Small is beautiful
"You can do no great things, only small things with great love"
Last week Sughad felt like a huge marriage venue as the bride’s side represented by the volunteers eagerly awaited the arrival of the groom’s party comprised of the Moved by Love retreat participants arriving from different parts of the world. The volunteers who had come in a few days earlier had created a festive atmosphere with rangolis, diyas, live music, ultra local food and thoughtful gifts for all.
We opened the retreat by sharing Mekan dada’s story, a fakir from Kutch who anonymously fed thousands of strangers in the desert. The participants were invited to share any story where they had experienced the beauty of “small” in their own lives.
Kishan shared how his friend saw a wounded squirrel in the ashram. He immediately closed his eyes and started praying for the little being. This small act of love deeply moved Kishan. Saya shared how deep listening during her research trips to remote areas helped her develop compassion within. For Shweta , every time she kisses her mom’s forehead, she feels immense joy and this small practice fills her up with great love. Vandana shared a beautiful account of how she gave a bar of chocolate to a young kid on the street who didn’t have anything and how he ran towards his little shanty and gave it to his mom who equally distributed it amongst all the kids and then ate together. This little act of sharing and togetherness brought tears to her eyes as she witnessed love in action.
Anuj shared how he noticed a housekeeping boy in his office regularly feeding biscuits to the dogs in the neighbourhood and how that really touched his heart. Manpreet spoke of a time when she was in Tanzania and the camp they stayed at was constantly serving them without eating much themselves. One day she went into the kitchen and prepared a wonderful meal with love for all the staff and the look on their faces was enough to fill her with a deep sense of contentment. Jayesh bhai summed it all up beautifully as he said, ‘ The mind is always engaged in who is right , but the heart looks for what is right.”
Later in the day, post a short presentation on Moved by Love, the team from the Play to Lead group came over to engage us in some hearty collaborative games which brought out the inner child in all of us. After the games one participant gratefully shared that he had not had so much fun since his childhood and remarked “we don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” Another participant remarked that all our world’s problems can be solved if all our leaders learnt to laugh, sing, dance and play.
In the evening, we visited the Toilet Café at the Safai Vidyalaya for an evening of songs, stories and stillness. Ven. Prasheel, a Buddhist monk spoke of his journey from a being a chef to a monk. Catherine shared her experiences and insights from her 40 day walk at the Camino de Santiago in which she learnt to let go of the past and forgive herself. Tim who is mid way in his two year service journey in Bhutan shared stories from the Awakins there and how holding space for others to change has ended up changing him. Harish who has been planting seeds for the Compassionate Clowns in different cities in India invited us all to have a tear drop of compassion for all beings. The stories were interspersed by beautiful songs from the wisdom traditions of the world.
The next day we had a great circle of sharing by Devendra bhai who regaled us with his service stories spanning 25 years under the wings and able guidance of Ishwar dada. He infused us with enthusiasm to go out an and serve with our hands in small ways, wherever we are, with whatever we have and do whatever we can.
As part of our “hands” day activity, half of us stayed back at Sughad while the other half went across the road to cook lunch at the beautiful Kabir ashram managed by a few lifelong spiritual practitioners.
While the folks at Sughad spent the morning learning to make brooms from 80 year old Kanchan dada with natural materials, the rest of the group occupied the kitchen at Kabir ashram and set up a soulful ambiance forlunch along with the in-house monks
At one pm as the folks from Sughad arrived at the Kabir ashram, they were welcomed with rangolis (made with shoes), hugs, songs, shady trees and the aroma of freshly cooked khichdi kadi. As we sat down to partake of this sacred feast, Bhante Prasheel offered a beautiful prayer in Pali to express our collective gratitude for the meal. Deeply touched by the beauty in the small acts, visible and invisible, most of us slipped into a silent space as we slowly ate our meal. Later post lunch, while some of the participants engaged in some Q&A with the monks at the ashram, the rest quietly cleaned up the space and restored the ashram grounds to their original state.
Later in the day, we had a small pop-corn style circle of sharing where a few participants shared their experiences of the two days. Anand from Baroda who had been deeply moved by the love and care that he had received from the volunteers summed it up beautifully “Until now, gratitude was just a word in the dictionary. Now it is a felt experience.”
Anar didi, who joined us by driving in all the way from Surat in the midst of her Craftroots festival inspired us as she spoke of her journey from motherhood and non-profit service to serial entrepreneurship and how she upheld values of authenticity, love and compassion in whichever spaces she operated in.
Her sharing was followed by a small Q & A session where many in the circle brought up personal dilemmas and questions to which Anar didi responded as candidly as she could.
For the dinner in silence, the volunteers had put in a lot of effort to create a stunning ambiance with rangolis of soil, diyas, flowers, leaves and prayers which touched many deeply.
The second day concluded with an evening of Kabir bhajans with Tara Kini ji of Sunaad who taught us a couple of her favorite songs “Yugan yugan hum yogi” and “Mann lago yaar”. The participants were delighted to learn these songs and one even remarked that “usually we attend satsangs where we listen passively and occasionally clap along, but it is so wonderful to learn and sing along these bhajans that we have listening to for years.”
The last day was a day of heart as we started the day with a talk by Jayesh bhai who shared transformational experiences that had shaped his life. As he expressed his gratitude for all the small gifts that life had brought him, he invited us all to also reflect on the small gifts in our life and be grateful too.
After his talk, we collectively offered a small three steps and a bow pilgrimage for peace within ourselves and peace in the world around the periphery of Sughad. As we sat down to reflect on our time together in the final circle, there was a felt experience of “peace that passeth all understanding.”
After some soulful chanting, the energy of the room shifted to some garba and bhangra dancing with even the kitchen staff joining in the fun. As the dancing reached a crescendo, so did the smiles and joy radiating from each face in the room.
Just when we thought the celebrations needed to move to the dining room where lunch awaited, the participants blew all the volunteers away by asking them to sit in a circle in the centre of the room and then offering a gratitude song that they had sat up late in the night to collectively co-create.
As participants and volunteers ended up in a big group hug in silence, it felt like there was no difference between the two, with everyone giving and receiving love from each other. Kabir’s doha seems so apt to describe the scene.
“Likha likhi ki hain nahi dekha dekhi baat
dulha dulhan mil gaye fiki padi baraat.”