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Publications: Japji Sahib: The Song of the Soul by Guru Nanak translated by Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa. Anand Sahib: The Song of Bliss by Guru Amar Das translated by Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa. Available through www.sikhdharma.org.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Liberation Theology and The Example of the Sikh Gurus

Sat Naam and blessings.

Recently, I launched my website: www.ekongkaark.com. New articles are being posted to the site, instead of to the blog.

From now on, when I post a new article, I will share the first part here, and then link to the website page where the article is. Anyone who wants to leave comments about an article can do so on the blog or on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ekongkaarkhalsa. In time, I plan to have comments enabled on the website where the articles are being published.

Thanks to all of you have who been following my Random writing over the years! Many blessings to you.

Ek Ong Kaar Kaur

Liberation Theology and The Example of the Sikh Gurus

As the conclave to elect the new Catholic Pope begins, some of the more liberal-leaning media have shined a spotlight on “Liberation Theology.” The question they have raised is this: can someone be elected Pope who supports this theological approach to dealing with social injustice and poverty? Wikipedia describes Liberation Theology as, “an interpretation of Christian faith through the poor's suffering, their struggle and hope. [It is also] a critique of society, the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor.” Some proponents of Liberation Theology argue that God especially favors the poor. Liberation Theology also maintains that sin is the root of the social injustice that accompanies economic inequality.

Of course, strong advocates of the “free market,” arguably a mythological invention all on its own, have a decided dislike of Liberation Theology. There have been backroom power struggles within the Catholic Church around these issues, according to some of the media reports I have been reading.

This is the first time in my life that I have heard about Liberation Theology, even though it was developed in the 1950’s-60’s. I am not an expert on the subject. However, the conversation has provoked some questions in my own mind.

• Is there something similar to Liberation Theology in the teachings and example of the Sikh Gurus?
• Do the poor have special claim on the Guru’s grace?
• What is the Guru’s view of wealth?
• What is the root cause of the social injustice that comes from economic inequality?

These are questions that fascinate me. I was raised Catholic, and poverty was very clearly taught as a virtue, at least in terms of living a spiritual life. Yet, economic inequality creates a lot of needless pain and suffering for the poor. When I look at the life and teachings of the Sikh Gurus, I see some themes emerge. One is how the Gurus addressed the pain of poverty by giving people the confidence and skills to create a decent livelihood for themselves. Yet, at the same time, the Gurus recognized wealth as a trap or block to spiritual growth, when people become attached to it. This creates an interesting dynamic in the Sikh tradition when it comes to the questions of wealth, poverty and grace.

Let us look at the first aspect – giving people a chance to exit poverty. Guru Naanak, the first Sikh Master, lived over 500 years ago. He traveled through what is now India, Pakistan, Tibet, Southwest Asia – potentially even as far as Russia. After many many years of traveling on foot, teaching, inspiring and healing people, he settled into the life of a farmer. And as a farmer, he and his successors fed people. They just fed them.
As humans, our most basic needs are water, food and shelter. When our fundamental needs are in question, there is no way to self-actualize. To develop talents. To create. To look into the deeper meaning of life. When people do not know where their next meal is coming from, their energy gets absorbed in trying to find it. I always find it fascinating that after traveling for thousands of miles on foot, encountering so many villages, tribes and cultures, Guru Naank seems to have come to a simple conclusion. For the human race to be healed, the first step is to feed each other.

Click here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Connecting to the Source of Healing

It is the nature of life that light and love exists in the world, as well as darkness and pain. We find ourselves, as humans, constantly navigating between the light and the shadow. Whatever shadows we face inside ourselves often come from events that happened to us. Events that hurt us so much, we shut off our sensitivity. This results in living only a half-life, where we become much smaller and less powerful than who we truly are.

Yogi Bhajan once said about the soul coming into the body, “It was never promised that you would not get hurt. But it was promised that you would have a chance to heal.” When we get in touch with and trust the ability of the soul to guide us, the path of self-healing has a chance to reveal itself.

From my own experience, I have observed certain principles about how our soul creates the map to our own healing.

1.     We only heal what we are ready to heal. The soul will only present us with the next step it knows we can take. The catch-22 of this is that sometimes the most challenging wounds will not reveal themselves to be healed until we have done a lot of work on ourselves. In this sense, self-healing is a gradual and accumulative process. The journey allows us to build ourselves up so that we have the strength to go deeper.

2.     The soul works wholistically with the inner and outer environments. If we can recognize our entire experience of life as an expression of Spirit, then the soul constantly uses the situations around us to reflect back how we are doing with our healing journey.

3.     The soul will guide us at a pace we can handle. There is no rush in healing. No need for crisis. There is no goal and no finish line. We have the right to take our healing journey at our own pace, without it becoming overwhelming. Self-healing can be incorporated as a balanced and integrated part of life. Crises happen when we do not pay attention to the journey our soul is trying to take us through. But with the right intention, and the commitment to give this journey the time and space it needs, self-healing can be a positive part of a full and satisfying life.

4.     Healing is not an “All or Nothing” game. Self-healing is the journey to become more and more whole. At every step, we can honor what we have achieved. People are simultaneously healthy and healing at the same time. Sometimes, healing is like house-cleaning. Sometimes, it is like a renovation. Every step, we gain something, and there may be another step to take. Never feel frustrated by the fact that you “aren’t there” yet or “it isn’t finished” yet. The soul wants to express itself FULLY in time and space. This is what it means to be “free.” To be “liberated.” Self-healing allows the soul to gradually become visible and present to the conscious mind, and to time and space. Allow the unfolding to continue. There is never a limit.

These are the some of the principles that the course, “Unearth Your Personal Map to Inner Healing” is based on. I hope you will consider joining me at Soul Answer University for this unique webinar, where you can look within yourself, and begin to understand the Infinite capacity you have to heal yourself.

All Love in the Divine,

Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa

Copyright Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa, 2012
Published through SoulAnswer.com, www.soulanswer.com/healing_map.html
You may reproduce this article in print or online as long as you keep this whole copyright large and readable with it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Guru Ram Das’s Laavaan: Revised

Time. It’s a funny thing.

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of our electronic world, where every message can be instantly communicated around the world with a touch of a button, we forget that we live in an organic, creative reality. A seed has all of the knowledge to become a great and mighty tree. But a seed is not the tree. It is a potential that has to unfold day by day, month by month, year by year. What we call time and space, that the physicists attempt to understand with their mathematical formulas, has another name: maturity.

Not only does everything in life have the opportunity to mature, creation demands it. And this necessity of maturity is equally true when translating the writings of the Sikh Gurus.

Back in 2007, a dear friend of mine thought she was going to get married. She asked me to translate Guru Ram Das’s Laavaan for her wedding, and so I did. I was never completely happy with the translation. It never crystallized. Coincidentally, my friend’s relationship did not work out, either, and she ended up not getting married.

Five years later, my friend finally found her one and only. And I went back to the drawing board to revise the translation of the Laavaan. Maturity. It comes from one simple thing. Through time and space, we learn. And the more we learn, the more we see life differently. 

Something matured in her life. She got married this last Sunday. And something matured in me. When I went back to the Laavaan, it was like another door had opened and I could see a dimension that I hadn't seen before.

Since I posted the old version of the Laavaan from 2007 on my blog, I thought it only appropriate to share what I hope is a more “mature” version with you.


With Divine Light,

Ek Ong Kaar Kaur

Guru Ram Das’s Laavaan Siri Guru Granth Sahib, Ang 773

First Round

Oh Divine Essence in all things,
In the first round of the marriage ceremony,
I become strong in my commitment
To preserve the grace of family life and do the work I am called to do,

As I offer myself to the One who creates
The balance and dance
Between the sun and the moon.

From the Divine, subtle vibration of the Creator
Come these sacred instructions:
Be strong in your Dharma –
And live a compassionate truthful life.

I renounce all those habits
Which harm myself or cause pain to others,

As I offer myself to the One who creates
The balance and dance
Between the sun and the moon.

Be strong in your Dharma.
Meditate upon the authentic, creative, Divine Potential
In every identity,
Including your own.

I am completely committed
To the identity the Divine has given me
As the sacred instructions tell me to be.

Rely upon the Sound of Wisdom
That takes you to truth.
It is the completely perfect
Guide and Teacher.

I destroy all those habits of mind that are negative,
That cause harm to myself and to others.

Flowing with the flow of life,
Acting from the bliss of my own spirit,
By amazing good luck, I focus my mind
On the ever-present sweetness of the Divine Essence.

Servant Naanak says,
The first round of the marriage ceremony
Initiates me into the work
That I came here to do.

Second Round

Oh Divine Essence in all things,
In the second round of the marriage ceremony,
I am united with my Protector,
The Sound of Wisdom that takes me to truth,

As I offer myself to the One who creates
The balance and dance
Between the sun and the moon.

The fearful mind becomes fearless.
And I shed the filth of my ego.

As I offer myself to the One who creates
The balance and dance
Between the sun and the moon.

Singing about the virtues of the Divine Essence,
I become pure and deeply respectful.
Directly perceiving the Divine,
I come into the presence of the One
Who balances the sun and the moon.

The Creative, Divine Self expands because of that One.
The Master resides, complete and full, in the whole Creation.

Within and without,
Embrace the one Supreme Lord
Whose essence dwells in all.

The servants of the Divine
Sing with delight.

Servant Naanak,
As I walk this second round of the marriage ceremony,
The silent, subtle music of self-awakening resounds.

Third Round

Oh Divine Essence in all things,
In the third round of the marriage ceremony,
My mind becomes filled with light and love
When it lives without attachment to the world.

I offer myself to the One who creates
The balance and dance
Between the sun and the moon.

Those servants who live by their purity, grace and discipline
Merge with the Divine Essence in all things.

By rare good fortune, I obtain the experience
Of my inner Divinity,

As I offer myself to the One who creates
The balance and dance
Between the sun and the moon.

I attain purity through the Divine Essence,
And sing about the virtues and qualities of Divinity.
What my mouth speaks matches
The vibration and frequency of Infinity.

Those pure, graceful and disciplined servants
Who, through tremendous good fortune,
Have obtained the Divine Essence
Tell the story that is Beyond Telling.

The melody of the Divine
Is born and grows in me.

An incredible destiny has been recorded on my forehead,
Oh Beloved One.
I continuously call on the Divine in all things.

Servant Naanak says,
In this third round of the marriage ceremony,
The Divine Essence has taken root
So that the mind may live unattached to the world.

Fourth Round

Oh Divine Essence in all things,
In the fourth round of the marriage ceremony,
My mind surrenders to the harmonious flow of the universe
By experiencing the seed of Divinity within me and within all.

I offer myself to the One who creates
The balance and dance
Between the sun and the moon.

Aligning myself to the Guru’s teachings,
I merge easily into that Divine Essence.
A sweetness overtakes my body and mind,

As I offer myself to the One who creates
The balance and dance
Between the sun and the moon.

The sweetness of my inner Divinity
Overtakes me.
I become pleasing to my Creator Lord.

Night and day,
I live attuned to my love
Of the Divine.

The mind, filled with longing,
Receives its reward,

And the Master of Creation
Causes the Divine Identity within
To play the music of Infinity

The One Creative Consciousness
Which expresses Itself as both
Inner-Divinity and Master of Everything
Fashions this work.

The wife’s heart is so happy
With who she Truly Is.

Servant Naanak says, in the fourth round of the marriage ceremony,
My Inner- Divinity obtains union
With the Invincible and Undying Creator Lord.

(Poetically interpreted by Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa. Copyright. April 2012.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Does It Take To Heal?

A dear friend of mine and I were talking recently about the tragedies that people go through in life, and how often we can get stuck. The pain involved in loss and trauma can become so overwhelming that we stay frozen in time, reliving the past. Each moment we loose ourselves in old feelings and memories is a moment that we cannot embrace the here and now. Trauma, loss, pain and suffering can drain the life out of us like a psychic vampire.

There are a lot of tools out there to help people express their past traumas and anguish: 12-step programs and group support systems; counselors and therapists. There are even drugs that selectively repress the body chemistry responsible for emotional pain.

It is my belief that many people seek out yoga and meditation as a way to heal the pain from their past. Through yoga and meditation, we open the chakras, raise the Kundalini, and directly experience the Divine energy of the ethers. All of this can have a tremendously soothing effect on an internal nervous system that never stopped reacting to a mental, emotional or physical violation held in a person's memory.

Often, the healing process can become an inner loop where we feel the pain from the past, find a way to express it, and gain a temporary sense of relief. Yet, the deepest healing happens in the moment where the memory gets transformed somehow so that it no longer hurts when we remember the event. Getting to that moment of transformation is a very deep process. The practice of Kundalini Yoga can create a path within the nervous and glandular systems so we can experience that moment of transformation.

One of the main discoveries I have made in my own healing/spiritual journey over the last 25 years is this. Inner healing starts with building a new room. When we are traumatized on any level, that trauma, and our reaction to it becomes part of our self-definition. It is "who we are" on some level. The more the trauma defines us, the more trapped we are in the remembered pain of it.

But who we are is actually an Infinite Ray of Divine Light, who came to earth in human form for a specific reason. We are not the pain and the trauma. We are creatures of an Infinite and Loving Consciousness. And there is a Divine purpose to our lives.

Some level of healing and relief happens when we face those moments in our past and cry over them, fight about them, argue with them, or wish they had never happened. But the most tranformational healing happens when we begin to build a sense of our identity unrelated to the trauma, originating from the Divine Self within. When the room of this new self-identity is built to a certain degree, when the "I" caught in the pain actually has somewhere new to move to, then we can look that trauma square in the eye and allow it to transform into something that will always be part of us, but will never define or rule us.

How does one build such a room? It is takes time, and requires different skills and a different understanding of the self. One place to start is with simple breathing meditations. Any meditation that works with the breath can take you to the quiet place within, where the source of your true Self and true healing lives.

Another simple tool is this: if today you are dealing with the pain of a past traumatic event, ask yourself: what do you love about yourself and your life that has never had anything to do with the trauma? Meditate on it. Write a list. You could find yourself opening the door to new vision for how to see yourself and understand your world.

With Divine Light,

Ek Ong Kaar Kaur

Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa will teach a multi-class webinar through Soul Answer University titled Activate Your Inner Healing Mandala. Part 1 will take place on Monday evening, July 9, 16, 23 and 30th. Part 2 will take place on Monday evenings, September 10, 17, 24 and October 1. Visit www.soulanswer.com for more information and to register.

Thursday, April 05, 2012


We all long for coziness.
As a soul, in innocence,
Wanting to feel the resonate sweetness of love.
To see the smile and laughter in another persons's eyes
And know that our presence is part of the reason those eyes sparkle so bright.

We all long for coziness.
To find someone with whom the polarity of life
Actually creates balance instead of friction.
Intertwining minds, hearts, bodies, souls to become

But in our sensitivity, we can be so easily hurt.
A word, a look, a move that somehow
Brushes up against the wounds of separation and isolation
Lifetimes old.

When we can't handle our longing for coziness,
We dull the sensitive part of us.
Creating distance in our relationships.
Arguing instead of listening.
Fighting instead of flowing.

Until the heaven that is possible disappears completely.
And the pain and anger magnify into
Acts of violence, acts of war,
Callous and uncaring.

It takes an act of courage to discover
Coziness begins within.

Being sensitive to the inner Self
Gives you the strength
To be sensitive to everyone around you.

When you find coziness with your self,
Then you can include others.

Sharing instead of wanting.
Responding instead of asking.
Seeing everything and everyone as part of your family,
For a moment, for a day
Or for a lifetime.

The source of what you long for
Begins within and radiates outward.
Like the birth of a sun, crystallizing itself
To set its own heart on fire.
So that you can give light, warmth and life
To all who surround you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Confessions of a Pirate

Computers. Boys. Since I was a teenager, those two things have had this strange connection in my life. I liked the geeks in high school. When I was a teenager, Apple was just getting started with home computers. Black screen. Flashing green curser. Minimal graphics. The phone modem had a certain multi-tonal quality to it. Different melodic intervals depending on where you were in the connecting process. And if you had call-waiting on your telephone, and someone called when you were connected to the Internet, you lost the connection.

This was before the World Wide Web. Back in the days of bulletin boards and group chats. The geeks hanging out together talking about geeky things. Those were the days of ground being broken and rules being created. One of the first rules I remember learning was, "archiving."

During the summer between high school and college, I dated a computer genius, a few years senior to me, who was an incredibly nice guy. Dates involved hanging out at his house playing really cool computer games or watching Montey Python movies with his friends. Because he was so knowledgable about the whole computer scene, I kind of took everything he said as gospel. Somewhere along the way, I got indoctrinated with a certain code. When people swapped software and loaded it onto each other's computers, they were just making back up copies of what they purchased in ways that the backups couldn't be destroyed. They called it archiving. The idea of software being licensed for use was a ridiculous legal con that the Microsoft corporation had come up with. And by the way, Microsoft, by copyrighting the DOS system and suing anybody who used any of it's code, set the computing world back by decades.

OK. I may not have really understood it that well at the time. And I definitely haven't recounted the arguments properly. Yet, it is safe to say that by the time I left for college, I had absorbed a certain value system. In the digital world, if someone could share it with you, why pay for it yourself?

Over the years, I have watched as this computer culture, started by the teenagers and young men of my youth, has tried to define a completely different economic model for the digital world.

There is Share Ware. If you like the program, pass it along to somebody. Sending money to the programmer is your choice.

There is Open Source coding. We all agree nobody owns this. Everybody can use it and build off of each other's discoveries,

Missed your favorite TV show? No problem. Search the web. Someone has uploaded the recording as a video that you can watch for free.

Of course, corporations, who feel threatened by this kind of culture, attempt to draw lines in the virtual sand. It bemuses me that any person who uses paid software has to agree to an incredibly complicated legal document, pages long. Nobody ever takes the time to read them. And if you do take the time, it would require a lawyer to explain what the darn thing is saying.

What is the average person's mental process with this?

"Oh I have to click this agree button in order to use the software I just purchased."

Scrolling through the license agreement, "Who has time to read this? It probably just means that I agree to not give a copy of the software to my friend."

Clicks agree.

Gives a copy to a friend anyway.

Let's face it. That is the world. Especially if the program is really expensive.

So why am I on a rant about this?

Because as I have gotten older and, God help me, more conservative, the notion of protecting intellectual property is a question I keep going back and forth on. I write. It is intellectual property. I sure would hate to see that property misused, and I like to be asked permission. But then people are people and they make copies and distribute it. The thoughts get out there, the ideas get out there. Who am I to complain? If I really had my heart set on being a millionaire, I would have done something different with my life.

But I respect the artist who creates something. Who wants to keep it protected. Who wants to make a profit from it.

And then...Merlin comes along.

Merlin is a television show originating in the UK, airing on the BBC, and then rebroadcast on the SyFy channel in the US. Inspired from the success of Smallville, which recounts the teenage years of Clark Kent, aka Superman, Merlin revisions a different kind of Camelot. A Camelot where Arthur, Gwenevere, Merlin and other names from legend knew each other in their youth. It is a quirky show. Spells and fighting. Great sets and costumes. Sometimes the writing is quite good, but I don't watch it for the writing. I watch it for the magic.

I stumbled across some of the episodes on SyFy and then had to catch up on everything I missed. It was so easy to find the previous seasons available for free online. I completely enjoyed every single one of them.

Then, due to changes in my budget, I got a little skinner with the satellite stations, and lost access to SyFy. Season 4 came out in England this October. It is just now being released in the US.

I understand what SOPA wanted to do. I understand it from the perspective of a corporation. But this is the problem. When a girl is in love with a TV show that she won't be able to watch until months from now in the US. And even then, she would have to resubscribe to a satellite channel that she is not very interested in- why do you think she is going to care about copyright law? She is going to take two minutes, Google the latest episode, and find the nice person who recorded it for her and shared it online so she doesn't have to wait or spend the extra money. If someone else is willing to share it, why should I have to wait and pay for it?

So every week from October until December I gleefully watched the fourth season of Merlin. Except for the ridiculous episode with Lancelot coming back from the dead, it was AWESOME.

And I kind of felt guilty about it.

Guilty that I was enjoying something I really loved, but had no way to give back to. I understand it takes money to create a show like that, and I do want to show my support.

So this week, I made the decision to go to the iTunes store and be a good consumer. Show my appreciation. Participate in the economic model that allowed this wonderful show to come to life. I'm not talking about British taxes. I mean downloads.

I spent $10 and purchased the first season of Merlin. Even though I have watched the first season on line for free a dozen times now.

It was a disaster.

I didn't realize that each show would be half a gig that I had to store on my laptop. Which did not have the room for it.

I didn't realize that it was going to take around an hour to download EACH EPISODE from the iTunes store. When I stream it on-line, it takes no time at all. Although the quality may not be as good.

It isn't really ten dollars for the episodes. It is ten dollars plus 7 Gigs of storage, plus 13 or so hours of download time. And for what? When I can instantly access the episodes anytime I want from the nice person who recorded it and shared it with me?

Here is the essence of the problem. The commercial world demands that the digital world be something it is not. By its nature, the digital world is open access to anything at any time to anybody. The commercial model is to deny access to all but those who can afford it. The two cultural mind sets do not meet up in any way, shape or form.

The innovation in the online world has come, from the beginning, from those people who were invested in open access. It is only since the Internet has gotten so huge, so global, that some corporate interests want to find a way to make it work according to their rules. But the rules of exclusion and limited access would have never allowed the Internet to develop into what it is today.

What does that mean practically?

It is not that I, as a fan of Merlin, do not want to give something back for the work that the production company has done. It is that it makes no sense for me to participate in the economic models that are available. I do not need what they have to offer. By the very nature of what the Internet is and how it works - I do not need the downloads. And buying something out of a sense of guilt is not really a long term solution.

If today I can watch something I like for free through the Internet when all the paid sources to watch it are slower and later, it changes the economic game.

But it does not change the respect I have for the creators involved.

Maybe I will just send a donation to the BBC instead.

With blessings,

Ek Ong Kaar Kaur

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Flash Town: A Day at Occupy Wall Street

by Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa
Nov. 1, 2011

Coming out of the subway station at Courtland, just a block away from Zuccotti Park, the first thing I notice is the towering presence of two skyscrapers still under construction. This is the defiant Freedom Tower – the phoenix rising from the tragic ashes of the 9/11 attacks. Shimmering and reflective against the shocking blue October skies. A statement that the US cannot be broken. We will rise again, rebuild and remain a power that touches the world.

I didn’t realize that the Occupy Wall Street protests were taking place across the street from Ground Zero. But then again– there was a lot I didn’t realize before I started this improvised pilgrimage to the heart of our US Spring. I didn’t realize that Zuccotti Park is just one city block. Maybe three-quarters of an acre. Frankly – it is less than half the size of the land I live on by myself in New Mexico. Yet the actions happening on that one block in New York City seem to be rippling across the universe.

Standing on the corner of Liberty and Trinity, the Freedom Towers to one side of me, the Occupy Wall Street protests on the other, I can’t help but wonder. What is it about this place? That in ten years’ time, two events have happened here that have impacted the psyche of the entire world?

I spend the better part of an entire day at Zuccotti Park. Looking around. Listening. Taking pictures. Talking. Witnessing. By the end of the day, I get a sense of why the mainstream media can’t get their head around what’s happening here. And why such a large percentage of the US population is cheering these folks on.

There’s the girl who is a medical assistant. She’s 24. Had a job in the medical field in Maryland that left her feeling empty. She quit her job and showed up at OWS to volunteer at the medical tent. With 90 bucks in her pocket and a cell phone whose charge had run out. Handing out Vitamin C tablets to the protesters who ask for them – she feels like she’s doing something important. She’s excited. She’s on fire. She’s empowered to be doing actual health “care” – where the “caring” is part of the role.

There’s another guy. Young and clean cut, with piercing blue eyes and a strong build. He has a tent, a knapsack, a laptop and a digital camera. He asks to take my picture because – let’s face it – with my white turban and white clothes, I stand out a little. We start talking. He’s been unemployed for the last four months. Living out of his car. Traveling from one Occupy protest to another. He’s experiencing and documenting the events in his own way because he doesn’t have anything else to do. I look at him and think – this is the face of the new displaced. They carry their belongings on their backs. But they are educated. They are digital. They are connected to each other, and they are a force to be reckoned with.

I walk through the park and walk around the park. Again and again and again. A picture starts to emerge. It’s complex. We’ve heard about flash mobs – connecting for a few minutes or a few hours for a specific purpose. Then disappearing back from where they came. This place – this Occupy Wall Street – is a flash town. It’s a living fractal of the kind of society these folks would like to create. That a lot of people would like to create. The infrastructure, the organization – they are experimenting and modeling for themselves what they’d like to see society become.

The Medical Tent. With doctors, nurses, and chiropractors that do have jobs. Yet they volunteer their time to take care of the protesters and anyone else who shows up.

The Food Tent. Where they collect food donations, prepare meals, feed people. Feed the protesters. Feed the homeless. Feed the visitors. Feed anyone who comes along. 

The Comfort Tent. Where they hand out clothes to people - blankets, coats, shoes, socks. Making sure that folks have what they need. 

The Free Library. So many books being donated and lent out. Not just to the protesters – but to the crowds that meander through the park hour after hour. It’s open to them, too. 

The OWS Day Care. A little corner set up for the moms to look after their small children.

The Media Tent. The Legal Tent. The Community Affairs Tent – if you want to know the schedule for the day. The Sanitation area – where the brooms and buckets are kept. The park was squeaky clean.

The gray water system display – illustrating how the water they use to clean the dishes is being recycled to water the plants in the park.

It goes on and on. A tiny little town within a square block, covering every human need. Fueled by volunteers, donations, and a fierce conviction that we can engineer a society where everybody gets taken care of.

Complexity. It doesn’t lend itself easily to sound bites.

Of course – all of the infrastructure would be pointless if there wasn’t something happening. Once again, "what's happening" defies simple summaries. There are so many people converging in this one place, with so many different ideas. There’s no lack of things to do.

Every day, there’s at least one if not two marches organized somewhere for some purpose. The visible protest – with signs and people. The morning I arrived, a group had just donned Robin Hood costumes. They marched with signs saying, “Tax the Rich.” It was theatrical. It was New York. And it got a simple point across.

Yet to say that this point, “Tax the Rich” is THE point is not to be paying attention. That was one event. There were dozens and dozens of events happening all day long.

Free workshops offered on a range of topics: from non-violent communication, ala Marshal Rosenberg; to protecting yourself from predatory lenders.

Political action tables set up in the park. You can register to vote. Sign a petition supporting the Buffet Tax. Sign another petition to help keep US Post Offices open. And if you need a Public Notary? She there from 3-5 pm.

There’s the space for everyone to make a sign. For everyone to give voice to their thoughts. A lot of these protestors don’t sleep in the park. They show up for a while with their signs, and then go home when they’re done. One older man I spoke with wore a sandwich board that he obviously made himself. No flashy symbols or catch phrases. He had a rather crowded outline of what he thinks we need to be paying attention to.

I asked him how long he stayed there. He gave me a rueful smile. “I’m here with my wife,” he said. “And I stand here until my back or my legs give out.”

What fascinated me the most was how much more crowded the sidewalk became after business hours. You could see those people who, dressed very professionally, simply came by the protest on their way home from work. They added their signs and voices to the mix.

If you didn’t want to create a sign, you could always stop by the button maker’s table. Buttons in support of Occupy Wall Street. Take one and leave a donation “When my friends ask my why I’m here,” the button maker said, “I ask them – why aren’t YOU here?”

If signs and buttons aren’t your style – you can always sit in on The People’s Think Tank. In one corner of the park – just sit with other people – and talk about everything and anything that matters to you. I sat in for about 30 minutes. The people were regular folks. One guy, dressed like a yuppy, had come from upstate New York. He led the meeting, took notes, and his exuberance was infectious. “I feel like I can finally say all these things I’ve been thinking my whole life, but could never talk about with anyone.”

Another voice, “There isn’t going to be a violent uprising. This is a spiritual uprising.”

Another voice. “It’s about compassion in leadership. How can we make it OK for leadership to be compassionate?”

And another, “This is the most American thing I’ve ever seen.”

The Think Tank met for 3 hours. They took a ten minute break, came back and kept going. Every single person involved was sitting on the edge of their seats, smiling, engaged, excited because they finally realized – hey, I’m not alone.

Not everyone likes the verbal route with signs, buttons or dialogue. So, on the other side of the park, you can jam with the infamous drum circle. The circle lasts for hours. Someone said to me, “I don’t even think all of them are protestors. I think some of these people just want a place to play drums – so they show up and become part of the circle for while.”

It might annoy the heck out of the nearby businesses. But that drum circle keeps the attention on Zuccotti Park. Mobs of people line the street while they play, taking pictures and becoming curious.

(As a writer, as a journalist, I understand how difficult it might be to read this story. It’s taken me two hours to get this far, and there are more images in my mind. I know I am breaking the rules here. I may be going on longer than you are used to reading. But for some reason, I think it’s important. Just this once. To put all the pieces onto paper. Because this event, this OWS, is such a complex social phenomena. Perhaps in the not to distant future, there won’t be a chance to see it again. To talk about it again. I don’t want to forget any of the details.)

The more difficult aspects. The homeless. The pan-handlers. The mentally ill. Of course they are coming, too. Free food, free medical care, free warm clothes – who needs it more than they do? It would be easy to walk through the park, taking pictures of those people, and making them the face of the movement. By my estimation, this shadow side constitutes about maybe 5% of what’s happening there. To their credit, the OWS protestors are doing everything they can to manage these folks with dignity.

Next to a couple of pan-handlers, one protestor held up a sign. “Please don’t give money to the pan-handlers. Give it to OWS. We are making sure that everyone gets fed and gets what they need.”

The interactions with the police. Both sides seem to be working very consciously to keep a dialogue going. There’s a dynamic tension at play. Cops are stationed on every side of the park. They maintain a certain distance, keep the foot traffic moving, and ask the protestors to change things with the camp if they perceive anything as hazardous. Some police officers wear vests that say, “Community Affairs Liaison.” There have been meetings between the protestors and representatives of the local neighborhoods. The amount of drumming going on has been a big issue.

It’s all about boundaries. Inside the park, a new world is being birthed, and it revels in the joy of its own existence. But a couple blocks away, New Yorkers and visitors are going about their daily life, oblivious to the social experiment taking place under the Freedom Tower. The police represent – physically and psychologically – the boundary line between those two worlds.

Then, of course, there’s the spiritual aspect.

On the corner of Liberty and Trinity, there is a simple tree at the center of a circle of marble benches. One of the protestors took it upon himself to create a sacred space around the tree. The protestors named the tree, The Tree of Life. There are small wooden shelves placed around the tree housing symbols from every possible religious and spiritual tradition - known and unknown. It’s universal. It’s open. And it serves as a spiritual sanctuary.

One of the people who created this sacred space watches over it as his contribution to the protests. "One day," he said, “the yogis showed up.” Fateh Singh Khalsa, Hari Simran Singh Khalsa (who was featured in Time Magazine), Himmat Singh Khalsa and others. A group of Kundalini Yoga teachers, many of whom also happen to be Sikhs. They were inspired to come every evening and lead a Kundalini Yoga class for those in the camp who wanted to attend. They call themselves Occupy Yoga.

The “People’s Microphone” has been written about in other articles covering the protests. The yoga class works the same way. Sat Jagat Singh Khalsa, the head of the 3HO Brooklyn Ashram in NYC and co-founder of Kundalini Yoga in Park Slope, stands on one of the marble benches. He begins to explain the Kundalini Yoga exercises to those who are gathered there. His son, Hari Simran Singh, myself and others repeat the instructions in a loud voice. That way, the crowd which has gathered around can hear.

This is grass roots, no glory, yoga teaching. This is bringing yoga to the people with humility and grace. There’s no room to stretch out. Sat Jagat Singh has to lead something simple that the participants can do while standing up or sitting down. Yet, people gather to watch. To participate. And yes – even to protest. As the yoga class happens, someone outside the park makes fun of it. They walk around with a sign that says, “This is the dawning of the Age of Hilarious.”

Some moments are too precious to put into words. The day ends the way it began. In the presence of the OWS protestors. Looking up at the emerging Freedom Tower. Sat Jagat Singh teaches a simple healing meditation as night falls. The Freedom Tower is the back-drop. There’s no way to express what it was like sitting there, across from Ground Zero, praying for healing with people who believe that we can build a better world. A more fair world. A more compassionate world. And who believe it enough to put themselves on the line.

It’s a one-in-a-million moment. The sound of the chanting. The reminder of what happened 10 years ago. The realization that the spirit to heal the problems we face has been inside us all along, and is coming to life. I don’t know what the end result of Occupy Wall Street will be. But I do know, day by day and moment by moment, there are conversations, prayers, connections and ideas happening here whose ripple effects will far outlast the life span of the protest, themselves.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Remembering Our Place

The week before Summer Solstice, I took a walk on my property doing what I like to do this time of year. Seeing what native grasses and wild flowers have decided to take up residence; seeing what pesky plants were being greedy for territory. Since I live by the side of a main road in the state of New Mexico, another thing that always shows up during my little walks is what we humans call “trash.” Plastic cups, paper, aluminum soda and beer cans. That kind of thing.

Usually, when I see the trash scattered around, I feel really annoyed. Like – why do people have to throw things out their windows while they are driving? With a simple gust of wind, all these little pieces of junk tumble across my property, unsightly, with no final resting place.

But during this walk, feeling the frustration as a battered piece of paper blew past me, Mother Nature gave me a different insight. The problem with trash isn’t that somebody threw it away. The problem is that Mother Nature can’t find another use for it.

The earth is a living organic being with its own cycles. Part of those cycles include the forces of wind and water taking organic material from one part of the land to another. This is how, unbidden, scarlet globemallow and baby white aster can suddenly show up in patches on my land where they never existed before. Mother Earth doesn’t create waste. When something transforms into seeds or dies and decays, it becomes the basis for new life. The earth evolved as a complex system of organic elements which constantly reorganize themselves. That reorganization is continual, powerful and inevitable.

When the wind brings paper or plastic cups on the land, it’s the exact same forces that bring seeds or dried leaves. It’s the cycle of life. The difficulty is that humans create things that are used only once, for one purpose. We see the here and the now, the immediate. But we don’t envision the entire life-cycle of the thing. When the purpose for the thing is finished, the forces of nature eventually take over. They act as they have always acted. But because of our own incomplete vision, Mother Nature can’t find any additional uses for what we release back to Her care.

Though we come from Mother Earth, and are completely dependent upon Her for everything, our intelligence is not aligned with Her intelligence. We ignore the power of Her creative forces and end up creating things that can’t be integrated back into the cycle of life.

Such a small lesson from the wind and the land. But this tiny dynamic on my property is happening in a big way in Los Alamos right now. Or in Japan a few months back.

When the tsunami struck Japan in March of 2011, I remember watching footage of what the water did to the land. What frightened me the most – even more than the nuclear reactor, frankly, was the sheer amount of “trash” getting hauled into the ocean. How many chemicals, plastics, and metals got dumped into the currents of the oceans that day? And what consequences would that have for the life of the sea? We think that we have the power to create safety zones where the toxicity we concoct can be contained to a small area. We believe we can control these human-made poisons so they don’t affect anything we don’t want them to affect. But this is the illusion of the human ego, of pride. Earthly forces will always be more powerful than us. Nature eventually destroys everything – including our own bodies. The matter and energy released from the forces of destruction are later reorganized into something new. This is the operating system of the planet. It has been going on for billions of years. Long before humans arrived. We don’t have the power to change that.

Tsunamis have always and will always exist. Yet, human beings have forgotten to have an integrated intelligence with the earth. So today – rather than a tsunami having the effect of renewing and reorganizing the ecology, it spreads poison and danger.

The same with the fires in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Tens of thousands of barrels of radioactive waste sit on the land near the Los Alamos labs. In the great arcing cycle of nature, one way or another, that waste is going to be released into the environment. It might happen in the next week. It might happen in the next 20 years. Or perhaps it will happen 200,000 years from now. But the forces of Mother Nature will continue. She reaches everywhere. Creation, destruction, re-creation. It’s foolish to believe that humans can protect that poison from the natural cycles of the earth forever.

I’m not advocating going back to the stone ages. For thousands of years, most of what humans created was integrated with the natural cycle because we didn’t have access to any technology what would give us any other options. There’s a purpose to the scientific awakening of the human race that has been going on for the last few centuries. Our ability to know how to split the atom and send satellites to the far-reaches of the solar system is, I believe, part of the Cosmic design. But the step we haven’t taken is to think differently.

Before this technological awakening, we didn’t need to visualize the life cycle of something because our creativity and the creativity of Mother Earth were more organically connected. Now we have to consciously wake up to what we are doing. For the future, it is essential that we develop another way to think about things. To think about what humans create and produce. To extend the thinking from “what can I make for this SPECIFIC purpose” to “how can we use our technology to create things that serve a purpose, and then die and are reborn in another form after that purpose is done.”

Before we develop something, we need to see its entire life-cycle as working in tandem with the life-cycle of the planet.

Some people may think that is impossible. But I believe the human intelligence is capable of asking and answering these questions. We can stretch that far. We can abandon the idea that technology requires this level of waste. We can create a new approach to develop processes, products and systems that work with, rather than against, the forces of the earth.

Human evolution is a remarkable result of the complex life-cycles of Mother Nature. Now is the time to remember that we are part of the intelligence of the planet. If we push ourselves to think in new ways, we can create a society that is technology advanced and ecologically balanced all at the same time.

Yours in Divine Light.

Ek Ong Kaar Kaur