Maitri Milan 2015 - Connecting through Maitri, service and love
“The mathematical rules which are true for a small triangle are equally true for a big one.” Said Vinoba Bhave as he referred to the problems of the world and how they could be solved by focusing on a smaller area like a village or at an even micro level within oneself. Mihir from Surat explored what 'within us' causes things to happen on the 'outside' on his train journey to Ahmedabad which shifted his heart at a recent retreat.
Madhu bhai shared a beautiful video of Ishwar Dada and his wonderful message of inner cleanliness and outer cleanliness through a broom’s lens.
With these thoughts, we opened the Maitri Milan gathering of hearts from around the world connected together through service, maitri, inner work and noble ties.
Christopher shared how he learnt an important lesson from Mahesh bhai, the painter at ESI who does his work with such passion and perfection everyday, "that there is no small work. All work done is to be done in devotion to God." Anupreet shared how it is easy to see God within everyone in this circle, but how does one see God in every human being whether he is a cheat or a fraud. Audrey spoke of how there were a million ways to ring a bell and how each person’s perspective was so different from another’s and can we hold each perspective with respect. Kavita aunty spoke of how she felt so held by the community in the last one year as Pratyush walked the narmada pilgrimage. Mona shared an interesting incident with electricians in her home at Mount Abu when she had just arrived there, she was told to see the ‘head’ of the department and she just said,” I don’t want to see your head, I want to see your heart.” Meghna shared about Hari Uncle’s journey and how being a commando in the army he never carried a gun but always relied on his fellow soldiers to protect him and how she felt the same with the community and how it nurtured her and looked out for her all the time. Sheetal Vaidya shared an experience from her visit to Kat Katha and how she was moved by an Akhand diya burning within a brothel. Swara shared how an autowallah moved her by reminding her she had to buy some snacks for her sister when she forgot about it during her ride to the station which she had mentioned to him earlier. Darpan shared sweetly about how he sat for an hour during his first vipassana course and figured later that others were not doing that, and enquired innocently with his teacher that he didn’t know it was an option J
We had some wonderful city wise presentations later that afternoon as different hosts in various cities shared their best practices and insightful experiments. Bhumika and Swara shared about how they had created a watsapp group in Baroda called ‘Friends under the Banyan tree’ where all participants were encouraged to share their dreams and how they saw magic taking place through these sharings within the community. Sachi, Rahul and Darpan shared about the awakins, random acts of kindness and Aashiyana project they all were supporting and bringing the community closer in Mumbai. Neerad shared how everything was a gift in the Rajkot Awakin community while Joserra shared how there were now 5 Awakin circles in spain and how they were experimenting with Circles of abundance and gifting organic fruit etc within the growing community in spain. Meghna and Kishan shared stories of the various heart spaces in ahmedabad from awakin circle’s to Seva café and the Gandhi ashram eco system. How every space was celebrated and how individuals grew in these spaces. Paragbhai shared stories from the Awakin circles in Surat and how the community was being strengthened day by day in Surat as he saw remarkable transformation within a year in someone who attended these circles regularly and is now a lead volunteer there. Neeti, Bhumi and Sheetal shared wonderful stories from the pune eco system from awakins to art with heart, to serving at an old age home and experiments with seva café which turned into surrender café.
Audrey shared about interesting experiments in the Bay area she had been a part of such as ‘Hear the homeless’ to Education+transformation circles and her recent visit to a school as part of Nimo’s empty hands tour in the U.S.
Nipun bhai shared some wonderful gems in his presentation the next day and evoked many insights and reflections from many.
We later broke out into smaller group discussions on topics ranging from Individual projects lead with values to open space, Experiments within local eco systems and Inner journey’s. Siddharth and Sachi summarized the first group discussion on individual projects with questions on how was one’s relation with money, clarifying one’s values and priorities within a value system and how a spirit of offering has to be right. Speaking of swadharma, choosing between two tempting paths and looking deeply within at the same time.
Yogesh bhai and Audrey summarized the local space discussion with interesting stories like Kavita aunty greeting all the watchmen in her society complex and later carrying the same spirit in greeting autowallahs, as well as people on the streets and how it brought joy and connection not only to her but also to those she met. They shared how bhaskar who has a very close relationship with animals always stops when he see’s a dead animal on the streets and often puts the being to the side of the road or if possible buries it respectfully as an act of service. Swara spoke of internal muscle building through her job and volunteering, while jyotsana shared of building maitri and samarpan in her women’s center by adding half an hour of silence daily.Meghna shared of a beautiful incident at seva café where a police commissioner was moved by the laxmi box at the entrance while Yogesh bhai shared how his daughters served sweets to cops at the police station and traffic signals and the wonderful reaction it evoked in them through this act of service. Neerad shared how a simple gujurati translation on awakin.org goes through so many hands to reach its final reader thus building so many interconnections within the community.
The Inner journey team lead by Christopher and Sheetal Vaidya shared about the journey from the head to the heart. Gandhiji quoted that all he did in his life was only to see God face to face. Sheetal shared how if you need help, seek the tools and techniques, but later drop the person and continue with the technique. Mukesh bhai shared how all these were words and one needs to look within and practice else all is mind games. Nimo shared how everything on the outside is a tool we are all trying to walk on the same path.
The open spaces recap was beautifully captured by Shaalini and Sheetal Sanghvi where Shaalini shared an incident which took place a day earlier during the retreat on her tenth wedding anniversary where she was the recipient of immense love in the form of Kavita aunty offering her very priceless bangles as a gift to her, while Sheetal shared that whenever you are open, wherever you are is open space. He captured Jayesh bhai’s words that if there is no trust in open space, it will collapse. “ Jo chhodta hain, woh jodta hain.” One needs to know when to engage and when to disengage. Money is a good servant but a bad master. Spaces are always open- Are you open? And how there is one sun and it spreads its light everywhere, but each courtyard catches its own share of the light.
Pratyush who recently returned from a sacred walking pilgrimage around the Narmada river, recounted his journey with all of us as we listened gratefully to his walk from Amarkantak to bharuch and back- 4000kms with no money, no phone. He spoke of how this quote by brother david - 'ask nothing, refuse nothing' guided his journey in many ways. He also shared many learnings from the Gita along with chanting and his daily practices which took him on a journey 'within' as the pilgrimage continued and each step taught him so much.
Jayesh bhai shared from his heart on the third about raising "Samuhik Bhaavna" This bhaavna was felt by many as we later bowed in gratitude and humility with reverence to all the invisible threads that bring us and bind us together.
With presentation's, discussions, celebrations, 'one on one conversations', 'many to many' connections, expanding hearts, laughter, hugs and tears. We experienced love manifest in many ways during the 3 days of what felt like one big family re-union.
As Vinoba ji said," All my activities have the sole purpose of achieving a union of hearts." It sums up the purpose behind everything that took place and all that did not :)