Keep Up!

by Meherpal Kaur, English Teacher

“No one achieves anything alone. So let’s embark on a new journey together. Let’s break out a map. Not the old, out-of-date one that shows where we’ve been, but a crisp, new one that shows where we might go. Let’s embark on a new journey together and see where it takes us.”

Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
“Win, Lose or Draw”, Season 4, episode 22 

WP_20131224_029Here we are: half the year is gone and the smell of the fake snow keeps floating in the classrooms of the school, reminding us that Christmas is around the corner. Which is so strange… This deeply-rooted Western tradition expresses itself in the most fantastic way in the school, where the best-decorated classroom is rewarded with a banafee pie, where the bonfire lights up a night without stars and where gingerbread houses collapse because there are some things that can only be done perfectly under certain weather conditions, weather conditions that are absent in India.

The gap that exists between the Christmas traditions we know and the ones we experience once at MPA invites us, somehow, to reflect on ourselves and what we believe in. So, by a fine evening, I ended up talking to Jiwan Kaur, one of the two junior caretakers, on the patio of the dining hall, which was completely empty. It was one of these rare moments in the school where the space is deserted by the kids and also silent, as if even the echo of their presence had vanished.

Only the night remained: the pale light of the kitchen drawing shadows on the floor. Shadows of the garden, shadows of us, shadows in our thoughts. We started to talk about the kids, and the fact that some of them were planning on leaving the school before the end of the year, on top of those who had already left. As “rational” Western people, so eager to always fix the situation, we were talking about the reasons that lead a child and his or her parents to make such a decision.

Of course, there is no simple answer because there is no such thing as a simple mind. Everybody has a story, a social background, and a genetic heritage and, because of that, the thought process that leads an individual to make a decision is complex. Anyway, having said that, my conversation with Jiwan Kaur died and, as we say in French, “un ange passa” (an angel passed through).

The idea of leaving the school was floating in the air and I started to silently contemplate it, when I suddenly realized that I, too, was ready to leave the school, that doing so would be so comfortable. I looked at Jiwan Kaur and I snapped the question at her as abruptly as it had struck my mind: “Wouldn’t you want to leave as well?” Her face expressed nothing but surprise, even as she agreed.

If we did a survey, right now, in the school, we would maybe be surprised by the number of people, students and staff, who just want to quit. When you consider the challenging environment, the demanding academic program and the difficulties of living together, it’s impossible to think that anyone can say that the idea never crosses their mind.

And then, I had an epiphany. I grasped, in a second, the perfect consistency of MPA. You know, the moment when the complexity of an experience just reveals itself in the most simple formula that allows you to truly say: “I see”?

We often try to explain, formulate, define what MPA is, how it works, what it does and why it is such a great school compared to so many others. And for the first time, I realized that the reason it is such an amazing school is because it was conceived and founded by such an incredible human being: the Siri Singh Sahib, also known as Yogi Bhajan.

For the first time, I realized that the school was also a formula that totally transcends the school itself. You come to MPA to do yoga. Fine. You come to MPA to do 40 days’ seva at the Golden Temple. Fine. You come to MPA to receive rigorous academic training. Fine. You come to MPA because your parents are Sikh, because your parents belong to the 3HO community, because you are lost, because you are found, because of whatever story you want to tell.

But then you come and you become part of a formula that exceeds your agenda, conscious or unconscious. And your agenda stands no chance in front of the pressure that you will have to face. You are in India, in a pressure cooker inhabited by roughly 150 people and have nowhere else to go. So, let me tell you, the mind becomes incredibly busy. It will feed you with thousands of thousands reasons to leave, to quit, to run away.

And that is the entire point: if you can stay calm and endure the pressure of your own mind and keep up, keep up, keep up, keep up and go beyond your own limitations, resistances, excuses, stories… well, then, as the Siri Singh Sahib said: you will be kept up.

Instead of looking at those who leave, we should look at those who stayed: Jugat Guru, our Principal; Amrit Singh, our Director of Residential Life; their wives, Guru Dev Kaur and Ananda Kaur; Guruprakash Singh and Dhianjot Singh, our boys caretakers; Mona Bhatti, assistant for residential life; Kirandeep Kaur, our Principal of Academics; Ardass Kaur and her husband, Harbhajan Singh and all of the students and staff.

It is not up to us to judge those who leave, but it is definitely our duty to praise those who stay. Not because they are great, perfect or superhuman. No, today I came to realize that we should praise them because of their stamina, because they don’t quit, because they keep up, no matter what.

The Siri Singh Sahib said that the mantra of the Aquarian Age is “Keep up”. Keep up and you will be kept up. And he had this incredible intuition that consisted in creating a formula to teach that to our youth. Miri Piri Academy teaches you how to keep up by giving you the tools to do so: education, kundalini yoga, meditation, prayers, seva… And I am sure that each and every one of us could complete this unfinished list with whatever helps us to keep up: friendship, kirtan, pottery, who knows!

So, in this period of celebration and warm wishes, at the threshold of the New Year that is also the completion of our entrance into the Aquarian Age, we should take the time to look at ourselves and reflect on our own stamina. We should try to become aware of where we show it and where we lack it. It is time to look up at those who keep up as role models and as a source of guidance.

It is time to experience that there is a way through every block. It is time to experience that the other person is us. It is time to experience that when the time is on us, we should start, no matter what. It is time to experience that compassion will allow us to understand the times. It is time to experience that you and God are one and that, therefore, you have the same strength to keep up.

It is time to be, to embody what we heard the Siri Singh Sahib say for so long. Now is the test of the times and it is up to us to fail or succeed, knowing that so many people depend on our success: friends, family, teachers, strangers. It does not mean that we become angels, granted, by some magic power, the ability to uplift people, it means that we call upon our higher self, that our intention is set in such a way that the consciousness is following and that the Universe –or God– is serving us. No matter the ups and downs of everyday life, the strengths and the weaknesses that define the individual, the greatness and the misery of consciousness, we belong together, united in the same project of becoming better.

For the time being, the formula is as simple as this: keep up and you will be kept up. Therefore, paraphrasing the Siri Singh Sahib: how could we then dare not to keep up?