In his workshop at Winter Solstice Sadhana, Ravinder Singh brought up a really interesting point about Sikh scripture in general, and Jaapji in particular. Gurmukhi, he said, is either sung, or listened to. If you read Jaapji every morning, you probably know gavai (3rd Pauri) means singing and suni-ai (8th Pauri) means deeply listening.
When we recite Gurumukhi, we sing it. We are allowing the sound current to resonate and be heard through the vehicle of our unique voice. That is gavai. On the other hand, when we are absorbed in listening deeply to that same sound current, we are allowing it to settle inside us, as is. That is suni-ai.
I thought about this for a while after the workshop, but just last night I had an "aha!" moment where the past few years of my life made perfect sense to me! What a gift!
So I thought I would share...
About a year and a half ago, after having spent the better part of two years producing my first solo album, I made a decision that shocked everyone who knew and loved me: I decided to stop singing.
To some, I know it looked like I had given up on my dreams. After all, I had moved to Los Angeles that year to sing! What was I doing?
Instead of singing, I began to treat my "day job" at a raw food restaurant as the most important work I could be doing. I became very invested in serving people the best I could. No matter what their attitude. No matter what my mood. No matter what. (Or, in keeping with the extended metaphor of my piece, you could say I was listening to my customers!)
A few months later I volunteered at a festival. The attitude with which I had learned to serve people persuaded the festival to offer me a job. A few months after that, my boss made me sing at his birthday party in front of two of my favorite kirtan artists. A year later, there I was on stage in front of a few thousand kirtan fans singing with one of my favorite kirtan artists.
And so there I was, doing what I always thought I'd be doing: singing.
I realized yesterday that there are times in our life when we are meant to sing, and times when we are meant to listen. In other words, there are times for action, and times for reflection. The key is finding a balance between the two. In our society, we are encouraged to act, but often feel guilty for taking moments to reflect.
Yet, moments of suni-ai can save us a lot of time. They afford us the mental clarity to take better actions.
I feel very blessed to have experienced both modes of being--singing and listening. I was very grateful to Ravinder for illuminating a nuance in Jaapji that I had not yet contemplated.