a little girl, it was a dream to travel. not to party or to indulge (much) but to discover, learn, push myself into serious discomfort. growing up, it was never a possibility to travel. family rules and money prevented it. my tremendous lack of self-confidence and inability to tightly grasp my agency and autonomy as a first generation panjabi girl prevented it. finally though, here i am. i did not take no for an answer. it felt right, it was time to go.

family, friends, acquaintances, strangers all ask the question: but why alone? yet, for me, that was never a question. why not alone? consider me strange, i adore my solitude. i’ve fallen in love with silence. yet, traveling solo is rarely solo. hostels are bustling with other travelers, locals glance at me in confusion in sodas and cafes, white men feel entitled to dump their every thought on me. even here, i create my solitude. i carve out moments of silence. i make space and time to decompress in solitude. i say, no, gracias. it is a part of my careful practice.

family, friends, acquaintances, strangers all ask me, too, the question: why costa rica? in all honesty, i was not even sure at first. my original plans were to support my comrade in her local permaculture work with la comunidades idígenas. to work with the earth. to provide my services. when her plans were left in the air, i decided i was to go ahead on my own. it felt right.

in my first moments in costa rica i met a sikh man, with whom i found myself in deep conversation about sikhism and spirituality.

just like that, the universe sent me an answer. well, damn. pura vida. it has been a tumultuous year of excruciating growing pains through self-discovery, self-healing, and spiritual growth — this was its culmination, or rather, continuation.

yet i felt confusing feelings of discomfort and pain my first few nights of backpacking. i stayed in a hostel in a remote area of the osa peninsula, literally immersed in the rainforest. no sign of human life in sight, except for us, 10 or so travelers. this was the beginning of my trip. i didn’t do this for any particular reason but that it felt right. i make 99% of my decisions because they feel right. my intuition is my guide. it was right. i was uncomfortable. i cried. i was emotional. and it was okay.

the sun, the moon, and the trees held me. the coos and caws of birdsong told me it was going to be okay. the wet heat, similar to that of my homeland, enveloped me in a hot, but comfortable, embrace. it was going to be okay, it was going to be okay. the long, strenuous hikes reminded me why i was here. the persistent roars of howler monkeys reminded me to push through. i have never seen or heard such life. my mind frequently flooded with the question: where the hell am i? how the hell did i end up here?

i spent hours hiking, solo, through the vast jungles — crossing streams, climbing up waterfalls. i got lost. i trusted myself: i found my way back. i focused on my breath. i looked to the sun. i thanked the steady, capable tree roots – as they held together the small cliff sides i walked across. i have, honestly, never been in such awe. of the land. of my self.

i said goodbye to that woman i was in the forest and i am now, under the bright full moon, in the city of san jose. wondering who i will be by the next cycle of la luna.

nvknkr.