Transitions: When One Faith Bleeds into the Next

I’ve already done this nine times…but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier. This post is late because I’ve spent all morning–since those “ambrosial hours” of contemplation prescribed by Guru Nanak–thinking about it.

The Transition.

There are three more days left in this month and I can already feel the change–the ground shifting beneath me. I’m walking this life path with Sikhi, holding casual conversations with Gurbani (words of the Guru’s/Scripture) when suddenly, the hairs on the back of my neck rise and tingle. I glance over my shoulder and there they are: The glowing eyes of the next faith gazing at me from around the corner of the alley of the unknown. I feel distracted, conflicted, a blur of color and shape…like the metamorphosis of an insect or the gradual phases of the moon.

Interesting how we talk a lot here about comfort zones and about how Project Conversion promotes stepping outside of them in order to better understand our world. But what happens when we become comfortable with the uncomfortable? This happens to me every month and so the last few days are the most difficult. What was strange before is now just a part of life. Tying the turban? Down to five minutes max. I don’t even notice people staring anymore. Wearing a blade on my side doesn’t feel strange. I don’t remember the last time I didn’t have something wrapped around my head.

And the beard…

I hated facial hair. My wife especially detests it. “You look old now,” she recently sneered. But the longer it gets, the more comfortable–the more natural–it feels. I rub my beard subconsciously when I’m pondering something (which is most of the time). Sometimes, when I wash my face in the sink, I like to watch the water filter through the hair on my chin and drip away. Trippy, I know, but there it is. When I shave my beard on October 1st, will I suffer from phantom beard syndrome, rubbing my cheeks and chin where a piece of a holy uniform used to be?

Thinking hard about beards...

Will I feel lighter, naked? And what about my new Sikh friends. According to the Rehat Maryada (the Sikh Code of Conduct), Sikhs are discouraged from social relationships with those who once accepted Sikhi, and subsequently cut or shaved their hair. Will they avoid me?

It’s tough being a man without a country and maybe even harder being a man without a faith. I belong everywhere, to everyone…and yet nowhere and to no one. My thoughts for the next three days will be like two continental plates grinding against one another as one philosophy, one way of life, slowly slips over the other. The friction of this transition is the most difficult time of this journey, but friction is the catalyst for every precious stone.

I hope you’ll join me for yet another transformation, and have patience as I slip, trip, and bust my proverbial lip on yet another faith in the coming days. All the bumps and bruises are worth it though, because the broken bones I earn this year will eventually heal and create a new frame of life that’s stronger than ever.

Sat sri akaal!

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  • Niki Whiting

    I’m personally very interested in October. I’m so curious to see what comes up. Our months will overlap…. sort of.

    • abowen


      Cool! Maybe we can compare notes ; )

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment gupt

    Sikhs are discouraged from social relationships with those who once accepted Sikhi, and subsequently cut or shaved their hair. Will they avoid me?
    :) awwww.. your sikh friends will not avoid you “who once accepted sikhi” = people that took amrit. people that practice sikhi like wear a turban and keep hair but not take amrit are sikhs but not khalsa… but the quote in rehitnama is referring to “After amrit” although it says “sikh”

    what says in rehitnama doesnt happen in most cases though… unless the person is excomminicated from sikhi by akal takhat.

    giving up sikhi after amrit is seen as one of the worst thing ever thats why a lot of people wait until they are completely committed and spiritually strong inside..
    its self death and birth of a new you that is full of compassion and meditation.. and always fighting the 5 vikaars (evils) your life isnt yours anymore after you take amrit… although it does happen where people cut/shave their hair after amrit.. if they want to go back to sikhi they have to apologize to the panj pyare and do a lotta seva :P

    dont worry i am sure none of your friends from the other faiths will ignore you if they respect what you are doing. i think its great how you are giving a month to each religion and a whole year to this project this will change you.. it already has.. but it will also teach people of other faiths to not judge something that they never experienced first hand..and also enlighten a lot of people

    • abowen


      Ahhh, good. I can certainly breathe easier now. Thanks! : )

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Beth Irwin

    You’re not a man without a faith. You have faith in God/the Creator, or you wouldn’t be pursuing this.

    All you’re doing are shedding the various veils that hid you from different facets of the Creator. The infinite unknowable is still there/here whether or not you look past the veil.

    Consider it walking along a path. Periodically there’s an opening in the trees or you crest a hill or come around a curve and there’s a lovely view. The views are there all along, it’s your perspective that keeps changing. There’s no end to your path as your journey will be lifelong. What it seems you are doing is learning to appreciate what’s under your feet, what’s around you, and what is occasionally visible in the distance. But you’re still on the path.

    Enjoy your trip!

    • abowen


      Thanks for that, but by “man without a faith” I only meant that I have no prescribed religion or philosophy. I am an eraseable board, written on and wiped clean every month so that I can learn about my fellow Man on their terms.

      Wonderful analogy though!

  • Dan Jensen

    Imposter! Show us your hair! :-D

    • abowen


      Haha Dan, you are too much, my friend.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment _JSH_

    You looked handsome with beard

  • Editor B

    Your lunar metaphor is quite apropos for your next conversion, of course, and I can’t help noticing this was posted at the New Moon.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment harman

    hi Andrew

    Sikhs are thankful to you ,Normally People ignores Sikhi while counting religions You selected Sikhi as part of your journey ,written such beautiful and educational article s related to Sikhi . your Sikh friends will not avoid you

    ਸਲੋਕ ਮਃ ੩ ॥
    Shalok, Third Mehl:

    ਸਜਣ ਮਿਲੇ ਸਜਣਾ ਜਿਨ ਸਤਗੁਰ ਨਾਲਿ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥
    The friends who love the True Guru, meet with the Lord, the True Friend.

    ਮਿਲਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਮ ਤਿਨੀ ਧਿਆਇਆ ਸਚੈ ਪ੍ਰੇਮਿ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥
    Meeting their Beloved, they meditate on the True Lord with love and affection.

    ਮਨ ਹੀ ਤੇ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਅਪਾਰਿ ॥ .
    Their minds are appeased by their own minds, through the incomparable Word of the Guru’s Shabad.

    ਏਹਿ ਸਜਣ ਮਿਲੇ ਨ ਵਿਛੁੜਹਿ ਜਿ ਆਪਿ ਮੇਲੇ ਕਰਤਾਰਿ ॥
    These friends are united, and will not be separated again; they have been united by the Creator Lord Himself.


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kamaldeep Singh

    Hi Andrew,

    Just to advise, Sikhs will always stand by your side regardless of what happens.

    “I am a friend to all; I am everyone’s friend.”
    Sri Guru Granth Sahib P671


    • abowen


      That means the world to me. Thanks!

  • Cionnaith

    OK..I got the Sikh thing going away but what is the next one? I’m confused. If there isn’t another why leave the one you are in? Faith is not like changing ones socks….but you no doubt know that…

    • andrewbowen

      Hi there. The next faith in the line-up was Wicca in October. Indeed faith is not like changing socks, however this project was not about my finding a personal faith, but in discovering the humanity behind the faiths by experiencing each religion and its devotees at face value.

      • Cionnaith

        OK. I get it. Best wishes on your journey. I respect the concept but I really think that the reality of any one truth pretty much is going to negate the validity of personal experience in other “faith practices”. I’ll definitely look forward to your conclusions regarding these experiences. I’m pretty certain that the devotees of any certain practice will be showing their best side in the face of a fully participatory examination. Godspeed..