Sneh Sadhanam - MBL Retreat April 2015
We all know the story of the caterpillar. We’d read it when we were kids. A caterpillar hatches from an egg and discovers a strange craving for food. One day, on eating too much, he nauseates himself and carves himself into a cocoon. And so it happened that on a bright sunny Friday morning, we gathered in Maitri looking for a safe place to rest and spin ourselves into a cocoon. We were hopeful and yet hesitant of the unknown.
We gathered in a big circle and Sheetal Bhai opened the session with a beautiful question, “What has been the one gift, tangible or intangible that we have received in our lives that has created a shift or transformation within us ?”
Shreshtha, with tears in her eyes shared how when she was leaving for the retreat, her little daughter put a piece of paper in her hands and when she read it her emotions overflowed as she read her daughters loving message," I will miss you." Trilok uncle had a profound moment in the morning as he was heading to the meditation hut, he realised that every corner and inch of theESI campus where our retreat was being held, had a sacred energy and he didn’t need to find the meditation space but could meditate anywhere over here. For Neha, being invited by Jayesh Bhai to attend the retreat itself was the biggest gift she had received. Prakhar shared how he was working on theChange Festival along with many volunteers at Youth Alliance and 2 days before the event he realised that all banks are shut for the next few days owing to various national holidays. They required a huge amount of money for the festival expenses and with a heavy heart he shared this concern with the volunteers. Within a few minutes the volunteers pitched in various amounts of their own money and magically all expenses were taken care of. For him this was a huge lesson in faith. Parmit, a Gandhi fellow from Udaipur, shared how after various ups and downs in his life, he learnt from a very young age that it is more important to earn relationships and people in our lives instead of just focusing on earning money.
Later that afternoon, we all met Rish Bhai. He delightedly conducted an improv workshop for us and within the hour, we had all bonded over stories of our childhood and laughter. Arunaji could hardly control the tears running down her face from all the laughter! From there we headed on to Seva Cafe, but not before filling ourselves up with icecream. A wonderful evening followed wherein there were some ‘Spirited sharings’ by Bhaskar Bhai, Deepak Dada, Jyotsna Ben and ‘Krish’ Bhai. Bhaskar Bhai shared how he was always hesitant about the food he cooked until a volunteer gently told him that as long as he had cooked the food with love it would taste good. From then on, he never felt unsure while cooking. Deepak Dada shared how he had been offered gangajal that afternoon and how he felt content with what he had. The same way when you plant a seed and it grows, you get the same feeling of contentment. Jyotsna spoke of how the phrase" jaha chah, wha rah." where there is a will, there is a way had paved the path for her to do so much in her life. Chris, fondly known as Krishna shared about his moving experiences in Kenya with sanitation and hygiene projects. Parmit, shreshtha and Nimo moved us all with some beautiful songs from the heart.
The next morning, groggy but excited we piled into cars and headed off. No one knew where and there was an air of suspense and excitement to our destination. We arrived at Gopal bhai’s farm which was home to 200 gir cows as well as a school based on ancient indian teaching methods. As we learnt about this beautiful space created with love by Gopal Bhai and his family, we engaged in various activities from cleaning and carrying cow dung to feeding fodder to the cows. Some of us engaged in the farm and yet more engaged in painting the walls of the cow shed with beautiful art from the heart. What was omnipresent everywhere was the complete happiness and joy on everyone’s faces from the people who were painting, to the people who were on the swings. Talk about being ‘moo-ed’ by love! Anar didi graced us all by sharing some beautiful insights from her journey which moved many participants to tears as she spoke of her various struggles and stepping stones along her path of service and entrepreneurship. The weather blessed us with rain and a cool and pleasant weather for the silent dinner later that evening and we dined in companionable comradeship.
Magic happened to all of us in some way throughout the retreat. Jai from bhuj shared how coming to the retreat for him was such a gift as he has always been very passionate about cooking and thanks to Abha's encouragement he found his hearts calling to cook and serve at a seva cafe they recently conducted in Bhuj. He was overjoyed when Nimo and Abha arranged for him to help the cooks on the seva cafe visit and that for him was a huge gift which will pave the way forward for him. Parmit was amazed at the universe fulfilling his dream to meet Uday bhai, as he had read about him 4 years ago in a news article and always desired to meet 'Ahmedabad nu rickshawallo" . He was overjoyed when he reached ESI and discovered that he would be sharing a room with none other than Uday bhai! Abha Didi, one of the volunteers shared, “I was blown away by Jayeshbhai’s thoughtfulness of bringing electric tea lights for the silent dinner since the wax ones would be hard to keep with the fans in summer. Washing everyone's feet at the end of the ‘Three Steps and A Bow’ was a beautiful experience in humility for me. It did not matter whose feet they were, what mattered was that I was serving a fellow pilgrim with love and without any judgement or discrimination.”
We closed the retreat with grace and humility as everyone bowed down in surrender to '3 steps and a bow’. Trilok uncle, almost 65 years of age, moved us to tears as he prostrated fully on the path with every bow. After a powerful closing circle of sharing, we were all up, laughing, crying, hugging and dancing our hearts out with our soul family.
Later that afternoon, as we were in the pool, laughing and listening to Kunal’s sardar jokes, I looked around in enthralled wonderment (is that a word? It should be). Somewhere along the way, everyone had shed off their layers one by one.
And so it happened, that what emerged were the most beautiful and free butterflies that I had ever seen. For a moment I was stunned by their beauty until I looked down. I laughed as I noticed that now, I had wings too.