"It is in giving, that we receive."
The ESI campus was buzzing with a different energy as many of us came together in Maitri Space for a gathering after a long summer break. Volunteers had signed up way in advance from various parts of the country and were eager to serve selflessly. The participants coming from various backgrounds had heard about Moved by Love gatherings from friends and wanted to experience it by themselves. Serendipity somehow brought the grateful last minute entrants too into the mix and the stage was set for yet another magical journey to unfold.
As we gathered around the Peace Pole to pray and start our journey in 'Deepening Maitri' over the next 3 days, Kishan welcomed us all home with a brief introduction of the expansive space and the Humble man behind it.
Sheetal opened the circle of sharing with two wonderful stories of a Faqir and his donkey and Naveen's puppies which reminded him constantly of the abundant and quiet generosity of the universe. Bhumika followed with a story of the sky falling and how a sparrow turns upside down to do its bit to save the sky from falling. She reflected on her recent visit to our brother Neerad who is recovering from a major operation. She could see how fragile his health was and yet his spirit of service was unwavering. He asked her some pointed questions about her work, and then proceeded to guide her through some of difficult decisions she needed to make. Bhumika shared that she learnt a great lesson in generosity that you can serve with words of hope and encouragement even when physically weak. In response to the seed question " Can you share a moment of generosity which you have witnessed that touched your life," each participant brought out wonderful memories from their hearts and offered these moments of goodness into the circle.
Amidst the reflections, Chris shared how even when he thought he was crossing lines in his conduct, his mentor Jayesh bhai always held space with love and did not reprimand him. For Chris, this was a huge lesson in holding space with equanimity and how he now wishes to offer this same space of love to others. Chitvan realised a very important lesson from a 9 year old in her family with the words,' Dont see fault, see the competency in each.' Vivek shared the parable of Karan and the mountain of gold and how he found it so inspiring as a lesson in generosity. He also shared that as kids, once he and his cousins had to find easter eggs hidden around the house stuffed with some money. His quiet cousin found the most coveted egg with a $5 bill in it. She immediately went to her dad and asked him to give her five $1 bills as change and distributed them amongst her 4 cousins (Ubuntu style) and herself, a memory which he still cherishes.
Prashant found himself at the receiving end of the generosity of villagers deep in the forest when he and a few others lost their way on a trek, while Mayur could never forget a man who gave him a bike ride on his first day of college in a new city where he found himself lost and alone. Pinky realised that in order to give, she did not need big platforms but rather giving starts at home itself. Her mom lovingly giving her a glass of water everyday as she returns from work is a huge lesson in generosity for her. Vidhi shared how an old lady on the street whom she offered food to, took only as much as she needed and asked her to give the rest to someone else. This was a wonderful lesson in aparigraha for her. Meghna reflected on a wonderful story of a person John who receieved a 'Suspended coffee' in a coffee shop when he was really low, down and out and was so blown by the kindness that he ended up donating a large sum of money to the coffee shop so that all who are in need may receive this goodness and taking the cause further. Aranya was amazed at the generosity of the girls from the under privileged communities where she is currently teaching. A few of her students pooled in their pocket money together and gifted her a watch.
For Natasha, one of her friends is an inspiration her as she always asks every rickshawala she rides with, "How are you." even before she sits in the rickshaw. Sometimes she gets a blank look from the driver, yet she will wait for a reply and only then sit in the rickshaw. Her friend shares how she saw many a tear and smile every time she asked this question as she had enriching conversations with them while also sharing fruits or sweets that she happened to carry. Nikita saw the power of resilience in her friend Barkha who burnt herself during diwali celebrations and was hospitalized with 60% major burns, yet inspite of the pain, she kept her spirits high and kept smiling throughout her recovery phase.
For Ben, the story of the little girl and the starfish really inspired him to do his little bits of kindness wherever he was. Gagan was blown by the generosity of a friend when he offered him a home to stay in his time of need, while Guillem was amazed by the dedication of their family gardener who even after they had sold their house, still visited the property to meet and tend to the plants which were his friends. Manali was moved by an old lady in the cancer hospital she volunteered at who was known as '108 Baa' as she was always ready and on call to be of help to anybody in need.
Turya spoke passionately about the 'Love rounds' she and her fellow doctor's would do in the hospital just to spend time, listen and know the patients beyond their illnesses. Through the small request of an ice-cream from one of the patients, who was in a bad state post chemo therapy and couldn't attend his daughter's graduation day, she learnt that 'Service is not about being perfect, but about being loving.' As she snuck in an ice-cream for him that day, she felt a sense of warmth within her and learnt an important lesson in generosity where the person giving, receiving and the witness all benefited.
After an insightful presentation on Moved by Love values and many beautiful stories shared by Sheetal and Bhumika, we divided ourselves into small groups to reflect upon the question." What are your inherent gifts, and what stops you from giving." Many beautiful reflections emerged from the groups as we got to know each other better before leaving for Seva Cafe for the rest of the evening.
At Seva cafe, our dear brothers Bhaskar and Raju along with the rest of the team welcomed us with love and joy. The space of togetherness was further built by our dear Brother Nimo who shared the gift of his soulful music and humble heart with all of us. As we held hands and gently swayed to the meaningful lyrics of his song 'Grateful ' each one had the feeling of something sacred flowing through them and the gratitude was palpable.
"This is life as we know, when our hearts are aligned the magic that unfolds - One small step at a time." Keeping these words close to our hearts we sat in a circle once again on day 2 of our Head, Hands and Heart gathering to listen to Devendra Bhai share his experiences of working with this simple alignment for more than 25 years with Ishwar dada and now ESI. He shared beautiful moments of his journey as a young enthusiastic person eager to work with the villagers and bring transformation. His stories of working under the guidance of Ishwar dada to build thousands of toilets in many villages and connect with the hearts of these villagers were inspiring. He encouraged us all to align our head,hands and heart in order to be instruments of goodness in the world. As we broke up into 4 teams heading into different spaces to work with our hands and serve, it was beautiful to see the enthusiasm in the air. One young girl came and literally pleaded with me," Can I please wash public toilets today if there is an opportunity?" I was amazed as thats not a request we usually hear from a 25 year old. It really makes one wonder what invisible shifts take place in spaces like these.
In the evening as we gathered again to share about our day working with hands, a few reflections really touched our hearts as Nishith felt that all his judgements were dropping and he was looking at people in a different way. Vibhuti felt that the musical evening at Seva Cafe really made her come alive and she was still humming the songs and reflecting on them. Turya shared how the hugs we had been receiving since 2 days made her feel so special as there was genuineness and warmth in them. There was giving and receiving happening at the same time. For Mayur, he felt that he now knew people not only by their names but also by their hearts. Aranya reflected on the meaning of leaving a space more beautiful than one finds it and also felt that one could leave a person more happier than you found them too with every interaction.
Dravya who had just returned from a month long journey of surrender in Kerala, where he went with 3 pairs of clothes and no money or identity to live a life of anonymity as part of a ritual started 12 years ago in their family for all boys turning 21. As he was sharing his insights he broke into tears thinking of the tough lives of millions who go through this process almost everyday. Sanchi, another young volunteer shared how as she working her way around her aversions and it was such a huge task to overcome these likes/dislikes that she had built mental barriers with.
Many more beautiful and heartfelt reflections followed as we sat in silence and shared a beautiful passage for an Awakin circle in the evening. As we sat in silence at the silent dinner, one couldn't help but feel grateful at the millions of gifts that nature continues to bestow us with. The beautiful decor at the centre, the hard work of the volunteers, the alignment of the Sugadh staff, the moonlight, the gentle breeze, the music, the food cooked with love, the presence of each and every person, the givers, the receivers and the ones witnessing it all flowed and merged beautifully into a design painted by a divine hand.
The day of hearts started with a wonderful and warm sharing with Anar didi as she reflected on one her most important life lessons," When you judge people, you have no time to love them." She spoke of her journey in understanding love in all the various spheres of her life and how beautiful this learning has been.
As a collective, we deeply reflected on the cultivation of values and practices it takes for a simple fruit to blossom. Its journey constantly being guided by what is fed to its roots and how strong the inner-network is in making that fruit a possibility. As we spoke of the incredible journey of cultivators such as Rev. Heng Sure who not only light their own path by their constant inner practices but also light the path of thousands of others by their being, there was a stillness in the room, a sacred moment as though the entire universe was holding space for a heart journey to unfold. Carrying the words and deeds of all saints in our hearts we set out to bow for peace within and peace for all.
The closing circle was so full of emotion that no words flowed out and yet there was a deep sense of completion in every heart.
As one of the volunteers later reflected:
"When one attends such a gathering, they are simply blown away by everything that's unfolding in front of their eyes. Each one finds their hearts and cups of gratitude overflowing with love. But there is such an invisible dance of constant serving that happens at the back. The picture of little earthworms come to mind. When they till the soil for themselves, the saplings find their maturity. How that action is affecting the growth of a giant tree is probably absolutely unknown to them. That's exactly how the silent servers at the back contribute into the entire experience.
Who are these silent servers? Is it the space (ESI), is it the staff at ESI, is it the little nooks and corners behind doors, walls, flower pots, ceilings, taps, bathroom doors, steel polls with heart warming quotes, pictures and craft pieces that still our hearts? Is it one man's dream to built such a space, or someone's eye to see and make this space beautiful, or is it the volunteers who work tirelessly making sure that everyone is loved and held just the way their hearts were opened up once upon a time?
Or is it all - that naturally comes together when 'love' is the strongest vibration that puts it piece by piece like a puzzle! At the end all we can do is be grateful and dance :)
Catch a glimpse of all the magic that happened across three days in this slideshow:
“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices. ~ Elizabeth Gilbert