'Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends.' ~ Hafiz
As 35 of us gathered at The ESI campus in Ahmedabad for the Head,Hands and Heart retreat this August, each person felt a sense of oneness with all present in the room. There was no sense of meeting strangers, rather it was just as comfortable as meeting an old friend in a long long time. The serendipity of meeting each other in this wonderful time and space was experienced throughout the three magical days we spent together.
Meet opened the circle with a wonderful story of interconnection he felt with life and how his dear friend shared with him after recovering from suffering and coma, that the only thing we should cultivate in our lives is good friends. Meet took this advice very seriously and connected it to himself being present in the gathering due to the blessings of so many noble friends supporting him on his journey. Our sharing on Interconnections began with Pancho's blue marble flag and Pavi's beautiful poem 'I double dare you' . As we spoke of how truly interconnected we are and how our lives just intermingle and flow into each others seamlessly and effortlessly, many wonderful reflections emerged.
Bhumi shared an incident of swimming across a lake and someone coming out of nowhere to tell her that the way she was going was a little dangerous, one with thorns etc so she should turn the other way. Shujoy shared how we were all spiritual beings having a human experience and recalled a wonderful moment of connection shared over some jam paani with the chinese soldiers at the Indo china border as a kid along with his brother as their Father was in the army. Karishma shared how she was stressed after losing her job but attending awakin's in ahmedabad gave her strength and someone connected her to another and soon she was working on a project close to her heart. Disha spoke of a time when she was completely broke and had literally Rs.350/- in her pocket when suddenly at a cafe she visited, a person she knew came over and handed her an envelope which had Rs.8000/- and said he had been meaning to pay her since a long time for some work she had earlier done for him. Ishita shared of a beautiful connect with her sisters baby and how they both would cry around the same time. Bhumika shared how two of her friends father's met by serendipity while they were admitted in the same hospital. Ruchika shared how a while back she had picked a virtue card which said 'Oneness' and now here again she was faced with this same word again. Hardeep spoke of how he realised the true meaning of his name when he was meditating and the lights went off and only a small candle flame was lit in front of him. Ambika spoke of how as she was visiting a dargah and a temple in Ahmedabad before the retreat, she was guided into the top of the sanctum sanctorum by unknown guardians in both the places and how she had a deep moment of oneness there. Kavita shared how she was suddenly asked to move home in ahmedabad and two girls she barely knew offered her a place to stay with so much love while Anvit spoke of how when a person looks into your eyes, they are truly searching for themselves and not for you.
Jayesh Bhai closed the circle with a wonderful sharing on Samatva-Mamatva-Ekatva.
Later in the afternoon we shared the values of Moved by love through a presentation on the four shifts of consumption to contribution, scarcity to abundance, transaction to trust and isolation to community. Many stories of service and generosity from across the ecosystem emerged and inspired us with their simplicity.
The 'play to lead' team had us all connect beautifully through a video, interactions, sharing and games. We were soon running around as teams trying to put 7 tiles together before another team hit us with a ball :) Everyone playfully connected with their inner child
Later in the evening, we visited The Gandhi Ashram, Safai vidyalaya and Toilet Cafe! It was such an inspiring evening as Madhu spoke of Ishwar dada and his love for sanitation. We had a 'Spirited Circle' of sharing with Aabha, Shujoy and Neeta Ben interspersed with wonderful bhajans by Bhumika, Meet and Bhumi :)
Aabha spoke of how her love for food led her to find the connection with her soul. How food was just a medium to connect with a deeper part of herself She shared a story of being helped one time by a deaf and mute boy and how she had the chance to meet him again at a traffic signal and how she just bought whatever it was he was selling in order to honour his spirit of generosity!
Shujoy spoke passionately of his 11 year journey with the company he worked for and ended with beautiful words his mom shared with him of how a tourist - consumes, a traveller - experiences, while a pilgrim only serves :)
Neeta ben spoke of her dedication to service for the last 17 years and how a chance encounter with Jayesh bhai got her into teaching at the anganwadi school at Gandhi Ashram and how the journey transformed her life where she now see's no exit policy. She see's it as her path of seva and nothing else can take it's place.
Bhaskar bhai and the seva cafe team welcomed us with delicious food and love, which was more of a prasad as Bhaskar bhai shared how someone told him it takes almost 360 hands for the journey of one morsel to reach our mouths from the soil.
The second day started with Devendra bhai sharing wonderful stories of his various village trips. He shared a story of Ishwar dada telling him that connect with people's hearts first, not with their minds. The heart has an internal tunnel to the mind but it is a one way tunnel. It does not work the other way :) As he inspired us with some wonderful sharings, we got ready to expeience hands on seva at various communities.
One team went to the Rudra Women's empowerment centre in the slums, another went to Lilapur village and yet another went to the Kabir ashram to serve.As we all met later that afternoon to a grand welcome at the kabir ashram where the participants had us bowled over by the
elaborate decorations and loving hospitality topped by some amazing food for the soul! we exchanged stories of various
activities we all engaged in from sewing heart pins and flowers at the Rudra center with
the women in the slum communities to cleaning, weeding and collecting cow dung at the village
Lilapur :) Everyone had a unique glow on their faces as they served with their hands, and engaged with their hearts!
Anar didi inspired us all in the evening as she spoke of her journey from seva to entrepreneurship and how she found a balance of the two with love, equanimity and patience very very slowly after facing many challenges. She shared how she was so blessed to be able to experience working with all three head, heart and hands in this lifetime and how she was inspired by a teaching of Vinoba Bhave where he wrote that if you swim with the currant its very easy, but its only when you swim against the currant, that you truly learn how to swim. She spoke of how when we judge people, we lead but we don't love them and how important it was to meet people where they are. Time ran out but all of us had so many questions to ask her and receive from her abundant wisdom :)
The volunteers blew us away with the amazing heart and effort put into creating the space for silent dinner.
we closed the day with wonderful
bhajan's by Narendra bhai and his team and also a little surprise birthday celebration for our dear Madhu bhai with a cake made by love courtesy Yashodhara and other secret angels! The entire staff and all participants brought the house down as everyone danced and celebrated :)
The last day of the retreat was very emotionally moving as Jayesh bhai opened his heart full of love in a vulnerable sharing at Hriday kunj which had several people tearing up.
Madhu bhai shared Rev. Heng Sure's story and collectively we did three steps and a bow for peace within ourselves and peace in the world. In the closing circle as everyone poured their hearts out, we all felt a certain peace descend within ourselves as though we had been washed clean, and put out to dry in the sunshine :)
As we hugged and danced to Nimo bhai's heartwarming songs and looked deeply into each others eyes, acknowledging the interconnections of our lives,we truly experienced Oneness together as a collective.
“I honor the place in you where the entire Universe resides. I honor the place of love, of light, of truth, of peace.
I honor the place within you where if you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me,
there is only one of us.” ~ Ram Dass