This summer I went to Summer Solstice camp hosted by 3ho Organization in New Mexico.
Kundalini Yoga and Meditation are the two key ingredients of this camp. At this camp for the first time in my life I let my beard down in public. It was not because I was required to do so but there was no need of any artificial look. And I enjoyed it because it made me feel “This is me“. For the first time in life I didn’t have to spend time fixing it, using hair spray or hair gel so that hairs are tucked in properly. As I look back, it wasn’t just about looking certain way it was more about being acceptable in society. Some call it “being presentable” and others call it “well groomed”. Like anything else this thought process of staying socially acceptable in my looks didn’t come over night, it’s something that developed through my childhood. As I grew so did the fashion industry and the definition of what is acceptable. As for beard there was a time when it was considered as a masculine attribute. In beginning every male kept it, then it became a commodity of holy men and may be later for the men who wanted to feel more masculine. If you look into the 19th century around the world most men wore full beards (even American and European) it was sort of fashion of that era. But this changed slowly after Fashion industry gave birth to the term “Clean Shaven” which cleverly not only planted idea of shaving but also in subtle ways said “You look clean when you shave”. Today in order for you to look clean you should shave and be well groomed and that’s what is socially acceptable. I must mention that I have nothing against people who shave, keep beard up or down or trim – it’s a personal choice and there is no right or wrong to it. I keep it as part of article of faith. For observant Sikhs, the body is a gift to be honored by leaving it in its natural state. Maintaining kesh, or hair, is one of the five articles of faith as ordered by the 10th guru.
Anyways, after I came back from the camp I was in dilemma because I wanted to keep my beard down but my mind was talking me out. It was making me worry about how people will react, how I will look, what will people think, etc. etc. I played this battle with my mind back and forth. It continued over the weekend till the very morning I was getting ready for work. My mind almost talked me into going back to keeping my beard tucked in. But there was a strong part of me that revolted and was really uncomfortable to pick up the hair spray and tuck beard in. And in the moments I made decision to keep my beard down and go to work. As I walked into the office, I saw the reaction of people – some through the eyes only and some through words, some in polite manners and some with their crude words. I wasn’t surprised when some co-workers of good intentions actually suggested that I should keep beard rolled up as it looks cleaner and presentable. I got similar reaction from good friends and family. They didn’t mean any harm but probably felt that they it was not at par with so called “Clean looks”. I struggled through my decision in days to come later, as every time I met anyone who hasn’t seen me in my new looks (friends, co-workers, or clients) – I caught myself questioning “What will he/she think of it?”. I was also advised that girls these days want guys with clean looks and if I keep beard down I may not find a girl who would accept it and want to marry me. As sad it was for me to see the mental state of people and the reactions I got, I was happy that I didn’t give in either to my mind or to the talks of these people of good intentions. In fact more pressure I got, stronger my decision to keep beard down became. At a point I felt what a pity it is that most people see me as who I am outside – my physical looks. People want to accept me for who they think I should be like and not for who I am. While truth of the matter is that I am not the body, I am the soul, my physical looks should be far less important than the person I am inside.
It’s been few months now that I have kept my beard down and I am totally comfortable with it. I must admit before I kept my beard down I was also against the idea because I felt it wasn’t presentable and some how I won’t be acceptable / liked in society. But of course, until you experience you don’t know what you are missing. On the lighter note, this change has also brought me some attention and looks as I walk down the malls, shops, attend business meetings and during normal course of my life. Only difference is that before I used to be uncomfortable when people looked at me as if I am some alien (which I am and I have an alien# too) but now I just enjoy the attention and smile knowing that most of these eyes can’t see me beyond my physical looks. I just know that I am not trying to be someone just to be acceptable and I am as open outside as open inside. Hence, Beard up or down – I am no clown of my mind or yours.