Tomatoes and Turbans
Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh.
First and foremost, I would like to thank Maharaj for giving me the opportunity to write this blog post for Sikh Forgiveness. Without their endless blessings nothing would be possible. Sikh for Forgiveness are doing a great sewa of raising awareness of mental health related issues such a job stress, depression and anxiety.
Depression and Anxiety is one of those things that can just hit you. One moment you’re feeling fine / ‘top of the pops’ and the next minute you are feeling so depressed and miserable that you don’t have the energy to even get out of bed. You may have so many nice things planned and yet you can’t physically do any of them. It can make you feel like you want to shut the whole world out of your life and just sit in a dark room on your own. Many people who suffer from depression may well appear outwardly fine but deep down their not.
My approach to getting and feeling better is driven by natural self-help. I base my life around a pyramid structure.
Sikhi is the foundation stone of the pyramid without strong foundations the pyramid would fall apart. Sikhi and Guru Sahib provides us with our daily structure. Our structured day starts with waking up early and doing out Nitnem. In the evening structure is again re-applied when we read Rehras Sahib and finally Kirtan Sohilla before going to bed. If we follow Guru Sahib and keep them at the forefront of our minds, they will do the kirpa (Blessings) on us and settle our mind and make us happy.
The second layer in the pyramid in my gardening and allotment. Along with Sikhi it provided me with additional structure to my day. For example, If I don’t water my plants and vegetables they will die, if I don’t sow more seeds, we won’t have any vegetables to eat, if I don’t dig up the weeds they will take over. It gives me more daily motivation to get going and keep going. It also my escape from the world and a place to relax unwind away from the pressures of life and work-related stress. Plus, I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of sowing a small seed, nurturing it into a seedling, then into a plant which then turns into a something you can eat. I’m outside in all weathers and there is something very therapeutic about having your hands covered with mud and dirt. Or getting caught off guard by in a rainstorm. Being at one with the soil and mother nature has so many naturally healing properties. Or just chilling out on a freezing cold January day with some hot soup. Just being outside makes a big difference.
The third layer is cooking and trying to eat healthily. Your body is like a temple. If you eat junk food that is full of saturated fats or processed food packed full of preservatives, e-numbers and chemicals this is ultimately going to affect your mood, how you think and feel inside and how you react to other people and the world. Not to the mention the potential side effects of other medical conditions such as clinical obesity or type two diabetes which is becoming major problem in western society and within our community. If we eat a well-balanced diet, which is largely unprocessed this in itself will make us feel must happier, settled and contempt. It’s not about saying you can never eat pizza or sticky toffee pudding. It’s about balance. The Ying and Yang.
The four layers of the pyramid is exercise and physically keeping fit. This is something that I need to work harder on this year. Last year I was training for a triathlon and I was the fittest I’ve ever been in my life. I was cycling into London 2 days per week (45 miles per trip) going for two 10 mile runs, 2 swims and finishing the week off with a 55+ mile bike ride on Saturday and 10 mile run from my house to Park Avenue gurdwara in army boots with 10kg weighted rucksack. I simply went to quickly, hammering it and ended up burning out… Hopefully maharaj will do the kirpa on me so I can get back into it. When you do exercise your body released happy hormones making us feel better.
I think all layers of the pyramid relate back to the Gur Sikhi way of life. For example, when you are growing your own vegetables and fruit you know exactly where your food comes from. So if you buy food off a supermarket shelve how do you know who handled it as it been passed through from producer to supermarket through the hands of the sower, the harvester, the shelve stacker and finally to the checkout assistant who bleeps it through the till… you don’t. We should also care for the environment and mother nature so does it make sense to eat fruit and vegetables which have been flown half way around the world, wrapped in loads of plastic wrap, with loads of air miles and pollution when you can walk 5 minutes from your house and harvest your own? Plus, do you really want to eat fruit and vegetables which have been sprayed with preservatives and chemicals to make them last longer? Do you want to eat non-organic food whereby the land has been sprayed with pesticides that kill all the nature and wildlife to get the crop?
Eating healthy and exercise relate back to Sikhi. The Khalsa should be healthily. Guru Angad Dev Ji Maharaj used to encourage Sikhs to wrestle in his court. The Khalsa is an army which should be fit and strong.
I also do all of the above for my daughter. What we teach our kids is what they become. If you let your kids sit around and watch telly tubbies that is what they will become. If you feed your kids ready meals that is what they will think is ‘real’ cooking. If you don’t exercise and sit around watching TV that is the lifestyle that your kids with adapt. Do you want your kids to turn out like that? Do you want your kids to be depressed? Do you want your kids to overweight and obese to the extent they are bullied at school… Do you want to have to explain to your child that they have type two diabetes because of your poor lifestyle choices… No. That is why I see my daughter’s upbringing more like like a training program. First is basics, now she is helping me at the allotment and learning how to grow, forage for wild food, what the good bugs are and bad bugs, then next is going to be teaching her boxing and self-defiance (To deal with any bullies) then archery, then it will be horse riding, etc Each year we will keep adding to it to the practical life skill set. By the time she is 10 she will be set up for life.
By now you are most likely falling asleep with this incredibly boring blog post. My way of thinking is based on my own real-life experiences and how I personally feel inside. It’s not based on academia or medical knowledge.
However, always remember that when you are troubled by a problem, a problem shared is a problem halved. Also remember that Guru Sahib is there for you no matter who you are, what religion you follow, what colour you are, no matter what you have done, no matter what your problem is, even if you have been to everyone doors first. When we tell Guru Sahib our problems, they will deal with it. Our problems become their problems. When we place out head and hands at our Guru’s feet they will reach out, grab hold of own hands and never let go.
If I said anything in this post that offends you then das humbly seeks the sangats forgiveness. Let’s come together as a panth and unite under one nishan sahib.
Vaheguru JI Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ki Ji Fateh.