by SS Sat Jagat Singh Khalsa, Brooklyn NY
It is the challenge and blessing of the Ram Das Puri Kitchen to consciously prepare simple, delicious and nutritious food for more than 2,000 people for eight days. This is made possible because over 100 people make up the dozen kitchen teams.
They come to Solstice to leave behind their normal routines and experience the challenge and blessing of working together to serve the saints in the laboratory of human possibilities we call 3HO Summer Solstice. And who are the saints? All of us who make our way up that mountain to get transformed, at least while we are there, into saints.
We start on the first day with a meeting of the entire kitchen staff. Forming somewhat of a circle, we tune in and meditate. Then we go around the circle with each person saying their name, and everyone together repeating that name aloud three times. When we are done every person has said and heard everyone’s name four times, including their own. We are all smiling.
I learned this wonderful technique when my son, Hari Simran Singh, attended the Collective Fellowship and Peace Academy in Brooklyn, as a nine-year-old student. The entire school, all students and staff, started every day in this way.
This practice creates a foundation of group consciousness that sets us on our way to taking care of each other, and in turn taking care of the entire camp. After that first big meeting, the kitchen teams meet separately and most of their daily meetings include this name recitation.
In the kitchen, our bottom line is that everyone is taken care of physically, emotionally and spiritually. For many, their Kitchen Team is their Solstice family. Efficiency at Solstice is not our primary objective—two people are always better than one because it makes any job more fun. Each team leader knows how to do a job and guides all the members until everyone knows how the job is done. For the leaders, conscious presence is most important.
As Kitchen Managers, Sat Kartar Singh, Siri Avtar Singh and I are there to observe, listen, answer questions and help solve problems. We give people what they need. For some, it’s a smile, for others a direction or better tools to do their work. Sometimes it involves a more in-depth conversation or steering someone toward a job that’s a better fit. We are open to suggestions and do our best to cultivate trust. Over many years, we have developed systems and methods but I continue to be amazed at the innovative ideas that make a big difference.
Calling on Guru Ram Das
The most important role in the kitchen is played by Guru Ram Das. Solstice Managers often feel the challenge of too much to do and not enough people and time to do it.
For me, calling on Guru Ram Das and turning the problem over to him, helps in multiple ways. It gives me confidence, which inspires confidence in others. It takes away my stress—I become more clearheaded, better able to find solutions, sometimes in unexpected places.
People willing to serve just “show up,” seemingly out of thin air. The job can be made smaller. There’s an easier way to do it, or we just need to all pitch in, supporting each other to get it done.
I am greatly impressed and inspired by the love of seva of our kitchen saints. It’s a blessing to serve with them.
Solstice Photos Courtesy SS Sat Kartar Singh, Conroe TX
About the Author
SS Sat Jagat Singh Khalsa has been a Sikh Dharma Minister since 1999. He and his wife SS Gurusurya Kaur are the directors of Guru Ram Das Ashram/Kundalini Yoga in Park Slope. They love to feed people and they host a monthly Gurdwara and monthly Guru Ram Das chanting. Sat Jagat has been in charge of the kitchen at Summer and Winter Solstice for over 30 years. He is a member of the 3HO Board of Directors and is on the Board of the Hari Simran Foundation, which is working to support the seva and leadership of our youth.