Friday, February 20, 2015
Wahe! Amritsar, India- Feb 20, 2015
वही Wahe!! Wahe is a Sikh word that means something like “Wow!” It refers to wonder, awe, excitement, and/or ecstasy. It is a word frequently uttered in Amritsar, and I can see why.
We have been here 3 days, and tomorrow we will depart for Kathmandu. I wish we had another couple of days here, in order to really take everything in. Unfortunately, we had a lot of rain (and even some hail!) these past 2 days, so some of the time we could have spent at the Golden Temple was spent resting in our hotel room- although that rest was much needed.
The Golden Temple, or Harmandir Sahib, is indeed an amazing place. It is the “Mecca,” if you will, of the Sikh religion. http://www.goldentempleamritsar.org/
Today, I did seva (community service) in the Guru Ka Langer, the Community Kitchen. This kitchen feeds an average of 75,000 meals PER DAY to anyone who wishes to come, for FREE. Anyone is also welcome to come and do seva- you could peel and chop onions, cut potatoes, wash dishes, etc. My appointed job was to hand out bowls to people coming in to eat. The kitchen is open 24 hours a day, so there is always a need for help.
In our yoga class this morning, we talked about appreciation and gratitude for the people in our lives and the things that we have and sometimes take for granted. We bowed humbly in “humble warrior pose,” but what could be more reverent than handing someone a bowl from which they could eat? A bowl which was lovingly washed by someone just moments before? (Tim chose to wash dishes today for his seva.)
Yesterday, we had the opportunity to tour the kitchen and see the vats where they cook the dal. They are giant enormous vats, set into a second story floor, over large wood fires. People would carry huge buckets of carrots and onions (it took 2 men to carry each bucket) and transfer them into the cooking vats. (There were some men cleaning one of the vats- it was so big that one man was standing inside of the vat to scoop the water out of it, and you could hardly see his head poking out the top.) We each got the opportunity to stir the dal as it was cooking. Ever stir soup with something the size of a garden shovel? Seriously, the handle was probably 5 feet long. Wahe!
Earlier this morning, we went inside the Golden Temple to sit for meditation, along with lots and lots of other people. It was definitely awe inspiring just to be there. In the midst of all the noise, the movement, the color, the sparkle, and so forth, it was remarkably easy to just slip into stillness. To just sit and be. I was trying to use a meditation technique of listing the things and people I am grateful for, but that was actually hard! This distraction for the mind was actually taking me out of my meditation. So, I just sat in the midst of the flow, and found a sense of belonging, (even in a place where I look different from everyone else,) happiness, and inner peace. It was amazing. Wahe!
The people here in Amritsar (and especially within the temple walls) are super-friendly, welcoming, trusting, and forgiving if you mess up their customs. Everyone is welcome, everyone is equal. (This is a quality of the Sikhs- equality for all, regardless of race, gender, religion, socio-economic status. Yeah!) Many of the local people wanted us to have our pictures taken with them, since they had possibly never been in contact with Westerners before. It was fun, and really an honor just to be there. During our yoga class today, we paused and took a moment to appreciate everything it had taken for us to be right where we were in that moment- the support of our family members, the natural resources used for our flights, the hours of work we did to make enough money to pay for our trips, the people who served us breakfast this morning, the farmers who grew our food, and so forth. To me, this is always where the Wahe comes. Realizing how we are all connected. How none of us is really ever separate. How we support each other. And even now as I type this, from half-way around the world, I marvel at the technology that allows me to share these words and pictures with you. May we always have that sense of wonder, of appreciation, and of gratitude. Wahe!!