When and how did you become a Minister?
I became a Minister in 1993 after studying the Dharma for 10 years. I did some mentoring with MSS Livtar Singh of Atlanta, Georgia, and then spent some time with the Siri Singh Sahib at summer Solstice in 1993, where he recommended that I take Minister’s vows, which I did.
Briefly describe what the words “Sikh Dharma Ministry” mean to you.
Sikh Dharma Ministry means so many things to me, and takes so many forms. It means being able to hold the sacred space for those taking the sacred vows of marriage. It means holding the space of the Gurus while I am teaching Kundalini Yoga. It means “seeing God in all” whether I am doing hospital chaplaincy, shopping for groceries, cooking for and serving homeless populations, interacting with my neighbors, or gardening.
It seems that in my life path, a large part of Sikh Dharma Ministry for me has been assisting those who are making the transition into death. This began for me back in the early 80s, as I took care of a woman who was dying of lung cancer.
Then in the 1990s, the Guru began introducing me to yoga students, their families, and my personal friends who were being met with the challenges of illness, dying, and death. I found that although I did not have any “formal training” in this area, it was definitely a big part of my life’s work. I was then guided to do graduate work in the field of Transpersonal Counseling Psychology.
What are the different ways you have been ministering to your Sangat, your community, and the wider world? How do you minister in regard to the topic of the current newsletter?
My Master’s thesis was focused on counseling of cancer patients. An interesting aspect of this “graduate work” was that in the late 1990s, I myself had a life-threatening illness. Book learning is certainly no substitute for first-hand experience. I feel that my own experience with illness has given me a depth of compassion and understanding that I could not otherwise have had.
I have had the great blessing of teaching the class on Death and Funerals for the “Journey to the Heart of Sikh Dharma” training course that Mata Mandir Kaur leads for those interested in the Sikh Dharma ministry. I treasure being able to be a resource for the Dharma in the beautiful aspects of our lifestyle that help us to prepare for death and that enables it to be a beautiful and healing experience.
It has been a great blessing to be able to be a hospital chaplain and to realize that even though most of my patients are not Sikhs, we are truly all one. It has also been wonderful this year, to offer the first KRI Level 1 Teacher Training here in North Carolina, and to introduce so many aspects of our Dharmic lifestyle to those who are new to it.