Walking Alone

When I was in Suzhou pursuing my masters, a walk to the university would take 15 mins. Every morning I would walk to class and listen to this one Shabad on repeat. Continuously listening to it for days, especially when walking alone, ignited something in me that made me reflect on myself and my daily thoughts.

The near-empty streets of Suzhou with immense greenery all around, my feet syncing with the Shabad’s tabla beats and my mind singing along and contemplating, made the walk to school so beautiful. Just for those 15 mins I’d be mesmerized and immersed in the surrounding beauty—no concern with what lies ahead or what happened in the past. Just being in the present, such a fantastic feeling that is.

ਰਾਗੁ ਜੈਜਾਵੰਤੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੯ ॥

ਰਾਮ ਸਿਮਰ ਰਾਮ ਸਿਮਰ ਇਹੈ ਤੇਰੈ ਕਾਜਿ ਹੈ ॥
ਮਾਇਆ ਕੋ ਸੰਗੁ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਜੂ ਕੀ ਸਰਨਿ ਲਾਗ ॥
ਜਗਤ ਸੁਖ ਮਾਨੁ ਮਿਥਿਆ ਝੂਠੋ ਸਭ ਸਾਜੁ ਹੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
ਸੁਪਨੇ ਜਿਉ ਧਨੁ ਪਛਾਨੁ ਕਾਹੇ ਪਰ ਕਰਤ ਮਾਨੁ ॥
ਬਾਰੂ ਕੀ ਭੀਤ ਜੈਸੇ ਬਸੁਧਾ ਕੋ ਰਾਜੁ ਹੈ ॥੧॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਜਨ ਕਹਤ ਬਾਤ ਬਿਨਸਿ ਜੈਹੈ ਤੇਰੋ ਗਾਤ ॥
ਛਿਨੁ ਛਿਨੁ ਕਰਿ ਗਇਓ ਕਾਲੁ ਤੈਸੇ ਜਾਤੁ ਆਜੁ ਹੈ ॥੨॥੧॥

– Rāg Jaijavanti, Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, SGGS Ang 1352

The Shabad itself and the Rāg it was revealed in grounds you. It is a reminder to keep the Divine in your heart at all times; this is your only task. This transitory life and its comforts are going away, so leave Maya’s company and come to the sanctuary of the One. The wealth you have here is like a dream; why are you so proud of yourself? Your reign on earth is like a wall of sand that will collapse with a slight sway. Nanak, the slave, says this one thing, your body is perishing. Moment by moment, yesterday passed, and today too is passing away.

It was a live recording from Harmandir Sahib. I don’t have the recording anymore, but here is another rendition of the Shabad sung in Rāg Jaijavanti by Bhai Avtar Singh.

When we (me and my little sis) were small, doing parkarma of the sarowar of Panjokhara Sahib, dad would tell us a walking Simran technique. Left, Right, Left, Right, Wahe, Guru, Wahe, Guru. Say Wahe when you put your left foot forward and Guru when you put the right foot ahead and keep going. He would tell us, wherever you go when you’re walking, keep doing Simran with every step you take. This has stuck with me until now. 

It can feel lonely sometimes when you’re alone in another country. The walking Simran technique and listening to Kirtan while walking to places gave me courage and strength. It made me realize that you’re never alone. And it’s a beautiful technique to keep the One in your remembrance wherever you go. I felt like I always had someone or something with me at all times.

Don’t be afraid of being alone. What I’ve learned by being with myself is so precious. It’s a phase that can help you explore a greater reality.

Inni Kaur beautifully expresses what walking is in this poem below. Have a read:

Walking is intimacy with oneself.
With one’s thoughts.
With one’s sense of being.

My Heart:
Will you walk with me in love and awareness?
Will you rejoice with me seeing every tiny living creature?
Will you dance with me seeing the clouds drift by?
Will you serenade me listening to the humming stream?

- Inni Kaur
Last year winter, walking down one of the streets near Dulwich College, Shanghai.