I had not been to a Sikh camp for over six years, so to say I was looking forward to the Khalsa Family retreat was an understatement! It was held during the Xmas holidays, beginning on Thu 27th Dec and running until Sun 30th Dec and our first ever camp together as a family. The campsite was in Yarnfield, which is a village in Staffordshire, with stops and all it took us about four hours from London. Upon arriving, we received our room keys and transferred our luggage in time for the introduction speeches.
Looking around at the time it was great to see some familiar faces but also plenty of new faces; I was keen to make new friends as those that I was familiar with were already my friends. After the entertaining intro speech, we had a tour of the site and all of the facilities available to us. The breakfast and lunch area was all very open and spacious, with our accommodation only a short walk away. Once completed we were ready to go into the Darbar (court) where we would meet Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji (living Guru of the Sikhs), and the retreat would officially begin! I had spoken to the kids before arriving about the most important part of the camp, that was the Sangat (company) of Guru ji, being in their presence for a few days non-stop is an amazing experience full of positive energy and blessings that I wanted us to take full advantage of.
That positive energy that I was referring to was most definitely felt during the evening programme that night; the kids were given full reign with adult supervision to run the show, at times it was raw, pure and full of innocence. Fellow parents were looking at each other with smiles on their faces as they were experiencing something special, it was amazing to see the confidence of the young kids, they were trying new things, some were naturally making small mistakes but were not phased and carried on trying. After Langar (food) was served there was time for a small family activity before lights out, each family sat on their own table and asked each other set questions, it turned out to be vital for us as MK (our eldest daughter) was able to open up about some of her feelings.
Like any other camp, the morning was dedicated to Vaheguru meditation and the Prakash (installation) of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, there was also a compulsory kid’s meditation that took place between 7 am, and 8 am. After breakfast it was time for the workshops to begin, this was the first time that there were no lectures, just workshops. Our group attended the following workshops throughout the retreat: The power of Gurbani, Spiritual Health Parenting in the 21st Century, The Gift of Love, Family routine and Teamwork makes Dreamwork. The group’s numbers were designed to be small and personal, and I feel like we went on a journey with our group, from the first workshop we were all open with each other, we shared experiences, highs and lows, by the end of it all we had all become pretty close. In my opinion, the workshop system worked as it created such an open and relaxed environment where we all became familiar with each other, the formal lecture would not have had the same effect. While parents were busy in the workshops, their kids were being looked after in the crèche along with various other group splits leading all the way up to teenage years.
For us, it was nice to be able to focus and contribute as much as possible knowing that our children were safe and also learning. We would meet them after our sessions, and they would be so excited, bubbling with things to tell us. They learnt about the Chaar Sahibzahdey (4 Sons of the 10th Guru), Sikh virtues and built lego using the darbar sahib and Akaal Takht kits. They also rehearsed a play that was a total surprise to us, considering such little preparation time, the kids performed on the last day in front of us parents. The performance was based on the battle that Sikhs faced in India when the Mughals were in power. It was narrated so well, and with all ages from teenage to toddler level participating, at a time when most of our children are performing in their school nativity plays, it was nice for them to get this unique opportunity to perform in one based on Sikh history.
Activities included the traditional bouncy castle; a great gatka demo and a fantastic animal show that I managed to go live on Instagram with! There was also some time to refresh and relax, generally catch up with people, that you usually only get to say hi and bye too. The organisers arranged a family photo shoot which was indeed well received; I have put up a separate post on my IG relating to this experience.
Before attending the retreat, I had thought four days was a long time, but it went so fast, I am sure I am not the only one that felt that the old saying time flies when you’re having fun comes to mind. The kids loved it and didn’t want to leave! One common thing I have been asked by people who have not attended these kinds of events before is “Would I fit in?”. I got the feeling from those people that they did really want to come but something was holding them back, the fear of the unknown. The reality is there are no unknown concerns these days as I pretty much filmed the whole thing on my IG story so all could see what was going on (still available as a highlight on my IG profile page). Everyone is there for the same reason, the benefit of their family, that’s why they have taken the time out to attend. We are all on a journey, some are at different stages but what was clear to me was, if you are looking to improve and to be inspired you will find that company you are searching for in the Guru and the Sangat.
Lastly, I would like to thank the whole team at Khalsa Foundation, as parents we know how difficult it is to manage our own children let alone children from multiple families, I think there were approximately 270 campers who attended. We all felt comfortable and relaxed in knowing our families were well looked after! Here is a link to the official photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/khalsacamp/sets/72157675156300347
I hope to see you all there next year!