The Warmth of Coming Together - HHH Nov'17
Posted by Vidhi Desai and Ruchi Parikh on Nov 20, 2017
“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. I enjoy it when the world smiles, the more smiles there are, the warmer I am.”
As 25 of us gathered together on a pleasant Friday morning around the Peace Pole at ESI, we felt held by the beautiful vibes of peace and love that enveloped all of us. After sharing a collective and individual intention for world peace, we walked towards the welcoming Maitri Space to be warmly greeted with a tika and hand-made name tags.
Once we settled down inside, Sheetal opened the circle by sharing about the essence of Ishwar dada’s work on external and internal sanitation that was at the foundation of ESI. Bhumika then introduced Hunfh (Warmth, in Gujarati) as the theme of the retreat and invited everyone to share a story about when they had experienced warmth by being held, loved and cared for. She started off by sharing her own story about Elsa, her friend’s dog, who expressed so much love and care in its own special way after inadvertently hurting Bhumika, and how that experience really moved her. We were all fascinated with how beautifully Elsa could express her regret and care towards Bhumika without any language, and how offering a sense of warmth is something anyone can do.
And then one by one, everyone shared their own heartwarming story about Hunfh, and we could feel the magic unfolding. We started off as a diverse group of college students, professionals, business persons, teachers, home makers, travelers and even a feisty 75 year old grandmother, Taru ben. We could relate to each and every story, and it brought back more memories of moments filled with warmth and love. We listened to stories of kindness from strangers and friends, and even babies and realized how the smallest of actions done with genuine intent can offer so much warmth to another. And with every new story, we could feel the walls of separation melting away, as we realized how each of us yearns for the same things – acknowledgement, warmth and care. Jayeshbhai summed up the collective feeling with a beautiful observation – Parinaam ki apeksha ho, toh parivaar nahi hota hai. He shared that we can easily resolve the tug between the mind and the heart by emptying our minds and opening our hearts. Because there can be no selfishness when you listen to your heart. Indeed. :)
The first day, the Head day, followed with an inspiring presentation by Meghna and Vidhi on what Moved By Love is about, inspiring a shift from transaction to trust, from consumption to contribution and from scarcity to abundance. We got to learn of many experiments in generosity, how they were taking root from each other, and inspiring many offshoots, just like how a banyan tree spreads its roots all around.
After this we all moved to Safai Vidyalaya, where we were welcomed by soulful bhajans and tika by the Ashramshala girls. Diken shared about the history of Safai Vidyalaya and Ishwarbhai Patel’s inspiring life work. We saw many different models of toilets, and were amazed at the thinking and research that must have gone into all of that.
We also had a chance to visit Gandhi Ashram before heading to the much awaited evening at Seva Café.
The evening saw us all experience the magic and warmth of Seva Café, a restaurant where the food was cooked and served by volunteers with a lot of love, making it as special as prasad. Another highlight of this restaurant is the fact that it has no prices on its menu, because how can you really put a value to the love that goes into preparing the food? And also, because your meal has already been paid for by someone who visited before you, and you can choose to keep the chain of generosity going, by paying it forward for someone else. Our time at Seva Café was magical, as a few among us shared deeply intimate stories about our journey and learnings that everyone could relate to. We were strangers no more, as each person beautifully held space for another to share, and just be.
Bhaskar introduced the rockstar volunteer team who served us with so much love and care to each one of us. Then we invited Sayani to share about her learnings through life and her sharing about the confusions and each moment being able to explore the world, totally moved everyone. Siddharth who has been a regular volunteer at Seva Café shared a heartfelt poem from his treasure chest of poetry. Everyone was totally moved by his love for seva. Dadi sang a bhajan and everyone joined in the humming, creating a peaceful environment. Arpit shared about how he and his wife Sakshi decided to quit their jobs and listen to their callings, which have moved them to Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh, and engage with organic farming. And he felt immense courage to have been able to take this decision. Emma shared her very moving journey with how her mother brought up her brother and herself. She went on to share about her mother’s last days, and how they all felt so bounded and connected. She beautifully shared about her most important learnings that we are the strongest if we believe in ourselves. Everyone responded with a deep prayer and silence for Emma’s mother. We ended the circle with some beautiful bhajans and chants that we collectively felt moved to sing together. After this we returned back to ESI, hearts filled with gratitude and joy.
Day 2, or the Hands day, started off with Meghna introducing Devendra bhai and his immense love for sanitation. She shared stories about how he would go to literally every village and clean every toilet himself and enlighten everyone around with his labor of love. In this happy session, Devendra bhai shared about his experiences working with Ishwarbhai, peppered with funny anecdotes and moving moments, along with his rich experiences of hand building toilets around villages nearby and how he would receive abundant love from local people.
Moving ahead we all left for Kabir Ashram where we divided ourselves into three groups – to cook, clean, and decorate the space for all. It was a beautiful experience to have so many hands, and hearts, come together with a common intention – to serve through action.
After we got back to ESI, every participant was invited to offer their Hunfh (Warmth) to their fellow participants by writing an anonymous note and leaving it in an envelope for another person. This was an experiment that we felt moved to try, and it was really heartwarming to see all envelopes filled with notes and messages of love, appreciation and warmth, and more importantly, brimming over with smiles and friendships to last a life time. :)
We also got a chance to listen to Anar didi, as she shared about her journey and challenges of coming to peace with the person she was, and how she was inspired to find out her own ways to express and offer from her Heart, while accepting the Head space that came naturally to her. Her authenticity and candor made us feel an instant connect with her, as we looked deeper within to accept ourselves as we were.
The evening ended with a soulful shared Awakin meditation, followed by the silent dinner. The silent dinner, which was held in an open space lit up only with candles, saw our plates, and our hearts brimming over with gratitude and love. To experience the warmth and love that went into the whole experience, from the preparation of the meal to the beautifully done up space, to the warmth of volunteers serving the food was an experience that moved everyone present, to share the same.
Day 3 was the Heart Day, where Jayesh bhai shared about his journey and what moved him to start doing the work he did, despite some initial feelings of resistance. He lovingly shared that Bhav (Intention) is very important when we do anything, and the rest is always taken care of. He mentioned how he has witnessed that we all learn from each other, and the thread of kindness, compassion and love can bind us all together in a joyful flock. All of us gathered were moved with his insights and profound perspectives on life and serving.
Sheetal and Bhumika then introduced Three Steps and a Bow - a pilgrimage of more than 800 miles, that Rev Heng Sure and Rev Heng Ch’au undertook for 2 years and 9 months, with an intention for world peace, and complete trust and faith about being taken care of. We all started on our own journeys of three steps and a bow, led by Vidhi with the intention of connecting with the peace within, and peace without.
After two and a half days, we were no more strangers, but a close knit family bonded by warmth and love. We realized what it really means to be humane and how it often takes the smallest act of kindness and consideration to share our love with the world around.
“If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.” – Lucy LarcomYou can view more pictures from the retreat here.
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