When I began Project Conversion back in January of this year, I had no idea the change would be this difficult. Immersing myself in one faith, each month for a year…how hard could it be? But change is hard, especially when you are shifting your entire perspective on the divine, life, and the world around you.
I’ve already done this nine times…but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier.
I can already feel the change–the ground shifting beneath me–within the last few days of each month. I’m walking this life path with one faith, holding fast to convictions I’ve only adopted weeks before, 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 as a Sikh in September (my last full month)? 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 had to grow a beard as a Sikh)…
I hated facial hair. My wife especially detests it. “You look old now,” she 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?
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.
What sort of friction or trials by fire have polished your faith or brought you out of faith? What fires of change have made you the person you are today? Sound off in the comments.