What’s happening now–Children being torn from their parents at the US border–might feel all-too personal. It can trigger a lot of unhappy memories.
I have a clear memory of how I felt in my body and in my mind when I was really young and separated from my parents. I remember not feeling, and just being kind of confused and disassociated from reality. And I remember that when I was ‘more present’, my body and mind were nervous and fidgety. In my first and second years in India, I developed a nervous disorder called Trichotillomania, or compulsive hair pulling. I pulled out all of my eyelashes. Then I got made fun of, so I forced myself to stop so that I wouldn’t get made fun of. No adult, teacher, older kid or nurse ever noticed. All I can say about it–in an internal sense–is that I felt like when I was pulling or picking or fidgeting that I was disappearing into an invisibility cloak of my own invention. No one bothered me when I was scrunched up into a little ball minding my own business. And that felt good. Eventually I started to cope with my nervousness through arts and crafts, knitting and needlework– at least as much as I could make time for. Many of us knitted with found yarn and lollipop sticks. Even if it was to knit something, take it out, and start over, that’s what we did. So much of our time was spent with these odd, but self-soothing regimens.
Before the camps, the child swapping and the boarding schools, I was actually a confident, happy child. The separation chipped away at my self-esteem and my feeling of security and safety, both emotional and physical. I was able to fake cheerfulness at times, make jokes and laugh, but inside I was deeply insecure. And, gosh, there were so many unsafe situations. Too many to count really. Children getting struck by lighting at Ram Das Puri, Nav Jiwan Kaur falling to her death at Nambé falls, Ong Kar Kaur nearly drowning at Abiquiu, Me and my sister nearly getting killed in a Flash Flood while camping with “guardians”… Then there was the physical abuse, the emotional abuse, the sexual abuse, the neglect and the TOTAL lack of affection.
That last one, that’s a major one. Greater than we ever thought. In the absence of it, you don’t even know you need it to survive. In the absence of it–the part of you that makes you you–experiences a profound, physical and emotional loss. Your crucial, human sense of self is put at risk.
All of this, while we were supposedly part of a community that believed in love, and in raising the consciousness of the world through compassion, kindness and selfless service. I can’t begin to imagine what the children in the I.C.E. detention centers are going through, while under the guardianship of politically motivated, profiteering xenophobes. Okay. Yes, the circumstances for our separation were different than what’s happening now, but the resulting affects were no less profound. Separation affects on the mind, body and spirit are traumatic, not matter the circumstance.
Most of us survived and were able to build happy lives for ourselves, and many of us have had the therapy we needed to understand the long-term affects of family separation. This is all the more reason that as survivors we speak up against what our country is doing. We must be there for these children and their parents, in whatever way we can be–financial, political or vocal.
Let me finish with one last thing. I cannot believe, for the life of me, that people in 3HO Sikh Dharma still believe in sending their kids far away to India to attend Miri Piri Academy. It’s unfathomable. It’s appalling. It’s shameful. It’s criminal. It’s worth noting that 3HO Sikh Dharma profits from the private I.C.E. Detention Centers. Some of the I.C.E. jails contract with Akal Security for the staffing of Corrections Officers. Akal Security is officially owned by 3HO Sikh Dharma, and the some of the profits from Akal Security are used to promote their new-age arm: Kundalini Yoga, White Tantric, Yogi Tea brand tea company, Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training seminars, and their sappy, saccharine music brands like Spirit Voyage and White Sun. This new-age arm puts forward a progressive image, but within its nesting doll structure of for-profit and non-profit entities, 3HO Sikh Dharma as a whole is benefiting from and enriching itself on the horrific policies of our government and the increasing privatization of government functions. There’s nothing progressive about that.