Being Moved By Madurai

Posted by Neil Patel on Apr 12, 2012

Last week week, sixteen of us participated in a special gathering in Madurai over the weekend. Some of the Moved By Love Ahmedabad gang and changemakers and artists from around India joined our friends at Aravind Eye Hospital for the “Moved By Madurai” retreat. A brief recap of the memorable 3-days is here. Prachi shares beautifully about feelings conjured as we walked the halls of Aravind Eye Hospital:

We walked into the hospital on a typical Friday.  Our tour guide, Deepa, was smiling as we peeked into the corridors of Aravind Eye Hospital.  Elderly men and women were waiting patiently in lines.  I smiled when I saw a small meditation room to my right.  Portraits of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo were glancing down upon us.  In fact, there entire presence could be felt in the hospital.  Guided by grace, the hospital exuded an ashram-like atmosphere.  Doctors were calm, systems were working smoothly, and patients left much happier than when they arrived.  Unlike the normal hospital environments I have experienced (and been alarmed due to their mechanistic treatment of patients), Aravind seemed to be inviting us in… There’s a profound humility that comes across meeting members of the Aravind family.  Mild demeanor, a willingness to serve in whatever capacity, and a sense of calm pervaded the presence of the people we met.  I felt humbled to be in the presence of divinity in action.

The focus of the retreat was on creating deep connections through personal presentations. Each participant gave a 7-minute “spirited talk” in which they shared their personal journeys. Some prepared powerpoints, some ad-libbed, everyone shared from the heart. Shagun shared about the richness of sharing personal journeys:

Journeys are fascinating. Lives and thoughts appear like intricately woven webs. They mystery that so beautifully intertwines our destinies evokes wonder and settles into gratitude.  I am filled with a sense of forward progression. Being here feels right. I feel blessed and inspired by the wonderful people around me. Everyone brings a unique and precious facet to the group that answers some questions, opens up vistas of previously unexplored ideas, shines light into crevices of the heart.  One sees courage shining through, and faith and humility, humour and love.

Three particular themes emerged that linked many of the sharings:

1. Allowing for spaces where service and compassion can fill
2. Imparting culture and values to others around us
3. Being compassionate in the face of exploitation

Siddharth, who has been reflecting a lot on ‘spaces’ recently shared this.

‘Organizations’ are extremely efficient in creating specific impact based on goals. But when an organization decides to also nurture, and love all those who are connected with it, it is transformed into an environment, or a space. And its impact can multiply simply because it decides to share all it has with all those who pass through, albeit momentarily.
In a well composed piece of music, the pauses when rightly placed and constructed can lead to powerful crescendos. In the same way a loving space can plant numerous seeds, which at the right time can lead to the most fragrant blooming flowers. Because the impact of spaces is often invisible, we tend to neglect their importance. But lets not forget, our life began through 9 months in a space, our earliest memories were in a space called a home and our communities that support us also are spaces. Our individual presence could also be a ‘mobile space’ to those around us.


I come away from Madurai, with an intention of creating more spaces through the simple process of inner engineering :)

We closed the retreat with a circle of sharing on each of our intentions as we left the space. In the spirit of April Fool’s Day, we thought of evoking the sharings through a different framing: What *don’t* you know as you take the next step of your service journey? Some interesting and heartfelt responses followed, Ragu noted each of them:


  1. It is easier to stick to our values and practices when we are in a service mode.
    I don’t know how to keep the same level of commitment when something personal is at stake and am being exploited.
  2. I don’t know how I should treat and deal with money.
  3. I am often hard on myself. I don’t know how to maintain a fine balance in holding a space.
  4. What is the difference between security and sustainability? I am scared of money. I don’t know how much to let go.
  5. How do I see all as one. I’d like to treat everyone the same but don’t know how.
  6. Not knowing the next moment, yet I have to plan. I don’t know how.
  7. I don’t know what is the one thing that I want to commit my life to.
  8. I don’t know if 100% clarity is possible in being in relationship with others. I feel I need this to fully help others.
  9. What does it mean to be a good leader? I can lead myself well, but I don’t know if that is enough to lead others too.
  10. I don’t know how an organization can create a “circle of love” that nurtures the values of the organization
    as it brings in a new generation of people who cannot directly feel the original cause and vision.
  11. I don’t know how to consistently relate to everyone I engage with in the organization with the same level of care.
  12. I don’t know how to balance all my interests and especially be able to serve my family with
    the same passion as I serve others (as I tend to take my family for granted).
  13. I don’t know how to be spontaneous in an institution.
  14. My life is chaotic. I don’t know how to find an order in it.
  15. I have an abundance of opportunities in my life. I don’t know what I should commit to or whether to wait for divine inspiration.
  16. I don’t know how to pass on the gifts given to me by my elders to my peers and my next generation.
  17. I don’t know how to deal with exploitation with compassion so that no one is a loser.

A deep bow of gratitude to all of the Moved By Madurai participants for sharing their time and presence. A special thanks to our of lovely hosts Deepa, Divhya, Vara Aunty, Bala Uncle, and the rest of the Aravind team.

Posted by Neil Patel on Apr 12, 2012 | permalink

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