Transformation without and Transformation within
Just as the Navratri celebrations culminated signifying the ending of the old and beginning of the new, it was time for another Head, Hands, Heart retreat from October 14-16, 2016. With the festivities still lingering on, about 40 of us gathered at ESI, Sughad to explore these new beginnings – Rebirth – Transformation, whatever one may choose to call it.
With the Peace Pole as the witness, Madhusudan led us into a beautiful opening as we began with the peace walk in silence around the campus and into the Maitri hall led by Anupreet. The energy was that of curiosity and yet openness to the possibilities. After we settled in the hall and participated in the all faith prayer, Madhusudan and Chris led us all to chant ‘Om tat sat….’ which infused the hall with a serenity hard to escape. Chris welcomed everyone home with a beautiful Prayer of Surrender by an anonymous friend and sharing his personal story or transformation after an ankle injury. Aabha opened the circle with sharing the story of a friend who overcame terminal illness by transforming her thoughts – the transformation of thoughts led to the transformation of being! The sharings then continued with the participants sharing openly and deeply from the heart. Anupreet shared her learnings from the butterflies and caterpillars and that everyone around us is a teacher.
One of the participants expressed how he was exploring the power of words and the energy around words. His expression, ‘Forgiveness + Patience = Love’ was a beautiful learning for all. Another participant shared how after going through a life of hardships and taking credit for all the good and blaming others for everything that went wrong, he learnt it the hard way that there is no short cut to Grace.
Geeta aunty blessed us with pearls of wisdom from her life learnings. She shared that she grew up with the spirit of ‘Vasudevam Kutumbakam’ and how she has learnt from her life experiences that we know only the present and only the Divine knows the full story so it is best to surrender. Zilong’s presence at the retreat was a blessing. He shared how he was experiencing a shift as he sat in the hall listening to all the sharing and how he was in awe of Jayeshbhai’s attention to detail.
Even the flowers fallen on the ground inspired someone by the fact that despite having fallen on the ground they were still giving beauty and doing what they were supposed to do – spread beauty. She learnt from the flowers that – ‘no matter where we are, we can do it’.
One participant shared about how we are experiencing a transformation every day with the analogy that we are in our childhood in the morning, so full of energy and an old person in the evening when the energy levels are lower. We travel the journey from childhood to old age every day from morning to evening.
Another participant shared a moment of transformation where he felt he could make a difference simply by being himself. His inclination to not litter the area around the bus stop and therefore taking the effort to walk to the dustbin to throw trash motivated a street vendor to put a larger trash can close to his stall. One participant shared about how he left home after being troubled on introspection as to why we are living on this planet. He decided to do a world cycle tour with his friend to spread the message of world peace. Another participant spoke about how she gave a ride on her bike to a school going girl who at the end of the ride thanked her and said goodbye. That goodbye shifted something in her and from that day she is always on the look out to give a ride to people on her bike.
Diken shared his conversation with a Moroccan fellow pilgrim on his Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. He learnt that the Arabic language does not have future tense and the explanation for it was that ‘only Allah knows the future’. Another participant shared about her train journey in a foreign country and the unconditional love she received from the co-travelers and the food she was offered with so much love by all of them. This strengthened for her the three practices – gratitude, surrender, trust – she has been cultivating.
Kishan shared how he was transforming as he was learning from his 5 months old little one who always smiles when she sees him and made him question if he did the same when he thought of his parents. Kaitlyn shared how she instantly connected to the Prayer of Surrender and how she is surrendering to the path she is being led to. Ankita shared how her life changed after volunteering at Seva Café.
Another participant shared her life learnings from losing her teenage child to a terminal illness and how in the process she discovered herself.
One participant shared this Tagore quote he had written on the first page of his diary – “Let your life lightly dance on the edges of time like dew on the tip of a leaf” – and he later found the same quote on the first page of each of his mother’s diaries – whom he knew very little about since he lost her when he was very young!
Yet another participant shared that seeing a relative suffer from cancer brought about a transformation in him and her started taking better care of his health. The long circle of sharing culminated with Jayeshbhai sharing his pearls of wisdom with all of us.
The evening was spent at Safai Vidyalay. After a chat with Anarben at Safai Vidyalay, the assemblage moved to Seva Café where we were welcomed by volunteers who were busy preparing dinner for us. It was an evening of sharing and conversations, time to understand each other better more.
By the second day, it was heartwarming to see the participants feel completely at home.
It was evident from the fact that they had taken over the decoration of the dining hall, the cleaning of the campus and the cutting / chopping activity in the kitchen.
The second day was the Hands day. Devendrabhai in his thoroughly entertaining manner briefed us on the significance of engaging our hands along with the mind. Most of the day was spent in some form of cleaning / beautification of the premises thereby cleaning and beautifying the within.
While some loved what they were doing and others started with not being happy with what they were doing, they ended up either loving or being completely okay with it. While all this action was happening at ESI, few volunteers and participants headed to Kabir Ashram to clean and set up Kabir Café for the rest of the group. Ankita Laddha, a silent volunteer along with few other volunteers and some TCS folks who chose to volunteer at Kabir Ashram prepared Daal Baati for lunch. It was the most sumptuous and loving meal most of us have ever had. The love and effort of standing in front of wood fire and baking the baatis could be felt as we had the meal. The evening was rather quiet with some popcorn sharing over a cup of tea and then breaking out into smaller groups for Heart circles. The Heart circles was a profound experience for many. This was followed by Awakin where Chris read us a beautiful passage ‘Every Day is a Day Less’ to reflect upon.
After sharing of reflections, we were led to the dining area for a silent dinner. The dining space was breath takingly beautiful in its simple décor with the effects of Navratri still lingering on and the immense love poured into preparing the space. The participants were moved to tears and rendered speechless after the experience. It was then time to shake and move to the tune of Garba with the next night being the night of Kojagiri Purnima marking the end of monsoon. The day was quite fulfilling and eventful at the same time.
The Heart day began with Jayeshbhai sharing his experiments in love and compassion and his passion for it in his favourite place – Hriday Kunj.
This was followed by ‘Three Steps and a Bow’ with Madhusudan and Chris giving a brief on the essence of this sacred little pilgrimage around the campus. Many a hearts opened even more during the Three Steps and A Bow. It was an overwhelming experience for many. The three days culminated with lots of hugs and a beautiful slide show by the volunteers. Besides the incredible memories and the experiences of the three days, the participants took with them a beautiful handmade photo frame made by some volunteers as a labour of love with a group photo pasted on it.
One of the participants wrote:
….I will just say that I feel so loved over there and even now everywhere I feel so loved... And try creating peace, Love near around me... Aafter coming back I am feeling so many transformations in me, like in my home now I align all shoes and sleeper in proper manner, helping my mom in all the work , not get angry in little things, not complaining for small things, and many more small things... It’s now a week that I came back but still I feel like I am there only....
While another shared this beautiful card:
One volunteer shares his reflections of the retreat:
I sometimes wonder if my acceptance of life as a struggle makes it more so. The retreat was a challenge for me. I wasn't keeping well. I also found being in such a supportive environment deepened my feelings of otherness which comes from simple things like language barriers and the deeper cultural divide of being a "foreigner."…... I'm still processing the experience and I'm thankful for the opportunity to look closely at my own ideas and responses to such a special situation. Finally, it gave me a lot of joy to create the video montage of the gathering. I wish I had more time to make sure everyone was equally represented, but my life is quite busy at the moment. All the best and hope to get to know at least some of you much better in the coming weeks…..
Here’s a beautiful poem shared by another participant:
Offering my poem to the collective experience...
Pursuit of Happiness
Rain pours like a dream of a meadow
The meadows thrive like a nation’s dream
The trees, as green as emanating leaves
The leaves, as refulgent as an infant’s eyes
God strolls like a care-free mind
The minds think like a peaceful soul
The mountains, as high as a winner’s spirit
The winners, as abundant as a horizon’s stretch
The life lives like a moment that exists
The moments persist like the echo of Azan
The prayers, as pure as a belief
The belief, as profound as a mother’s heart
The boundaries vanish like vapor in the sky
The sky remains azure like a painter’s wish
The thoughts, as unfettered as an avian’s flight
The avians, as cheerful as a joyous journey
The God strolls in a meadow
with a care-free mind,
And himself dreams; that
Humanity walks in the Pursuit of Happiness.
Yet another participant shared this:
By far, this retreat was one of the most heart rendering one I have attended in my life.
Much gratitude to all of us who co-created this retreat... especially to the facilitators and founders. They rock, and so do we all!!
There is very little left to be said after such profound sharings…..