How Sikh Wisdom Can Create More Joy in Your Life with Simran Jeet Singh [Episode #701]
This week’s topic is: How Sikh Wisdom Can Create More Joy in Your Life with Simran Jeet Singh
I am so excited to have my very special guest, Simran Jeet Singh, who is a writer, educator, and human rights activist and in his new book, The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life, he shares a powerful approach to living a purposeful and rewarding life. Listen in as Simran shares how to celebrate our differences, unlock the potential for connection and love, finding empowerment through the light we give, and so much more!
Noticing our differences and not really seeing each other…
Celebrating differences versus trying to fit in…
Unlocking this potential to connection and love from the Sikh perspective…
Moving away from anger and breaking through into more connection…
Empowerment through the light we give…
How to practically live the Sikh tradition…
About Simran Jeet Singh
Simran Jeet Singh, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Inclusive America Project at the Aspen Institute. He is an Equality Fellow with the Open Society Foundations, Senior Adviser on Equity and Inclusion for YSC Consulting, and a Visiting Professor at Union Seminary. He is a regular contributor to The Washington Post, CNN, and TIME Magazine and writes a monthly column for Religion News Service. The author of the bestselling children’s book Fauja Singh Keeps Going, he lives with his family in New York City.
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Kimberly: I loves and welcome back to our Monday interview show, where I am very, very excited to share our very special guest today. His name is Simran Jeet Singh, and he is an author, an educator, and a human rights activist. And I have to say that I absolutely loved his book, his new book, which is out now, it’s newly published and it is called the lights we give, how sick S I K H wisdom can transform your life in which he shares these powerful and practical teachings for living a purposeful and rewarding life. And so in today’s show, we get into some really powerful life experiences. We get into how we may have all these different experiences that are individual to us, but in the collective we share our feelings, we share these challenges. And so these teachings that he offers us are so helpful across the board.
Fan of the Week
Kimberly: And I have to say that I read his book and I started really, um, I had some big epiphanies <laugh> from it, so I can’t recommend it enough. And I’m so excited to share this conversation with you today, before we get into it, though, I want to give a shout out to our fan of the week. Her name is JCaligirl, and she writes using her potential to the fullest. It was like an intervention just now I’m a fan of the beauty detox book and still using the recipes to lower my cholesterol. I fast forward and I just found Kimberly’s podcast. I’m so happy she’s using her great potential now. Well, Jake Allie girl, that makes me so happy and feel very, just joyful, this beautiful review and the fact that we are connected. So I have a huge smile on my face, and I can’t thank you enough for both of those things for participating and just simply being you and being part of our community. So thank you. Thank you, my love.
Please leave a review on iTunes
Kimberly: And for you listening right now, <laugh> for your chance to also be shouted out as our fan of the week. Please just take a moment outta your day and leave us a review on iTunes, which could literally be one sentence, but it’s the energy behind it. It’s the energy of support, which means the world. And so I thank you so much in advance. It really just helps the show keep going. It helps other wonderful souls like yourself, find the show. And so along those lines, besides a relieving, a review on apple, Spotify, wherever you listen, please share the show. And this is about the expansion of the energy and the heart and generosity and compassion, living it as a lifestyle. So you can send a link. You can see send a screenshot, but the more we share, the more our hearts grow. So thank you in advance for also doing that.
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Kimberly: And finally little reminder to subscribe to the show and that way you don’t miss out on any of these amazing interviews with these incredible, incredible teachers and our Thursday Q&A podcast as well. You just stay in the flow without thinking, having to make decisions, having to click buttons every week. You just stay there. <laugh> stay in the flow. And another quick reminder, if you haven’t picked it out yet, summer is a great time to read my new book. You Are More More Than You Think You Are – Practical Enlightenment For Everyday Life. Holding a copy in my hand right now, this new book, baby, this practical guide is written really with that in mind, to really help you unlock your potential. And these teachings have helped me so much. And I just want the same for you. It is always my goal to share what has helped me the most. And I feel like this book is really alive, really potent with that. So you can pick it up wherever books are sold again, it’s called you are more than you think you are. I’ll write my loves. Let’s get right into our podcast today with Simran and start listening in on some of his incredible wisdom.
Interview with Simran Jeet Singh
Kimberly: 01:34 Well Simran, thank you so much for speaking to me today and it’s launch week. I can’t believe how well this timed out for me to feature your incredible book, which I have to say. I love so much and for us to have this conversation. So congratulations and thank you for coming on.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 01:53 Oh, thank you. And thank you for having me, especially someone with your, uh, experiences. And I mean, you, you sort of have been here and done this and yeah, it’s, it’s really fun to be, to be on this journey and, and to meet folks along the way who are, who are doing incredible things as well. Thank you.
Kimberly: 02:08 Well, thank you. And I read in your bio, first of all, just easing in that you live in New York city. And I had to say as a mom, myself of two little ones, I’m always impressed with parents that live in the city because when my kids get, um, my kids get so high energy, I have two boys and I just open the door and we have the yard and I said, go outside, go in the sandbox, go play. And in New York, there’s the, you know, there, of course there’s all the parks and everything, but I imagine there’s different challenges in being in the city.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 02:39 Yeah, exactly. There there’s no, um, there’s no go, go outside and go play, uh, here in the city. There’s always, you know, that’s, that’s how you get kidnapped. So yeah, it’s, it’s funny. It’s one of the, one of the promises that my wife and I made to each other when we first decided to settle in New York, that when it was time for kids, we would, we would head out like, like most people do. And, um, and I think over the years, I, my, my thinking has changed to, to recognize how, how great of a place it can be to raise kids too. So it’s, it’s definitely yes, that it’s challenges, but there, there is. I, I really love it and I really love it for my kids.
Kimberly: 03:11 Yeah. Yeah. It’s certainly a vibrant place. And so I have to say, I, I was reading your book and I cried in many places. There’s a real depth to your book, the light we, the light we give. And I remember it was, it was sent to me and it really caught my eye. And then I started reading through it. And wow. So there’s a lot I wanna talk to you about, but again, it’s such a wonderful book. And so congratulations for putting something out in the world that has a lot of richness to it. And a lot of teachings. And in the beginning of the book, you talk about being a Sikh. And of course there’s many of us that look different. To some extent. I remember I grew up in a completely Caucasian town and I’m half Asian. So I was the exotic one. And that was lots of comments and lots of things that made me very uncomfortable as a child at the beginning of the book, you talk about this concept of noticing, but not seeing. And so we notice our differences, but we don’t really see each other all the time. Can you expand on that a little bit?
Simran expands on the concept of noticing our differences and not really seeing each other
Simran Jeet Sin…: 04:20 Yeah. You know, it, it, it’s something that I observe from, from the very early moments of my life. You know, I, uh, come from a sick family, which means that we wear turbines and, and growing up in Texas, we were some of the only six in all of south Texas, uh, who wore turbines. And there, there was something kind of strange about growing up in a place where, uh, you stuck out like a sore thumb. I mean, everyone, everyone notices that you’re different. And, and, you know, even now in New York city, I, I have the same experience where anywhere I walk, my, my turban sticks out and, and people wonder about who I am. And so there absolutely is this, this experience of being so visible to the point that you never really stop thinking about it because everyone around you is constantly in some way or another, whether it’s explicit or implicit, whether it’s innocuous or malicious.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 05:20 I mean, there are just these tiny reminders all the time that you’re different. And, and so the visibility piece is, is very, is very obvious to, to anybody who’s looking. And, and part of the, the flip side of that experience that, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s the flip side of the coin really it’s, it comes hand in hand for us it’s that people see us, but they have no idea who we are. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, they, they might think they know who we are. They might have assumptions about who we are when they see our turbines and our beards and, and a lot of people do <laugh> and sometimes they let me know what their assumptions are, and it’s not the best. Um, but, but it’s, it’s this really strange feeling of being noticed everywhere I go, but, but never really feeling seen, uh, you know, it’s,
Kimberly: 06:10 It’s speaking
Simran Jeet Sin…: 06:10 Hyper visible and being rendered invisible, and it it’s really challenging to figure out well, you know, most of the people in this country don’t know a thing about me and they’re making these assumptions and that can sometimes have really serious consequences, especially when your image, your body looks like people’s stereotype of the enemy of the terror. And that’s a real challenge. So yeah, it, it is something that I grappled with in my childhood. And it’s something that continues to this day.
Kimberly: 06:42 Yeah. It, it’s not easy, especially in childhood. And I remember I went through a period where, um, my first prom, I went and got my makeup done for the first time. And I remember singing to the makeup artist, trying to make my eyes look more round. And she was like, what do you mean? And so there was this, this time where I was trying to fit in and I was trying not to stand out. And on your book, you talk about this idea of celebrating differences, right. Which can be hard for a child. So did you ever go through a period where you were just trying maybe even not to wear your turbine or you were just trying to just fit in more? I know there was a lot of strength in the teachings of your parents, which we’ll talk about in a moment. So did you ever go down that path yourself?
Celebrating differences versus trying to fit in
Simran Jeet Sin…: 07:25 Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s a great question. And, you know, everyone, everyone has their own journey and their own experiences. And I, you know, I would be lying if I said, I never thought about it. Like definitely there were moments, especially in childhood where I was like, damn life could be so much easier than it is if I just looked like the people around me. And, you know, I don’t think at that age, I was really understanding that even without, even without my turban, I would still be a brown skinned person in America. And racism is still real, right. Like, that’s, that wasn’t so much on my mind, but certainly the turban is it’s heightening this sense of difference. And, and so is my facial hair. And so there was definitely points all throughout my childhood where things would get hard or the racism would get sharp.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 08:14 And I would wonder, what’s the point of all this? Like why, what, and, you know, it’s, it’s a little bit different for me because I mean, from, from a lot of folks, because this is a choice, right? Like wearing a turbine, it’s not my, it’s not the skin that I was born with. Yeah. Uh, it’s not, it’s not the ethnicity that came with me. It’s not, um, you know, my parents’ immigration status or, or whatever it is. It was it’s every day I make a choice. And so I really could choose differently and, and say, I don’t wanna do this anymore. And so certainly across my mind, um, there were moments when I talked about it. I actually remember, I, I never really confessed this to anybody. Um <laugh> but I, I, I did write about it in the book. So now I guess I’m confessing it to everybody, but I remember one of my, one of my earliest, uh, moments of getting bullied in school, um, I came home and, and it was boys who were, who were saying that I was a girl because I had to long hair.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 09:12 Mm. And, you know, as, as a kid that like must have been in preschool, I think, or maybe, maybe I think I was in preschool. Um, but I came home and I found the scissors that we had in our craft box. Um, and I, and I put them under my pillow and, and plan to come here that night. And, and now I, I have a daughter who’s about that same age. And it’s, it’s strange for me to look back on that and recognize that, you know, on the one hand, I, I wouldn’t have called it traumatic. Like I didn’t end up cutting my hair. I forgot about it that night. You know, I, I was a toddler. So like, it’s not something that I would call scarring, but at the same time here, I am like 30 something years later. And I St like, I literally remember the scissors, like they were yellow.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 10:00 Yeah. And they had a clown on them. Like there, something about that moment really stuck out to me. So absolutely there were, there were moments all throughout where I’ve thought about it, where I’ve wondered what life would be like if I, if I looked differently, uh, than I do now. Um, but at the same time, I would say, and, and I share this in the book, I’m really grateful, uh, for the experiences that I’ve had. And I think they’ve shaped me and they’ve made me who I am. And so I guess, you know, in retrospect, it’s, it’s all easier, but, but I’d say even now, right? Like I, I’m certainly conscious of the fact that I look different and life is hard in this country for people who look different and mm-hmm, <affirmative>, yeah. It still crosses my mind from time to time, if I’m being honest.
Kimberly: 10:41 Well, now we, we live in this time in, in America and in the west, where in many ways there’s more extremism. There’s lots that are, that is coming up to be healed politically and culturally and socially in so many ways. And so what I like about your book too, is that you are talking about your personal experiences that are unique to you, but then you’re also sharing teachings that applied to all of us. And this passage, I just wanna reference this is on page 63 in the chapter of finding answers, you write I’ve discovered that although my experiences have been unique, my feelings were not rage, anger, and fear afflict us all, no matter what our background or situation, whether it work or at home on the highway or the tennis court, there is so much out there that provokes us, afflicts us and causes us pain.
Kimberly: 11:33 And while we often comfort ourselves by saying, this is just how people are, there is a simple truth that that can set us free. We don’t have to live this way. Living with calm and compassion can be learned and earned. This is what seek wisdom has taught me. Liberation is not what happens to us after we die. It’s about the here and now it’s about unlocking our potential and UN fettering ourselves from anything that keeps us from connection, love, and joy within this life. So it’s such a beautiful passage. Um, I personally am a student of VEIC philosophy and yoga. So I know that perspective, but I’d love for you to share a little bit about unlocking this potential to connection and love from the Sikh perspective.
Unlocking this potential to connection and love from the Sikh perspective
Simran Jeet Sin…: 12:19 Yeah. Yeah. I appreciate that. And as, as you’re reading it, I’m sort of reflecting back on, um, you know, sometimes you, you hear your words and I’m like, wow, did I, did I actually write that? I think, I, I think I believe that <laugh>
Kimberly: 12:32 Right. I know I get it.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 12:34 Yeah. But it’s, it’s, it’s true in a lot of ways. I mean, you know, going back to even my early childhood, some of my memories of, of learning to deal with the challenges that came my way and, you know, for, for all of us, we have our own challenges. And for me, some of what really stuck out was was the racism and xenophobia that I dealt with growing up. And, and in some ways, those, those experiences were really sharp and, and learning how to find safety, um, and, and really not have my, the experiences of my, of, of my life, the experiences of each day, being tied to how people treated me or what they might say to me on the street. Like, it’s so easy for those moments to just ruin the rest of your afternoon or the rest of your day. I mean, it happens all the time.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 13:27 And so I, I had to learn, and I think this is true for a lot of people who come from the margins of society, you have to learn pretty quickly not to wrap up your own understanding of yourself and your, your dignity and your inherent value. Uh, you can’t tie that to what other people expect of you, or even what they perceive you to be. And so, you know, early on it really used to bother me. I mean, it bothered me a lot, what people thought. And if somebody said something to me that bothered me, it could affect, it, could affect my mood. It could affect my relationships with other people. And I just didn’t like how I was dealing with it. And I didn’t know at the time. And it’s something that I learned through sick teachings and through my family’s, uh, practice, uh, of, of, of how we talk to one another and think about values.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 14:23 Uh, you really can choose how you respond in these moments. And there’s something really freeing about that. It’s, it’s really liberating to know that even though you can’t control what happens all around you, you can’t necessarily control how people treat you. You do have control over yourself and your reactions. And, and at a point, if you can really build, they don’t have to be reactions anymore. They can just be the way that you live each and every day. And, and you, you go beyond, you’re able to transcend this idea that your living life and reaction to what’s happening to you. And instead now you’re in control of, of how you feel and what your mood is. And so I’ve, I’ve really appreciated this teaching because it’s completely transformed, not just how I deal with these difficult moments of racism, but really how I deal with the difficult moments that are all around us all the time.
Kimberly: 15:16 Yeah. And, and so to illustrate that in real world terms, there’s a story you tell where you’re jogging in New York city. And these, I dunno if they’re teenagers or adolescents, or, you know, yelling some racial things at you, and it’s easy to just, you know, shout back there’s choices, right? You shout back like F you, whatever, or you just keep going. And you describe because this concept that seems to weave through, and you have a couple chapters about connection, you actually stop. And you said, Hey, it feels really painful when you say that, like this really humanizing, and you said, you looked in their eyes and made to connect and create empathy. And, um, you know, and you can imagine what that felt like paraphrasing, obviously, but then it, it ended with you guys shaking hands. So seems like this ongoing theme and well, it’s moving away from anger, which just creates more division and separation and, and more of these walls into how do we break through into more connection and seeing each other and the humanity.
Moving away from anger and breaking through into more connection
Simran Jeet Sin…: 16:23 Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I, the, the story you shared, I, I love that story because it’s, um, of, of all the interactions that I’ve had with racism over, it’s probably the best, uh, the best outcome. Um, yes, <laugh> and, uh, and, and I’m, I’m cognizant of the fact that not every situation will end like that and, and you can’t really expect it to, uh, but there was something really fantastic about walking away from a really, um, disheartening situation and, and walking away from it, feeling heartene
d. And, and as if you have more hope, uh, in the world than you have disappointment for it. And so that was, it was a really great moment for me and a reminder actually, uh, that we can prepare ourselves for these moments. And, you know, what I, what I share in the book just before, uh, this incident, uh, where I had a great outcome, I actually had a, another incident with a pretty rough outcome in which, um, there was, there was a woman who lived, uh, I, I don’t know where she lived.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 17:25 I was walking near where I lived on the upper east side in Manhattan. And, and she started yelling really, really nasty stuff. I mean, pretty aggressively. And, and I froze and didn’t know what to do and turned around and walked home and, and changed my plans for the, I mean, it was, I was so upset with how I responded in that moment. And I actually started to visualize, well, what do I want to do? What does it look like to live into my values next time this happens, how do I wanna respond? And so I prepared myself and, and I think, again, it’s, it’s this point that we actually do have a choice in these moments. Like I I’d rather them not happen, but when they do just like, when all the other difficulties in our life come to us, uh, how are we, how are we ready to respond with our values in such a way that we feel proud when we walk away, as I did in this, in this other interaction, as opposed to walking away, feeling frustrated with myself or disappointed in myself that I didn’t handle that the way I wanted to.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 18:25 And I think that simple difference can be, can be the entire difference between how, how we experience our day to day lives.
Kimberly: 18:32 And I wanna emphasize, again, in the last passage I read where we talk about, we don’t all have the same experiences, so many people listening to this, aren’t going to experience racism per se. But we think about these challenges where someone may attack us on social media, or somebody may say something mean to us at a board meeting at work, or someone spreads rumor, or, you know, there’s just like a million things of family members, gossiping about you or whatever it is. There’s all these challenges that we can’t control everybody’s behaviors, but the teachings you’re sharing is about, you know, like when you were use the word dignity and about choice, and again, back to your, your, the title of your book, the light we give. So it comes back to our personal part that we play. And there’s empowerment in that. I think, because I think we get frustrated, we think, oh gosh, like the world. And like, these people are in so much hate. And like, this person’s so mean, but when we come back to this safety, I think in security inside of us and that ability to act and to choose it, does, it does give us a direction, like you said, to place our values and to move forward in life.
Empowerment through the light we give
Simran Jeet Sin…: 19:45 Yeah. I, I mean, I think it’s, it’s such an interesting, it’s such an interesting experience in this country where we are constantly attacking one another, uh, because of, because of all sorts of differences that we perceive and it’s, it’s, it’s not just physically attacking, right. There’s constant judgements that we’re making about each other based on what we see or what we hear or what we think. And in each of these, I think are, are, are really pulling us apart from our humanity. And, and part of what I mean by that is there’s so much, there’s so much ego tied up in our identities and how we see ourselves as opposed to one another, right. We’re constantly in competition with ourselves trying to prove that I’m better than you. And all of this is reproducing supremacist mindsets, right? Like essentially, that’s what it is. I’m, I’m better than because X or because Y or because Z, and it’s just, I mean, look around the country.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 20:50 It’s just tearing us all apart. It’s so painful and it’s painful to you, and it’s painful to me. And it’s painful to even those who are constantly making these judgements. And so I, I guess, you know, what, I’m what I’m really after and, and what I’ve really experienced in, in, in small doses. And, and I’m really hoping that we can expand on this for, for everyone, not just for me is there’s a different way. And, and in, in many wisdom traditions, um, they, there, there’s an offering of a way to sincerely care for one another and ourselves that diminishes the ego rather than enhances it, that creates less suffering rather than more. And I think there’s something about a middle path here in which we really learn to see how we’re connected to one another, rather than constantly looking at our disconnect. And I think that that’s at such a small shift in perspective that can change each and every interaction that we have every day. And it doesn’t mean that life isn’t hard, and it doesn’t mean that ugly things don’t happen, but what it really means is the way that we experience them are it’s, it’s all through the lens of connection and joy rather than pain and suffering. And I, I, I think that’s, it’s it, I, I see it within reach. Like we can have that if we want it. And so I, I’m just trying to imagine and understand what it looks like for us to get there.
Kimberly: 22:13 Yeah. So what would that be practically? I know you talk about rewiring our culture. It seems like it would start on the micro scale and our day to day, and then build up on to the collective and the macro. But are you saying in each interaction, instead of looking to highlight differences to see through to how you and I are connected, or how could we live this practically?
How to practically live the Sikh tradition
Simran Jeet Sin…: 22:37 Yeah, that’s, that’s exactly it that, um, you know, one of, one of the foundational teachings in the SI tradition and one that I really try and, um, ground this book in is, is, is the first teaching actually that we learn as six, uh, which it’s called I, and it it’s, it’s a vision of the world as interconnected, or as perhaps the, the Buddhist might say, as interdependent or in, in Islam, you might call it Behe the oneness. And really the, the reason I share those different perspectives is because I don’t think it’s such a unique concept, right? It’s not that no one has thought of this before, but it is so radically different from how we tend to think of our world right now, culturally, right? Culturally we’re constantly creating binaries or distinctions or divisions or categories just to make things easier for us. And part of what happens when we do that is we end up with these extremes, cuz we’re constantly polarizing and saying, you’re this and I’m that you’re a Republican, I’m a Democrat, you’re a conservative, I’m liberal, you’re Christian, I’m Jewish.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 23:53 I mean, like over and over again, we’re just reinforcing these differences. And part of what I think works more practically to focus in on the connection is to recognize that actually at the core we’re the same. And then the differences emerge from that. So it’s not to say the differences don’t matter and it’s not to say the differences don’t exist. Of course, of course they do. And they’re, they’re so critical for us to recognize, but the starting point can be really different from where we are right now, where we say, okay, we’ll start from a place of one. This we’ll start from a place of shared humanity. What do you and I have in common? And then let’s go to the differences. But instead of then feeling threatened by them because we fear that your differences challenge, who I am as a person, we instead say, okay, cool. Like that’s a beautiful thing. You are, you and I am are connected. It doesn’t have to be a, uh, and an antagonistic relationship. I, to me practically, it’s, it’s again, just a small shift in how we see things. This, the starting point is still the, sorry, the end point is, is different. Let me say that again. The starting point is all that we really need to change. Mm-hmm <affirmative> we start with point of connection and then we move into where we need to, where we really need to start recognizing and honoring our diversity.
Kimberly: 25:18 I love that. And I remember when I went backpacking for three years, I ended up going after college when I was trying to figure out what to do. And there were so many places that I couldn’t communicate verbally. You know, I remember being in rural China and parts of Africa, but I would, it was so much heart and you could look in people’s eyes and you would figure it out. And I remember after that experience and I felt held in so many ways by so many different people that never met me. And I really felt that oneness in a real, tangible, deep way. And to this day, Simran, I have never used the word stranger again, because I don’t feel that I feel like maybe we haven’t met, but we’re not strangers. There is this, this, I, you know, like that on cars. Is that the word you said, there’s just a unifying energy. And so I really like that. I really resonate with that. And I also wanna embrace, I wanna highlight this other teaching in your book, and this comes from the radical connection chapter where you talk about, let me see if I’m saying this right. Char D Kala everywhere.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 26:25 Very nice. Yeah. Charla. Yeah. Okay.
Kimberly: 26:27 <laugh> I know the accent is beautiful, but what you write here so beautifully written, we all know that true happiness comes from within us. What we may not realize though, is that it doesn’t come on its own. We create joy by making it a daily, intentional practice. Hopefulness brings us happiness and the present. And it also plants seeds of happiness for our futures. When we feel optimism, we will continue investing in ourselves and in our relationships, it’s easy to remember that negativity is a self perpetuating cycle, but it’s even easier to forget that positivity is a self perpetuating cycle too. So if you could go into this a little bit, everlasting optimism, and what do we do when we’re so bombarded by the bad news, right? And all this stuff out here, how do we maintain this, this sick quality of optimism in, in modern life?
How to maintain the Sikh quality of optimism when we’re bombarded by the bad news
Simran Jeet Sin…: 27:24 Yeah. You know, I, I, it’s a big
Kimberly: 27:25 Question,
Simran Jeet Sin…: 27:26 <laugh> it? It is a big question. And I think it, it feels bigger in moments of darkness, which, which I feel like the world right now. I mean, there’s, there’s so much difficulty, there’s so much pain. There’s so many questions and uncertainties about what’s happening. And if things will, if things will ever get better, uh, or, or if this is just a downward spiral and it’s, it’s hard to not get wrapped up in this feeling of disappointment. Um, and, and, you know, one of the, one of the lessons I learned pretty early, um, you know, the, the most clear memory I have of noticing this and, and learning this was, uh, when I was 18, I was a senior in high school when the terrorist attacks of nine 11 happened. Yes. And, and because of how we look, um, because of our sick identity, a lot of people, uh, started to see us as, as the enemy.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 28:21 And, and we were on lockdown at home immediately afterwards. I mean, death threats, phone calls drive-bys, I mean, everything, it was, it was brutal. And one of the, one of the messages I got from my parents during this period was, Hey, yeah, things, things feel really tough right now. You know, our, our country’s under attack. Our community’s under attack. Uh we’re, we’re stuck at home and, and we’re not stepping out, but make sure you also recognize all the goodness. And, and I was like, what, what goodness is there to notice? And, and then they started pointing out, like your neighbors have been coming by to check in on us, your teammates, your coaches, your teachers have been calling and bringing food flowers, like, think about, and just notice how many more people there are out there who care for you than those who hate you.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 29:17 And that was like, it was this, first of all, it was annoying. Cuz I’m, I’m 18 years old and I’m like, don’t, don’t teach me stuff right now, leave me alone. <laugh> but it was this, it was this really powerful. Um, you know, it’s like removing the veil where you have this inability to see the goodness all around you. Not because you don’t notice it. Like I, I noticed the, that those things were happening, but you don’t, you don’t register them as being in contrast to all the bad. That’s so much easier to hold onto mm-hmm <affirmative> yes. And when moments of difficulty, what I, what I’ve started doing is, is really trying to replicate that experience. So things feel really tough and things feel like the, you know, the country’s falling apart and the world is falling apart. I will now literally go walk around New York city and just watch people and, and make observations about what people are doing.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 30:16 And I will tell you every single time I’ve done that, I’ve noticed things that I don’t typically notice and the good far outweighs the bad. Mm. And it’s, it’s little stuff like you, you see someone walking by a trash can on the corner and there’s a can on the ground. That’s supposed to be in the trash. Can they’ll pick it up and drop it in. I mean, that’s goodness. Right? Yeah. And, and we think of these as random acts of kindness, but I think what can really happen, I, if you really start to notice is that you, you come to understand that these acts of kindness are not random. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> that they’re consistent. It’s part of who we are, and that can completely transform how you see the world where there’s, where there’s always more light than there is darkness, even when things feel tough.
Kimberly: 31:04 It sounds like you had really wise parents.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 31:08 Yeah. I, I, I think I appreciate them now when I was 18, I would, I would always, well, even then I appreciated them, but I still made them feel like I was annoyed. So maybe that’s, that’s what I was supposed to do. Roll my eyes when they give me some, some wisdom and, and accept it. Anyway,
Kimberly: 31:23 I, I read some of the, the things you mentioned that they say about treating, um, handling hate with grace. And I think what a blessing, and now you’re bringing this forward in the world. And of course we don’t get to control our parents and our families, but the, the blessing of having that growing up with, you know, people that are really embodying the practice and the teachings that you are now sharing is so beautiful. And it really does come through, as I read your, you know, you’re recounting all these experiences. Mm. Now I’m really interested you, the title of your book is the light we give. Right. And so we know that there’s this concept of the light and the dark, and we talk about shadow work and then, you know, bringing the light to the dark and integrating it all in, because we can say it’s all part of the universe or God spirit source, whatever word we wanna use. Can you talk a little bit about the Sikh, um, ex uh, perspective of light and dark and how we reconcile that? What it really means is the light inside of us. Is it God coming through us?
The Sikh perspective of light and darkness
Simran Jeet Sin…: 32:25 Oh, see, this is why it’s so nice question. Yeah. I, I love this question because it’s, it’s such a common metaphor across spiritual traditions, um, that, that we are operating in darkness, uh, that there is that, that we are essentially walking through the world without, without any sort of understanding of where we’re going. Um, and then there is the opportunity to find light and, uh, and, and in many traditions, and even in English, actually, what we refer to it as enlightenment, right? Like that is, that is what revelation means. Spiritual revelation is enlightenment. And in, in the sick tradition, uh, that’s certainly a part of it. And in fact, the word guru derives from the same concept, um, one who takes you from darkness to light yes. In enlightener right. Is, is the meaning of guru. And so, so there, there’s certainly something about the human experience of learning to see the light within our lives.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 33:29 And, and what I would also say then, and this is part of what I, what I love about the title, um, is that it’s not about creating light or inventing light. It’s learning to see it. The light is always there. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And this is part of the sick teaching too, that we are inherently divine. We all share the same divine light. It’s a it’s, that’s the term we use Jo in our tradition, um, beautiful, uh, which refers to light. We, we all have the same divine light within each of us. And the challenge for us is to learn to recognize it. There’s this really powerful line. I, I, I share this line in the book actually, uh, from the thirds ERDA who says, uh, man, and what he’s saying is, oh, oh my mind, oh, my heart, you are the embodiment of divine light.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 34:24 And then he says, recognize where you come from. And I found that to be such an empowering message, to recognize, you know, it’s, in some ways as a sick being raised in this tradition, it’s so much easier to see the light in other people. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it’s hard to, at some point I had to recognize that, oh yeah, this is, this is for you too. You’re not excluded from this light. And so I, I think this, this teaching, uh, of light is really, is really powerful in that it, it helps us imagine what it means for each person to have the shared divinity inside of them. And, and the last thing, the last thing I wanna say about light is, is the, it’s going back to this point about learning to see it. Um, one, one concept I love that comes in the metaphor of light is that, you know, if, if we look at the sun as an example, the sun is always shining.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 35:25 Yeah. The sun is shining constantly where we are geographically might mean that we see it, or we might not see it, but the sun, the sun shining regardless. And what we can learn from this is that our ability to see the light depends on our perspective and with the sun. We may not be able to change our geographic perspective so easily, but, but spiritually and emotionally, we can, we can learn to see the light if we just shift our perspective, uh, and, and our position, so that, so that we open ourselves up to it. So that’s, that’s another element of, of the light metaphor that I always really love.
Kimberly: 36:07 And with the, in the sick perspective, when darkness comes like racism, we talk about the challenges in life. What are we taught to do? Do we bring the light to it? Do we, what do we, what do we do? I’ll leave it there.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 36:24 <laugh> yeah, it’s a good question. I mean, there’s so much that we can, I mean, with regard to darkness in these moments, what, what do you do? Well, I think one element is you learn to see the light in these moments. So, so one of the teachings is that when you really feel oneness with the world and you give up your ego so that you feel connected and you don’t feel like you need to control everything, when these moments come, instead of experiencing them as pain, we can learn to experience them as sweetness, as part of the gift of life. And I love that teaching because it doesn’t, it doesn’t deny the difficulty. It doesn’t deny the pain and say, you don’t, you don’t feel it. Of course we do. We’re human, but it changes how we experience it in a way that says, oh, I am, I’m appreciative of this.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 37:16 I recognize this as part of the world’s par part of the world’s gift as well. And I, I am, I mean, I, I love that teaching and I really, it’s, it’s really easy to say in, in moments like this, where life feels easy, uh, it’s really hard to put into practice when difficulty comes, but it, it can completely change your experience of these moments and, and, and the other element in sick philosophy that I, that I really love in terms of what you do in these moments is that when we learn to not deny the pain of ourselves and others, the, the compassionate and loving response, right? So we, we feel connected to people. We feel connected to ourselves when they suffer, we want to help. And our compassionate response is one of action and service. And so part of what we are trying to do in these moments, when, when we notice people around us suffering, whether it’s because of poverty or it’s because of hate, or it’s because of, uh, domestic abuse, I mean, whatever it is, we see people around us suffering and we, we seek to help ameliorate them in whatever is causing them pain.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 38:29 That is, that is giving light. We’re giving light that we have to other people. And, and part of the generosity that comes from this, I mean, what we learn is that giving begets more giving right generosity. Like we, we operate in this country on the basis of a scarcity mindset, but in spiritual wisdom, mm-hmm, <affirmative> giving is endless. It’s, it’s nonstop. It’s, it’s when it’s coming out of love. There is no, there is no finite point at which we say, there’s nothing more to give. I mean, think of, think of parenting and, and your, your child, like it’s exhausting, but there, it’s not like there’s ever an end point.
Kimberly: 39:06 Well, you giving, giving, but the love you get it’s like this reciprocity between giving and getting it starts to become the same right. In the oneness, in a sense.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 39:16 Exactly. Exactly. So I, that’s, that’s another element of what, what do you do in these moments when, when life is hard, I mean, you be generous and you find those who are suffering and, and, and you help them in those moments. And that gives you energy as well. And so, yeah, I just love, I love the, these teachings that have really helped me find a way to find meaning and happiness in my life. Even, even when things are hard,
Kimberly: 39:44 You have some chapters about love. And so there’s this concept of the light and then distinction there’s love and love is part of light. Light is maybe more, um, includes more, but this love this. I wrote this down, this quote, where you said, love raises self centeredness, love, raises self-centeredness. Okay. So can you go into love? Cause sometimes we think love is, you know, romantic or, you know, there’s one aspect of love, but then there’s the compassion. There’s the, the floodgate of love that we feel that connection more and more in the day to day moments between not just our inner circle, but more and more the macro.
We discuss how love raises self centeredness
Simran Jeet Sin…: 40:30 Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s going back to this, this point about, about ego, uh, and ego being at the root of, of suffering and, and part of the antidote, at least as we learn it within our tradition. And then I think many mystical, spiritual traditions teach this as well. Um, part of the antidote is selflessness. Mm-hmm <affirmative> right. If ego is the problem, selflessness is, is the solution. But how do you actually achieve that? Like what do we know in our life experiences that produces selflessness? And I would submit that at least in my life, the only, the only thing that has ever made me less self-centered is being connected and, and in love with other people. And I could talk about that with my parents. I can talk about that with my siblings. I can talk about that with my partner, my spouse. I could talk about that with my kids.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 41:22 And in each of those examples, probably, uh, at least for me, there was an incremental growth towards more selflessness, right? Like I was, I was still pretty selfish, uh, when it came to my relationship with my parents, less so with my siblings, although, uh, sharing <laugh> sharing is a real thing. Um, with my partner, it became more. And then, and then with my girls, it’s like this, like we were just talking about like, it’s boundless, right? It’s not nothing in your relationship with your kids is about you. It’s, it’s not ego driven. You do what’s best for them because you care for them. And so it’s been this really interesting lived experience for me that has shown me that the more powerful your love is the less selfish you are. And then the outcomes don’t really matter so much anymore. Right? Like it’s really about, it’s really about the relationship and that experience of love and it, and, and it’s, it’s, it’s constantly reducing, reducing that ego. So, yeah, it’, it has been for me, uh, the single most powerful vehicle, uh, for, for producing humility, uh, in a world where that’s, that’s such a really hard thing to value.
Kimberly: 42:44 It reminds me, you know, I, I resonate again so much with their words. And my biggest lesson in love was when my mom was passing away. And I was really, um, so grateful and honored. I got to be with her and to hold her as she was leaving her body. But there was this space and this time where she was holding on. Right. And she’s like going into the breath and I could tell, and intuitively I knew it was because she was, she didn’t wanna leave my, my father and they’ve been married for like 40 years. Right. And so my greatest act of selflessness was saying to her it’s okay. Like, you can go, I’ll take care of daddy. Like it’s okay. And then remember, there’s struggle inside of me saying, but I don’t want you to go like, keep holding on, cuz I don’t wanna lose you.
Kimberly: 43:28 Right. The ego was like, no, no, no. But then in the, in the bigger sense, it was like, the love was like, let her soul rest, like let her tell her it’s okay. And I remember after that, and then she, shortly afterwards she did let go of her breath and she did leave her body. And I mean, of course there’s stages of grief, but it just like blew my heart open with so much more like depth and love and compassion. And it, it came from this place of going beyond the self-centeredness it’s not just about me and what I want, but the bigger picture.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 44:00 Yeah. Yeah. I, I hear that. And I’ve had many similar experiences and it’s, it’s really challenging because in those, in those moments, you, you know, especially in those moments, I think where, where you are so close to someone, you, you can notice yourself, uh, feeling selfish and say, this is, I, I know this is what’s best for them. Yeah. Um, or I know this is what I want, even though it’s, even though it’s at odds with what’s at what’s best for them. And so that, that struggle, uh it’s, it’s so real. And I will also say, um, I, I don’t think there’s anything for, for anyone who’s listening. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in those moments. In fact, for me, I try to see those as opportunities, as opportunities to practice, uh, bridging the gap between who I am and who I want to become. And, and so, yeah, it’s incredibly difficult in those moments, but sometimes those are the best. Those are the best chances we have, uh, to really move into, to, to really move into our aspirations.
Kimberly: 45:08 Well, thank you again so much for being with us and sharing about your, your book. I mean, it goes on and on there’s so many chapters, I love the one that talks about how your values save us. Like this is something that we can really start to embody. We can start to really, um, embrace in our own lives. So I have to say again, you know, your book made me cry in many places and I felt it also, which is a really important thing in today’s world. It was easy to read because it’s entertaining and there’s stories and then there’s teachings and it flows. So I can’t recommend it enough again, everybody it’s called the light we give by Simran Jeet Singh. And can you tell us someone where we can find out more about your work and where we can get your wonderful book?
Simran Jeet Sin…: 45:54 Oh, thank you. Um, the book is available everywhere books are sold. Um, always, always support local bookstores, uh, when I can. So, so a plug for your local bookstore, um, and, and I’m a, I’m online probably way more than I should be. So on Twitter. Uh, my name is Simran and on, on the other platforms, I’m sick. Prof S I K H P R O F. So thank you. Thank you so much, Kimberly. It’s been great chatting with you really, really grateful for your work in the world. And now, now I’m glad to know you personally as well.
Kimberly: 46:25 Yes. Thank you so much. Just such an incredible gift. And I can’t wait to share this more and again, thank you for this beautiful conversation.
Simran Jeet Sin…: 46:35 Thank you. Thank you.
Kimberly: I hope you enjoy the podcast today with Simran Jeet Singh as much as I enjoyed being in the conversation, please be sure to check out his new book. Once again, it’s called The Light We Give, please be sure to check out the show notes for more information on Simran and his work, as well as other shows, I think you would enjoy articles, recipes, meditations, and more. Thank you again for being part of our community. And remember over there on our website, you can also submit questions, which I answer on our Thursday, Q and a show. So with great, great gratitude and a very full heart. I wish you the best, have an amazing rest of your day. And I’ll see you back here Thursday for our next Q&A podcast. Lots of love Namaste.