Written by Awtar Kaur Khalsa, San Francisco CA in 2009

I sat in a tiered lecture hall as the Siri Singh Sahib started on his topic “Personal Sorrow Has No Place in Business or in Life.” I could relate to a lecture entitled “How to Overcome Your Personal Sorrow”—I felt an urgent need to understand that subject.

But this topic seemed to have bypassed my concerns completely. It was as if I was alone on a winding highway—right thumb out, left clutching my “Personal Sorrow” sign while his “Business and Life” car roared by. So I squirmed just a bit as he started in, while listening dutifully.

After a few minutes, he started to quote Guru Nanak’s Japji (Meditation of the Soul ). Then he started working on tweaking the translation and analyzing it line by line.

My bruised emotions were receding to the background and my mind was getting scholarly until suddenly I rocked back, eyes watering, blindsided by the realization that he was showing me how to answer my questions. His fake to the head had once again left me open for the knock-out punch to the heart.

I don’t even remember the lines we studied. I just remember the breakthrough of wonder, hope, connection, gratitude. He had delivered a tool to me. His introduction was the catalyst for a lasting relationship.

It’s not that I took up a daily practice of Japji at that time. But my attitude changed from one of scrupulous obligation: “I should do this every day;” to one of delighted opportunity: “I should do this every day!”

Personal Sorrow

My bouts with personal sorrow did not get any easier to ignore between the ages of 36 and 54 (which I labeled “The Kali Years”). According to Humanology teachings, the third 18 years is when our skill at balancing our energy bank account shows up. I had begun to “bounce” my energy “checks.”

There were loads of tools the Siri Singh Sahib had taught that I had yet to implement. Actually, getting to bed early enough to wake up for sadhana turned out to be crucial.

I had these instructions filed away in my brain as something I might get around to if things got bad enough. That time arrived when my therapist began dropping hints about pharmaceuticals, and I wanted to make sure I tried everything else first.

Around this time I went to a workshop with Gurudev Singh in which he emphasized the usefulness of reciting Japji Sahib. Again, I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it reminded me of the lecture hall epiphany 20 years before. I resolved then and there that I would recite Japji Sahib every day, come what may.

I used to do it in bed if I didn’t have the gumption to get up. Eventually, I challenged myself to sit very consciously, lightly on my buttocks, engaging my navel and my whole spine. (When I first decided to explore celibate pose it was so painful that Japji came out very loud, fast and high). The consciousness of my posture keeps me present for the sound current, which in turn supports me to stretch in every way. By the end of Japji, I am totally warmed up for my yoga practice.

Japji has become my cherished daily companion. With Japji, adequate sleep, yogic diet, consistent exercise and conscious self-communication I have yet to feel the need for pharmaceutical remedies. Personal sorrow still visits me but today it does not have any permanent place in my life.