I have a friend who has one of those clocks that makes bird sounds at the strike of every hour in his kitchen.  A few years ago, our whole band stayed at his home in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, piling into every free nook and cranny that the house could give us.  Arriving late at night, we gratefully accepted his invitation for some ice cream and tea.  There must have been seven of us sitting around his kitchen table.  And it was instantaneous, the jokes started rolling out, the laughter, and the fun.  There is something so wonderful about laughing with a group of people, such as a band, after the trials and tribulations of the road.  Music is so heart centered, so beautiful, yet the road can be tough at times.  It was as if our hearts just poured out in celebration to have something to laugh about!  So, each one of us began taking our turns at telling jokes.  I think I told one of two jokes that I actually remember, the mole joke.  Its so funny!  At least I think so.  Actually as I write this at my ripe old age of forty, I have to confess, this is the only joke I can remember.  Oh well.  Its a good one.In any case, it got to my friend’s turn, our host.  For the first few seconds as he started telling his joke, I got distracted, thinking how absolutely grateful I was to him and his wife for opening their home to us, for providing us with a kitchen table where we could sit around and talk, for the tea and the delicious ice cream, for laughing with us, and especially for laughing at my joke.  (Laughing at my jokes scores high marks in my book, in fact, that’s the thing that tipped the scales enough that I decided that yes in fact I would marry my husband.)

So pulling myself out of my spinning inner world of gratitude, I tuned into his joke, really trying to pay attention.  He was a really good joke teller, a kind of twinkle in his eye.  This was going to be a good one.  The anticipation was building as little recognition twinkles lit up in everyone’s eyes with the joke unfolding.  And suddenly the clock went off, and I think it was a blue jay sound or something, whatever the 11:00 pm bird happens to be.  And my friend, right before the punch line of his joke, as we were all looking at him expectantly, closed his eyes, sat up straight, and with a little smile was silent in a moment of inner reverence.  As that electronic blue jay sound awkwardly filled the silence, it was one of the longest minutes of my life.  My knee jerk reaction was to laugh.  It was crazy.  My mind couldn’t grasp it, couldn’t figure it out.  But, as  I looked at him, a little confused, and shocked, I saw this silence, the reverence, this peace, a breath, a pause.  And I thought to myself, “I want that too.”  And so like him, I closed my eyes too, and just breathed, just listened.  We all did in fact.  In those few moments I did not want anything, I did not need anything, I was being filled by being in the moment, accepting what is, what is now, what shall always be.

Something like God I suppose.  And then the bird sound stopped, and we opened our eyes.  And my friend finished his joke.  And then we all laughed!  It was a funny one.  (I can’t remember though, sorry.)

The next few days we got to stay at my friend’s house.  On every hour that clock would go off in the kitchen.  And my friend without fail would stop during those moments, breathe and meditate.

He explained to me that it his way of remaining connected to his spirit, to his breath, to gratefulness in his life.

I began to try to do it too.  It was such an inspiring concept.  And never before had one of those annoying bird clocks ever felt so refreshing.  But it was also just the peace that he so beautifully carried within that got me.  He was filling that peace up every hour.  It was real, it was tangible.  It was working.

At times I would be getting ready to go to a concert, putting on my turban or something of that nature, and hear the clock, and just not be able to stop what I was doing to meditate until the bird call was almost over and I’d just get in a few seconds.  But as our time there passed, I got better and better.

The moments when I would stop got longer and longer.  And the peace, yes, the peace got deeper and deeper.

In one of the new songs on a collaborative album that I am doing with an artist named Peter Kater I sing the words,

There is peace in every breath

As my mind dwells on your name

Finding peace, peace within

Treasure of bliss, never ends

These are the words of Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, which is my spiritual path. Here are his words in the original Gurmukhi language:

Saas Saas man naam

Man naam samaarai.

Eho bisaraam nid paa-ee

Today in the airport terminal on my way home from a concert weekend, I listened to the words of this song, with the beautiful piano, and with the hussle of the airport terminal passing before my eyes.  All sorts of people, all sorts of business, all sorts of disconnection, all sorts of discomfort, stress, movement, lives, in and out, up and down, crazy food, cell phones, blinking lights, loud announcements.  How do we stop?  How do we get off the wheel of the makings of our mind?  How do we feel peace even in a place like a crazy airport terminal?

And then the words came,

“There is peace is in every breath,

As my mind dwells on your Name

Finding peace, peace within

Treasure of Bliss never ends.”

And so I did, for a few moments stop, just like my friend back there in that kitchen in Princeton Junction, New Jersey.  I stopped, I took a breath, and paused, and yes the peace came.

It’s as easy as that.  All we have to do is stop, and breath.  And yet it is one of the hardest things to do.  To stop, stop the drama, stop the train of thoughts.  We believe so strongly that in the shear thinking, we are holding the world, our jobs, our families, our lives in place.  When in fact, the thinking itself takes us away from the center of our being, where we can be most effective in all that we do.  It is not that we should not think.  It is just that we are not just the mind.  We are full beings!  We flow with energy in our entire body.  When we get stuck in our minds, when the energy of our mind rules the day, we loose connection to the myriad of gifts that our entire beings offer.  Our hearts carry compassion.  Our feet give us humility and grounding.  Our lower back gives us strength.  Our blood gives us fluidity.  Our bones give us commitment.  Our smile gives hope.  Our breath gives life.  And it is God, really who gives us this breath, and takes this breath away.  In an instant, as one of my friends experienced last week, someone’s life can come to an end.  We may die at any moment, because it is God, it always has been, it always will be, who gives and takes away this life.  And so like this, we need to die, for just a moment, stop, breath, and remember that One, that great One, whose Name, by the mere recitation in a state of awareness, can bring absolute liberation.

That is my message to you this week.

Take a moment, stop, breathe, meditate, and find God’s Name in your breath.  That Treasure of Bliss shall never end.

Sat Nam.


Snatam Kaur

PS.  If you live in the United States, please vote in this upcoming election.

Evening Prayer - Kirtan Sohila by Snatam Kaur

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