Cultural Appreciation, An Imperfect Approach

a watercolor of the Gurmukhi word 'Ong'

As I prepare to offer an invitation for people to join me for a 40-Day meditation practice, I face a ‘Cultural Appropriation Gate/Wall’ with concerns ranging from an article of clothing I often wear (a head covering), to fears of ‘extracting a practice’ that isn’t mine to share.

I approach this practice with reverence and gratitude. I don’t take any of it for granted.

I hold a view that we’re all in this together – the current human mess on planet Earth. That we are all part of a human/earthling family. I hold a perspective that we’re here to learn from and with each other. I value teachings that nourish our capacities to be attentive and present and accountable. I recognize that Cultural Appropriation causes significant harm, and that there’s a fine line between Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Appreciation – with lots of nuance alongside that line. I commit to learning and growing together.

I’m choosing to share a meditation from the Kundalini Yoga tradition in particular at this time because I have struggled to breathe clearly since September 2020. I sense engaging with this meditation for 40 days will bring some relief, and I would like to share that relief with others.

I also committed (long ago, but keep revisiting) to see more clearly – with my own visual acuity – but also to ‘see the unseen,’ hone my intuition, clarity, perspectives and perceptions. I’ve practiced this meditation for vision healing in the past, and it’s helped. I recently discovered a block: my own fears of being seen.

So, this 40-day practice I’m offering is a challenge to allow myself to be seen, in all of my imperfections, as I look for healing for us all.

Finally, I’m choosing to share this practice for 40 days because it’s one I first practiced in 2011 and have returned to many times since. In the past, I’ve experienced profound healing shifts from this meditation, Ong for Powerful Energy. We chant for a short time, which radiates the cranium, vibrates the brain and the master glands (pineal and pituitary), and makes sounds that honor the creative, infinite wisdom of the Universe. (One translation of ‘Ong’: the Infinite, Creative Wisdom of the Universe.)

I turn toward the wisdom of the yogis, to the Gurbani and written language of the Sikh Gurus, for guidance and health, both personal and planetary. I immerse myself as a Gurmukhi scholar and a humble beginner at the same time. Meditative chanting is one practice that builds my stamina to keep showing up to the craziness of our world: our divided, polluted, frightening world. Which is also a Land of Both-And: our incredibly nourishing world, populated with a diversity of caring, playful beings. Showing up becomes both my work and my play, my rest and my service.

May this offering be an expression of cultural appreciation and may all who engage with it benefit. May we then share our benefits with others.

If you choose to practice with me, and you are in a position of financial privilege, I ask that you donate to an organization that’s actively working to decolonize and amend the harms of many centuries of cultural appropriation. $1/day = $40, $10/day = $400, $100/day = $4,000. What can you give? Who will you give it to? Let us know in the comments below.