2009-10-23

You Don't Have to be Sikh



You don't have to be Sikh or even know much about the religion to be able to appreciate the incredible architecture and the ambience of The Golden Temple in Amristar, Punjab. Everyone and anyone can enter the temple provided they leave their shoes outside and place a handerchief or hat on their head. There is also a waiting pool to dip your feet into while passing thru the entrance; another small requirement for entering the grounds of the temple. These preliminary requirements are small indeed and you don't waste your time thinking it over. It's not important how many people wore this handerchief and/or how the pool is a good breeding ground for foot fungus. Nah....these are petty concerns in comparison to seeing the temple in 'real' life!

The temple is situated within a large water tank that is accesible from a marble platform. From any and all sides of the rectangle-shaped platform there is a perfect view of the temple. The most amazing part is the magical feeling that lingers there especially at night. Literally hundreds of people come daily to worship and pray from 6 a.m. until it closes at 11 p.m. Because of this there is an incredible energy of devotion; you don't have to be Sikh to feel it.

While sitting on the marble platform, I was capitvated by the temple as I watched people moving from across the tank and into the temple or from behind me. There is a dream-like effect inside of the temple with women's colorful saris swaying back and forth and men's turbans bouncing up, and down, as they walk in a clock-wise direction in slow, and deliberate steps. Time stands still in such a place; I had the feeling I could have stayed all night. There was a kind of erry peacefulness, however, especially if you are familiar with the history of the tank and/of or Punjab. In particular, thousands of Indian people were shot down on April 13, 1909, by the British without any warning while listening, ironcially, to a speech on liberation and independence.

One of the most memoriable aspects of being at the temple was the way that the Sikh people were so welcoming. In other Indian cities if you look lost people either ignore you or stare back at you. In Amristar strangers were very quick to ask, "What are you looking for...Can I help?" Inside of the temple was no different (although we probably looked very lost). People went out of their way to tell us how we had to watch the "closing" ceremony and showed us how to eat the prasad (offering) at the ceremony. Another one of those small things in which you don't want to think about where the hands of the guy serving the brown sticky stuff have been or what this stuff is made out of! Instead you think, "This is good. How do I clean my heads?" To my surprise, Sikh people were also very conscientious of being in the way of me trying to take a photo and "placed" or rather pushed me into a better spot!

The hotel we stayed at was located right outside of the temple. From the hotel window there was a full view of the temple and the tank. Advertised as the "luxury room" and "spacious", which really meant a large window, a bed and about 1.5 feet around the bed from the wall. Believe it or not, there was a writing desk, TV and a closet. As I had mentioned earlier, I usually order all the furniture out of the room to practice yoga. However, in this case that would have meant throwing everything out the window.

I still managed to find space in this cramped room to practice! If you looked for me over the bed, I was there. And if need be, I would have practised under the bed.

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The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


ME

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Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
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