This past January I had the privilege to travel to Santiago, Chile to meet the Chilean Sangat and attend the International Yoga festival in Chile. It was a beautiful and uplifting journey.
First, I flew non-stop from LAX to Santiago Airport. The ten-hour flight was comfortable. I took exactly 1 nap and watched 2 movies. I was met at the airport by SSSC staff member Amrit Vela Kaur, her dad Guru Dev Singh from Mexico (who was there to attend the festival) and Amrit Vela’s (fiancé). We drove to Amrit Vela’s home for a refresher stop which involved a shower, change of clothes, rest and a delicious snack. We then jumped into our Chilean SUV for the trip to the yoga festival in Constitución, Chile. The trip took four hours and was quite scenic and educational.
As we got closer to the site I learned about the fires, earthquake and tsunami which have devastated the area in the past several years. In fact, on the day of our arrival, the festival participants held a beautiful memorial service for those who died suddenly in the 2010 tsunami.
The festival was held on a beautiful site with a river, two pools for recreational swimming, large fields and housing. The food was excellent and the energy was incredible.
The morning after our arrival, I participated in a beautiful Sadhana with the sangat. There was live music with great musical renditions of the Aquarian mantras (and a number of eager mosquitos). Luckily, I had followed the packing instructions and had a pretty good bug repellent. Afterwards, we adjourned to a tent which housed the Gurdwara. There was beautiful Gurbani kirtan followed by song of the Khalsa in Spanish. I was moved to tears thinking about all the people around the globe who are living this lifestyle and experiencing the hope and promise these teachings bring to the planet Earth. I sung as best I could especially with the “oooooooh” chorus at the end of each verse.
The organizers were extremely kind and asked me what I needed. I replied that I was there to serve and share. They took me at my word and organized a space for me to teach many different workshops. I taught a class entitled “Spiritual Warrior training” where we explored Kundalini Yoga, meditation, and methods of violence neutralization as the path of those who are agents of peace and prosperity on the planet. I also taught impromptu classes to the camp security staff. I was privileged to teach my Kenpo Kane class to the young adults each day and of course I brought stories and the “zone of pain” for the young warriors. As a parting gift to the young adults, I gave away training sticks I brought from the USA.
The attendees and the people from Chile that I met all connect directly from their heart. The smiles and the radiance of these folks is truly uplifting. On the next to last day of the festival, I joined with Guruka Kaur, Guru Dev Singh, and Hari Charn Kaur to tell stories about our time spent with Siri Singh Sahib. It was a privilege and a blessing to look back and experience what an incredible gift my time with Siri Singh Sahib had been. On the final day, all the teachers who taught during the week were honored. We received beautiful hand-knitted bootie saropas made loveling by a community member.
We departed and travelled back to Santiago. We stopped along the way for gas and food and ran into the folks who were taking the bus from camp back to Santiago. In typical 3HO style, we took over a large part of the rest stop. We shared good bye hugs, exchanging cell phone photos, and eating the birthday cake of a young man who just turned 23.
My final day in Santiago was spent meeting the leadership of the Chilean Sangat and learning about the great programs and non-profit activities that have been created in the Sangat. There are several principal areas of endeavor:
- Langar Chile: This non-profit has a robust program that feeds the homeless in a number of venues throughout Santiago and Chile. The program also provides drug counseling and kundalini yoga for people living on the street (see video)
- Yoga Crecer: Prabhu Nam Kaur, a teacher in Santiago, has developed and delivered a kundalini yoga program for school age children which has been implemented in the Chilean public-school system. She has authored and published several books on yoga for children.
- Yo Soy: Yoga for the handicapped. This program targets people with physical and or mental disabilities as well as addictions who can benefit from Kundalini Yoga. This program is just in its pilot phase but has resulted in tremendous benefit to the participants and generated interest in the medical and long-term care facility community.
- Mujer de Luz: Spearheaded by Nam Nidhan Kaur, the program is designed to build the strength, health and self-esteem of the ladies in the program. The program also works by the time and energy from Kundalini Yoga teachers volunteers as well as give opportunities to participants who are interested to take the Teacher Training course and become yoga teachers themselves. This program has been instituted in many venues throughout Latin America.
- Kundalini Hoy: non-profit webpage that focuses on translating and spreading the teachings of Yogi Bhajan to Spanish and provide opportunities online for people to study who don’t have teachers in their area.
My take away from this meeting is that this community has accomplished a great deal by maximizing their limited resources. They are ready to take the next step and are eager to partner with other sangats around the world, start their own businesses in the way Siri Singh Sahib did to support their nonprofits and plug into the global governance and support network represented by SSSC. Thus far, they have made contact with East West Tea Company and Ancient Healing ways to explore ways to bring those products and or manufacturing facilities to Chile. They have also identified opportunities in the area of prisoner housing and rehabilitation which in many areas of Chile are privatized.
I concluded my visit as we conclude everything in our organization, with a great meal at a traditional Chilean restaurant. Under Nam Nidhan’s careful guidance, I ate way too much delicious food.
It is exciting and inspiring to see the devotion and hard work that the people in Chile bring to this mission. I am grateful for the privilege to attend and teach at their Yoga Festival, meet their leadership and report out on their achievements to date. I am hopeful that we can honor their request for support and guidance in order to build and expand their community and its impact even further.
S.S. Gurujodha S. Khalsa
President, Siri Singh Sahib Corporation