As we lay in rest pose beside the clear blue pool at the Radisson Blu Amritsar, Snatam Kaur sang about The Golden Temple, which we visited last night and today. Bow your head, and go home, she sang over and over again.
Before the yoga session, I was exhausted from the energy-drain of walking through a dirt-strewn northern Indian city. Hungry to the point of shaking. Irritable from constant car horns. Traffic going in multiple directions all at once.
Forget that I had walked the perimeter of one of the world’s great wonders, The Golden Temple. Forget that countless Indian people gazed upon our white skin and asked to have pictures taken with us on their smartphones.
Forget the holiness of the concept behind the incredible Golden Temple – a Sikh holy site open to all people, all religions. Men reciting from the Guru all day, every day, in ornate rooms where people kneel and bow and kiss the floor. Marble under my bare feet. Koi swimming in the holy green waters.
Forget the fact that we witnessed the Langar Hall, where 100,000 people every day are fed a free meal of lentils and chipati, and visitors like you and me can squat and people garlic, make bread, serve the food to rows upon rows of the faithful, all in service to God.
At that point of exhaustion and sensory overload, I had even forgotten how incredible I felt in realizing that this Sikh religion teaches of one God, and the universality of all humanity. In the center of the city, in the middle of a roundabout, there is a monument that states: Service to humanity is true service to God.
The statement for an entire city.
So after sleeping for an hour or two beside the gleaming pool in my posh hotel and feeling the descending sun on my upturned face, I welcomed the chance to move my dusty, negative energy through a few yoga sets.
And boy did it ever.
I entered the yoga session feeling homesick for my children and husband and my easy way of life. I felt uncomfortable in the craziness all around me, felt deep emotion for the plight of so many people I saw on the streets.
By the end, though, I was thinking of the beauty and the wisdom in the repeated lyrics, bow your head and go home…
For what are we grateful? Do we even recognize it? Do we bow our heads in gratitude ever, let alone every day? Do we take the time to realize how lucky we truly are, and how good we have it?
The thing is, I can look at some of the sites I saw today – a woman begging for money to feed her children, her baby sitting on the dirty street; piles of garbage thrown in a ditch alongside storefronts and residences – and realize that I am seeing it all through my westerner’s lens.
I didn’t see unhappiness. I projected it. I saw smiles from every face that locked eyes with mine. I saw love in the way women carried their small children, and the way men held hands with their small sons.
I saw excitement and enthusiasm for life in the conversations I had with British women on a pilgrimage to five Sikh holy sites throughout India. And I saw camaraderie and love in the women sitting together, beautifully wrapped in saris, on the marble of the Golden Temple.
I even saw an ease with life from the man in a permanent yoga squat, beside the bubbling ghee pot and with little perfect circles of dough to feed the 100,000 people who get a free meal there every single day.
Bow your head and go home. A new mantra for all of us. Going home doesn’t mean fleeing the discomfort of a foreign land and a different way of life.
It means going inside and recognizing how good we have it. Never again complaining about the weather or money or exhaustion.
Instead, waking up each day with gratitude for another chance at a great life. And finding opportunities throughout every hour as the day progresses to do it again, and again, and again.
(By the way, I’m having a hard time uploading photos to the blog here so check out my photos on my Facebook page and the Karma Yoga Facebook page.)