We are all â€˜inter-beâ€™
As 35 of us came together in the sacred premises of ESI, Sughad, we could all at once feel the connection with the space. Our hearts were connected as we gathered in front of peace pole, holding hands, offering our gratitude for the seeds sowed by our ancestors that led to this day and time in our journeys.
As we entered the Maitri hall, we were greeted with this quote:
“Sometimes our light goes out
but is blown again into an instant flame
by an encounter with another HUMAN BEING”
Khushmita opened the circle by sharing an encounter of a friend, Dr. Turya with one of her patients. In a hospital, a patient is mostly known by his number and the relationship between a doctor and patient is largely professional. But in the Loma Linda hospital, where she was interning, the relationship went beyond strictly medical through a special practice called Love Rounds. On one such rounds, Dr. Turya was talking to a patient who was particularly sad on this day. When asked what is the one thing he would really like in this very moment, he just said “ice-cream”. Knowing that the patient is diabetic and that they would be going against hospital protocols; a group of doctors sneaked in some ice-cream in his room. A gift that cheered him up and also helped the doctors experience that service does not always need to be perfect, but it must always be in the spirit of love.
With that she opened the circle for everyone to share an encounter when we connected deeply with another being, be it human or non-human. A relationship that shifted from transaction to trust.
Jaideep shared the story of two heroes he feels blessed to be friends with — Ashwin and Bharat and their heart warming tale of friendship that defeated disability. Devyangi shared that ever since she arrived on the ESI campus, she found herself deeply connected with Subhecha, the friendly campus dog while Aarti and Nalin connected with the peace the space emanated. Nevil shared about the special bond that his mother shares with the birds and dogs around their home and special language of love that they all converse in. Abhiram also spoke about how his grandmother always speaks from a space of honesty and authenticity. She may sometimes be harsh but it is important what space she is coming from. Divya shared about an incident when she helped an elderly lady connect with her daughter and granddaughter after 30 years. That one connection helped heal an open wound in her heart when she did not respond to a friend’s call and later learned of his death.
Siddharth shared about his shift from learning to earn top position in class to learning for the love of it. Vidya shared her connection with an old coconut tree in her family home and how every time she was there she would just “shake hands” with the leaves. Sonali shared about her connection with the little kids who sell balloons outside her home. On one Christmas eve she invited them all in for a party and was so overwhelmed by the love that she received from them that she felt her own ability to love had expanded. Sheetal remembered the children that she meets every time she goes into the children’s ward as a clown and how one simple smile can transform a lifeless being into one full of joy and spread happiness in the whole place.
Swati shared about one time when she and her friend travelled in a crowded bus from Ahmedabad to Anand. A simple act of them offering their seats to elderly passengers started a chain events of people standing and offering seats such that nobody was standing for more than 15 minutes in the entire 2 hours journey. Purvi shared how she is always skeptical about emotions like love, friendship, peace which until recently were just words for her. But a beautiful connection she felt with a stranger in one such gathering when they spent an entire evening that went on till 2:30 am walking and talking helped her see a new side.
Trupti spoke about the special relationship she shares with Ratan Ben, who on the front might just be their house help but to the three of them she is a friend and an advisor bringing precious values to their home.
Ashima shared about an encounter between her friend Swara and Priyanka, who is visually challenged. One day when Swara was helping Priyanka navigate her way through the campus, she told her to be careful of the steps ahead. For some time Priyanka didn’t move and then slowly asked if the steps were going up or down. This story made her reflect on how we miss out on little gifts that we have that we always take for granted.
Bhavik shared about a friend who would always carry a nail cutter in his pocket and sit with street children cutting their nails. It is a small act but he does it with lots of love for all the children. Diken shared about how his relationship with a cafe owner in Spain shifted from that of transaction to trust when he just came up to her and greeted her with a hug and a heart pin. While earlier he was a customer who would order half a coffee and use the space for 5 hours, he now was a friend who connected with the staff in love and friendship.
Steve shared about a selfless act of kindness he received in a small Balkan city. It was early in the morning and as he was sitting on a bench, two men approached him to ask if he needed help with anything. When they learned that he knew no one in the city, they took him to their home and while they were both fasting for Ramadan, they cooked a feast for him. He was embarrassed but also grateful for the connection we share with all the human beings. Beyond our cultures and languages how our hearts are one. Saaya shared about her relationship with an autowallah uncle that blossomed from a chance encounter of strangers to that of friendship as she found herself sitting in his home having lunch.
Kunal remembered his teaching assistant from 15 years ago who would always go beyond his duties to help students. He also shared about his friend’s parents who are a mixed race couple and how their home is an embodiment of values. Sheetal felt that he was a part of everyone’s story and that we are all together in them. He shared an interaction of his friend Atul with a blanket seller on bus who warmed him not just by selling his blanket but his kindness.
Jayesh bhai shared that we all have narayan (values) residing in our hearts. While our minds may be different, our culture, our language may be different; our hearts are one. As we all sat in the circle, even though we don’t know each other, there was so much love and respect and patience as we listened to each other. He shared from a teacher-student relationship the world now needs a relationship of friendship, of maitri, which is what Moved by Love is. It is dosti, it is love.
After lunch, we all gathered again in the Maitri hall. With a beautiful video of a simple act of caring that created endless ripples, we delved deeper into the lineage that sowed the seeds and nourished the soil for Moved by Love to emerge.
Sheetal and Bhumika together shared about the beginning of ServiceSpace from a simple project of designing websites for non-profits to its present form and the three organising principles that hold us. Sharing stories of simple acts from the ecosystem, they talked about how operating from these principles, there is an individual and collective shift from consumption to contribution, transaction to trust, scarcity to abundance, and isolation to community. We all were then divided into 4 groups and in the smaller circle we reflected upon different shifts we have experienced or wish to experience.
In the evening Kishan and Sanchi warmly welcomed us into Safai Vidyalaya and Gandhi Ashram sharing with all of us the values that the space was built on and how it is continuing to serve. After that we all went to Seva Cafe, a restaurant that defies normal economics. It is a restaurant where staff and volunteers cook and serve loving meals and in the end present the guest with a cheque that just reads Rs 0 and a little note “Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those dine after you.”
While on her travels, Saaya had visited Seva Cafe and felt such a connection with the space that she stayed back and has been volunteering there every day, for the last one month. She introduced us to the space, she calls her home away from home and invited us to a meal that was akin to prasad. From there Ashima took us to an evening of stories and songs offered by participants and volunteers. Siddharth and Kunal both shared poems that have been close to their hearts. Devesh and Trupti sang soulful bhajans and Bhumika sang what a wonderful world.
Nandini shared how kindness is like a boomerang. Remembering her college days, she shared how one day when one of her closest friends was going through a low phase, she had asked her to dig a pit in the ground, put all her worries in it and then cover it back with mud. Mitti pao yaar! That one message moved her friend so much that she let go of all her fears and insecurities. Many years after during one of her low phases, her friend reminded her of the same mitti pao act. She had completely forgotten about it and the simple act helped her clear all her doubts and confusions. In fact in the evening she had also initiated a few of us into the mitti pao practice and helped us shed some of our worries.
Bindiya synchronised our heartbeats with little theatrical games and then shared her experiences of traveling to unknown places and always finding kindness from strangers at the least expected place. Her interactions with a drunk guy on the train and a sandwich seller on the streets of Paris led her to question our stereotypical mindset when it comes to certain communities and helped her break the barrier of fear she had.
The next morning Devendra bhai welcomed us to hands activities by sharing stories from his time of working with Ishwar kaka. One of the most important lessons he learnt and shared with us was how Ishwar kaka always focused on amplifying and appreciating the good. He never preached or advised but just did the work because it was the right work. Devendra bhai urged us to shed all our doubts on self and the universe and just take the first step towards the right work.
With that we all divided ourselves into four teams and each group went to spend the next couple of hours diving their hands and hearts into different activities like gardening, painting dustbins, making brooms, cleaning and cooking.
In Kabir ashram, the participants had prepared a wholesome meal of kadhi-khichdi while immersing themselves into the spiritual environment of the ashram. They greeted the rest of us with music, dance and hugs. As we all sat down for lunch, Jayesh bhai spoke about the importance of waiting till everyone is served and praying at the beginning of the meal. He also stressed on the importance of patience in those who are serving.
In the evening Steve introduced the concept of triads and all of us divided into groups of three with each of us taking on the roles of a story-teller, listener and observer in rotation. We learnt a lot from each other’s stories and journey’s as we listened deeply, witnessed stories and shared from the heart.
As the evening drew to a close, all of us sat for an Awakin gathering followed by a reading and a round of reflections. And then in silence we all moved towards a silent dinner to the sounds of “guru om guru…” sang by volunteers.
The day of the heart opened with Jayesh bhai speaking about his own journey with sanitation, service and love. His deep learnings from his father who even in his last breath thought of others and constantly served thousands of beings throughout his lifetime.
Sheetal then introduced the sacred practice of 3 steps and a bow, a pilgrimage that Rev. Heng Sure and Heng Chow went on for 2 years and 9 months and a pilgrimage that we have been taking in every retreat. With a simple message from Rev. Heng Sure;
“Forget the harvest,
As much as you seek,
thats how much you will be obstructed.
Don't seek enlightenment,
Steve led the way as we all bowed to the universe. As we returned, every heart was overflowing with what they had just experienced. 1…2… 3… steps and a bow; bowing to the universe, bowing to the good in me and the good in you. Sheetal concluded the three magical days with a simple message:
“I am because you are.”