By GuruPrem Singh Khalsa
That was number thirty-four for me, that is, consecutive Summer Solstices. Wow! So many. What sets this year apart from the prior thirty-three? First of all, coming annually to Summer Solstice is a lot like a long term marriage. Having been married for 22 consecutive years gives me some perspective on both. I have remained in a committed relationship to the same person and the same annual Summer Solstice. What keeps me successful in both relationships? Every year, I attend to Summer Solstice for the known and the unknown experiences. This dance of the expected and unexpected sustains my interest and feeds my commitment, both with Summer Solstice and my marriage.
The Subtle Art of Listening
For about the last thirty years, I have served on the Sound Current Team at Solstice, which consists of about thirty-five people working together as a team to deliver the actual sound current to the many class and event venues. After so many years, I still come to honor this seva, arriving each year at the sound booth with an open heart and hopefully open mind to do this seva. I love the reunion with my annual sound current friends. Each year I renew my ongoing discussions of our Dharmic life with Hari Singh, the head sevadar of the Sound Current Team, and the more we learn about each other, the more were learn about all of us. Each year brings a new crop of “mic-adars,” our affectionate term for people brand new to this special seva. The Sound Current Team is truly an apprentice program for those interested all things audio.
On the surface, this past Summer Solstice seemed like many others before it—setting up the microphones, speakers, TV’s and dealing with the various audio problems and challenges that always occur. What keeps things fresh in any relationship is learning to experience new things from familiar things. Repetition can remain fresh if you can gain a deeper experience from the subtle. The Sound Current Team requires the ability to listen on many levels. This skill has served me well in every area of my life. We all want to be heard but few really know the art of listening.
The new music released for this year’s Solstice included many classic mantras played and sung in wonderful new ways. Even the CD I released, Heal Me, had some of the old, done anew. To me, this is a good example of experiencing the thrill of the subtle. I am listening with a newly uncovered layer of myself.
If the focus was to be on the etheric, then I would have to adjust my expectations. Taken as a whole, it is a weeklong giant group sadhana—asadhana that we were privileged to practice together with 2,500 people. Each face, familiar or not, gets the same greeting, “Sat Nam” - soul to soul, two and a half thousand variations on a sacred relationship with the formless. I go to Solstice to reconnect with my soul mates of destiny. New faces, old faces—the essence of the Sat Nam is the same. The changeless, formless God of Truth connecting our changing forms. I go to Summer Solstice every year expecting changes in the Solstice and myself. These changes can be surprising, like the improvements to the site itself—the expanded Tantric shelter. More subtlely, there were slightly different decorations, the dinner lettuce became a salad, and almond milk was served with the Yogi Tea as a new offering. And what about Guru Singh’s wake up? His voice was reassuringly familiar, but the “band” was a bit different—new voices, new instruments.
Meeting the Challenges of Solstice
This year Summer Solstice spoke from the ethers and my listening was challenged, my relationship tested. Summer Solstice 2012 celebrating the Ether element, the subtle, made its presence known in some seemingly non-etheric ways. This provided environments that were at times harsh, but I learned to be more subtle from things that were not subtle. It was hotter and more crowded, and remaining calm and graceful put many, including myself, to the test.
We experienced audio difficulties that should have been simple fixes but were not. I found myself saying, “I can’t fix this problem, Guru you do it, make theses microphones work.” Ultimately all the audio problems we faced were solved.
Then there was the White Tantric Yoga. This year being a veteran didn’t seem to help. When my arms hurt I would pray, "Guruji, hold up my arms," and they were held.
When the wind nearly blew our tent down keeping me awake all night with the noise and concern, a prayer from my heart to the ethers asked the Guru to please get me through this night, and I got through it.
After a hot and dusty day when my only thought was a shower, I found the showers not working! That was the moment when my misery meter started rising high, and I thought briefly about ending my faithful relationship to Summer Solstice. Instead something spoke to me from the ethers and I was reminded of the power and protection of the covenant I made with my commitment to annually attend Summer Solstice. I came to realize that missing a shower was a blessing so the dust of Ram Dass Puri could remain a bit longer, allowing a deeper healing.
People have been coming to this sacred land for thousands of years to experience something timeless and immortal. My annual pilgrimage to this sacred land has enabled me to better experience the timeless, formless truth of my own soul. This experience helps me to sustain and nurture my other commitments year after year. In other words I have a covenant with Ram Dass Puri and the Summer Solstice Sadhana, which I attend every year to serve, honor and enjoy, and every year the energy and experience I have from this practice carries me through my other challenges and commitments.
So when I am asked “How was Summer Solstice?” It was, as it has always been—Great!
P.S. For many of us, summer may be a financially, familial or mentally challenging time. Here is a meditation to do that will allow us to listen, prosper and project unto Victory from whatever we are challenged by: