In the words of JR Tolkien "Not all those who wander are lost". My passion and loves are my family, travel and writing. I'm fortunate to be able to combine all three for an extraordinary life adventure....
Published August 25th 2017
A place to feed your body and soul. There is something comforting and nurturing about sharing a meal with those you love. Coming together to prepare, cook and eat a meal together, not only nourishes our bodies but also feeds our soul. Somehow, it provides the right ingredients to open up conversations, share our troubles, talk about nothing and everything in the same space, and ultimately to connect with each other in a natural and organic way.
The combination of feeding the body and the soul are strong central themes in Religion and Spirituality also – many spiritual and religious traditions have the theme of sharing a meal interwoven through their faith and teachings. However, it is not often that the community of faith extends its open arms to all in the community embracing the full sense of the word "Coming together".
How often do we share a meal and our company with strangers? This, however, is the underlying philosophy of the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple (Gurudwara) based in Woolgoolga, 26kms from Coffs Harbour, NSW.
We had only just strapped ourselves in the car and settled in for our day's drive when soon after leaving Coffs Harbour (a mere 20 minutes) we found ourselves stopped at the beach side carpark in the pleasant coastal town of Woolgoolga or Woopi, as known to the locals.
It was a weekend morning and the atmosphere by the beach was buzzing. It was not the usual frenetic energy and pace of a CBD during peak hour but of a vibrant and positive energy, much like one's irresistible urge to make the most of the sunlight hours.
Similiar to those moments when the anticipation of the day ahead - Sunday leisure (in which you can do whatever you please) - seems to propel you out of bed tossing aside the warmth and comfort of sleep, to seek pleasure in the outdoors instead. Real or imagined is the distant motherly shout which follows you out the door - "and don't come back til it's dark' floating after you.
And so, while enjoying our bowl of cereal on the outdoor picnic tables overlooking the calm kid friendly surf, we observed the recreational fishermen, the walkers, the runners, the boaties, the surfies and the families busily starting their day. The local surf teacher stopped for a chat and as he slipped on his wet suit gear awaiting the arrival of his students, he told us how much he loved living here. But there was no need to convince us as we were starting to like it already.
Today was the day for leisure and new experiences for us also, our son's first paddle on our surfboard and a family bike ride and first-time visit to the brilliant white Guru Nanak Sikh temple with its grand minarets situated on a hill, which we had passed earlier on our drive into town.
The Grand Sikh temple
We had learnt a little from our recent visit to the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour, about the Sikh community, who made a significant contribution to the local area and were responsible for the production and growth of the banana plantations post the Italian war migrants who first laboured, owned and then abandoned the plantation growing business.
The Woolgoolga Sikh community has grown into a support network of family, friends and community. The temple and community not only provides a space to practise the Sikh faith, but they have also opened their doors in the most humbling way, welcoming anyone to visit the temple, to join in a Sunday service or to share a communal vegetarian meal (Langwar) regardless of your faith, gender, race, or social status.
We had arrived at the temple wondering if it was open and could we as non-Sikhs enter and view the temple. We felt awkward and uncomfortable, uncertain of what to do. Could we just wander in? Should we have dressed up/down? Would we know what to do? I did not have the same feeling of familiarity or confidence that I would usually have upon entering a church - having walked into many during my lifetime. Yet, I was curious and wanted to understand a little more about a religion I knew little about and which I had mainly observed through the visible and physical aspects of the faith.
We were greeted, provided with a head covering, removed our shoes and were welcomed by the wonderful smells of vegetarian cooking. We were served up a free delicious meal of about 5 different dishes both savoury and sweet. A gentleman came around several times offering us more bread, food and the most amazing chai I have ever tasted. The food was wholesome and hearty.
Not once did someone come up talking of religion, or conversion. We were left in peace to enjoy our meal with our family, no questions, no looks, no one asking what we were doing here.
In our family, it is a tradition that whoever has not cooked, should wash the dishes after the meal. I wanted to do the same. I asked in the kitchen if I could help, wash at least our plates or the many others piling up, and was able to do so. This was my contribution to Langwar and the sharing of a communal meal with my family and others who welcomed me into their special space.
This gesture of providing Langwar represents some of the principles which are important in the Sikh faith – such as equality amongst all, Vand Chakna (Sharing) and Daan (charity) - whereby Sikhs are asked to share their wealth within and outside the community. Sikhism instructs to "Share and consume together". Seva (Selfless Service), is the duty to engage in Seva whenever there is a possibility. It is believed that these actions and principles help build a better and stronger community. I couldn't agree more.
What you need to know:
Guru Nanak Sikh Temple (Gurudwara)
Visitors Welcome: 9am – 6pm, 7 days a week.
Temple Tastings: Wednesday 7pm and Sunday 12.30pm.
Please wear appropriate attire and head wear (scarf) that covers shoulders. If unsure please see website or call for more information. Head scarves are available on site to borrow to enter temple area.
Sunday service 11:00am -12:30pm; where you are welcome to come along to listen/meditate/sing to music, poetry, hymns and prayers during the Sunday service. Please be mindful and respectful during these times and respect the peaceful atmosphere.
Please do not bring alcohol or drugs (including cigarettes) to the temple.
If you would like to help or contribute to serve/make a meal or volunteer in some way, please ask one of the other volunteers prior or on the day.