Of Pilgrim Hearts, Travellers and Magicians
It was a calling from within for both, Sheetal and myself to visit this sacred land of Bhutan and walk with humility and faith into its heart full of love. As we prepared to board our flight, we were excited and completely clueless of the many magical experiences awaiting us in this land of thunder dragons.
Since we wished to travel as pilgrims, we did not do any prior bookings for accommodation and went with trust that we would be looked after by the universe. As if to affirm our faith, just before we reached Bhutan, we received an email from a young Mexican girl named Gaby, who has been volunteering in Thimphu for the last few months at The Gross National Happiness Centre. She received an email from a common friend connecting us and immediately invited us to stay with her throughout our trip in Bhutan. We were so humbled by this divine grace just at the beginning of our journey, and as each day unfolded with magic in its wake, we couldn't help but bow down to all the serendipities of the universe.
Our angel Gaby connected us to so many wonderful souls in Bhutan, that by the end of our stay we were literally bumping into a dozen folks as we walked the streets and felt so much at home there.
Interestingly, we had many common ties with Gaby including a surprising dissertation she did on 'Service Space' as a project in college :) She was keen to know more about community and was raring to try out a few experiences. She had read about the Awakin gatherings and was curious to host one herself. Given her beautiful home and our enthusiasm just at the mention of a chance to sit in stillness with new friends was the spark to set off many beautiful moments with kin in Bhutan.
As we prepared her home for a wednesday evening, both of us started feeling so full of joy at this wonderful opportunity to cook, decorate the home and serve our brothers and sisters there. Gaby invited many friends and after an hour of silence and some beautiful reflections, as we ate an Indian meal, many people came up and shared how unique and wonderful this experience was for them. Dr. Ha Vinh Tho, the director of the Gross National Happiness Centre and long time meditator shared from his experiences and his wife Lizzy recited a beautiful poem from her heart. We expressed gratitude towards Gaby for opening her heart and home to all of us. This first Awakin gathering, set the tone for many such circles of maitri and love that moved us beyond words.
As we sat for our third wednesday at Gaby's home, at the end of the hour, the living room was jam packed with almost 25 people who had heard of the gathering and turned up to experience it themselves. We couldnt help but notice how beings just gravitate towards love and community so effortlessly. The circle had some wonderful sharings on love, loss and kindness. A young girl of 18, Choney shared her wonderful moments with her grandfather and how his loss had affected her and yet another shared the impact of a close friend's suicide on her life and how she had shifted to viewing her life as a gift. Sonam a young mother, teared up at the memory of her father's accident and immediately her 8 year old daughter Dezaad who had patiently sat through the silence wiped her tears and also sang a beautiful song for all of us. A reformed ex-convict and drug addict came with his mentor and shared his life story of transformation which touched all of us very deeply. A friend of Gaby's, Adrian shared how he was so torn at the moment because his sister was getting married in germany in less than a week and he also had important work in Bhutan during that time. Sheetal shared a story with him about a person we met in surat who was in a similiar predicament. Next day Adrian's wife came in and told us that Adrian had booked his tickets to germany and was going to put his family before everything else :) In true awakin style, people even took to dishwashing with gusto :)
A beautiful lady, Kunzang, who was the G.M of an elite resort in Thimphu was so moved by the experience that she invited us to have a similar gathering for her managers at the resort. As we stepped into the beautiful premises and were taking in the beauty of the gardens, trees and the river flowing by the property, we were led to a serene room where cushions were arranged in a circle and candles lit all around. As we took our seat, with 15 of the hotel managers, our hearts were at home. An insightful passage by Satish Kumar, sparked many interesting sharings within the group. The first person to share burst into tears and spoke of her late father and his generosity which moved everyone to tears, another spoke of how she would like to serve human beings instead of following rituals in a temple and pouring milk on deities and yet another spoke of Gandhi and Buddha's teachings which he is trying to apply in his daily life. Kunzang herself spoke of a bad phase in her life and how meditations at the local Deer Park Center had helped her overcome the situation. Over a mouthwatering traditional Bhutanese meal, some more stories of love and compassion were shared and we left the space a couple hours later with love in our hearts and peace within.
Another wonderful Soul, Madam Deki, The founder of a very unique school in Thimphu called The Early Learning center invited us to do a circle of laughter, silence and sharing with her teachers at the school. As soon as Sheetal started the circle of sharing asking everyone to introduce themselves not by their official names, but by the first endearing name they were called by their parents or family while growing up, every individual in the room teared up as they recollected memories associated with their childhood names. As barriers thawed and the group started sharing, laughing, crying we realized the invisible powers of these circles as they allow relatively unknown beings to share from their deepest recesses and become family for life. Madam Deki called it mutual illumination and truly that's what it was..
Our last day in Bhutan was once again a circle organized by all the wonderful people we spent time with there and it was beautiful to see everyone turn up, to once again sit together and share..share their love, share their smiles, share their sorrows, share their meals and share humanity..the link that binds us all..the link that makes us who we are..simple..profound..intense and magical all at once.