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Roots:
Letters from Espanola

EK ONG KAAR KAUR

 

 

 

This is the second offering in sikhchic.com's new weekly column, LETTERS FROM ESPANOLA.

 

This winter in January, we had an extended freeze. The temperature did not get above 32F degrees for days on end.

It is rare for that to happen here. Usually, with the desert sun, the days warm up a little bit, even in the dead of winter. But for the last few years, these deep cold spells have become more common. Even deeply buried water pipes end up freezing.

There is a rosemary bush that I planted a couple years ago in the front yard. It did not like the extended freeze one bit. Most of the leaves died from the cold.

This is a hardier species of rosemary, which can stay evergreen even when it snows. But that many days below the freezing mark pushed it past its limits.

When I was less experienced in the garden, I used to gauge the health of a plant by what it was doing above ground. Yet over the years, I have realized that the life of a plant is much more complicated than that. The stems, the leaves, the flowers, the fruit, are all a reflection of the roots. The strength of a plant is not what it shows. The strength of a plant is the part you can never see: the part below ground, merged in earth, drinking in the water, and the nutrients – that is where a plant lives or dies.

Sure enough, now that spring is peeking around the corner, the rosemary has started putting forth new leaves on its branches. It may take a couple years for it to completely recover its bulk and height, but the process of renewal is there. The process of renewal is inevitable, really, because while the leaves froze this winter, the roots grew deeper and stronger. I have great faith that my rosemary will surprise me by the end of this growing season, and surpass my expectations for its recovery.

During the winter, when I walk around the yard and connect with the various shrubs and trees that are here, I know that the plants are not “dormant.” While the cold winds blow, the energy is simply turned inward. The roots are slowly staking out new territory and expanding themselves. When the warmth of spring returns, all the growth that will burst forth is the plants’ way of expressing the new depth it has reached below.

When I meditate on this, I see that the cycle of life is the same for us humans, although our seasons may not necessarily move with the sun. Sometimes, we are blooming and growing, luscious and expansive. And sometimes, a great winter comes into our lives. Our outer appearance becomes diminished and the energy turns inwards. There is loss and retreat in the face of difficulties and tragedies.

It can be difficult to understand that these dark times may also have a purpose. Just as winter allows the roots of a plant to go deeper, tragedy opens a path for the mind to go deep within the soul and find the strength of the Divine there.

There is no way through sadness but to feel it. There is no way through wounding but to heal it. There is no escaping this polarity of life, because it is the same sensitivity that allows us to feel joy and pain.

As the saying goes, there are two sides to the coin. There is no way to have one without the other.

When these times of loss come into our lives, it can feel like something has changed forever. Yet plants teach us and history shows us a simple truth. As long as we keep our roots strong, renewal is not only possible, but promised. We are never defeated when the visible part of our lives get destroyed. Defeat only happens at the roots.

To me, this is why Guru Nanak gave us the Mool Mantar, the Root Formula. Everything else comes from it. Japji Sahib, the Guru Granth Sahib - these are the branches, the leaves, the flowers and the fruit that come from this Root Mantar.

It does not describe the divine outside of us - some “God Guy” in some "Heaven” somewhere. The Mool Mantar describes the divine as it can express itself within each one of us, here and now. It tells us the qualities of our own consciousness when we recognize the deathless light of divinity as the source of our own existence.

Here is a poetic interpretation of the Mool Mantar:

One Spirit Beyond
Moves within the Creation --
Coordinating
Consolidating
Continually
Creating,

And this Spirit
Within me
Is my True Identity.

It Does All
And Causes All
To be Done.

It Protects me
Through all incidents
Of Time and Space.

It fears nothing
And knows nothing
Of vengeance
Or anger.

Deathless
It comes into Form.

In Itself, It has
Never been born.

Flowing through the cycles
Of Birth and Death,
It moves
By Its Own
Purity and Projection.

This understanding
Shall come to you
As a sweet blessing,
As a gift.

In every moment
Continue
In Its Continual
Remembrance.

From the start
This Truth was True.

All through Time and Space
Is True.

Even now,
This Truth is True.

Nanak says,
Ever shall be True.

If we remember this is who we are, even in the face of tragedy and difficulties, then we do not die. Our roots grow stronger. And when the cycle of life shifts, as it inevitably will, when spring returns, we not only live again, we prosper.

For me, Sikh history is filled with extremely powerful examples of this.

Guru Arjan’s sacrifice on the hot plate. How could the Sikhs suffer such a tragedy, happening to the one who created the Adi Granth? And yet, what was built on the other side? The Akal Takht. The throne of the Timeless, Deathless One. The decision that the Sikhs of the Guru would live completely sovereign on the earth, not subject to anyone except the Guru and the Creator.

Guru Gobind Singh lost his entire family, his home, the city of Anandpur Sahib, at the hands of the enemy. But he never lost himself, his identity, or his consciousness. He never lost his roots. When Guru Gobind Singh wrote the Zafarnama to Aurangzeb and proclaimed victory, Aurangzeb had to agree. Because the test life is not in the visible part of what we have and what we can show. The test of life is in the consciousness. It is in our depth.

This cycle of life -- expansion and contraction, growth and depth -- is Infinite and never ending. The real tragedy is when we do not give ourselves or other people permission to go through it. It is more comfortable to create the illusion of a perpetual summer, where the leaves are always green and the fruit is always growing. It is difficult and frightening to face the darkness. To lose. To go within. To have one’s roots tested.

Not every plant lives through the cold. Yet, there is a necessity for this cycle. It creates a process of maturity within the spirit. It allows a sapling to become a great tree, which offers shade and comfort to all. And the more we can allow this cycle to unfold in our own lives, the more compassionate we can be when this cycle happens to those around us.

It opens the possibility for all of us to become stronger and more expansive in the end.
 

[The author -- sikhchic.com's newest columnist -- is a writer, a minister of Sikh Dharma and a teacher of Kundalini Yoga, living in New Mexico, USA. She enjoys working with people one-on-one to support their development on both spiritual and practical levels. She also serves as a business and communications consultant for business owners and groups who want to expand in conscious ways.] 

March 27, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: Inder Singh (Chandigarh, Punjab), March 27, 2013, 10:10 AM.

A thought-provoking piece! Thank you for nudging my heart and mind into meditating on the change of seasons in our lives, parallel to all that goes on around us. What a lovely essay, indeed!

2: Hari Singh (New Jersey, USA), March 27, 2013, 12:52 PM.

I particularly enjoy the gentleness and humility that you employ in telling your story. The total absence of anything didactic or pontificating makes it particularly pleasurable ... and easily palatable.

3: G.P. Singh (San Antonio, Texas, USA), March 27, 2013, 6:52 PM.

Superb thoughts, beautifully expressed. So glad that we will have the opportunity to read your thought provoking articles every week. Thank you for doing this seva.

4: Narinderjeet Kaur (Denver, Colorado, USA), March 30, 2013, 3:33 PM.

Plant life to human life. The idea of making human life compassionate like the plants to the people around is indeed thought-provoking and points to the true message of our Gurus. Thanks for the beautifully chosen words for the message. Waiting more from your side. May Waheguru help you in your lofty mission.

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Letters from Espanola"









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