Two Years in a Tent
By Kartar Kaur Khalsa
I figure I’ve lived in a tent for a total of two years. You see, I went to Women’s Camp every summer for over two decades. Back in the days when Yogi Bhajan taught classes there once and often twice every day, we sat at his feet for hours, fascinated. Coming straight from hippiedom, women’s lib, and bra burning, into yoga and spiritual life, I had a difficult time understanding concepts he taught like the “Grace of God,” and the “Noble Woman.”
My first Women’s Camp was in the summer of 1978. I was able to stay for only three days because I had a summer job lined up. My yoga teacher told me, “Even if you have just a few days, just spend your time looking at other women and talking to them.” So that’s what I did. It was a big eye-opener. I saw women at camp who were accomplished in business, successful in marriage, musically talented, and a woman who had a black belt in karate. In those three days I found meaningful role models I had never seen before.
The first time I stayed all summer at Women’s Camp, Yogiji was talking about women who nag their husbands. I raised my hand and asked, “What do you do about a husband who won’t talk to you?” My husband was a real quiet guy, who wasn’t interested in hashing things out. Yogiji said, “Talk to a woman who is married to a barking dog. My dear, the day that your husband speaks to you is the day he will be serving you with divorce papers.” And he proceeded to explain to me that a husband doesn’t have to talk, and that as a woman you can communicate through your projection, your actions, your quietness, your inner strength, your keep-up, and your sadhana instead of asking for everything you need. I actually had this great sense of relief. I had thought that if a man wasn’t talking to me, it meant I wasn’t interesting or worthy of his conversation, and now I knew none of that was true. It was just that I had this man who was not a conversationalist. I took that to heart, and I used it.
Immediately after the lecture, as I was gathering up my sheepskin and getting ready to walk back to my tent, woman after woman—ten, twelve, a dozen—came up to me and said, “You want to talk to a woman who is married to a barking dog? You’re lucky. Mine never stops.” In that single afternoon I realized how blessed I was.
When I got home from camp that year, as soon as I stopped trying to get my husband to talk to me, he began talking. Sometimes I would know that he had done something, or had been somewhere and met people, and I wanted to hear every detail. But I would just wait, and in the evening over dinner everything I wanted to know would just come pouring out.
When Yogi Bhajan taught, he would speak for two or three hours. Dinner was after the lecture, which sometimes didn’t end until 8 or 9 p.m. That was a real test, waiting that long, sitting there nodding out, hearing the cadence of his voice wind down, and thinking, “Oh, he’s wrapping it up.” Then he would get this second or third wind, and he was off again. He wasn’t there to cater to us. It was all a matter of figuring out how to relate to him. Sitting there was like a meditation—positive moments, negative moments, and all the changes in between.
Those were priceless summers spent at the feet of a master, and even though I lived in a tent, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
Kartar Kaur Khalsa moved into the Salt Lake City ashram in 1977, when she first met Yogi Bhajan. From there she lived in the Ogden, Utah ashram and then moved to the Phoenix ashram in 1980, where she still resides. She has been married to Jagat Joti Singh for 33 years! She is retired from teaching after 37 years of teaching children and adults with blindness/visual impairment. Now she spends her days with family and friends, tutoring children, quilting, doing yoga and working out regularly. [email protected]