A unique and inspiring Sikhi Camp took place from June 14th – 18th in Española, New Mexico in the USA. For those of us who were blessed to participate, it was joyful and transformational. The power of Sangat and Pangat is truly amazing! What follows are some stories from Camp Miri Piri told in the words of the participants themselves.
Listen to some of the Gurbani from the camp while read the below stories
My experience at Camp Miri Piri is hard to put into words, but I will try my best.
What inspired me to attend the camp was that I wanted to experience a Sikh camp and I also wanted to visit Española and meet the Sangat there.
I come from a Punjabi Sikh family and my parents have always taken us to the Gurdwara on weekends and they took time to sit with us and tell us stories about our Gurus and teach us various Banis. Yet, my interest was more about friends and other things. Things remained like this, but then everything started to change a few years ago.
I have spent the last two years easing out of my old life and learning more about Sikhism. Guru Ji blessed me by bringing me closer to him. Day by day my interest grew and I would spend a lot of time on the Internet researching about Sikhism. I had so many questions and I was amazed at their answers. My thirst kept increasing. Guru Ji had planted his seed within me and he was showering me with his love daily. To some, my constant hunger for more knowledge and understanding seemed a bit odd, but for me, not searching for the answers to my questions seemed odd and was not an option. I felt that I had wasted so many years away from Guru Ji and the teachings, but I eventually learnt that those years that I spent away from Guru Ji were meant to be. I was meant to go through all of those events in order to be where I am today. Those years allowed me to learn lessons that I needed to learn.
Like many others, I discovered Sikhnet.com and Mrsikhnet.com and fell in love with both sites. I especially loved the videos that they posted online. I would visit both sites almost daily and couldn’t get enough of the content. Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi Ji amazed me from the beginning. He was so straightforward and clear, and what he said hit home and made me aware of things that I needed to work on. About a year after all of this began; it was Yogi Ji’s Birthday celebration at a Yoga Centre near my home. I decided to attend the meditation, and there I met a long-time student of Yogi Ji. Getting to know him inspired me to want to visit New Mexico and spend time with the Sangat there. Eventually I heard of Camp Miri Piri and since I was just graduated from University, I had time for the trip.
Arriving in Espanola:
I am a shy person by nature, but I knew that travelling alone would help me come out of my shell. I took a shuttle to the Gurdwara and on the shuttle were other students of the camp. Everyone was so friendly and in Chardi Kalaa. We introduced ourselves, and realized that we were coming from all around the world. Arriving at Hacienda De Guru Ram Das, we unloaded our bags and went inside. The Sangat was having langar, and we were greeted with huge smiles and warm hugs. I was overwhelmed because I had only seen the location online so being there in person was unreal and beautiful. The group of us from the shuttle instantly became friends and we all had langar and then registered. After settling into our rooms, everyone met up in the langar hall for orientation and welcome. Each and every moment moved me and it would take pages and pages to describe everything, so I will go over the main events.
We were staying in houses that were walking distance to the langar hall and Gurdwara, so every morning we would leave as a group and walk over. Walking over was a meditation in itself because it was Amrit Vela, the walk was peaceful and quiet and the surroundings reminded me of India. It was very humbling.
One of my favorite parts was reciting the morning Banis with the Sangat. It was so fulfilling and uplifting to be sitting with everyone and reciting the Banis. Bowing Jaap Sahib was challenging, but also very inspiring. Ravi Kaur and Shanti Kaur Khalsa sang so beautifully, and with so much enthusiasm and energy. I truly felt that I was bowing at the feet of Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj.
Kirtan & Hukam:
Every morning we would go to the Gurdwara after doing our Nitnem. One cannot describe the feeling of being in Hacienda De Guru Ram Das. The setting is so beautiful, but the Sangat and their love is what took my breath away. I can’t describe how much I loved every moment of being in the Gurdwara. The Ragis were all amazing and inspiring. I had never heard Aardas being done in that way, and I really enjoyed it. Also, having the Hukamnama translation read afterwards is something I hope all Gurdwaras will incorporate into their routine.
The warrior workout had me excited but a bit worried when I had first read about it. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it, but I was excited to try it out. The instructor was very motivating and I enjoyed his style of leading.
The exercises were challenging but as a group we motivated one another to keep at it. Everyone was so full of energy; it was a lot of fun. I was motivated to try my hardest because they kept reminding us that these were the exercises that Guru Ji had his warriors do.
All three meals of the day were so healthy, fresh and satisfying. You could feel the love in each and every bit. I was really moved when I first experienced the blessing of the food. It was so beautiful to see everyone, young and old, stop what they are doing and participate in the blessing of the food.
Announcement and Q & A:
This was the time for Bibiji and Shanti Kaur to talk to us. I really enjoyed Bibiji’s time with us; she was so loving and kind. She reminded us of the bigger picture and that we need to stay strong with our daily practice. Shanti Kaur is an amazing woman! She is so strong and in Chardi Kalaa. I am so thankful that she was with us every day.
We were blessed to have so many teachers there to teach us. I can’t choose one specific class over the others. Anytime that Chardi Kalaa Jatha spent with us was amazing. They really know how to connect with the youth, and to relate Sikhism to the rest of the world. They told us stories about the Gurus and made concepts crystal clear by relating them to their personal experiences. They were so inspiring to listen to and they also had a great sense of humor. They emphasized the importance of being a Saint-Solider and gave us advice on how we can achieve this status. The environment was relaxed, and they even gave us time to ask questions. I was deeply moved by the meditation that Chardi Kalaa Jatha did with us after one of the classes. They played kirtan live for us, and were giving words of encouragement throughout the meditation. It overwhelmed me with emotion and I could feel myself healing.
The variety of events that this camp had was incredible. Snatam Kaur’s concert was so uplifting! The class on Grist Ashram was eye-opening. After watching Guruka Singh Ji online, seeing him in person left me speechless. I really enjoyed how Guruka Ji and Navleen Kaur Ji worked together to teach that class. They both helped teach us about a subject which everyone needs to understand. I learnt many things, and was especially moved by Navleen Kaur’s spirit. The tone of her voice and the look in her eye hit home for me. I felt her love and devotion for Guru Ji. Guruka Singh was so straight forward and clear, and I really enjoyed his sense of humor.
There were so many classes and teachers, each one unique and hard to put into words. Every moment was a blessing!
From the moment I arrived, everyone was so kind and welcoming. Any problem that came up, there was always someone there with a solution. At times I was overwhelmed at the humility and generosity of the Sangat. The camp participants were mostly youth from around the world. It was such a blessing to hear about their lives and why they decided to come to the camp. It felt like a big family and everyone grew close even in such a short period of time.
A bunch of us decided to do kirtan on the last night of the camp. It was so beautiful! The lights were turned low and everyone sat together taking turns doing kirtan. It was a mosaic of backgrounds and faces, yet it was all one. That kirtan was so fulfilling and it was the perfect end to an amazing camp! None of us wanted it to stop, but we knew it was getting late.
I want to thank everyone who helped make this camp possible! I cannot imagine how much seva was done to put this camp together and keep it running smoothly. Words cannot describe the impact that those five days had on me. It was a chance to escape the normal routine and responsibilities back home, meet new people and learn lessons that will stick with me forever!
Guru Ji blessed each of us to attend this camp and I pray that we can take part in something like this again soon! Once again THANK YOU ALL!
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
- Puneet Kaur
Service was foremost in my camp experience. I arrived early and Harimandir Singh helped me get settled. He was so very cheerful and helpful that it made me feel at home from the very beginning. When everyone else arrived I was surprised to find that I was the only person in the house that had ever been to New Mexico before. So when a woman in the house became ill, I recognized it as dehydration because I have experienced those same symptoms when I have been there before. It was a fascinating experience to watch this woman who was accustomed to being "mom", to being the caregiver, learn to accept care from other people whom she barely knew. We had had a class earlier in which being a Sikh was described in terms of giving service to others, and that was gently pointed out to her. Those of us in the house helping her decided to call Harimandir Singh because he had been so helpful for me. He arrived and said to her, "I am honored to be able to serve you." He took her to his home and his wife was wonderful to her, helping her to rehydrate quickly and overcome her illness. She was overwhelmed with their kindness and their willingness to serve someone they did not know. It is often in the actions of others toward us that we learn the most valuable lessons. I am still digesting the numerous gifts that that simple act has given me; the gift of showing me that kindness and compassion can make such a huge difference in someone’s attitude, health, perception; the gift of showing me what it is to trust another person to treat you kindly and with respect, and that some people actually can be trusted to do just that; the gift of showing me what it is to be "Gursikh" – to embody the spirit of grace, compassion and kindness toward other human beings.
Devotion was another theme of the camp for me. I do not often get to experience impromptu kirtan or Naam japa, so the impromptu sessions of kirtan with the young people from England and Canada were a rare treat.
Their devotion and enthusiasm was so very inspiring, making it easy to immerse myself in Wahe Guru. So often, kirtan is done as a "performance" and this was simply gathering together and singing to God and Guru for the mere love of doing so. Everyone was welcome to join and everyone was given the opportunity to sing, to play an instrument, or offer whatever he or she had to give. Those hours of pure devotion and enthusiastic singing were some of the best memories I carry from the camp.
For me, acceptance was the order of the day as well. A few of the meditations were quite powerful, and I came to understand that I walk this path now because of a longing and a commitment I made to Guru Gobind Singh many lifetimes ago. From the vision I was given, I can understand the wisdom of simply walking beside a person, allowing them to be whatever they need to be in the moment, while simply supporting them with your presence, for that is what my Guru has done for me for many lifetimes. I also came to understand that I have not yet fully accepted living as a Sikh of the Guru, especially not living within a Sadh Sangat. I was shown that my choice is to simply "dip my toe in the water" and then run away, never living fully within Guru’s light.
It seems that many of us do that very thing; never quite reaching the understanding that it is this denial and duality that hurts us the most. Amazingly, once I simply accepted that, the space was then available for it to change. I do not yet fully know what that means, but I do know that I have time to allow it to unfold. Clarity and purpose has not yet come to me. Perhaps, with the healing offered by this camp (and continued at Summer Solstice Sadhana) allowing for a new space and attitude, it will bring clarity over time, and with it purposeful action.
- Sat Siri Akal, Gurusahai Kaur
Camp Miri Piri left me completely speechless. I have never before felt the unity of the Sangat and Panth as I did at that camp. May the whole world continue to unite under the guiding light of the one God.
- Deva S Khalsa, NM
The Miri Piri camp, the organizers, participants and teachers provided a rich experience about Guru Hargobind and provided a fresh, new perspective on the Akal Takhat. The participants, particularly the youth with their desire to bring new Sikh leadership and raise the awareness of the world, was a very valuable next step and it shined in the camp.
It was the first time I saw almost 90%+ of the participants were Sikhs with old and current ties with the Punjab. The dynamic provided a great warmth, respect and love among the participants.
- Manjeet Kaur
Everything about Camp Miri-Piri was exceptional, the experience, the fellow campers and the organizers. We all felt like one big unit. Full marks to the organizers: Shanti Kaur Khalsa, Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa and Gurujot Singh Khalsa for excellent coordination and for interacting with everyone during the camp. The superficial differences between everybody were erased while we collectively enjoyed the spiritual energy as fellow Sikhs. It was truly an amazing experience spiritually, physically and mentally. I enjoyed the Amrit vela every day, especially the bowing Jaap Sahib with nagara drums on the final day. Kirtan by Chardikala Jatha was pure bliss. The physical workout by Gurutej Singh Khalsa was fun and physically challenging as we all bonded as a team. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his 108 poems in the book “Children of the Cusp” on the plane flight back home.
The food was delicious and healthy. The concert by Snatam Kaur and Guruganesha Singh’s band was high energy as usual. The healing by Gurudev Singh Khalsa was phenomenal! The yoga with mantras felt so good, it was like nourishment for the body and soul. One program blended into the next perfectly. We enjoyed the whole experience together as a family. Many, many thanks for conducting the camp.
- Satnam! - Ishinder Kaur
Speaking as a 12 year old attending Camp Miri Piri which was aimed at older people, I was apprehensive. I was wondering if it was worth the 3-hour flight from Montana, followed by the hour and a half drive to Española. I had heard some of the Western style singing of Gurbani accompanied by a guitar, but was it worth the trip? I was in for a pleasant surprise, when I met everybody and attended the classes. I enjoyed the morning workout. It was a lot of fun. I also remember the mantras which were very inspirational. I liked Gurujot Singh, his talk about his vision of Guru Gobind Singh was awesome, and I loved the way he alone was able to wrestle so many girls in the morning workout. I also enjoyed Guruganesha’s energy at the concert. It was magical. I have been to many Sikhi related kid camps, but Camp Miri Piri (though meant for older people) was easily the best. I may not have become a saint- soldier as yet but I can start walking on the path to becoming one.
- Haransh Singh
My first visit to Espanola was in 2007, it was a trigger point to lead a healthier & happier life, it also helped me to clear questions & doubts in relation to the Guru and Sikhism in general. The love I saw and felt helped me to put together the pieces of the puzzle and made me realize the power of Sikhi. This camp was transformational.
Visiting Espanola again in 2009 was to re-connect to that feeling & to re-connect to my soul. Two years apart from the Sangat in Espanola felt like a lifetime to me. Being back in the Sangat it felt as though I was home. The laughs, the conversations, the love was just what I needed to help me prepare for the next few years of my life. I don’t know what God and Guru have planned for me, but one thing is for certain: my heart and soul rests with you, the Sangat and the friendships I established and re-connected to during the camp.
I needed reminding of the importance of Sadhana as my practice was starting to wane, but doing it with the Guru’s Sangat helped me get back on the horse. I hadn’t done the Bowing Jaap Sahib previously, but I now know how powerful it is and all I can say is Vaheguru! The seminars throughout the day and the ability to ask any and all questions helped me to develop a lot in just four days. The people I met from all over the world showed me how times are changing and how most young people are ready for a change to the ‘old world’ way of Sikhi. People are ready to try new things and are ready to connect with God and Guru. I pray and hope that the Sangat in Española can be the lighthouse of Sikhi for the world.
In summary Camp Miri Piri made me know I wasn’t alone in this world. There are at least another 80+ other souls ready and wanting to connect to this amazing Dharma!
Satnam & Peace,
- Ravinder Singh Khalsa
I loved the fact we said Namo to the One Guru before trying the tools of Yoga to experience Gurbani. This made for amazing Sadhsangat. Yoga was used to connect to Gurbani unlike other yogic traditions. I found this absolutely brilliant.
I enjoyed the blessings of Acapela Jatha bhenji from England, some amazing Sangat from Singapore, England, Australia, Ohio, NJ, Montana, CA, Washington, Winnipeg, along with the dedicated Sevadars of Española (Chardikala Jatha, Sanatam Kaur, Gurmustuk Singh, Guruka Singh, Gurjot Singh, Shanti Kaur and Bibi Ji…) with their enchanting experiences.
I would go there again in a heartbeat because there were some very spiritual people there in a gathering of about 80 souls and the vibrations were intense during morning Sadhana (nitnem), Kirtan, etc.
Gurdwara was a meditative, sacred ground, with no ‘yap yap’ BS going on all the time like we have at our Sunday diwans.
Yoga really made us experience Gurbani more intensely. PT exercises and Yoga kriyas made us a lot more energized and we slept for less than 12 hours total in three days. Navleen Kaur’s and Gurujot Singh’s stories brought tears to my eyes and were empowering at the same time. Dr. Harjot Kaur’s presentation of Miri and Piri was touching. The bhangra classes for 15 minutes a day by Ravi Kaur Khalsa were awesome! I even brought Ravi Kaur Khalsa home with me in the form of her instructional DVD (for a bargain price of $15 :-) Gurutej Singh read poetry about Goindwal and the nail in the wall and told us the story of the origin of Akal Security which was inspirational.
It had its small share of disappointments. There was no tour of the ranch scheduled for people leaving early even though Bibiji promised she would look into it. The Man-to-Man workshop with Guruchander Singh Khalsa was almost a downright hard-sell of his, and the Sat Nam Rasayan Kriya workshop with Guru Dev Singh Khalsa was very hard for me to connect with. It would have been a very disappointing ending if we hadn’t had an impromptu/unscheduled late night Kirtan jam/diwan after the Sat Nam Rasayan. All in all there was nothing that the great late night Kirtan jam didn’t fix. This was one of the best experiences of my life. I would do it again.
- Simran Jeet Singh
I hesitated to journey to Espanola for a multitude of reasons: It was too much of a hassle getting there; I would lose too much money from missing work; I didn’t know if I wanted to get involved to a depth that I may become disenchanted, plus I am comfortable with knowing something, going all that way to be confronted with my total ignorance… yuck….Plus I am old! It’s for youth, no? So many reasons!
But I went anyway.
Going to Camp Miri Piri, learning more about our beloved Gurus, meeting the souls who traveled from around the world to be there as well as the people who live in New Mexico and some of the frequently photographed "stars" from SikhNet was as great a super awesome experience as my first Aquarian Sadhana, (my first introduction to Kundalini Yoga).
It was a blessing to be surrounded by the kindest of souls in such an enchanting environment.
If I was wrestling with any personal question, a messenger would appear with the answer, and in turn, I was able to be a messenger for others. All of our needs were provided for on every conceivable level. The abundance of love manifested in gentle nurturing and accelerated growth.
CAMP MIRI PIRI ROCKS. AND SO DO YOU.
Thank you all so much for such an ecstatic experience.
Visualize a close-knit community milling around a picnic area surrounded by brilliant greenery talking, laughing and eating langar after morning Gurdwara, while their children run around giggling, playing and enjoying the glorious sun. Sounds like an idyllic scene from a movie? Well, this was my first glimpse of the Española Sangat.
From the very first moment of arriving to my final farewell, the whole Camp Miri Piri experience was surreal. Surreal in the sense that every day I was amazed at the feelings and emotions I felt through the yoga and meditation workshops, the Espanola Sangat members with whom I spoke, many of whom I had seen before on SikhNet/MrSikhnet, and the Sangat that came from all around the world and with whom I shared this experience.
Every day at camp was different and I enjoyed the variety of workshops, especially the time we got to spend with Bibi Ji, listening to her infinite wisdom on many issues that Sikhs face today. I was heartened to see that there are Sikhs out there who are actively trying to make a difference, and the workshops gave me courage to believe in myself and realise that I too have the power to make a difference in this world – such is the power and strength of bani, baana, seva and simran.
The bowing Jaap Sahib was definitely a highlight of my camp experience, especially the final day when the Singhs beat the rhythm of the Jaap Sahib on the nagara. I truly felt that my spirit was aroused and my inner warrior awoken from its deep slumber.
The warrior workouts were fun, but when they involve rolling around on the grass, wet from the morning dew, I guess wearing white is not such a brilliant idea! We had a lot of laughs and I’m sure the many pictures that have since been posted online are a testament to the jokes and laughs we all shared in everything we did at camp.
Another highlight of the camp was the rehnsabhai kirtan that took place on the final night. It was beautiful to see both the campers and sevadars sitting, playing and singing together in many different styles of kirtan – we were in such anand that we did not stop until the early hours of the morning!
Beautiful souls from around the world came to Camp Miri Piri and I will be grateful forever that I was blessed to meet all of them.
I found the Sangat at Espanola to be of a rare kind – they live, love and work as One, and they open their hearts to absolutely everyone. I thank everyone who was involved in the Camp for making it such a joyful and life-changing experience. Vaheguru!
- Gurbinder Kaur
I visited the camp with my wife, Jaswinder Kaur, and it was a great spiritual experience for both of us. I got to know of the deeper meaning of being a Sikh, why bana is important and I actually felt the presence of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj while doing the bowing Jap Sahib. I have been fully motivated to live the life of a true Khalsa, and to follow principals of seva and to inspire and elevate every person and every situation. My wife was also very motivated and enlightened, and is considering putting our child in Miri Piri Academy in Amritsar when we move to India next year.
- Mohinder Chopra
I get so much energy and inspiration just from meeting other Sikh youth and being able to host them. From the first day when i picked up one of the campers from his shuttle I was feeling uplifted. It was so inspiring to see two of my brothers who were clean-shaven two years ago, now growing out their beards. I feel that it was a historic event to have such an International Sikh youth camp here in Espanola. I think we have a lot to share because the Siri Singh Sahib taught us Sikhism as a science. This camp was all inspiration and no guilt or pressure.
- Gurujot Singh
Camp Miri Piri was in my opinion the best camp we have ever organized so far to date. It was a lot of work, but the joys of seeing Sikhs from all parts of the world come to our humble town of Española, New Mexico was quite inspiring. The three and a half days were so packed from early morning till night that it felt like a week or more! There was so much to experience in such little time.
This was not just a camp for the participants, but also for us the organizers and teachers! It is so worth it to have this time together with everyone. It was such a treat to have this time to connect with the Sangat and have this time to recharge our spiritual batteries.
During the camp I found that I often felt very emotional. I sometimes have these types of feelings where I feel some deep connection with something from the past. As if I was reincarnated from the Gurus times and am remembering the souls of the Gursikhs around me from back then – a deep, inexpressible joy in this union of Sangat. It’s one of those feelings when you know the Guru is calling and present.
The first time I felt this way was on the second day when we were supposed to be in groups for our daily "check-in", and a bunch of us "checked-out" in the Gurdwara for some impromptu Simran. By this time quite a few people were pretty exhausted from the long days, and many people were lying down trying to get a power nap. One at a time different people took turns playing kirtan, and everyone else joined in together to sing, meditate and be together. As we sang together tears just gushed down from my eyes and I could not stop it. I felt such a joy being there with everyone. Having dealt with so many Sikhs who are divisive, negative, judgmental, etc. this was an experience of the exact opposite.
I have always dreamed of Sikh youth from all different backgrounds coming together as one and sharing their love for the Guru. No politics, no negativity, just love and commonality. As we sang and I cried, I truly felt that these souls around me were my true brothers and sisters. It was such a strong feeling to have such beautiful people around me together as one in spirit. It’s hard to even express these feelings. For once I experienced a glimpse of what I am sure is to come in the future, as the youth shed the old way and unite in love. After the kirtan I just wanted to give everyone hugs of joy and love.
This camp was inspired by the local Sikh Youth’s vision to help develop leadership and unify Sikhs. I think we did a good job for this first step. Next year Camp Miri Piri will be back to its normal location in Singapore at the beginning of June. We expect that we’ll have the camp again here in Espanola in 2011. We hope to see you at the next camp!
- Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa
What a wonderful journey Camp Miri Piri was. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for such a lovely experience. I hope to see you all at Camp Miri Piri!
- Sat Kirtan Kaur Khalsa
Wahe Guru Ji ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji ki Fateh!