A Gift Circle in Pune
Just last month, we were delighted to host our dear friend Charles Eisenstein to the Urban Ashram for a few special gatherings. Charles has been a kind advocate for the (material) de-growth movement and a proponent of a more equitable, natural way of living and being based on the ideals of gift culture and spiritual oneness with all. He shares deep respect for the traditional, indigenous societies of the East, especially India where such practices have been part of the culture for thousands of years. Over the course of the three days, we all felt ourselves deeply resonate with the spirit of Gift, and things seemed to come alive when we heard one of Charles' quotes -
"To live in the gift is to relinquish the compulsion to control, the program to label and number the world, the quest for reductionist certainty, the drive to convert the world into money and property. You can't make community without gifts. Community is woven from gifts and stories.”
Apart from an AwaKin circle of silence and some of the most insightful conversations shared with Charles, we had a taste of the ‘more beautiful world our heart knows is possible’ when he facilitated a ‘Gift Circle’ for an intimate gathering of 15 people on his last day in town. The idea was simple—people started off with two minutes of silence and reflection upon what their genuine needs were at that point of time in their lives. They also spent time thinking about the gifts they would like to offer to anyone ready to receive them—material or otherwise.
The circle was then opened up for sharing. It was amazing to see the range of needs from the immediate, simplest ones to long term, more complex ones emerge from the group. One of the participants in the circle simply asked for blessings for a new relationship with a man she loves. Another young woman was looking for someone who could help her with writing her career profile. The Ashram has been looking for people who can help set-up a herbal garden and a rodent-free composting system in the surrounding premises as well as a ‘divine cook’ who simply enjoys cooking for visiting pilgrims who pass through the Ashram everyday. A friend from Canada who has been a regular at the Ashram since the last four years, asked for specific help with ‘figuring out’ the Indian Railways website. There were young people looking for a life-partner, a ‘home of their own’, contacts in publishing industry and work opportunities in educational settings, ideas around making their vision for sustainable living spaces possible, assistance with not-so-smooth relationships with parents etc.
Appreciating the scientific aspects of water as a ‘living organism’, Charles was very impressed with the round earthen matkaas that are commonly used in India for holding drinking water. He expressed his wish to have them made accessible to his family and friends back in America. A senior aunty, having lived a very fulfilled life, had no major needs, except for her dentures to be fixed at the dentist that evening!
Being able to articulate and openly express our genuine needs to a group of people in a trusted space was in itself quite a healing experience. The energy in the circle was one of gratitude and service. People seemed eager to offer their heart-felt gifts. Immediate tangibles were spontaneously offered such as a pen with a quote by Gandhi and laminated pictures of Rumi’s poetry in breathtakingly beautiful calligraphy. Some of the other offerings came in the form of a farmland space to explore and experiment with alternative ideas, contacts in specific fields of interest and places or Yoga classes specific to certain ailments. The intangible offerings such as receiving genuine smiles, blessings and simply having someone to talk with as a trusted mentor seemed like the most invaluable gifts coming from the group.
The ripples from the circle were set in motion just a few days after the circle. We were deeply moved when we were visited by Leslie and Mayuree who came in all the way from Mumbai to set up a composting system for the sacred space when they heard about our request! Our Canadian friend was thrilled to find a tutor to walk her through the Indian Railways website. People had this genuine feeling that everyone’s need should be met in the best possible way, almost as if your need is my need too! This created a sense of oneness amongst the participants. One of the participants could not control her tears, as she broke down, overwhelmed with gratitude for the Urban Ashram space that has nurtured her journey.
Very spontaneously the participants gifted each other a warm hug at the close of the circle. Smiles, stories, food and hugs…the evening turned out to be another magical one at the Ashram. Thanks to Charles for introducing Gift Circle to all of us - the only way we could do it justice would be to pay it forward by sharing this with you all!