| Change Yourself, Change the World ServiceSpace is a global platform for generosity-driven projects. We leverage technology to inspire and empower peole to do small acts of service. By honoring both internal change and external impact, we aim to support a shift from consumption to contribution, transaction to trust, isolation and community, and scarcity to abundance. generosity, gift economy, volunteer, nonprofit, inspiration, good news, service eng (Service Space) Wed, 22 Feb 2017 00:34:21 -0800 Jaideep 2.0: My story of turning Heartpreneur Jaideep shares ... <a href=""><img alt="inclusion retreat servicespace" itemprop="image" src="" style="height:464px; width:696px" title="inclusion retreat" /></a><br /> inclusion retreat gang :)<br /> <br /> I had heard that there are many monks in the Himalayas who meditate deeply and pray for the well being of this world. I had never believed it because I used to only believe what I saw. Fast forward two months &ndash; now I see what I believe! How did this shift come about?&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Let me walk you through my initial steps in the hardest journey of moving from&nbsp;Head to Heart!</b> <h3><b>From Transaction To Trust</b></h3> Over the last 2 years, I have been fortunate enough to have been part of numerous events. Event management skills came to me without a degree. My friends have often seen me spending sleepless nights and running around with the event flow during events. And here I was, visiting the Moved by Love community where I was part of an&nbsp;<a href="">Inclusion retreat</a>, and there was no event flow!<br /> <br /> It was all about tuning in &ndash; not with our heads, but with our hearts &ndash; and seeing beautiful emergence, surpassing boundaries that a defined event flow would restrict you to.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Magic is in Heart and all of us are definitely magicians! We just need to learn the art of Heart.</b><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:420px; width:695px" /><br /> <b>Start-up Service retreat gang&nbsp;</b> <h3><br /> <b>From Consumption to Contribution</b></h3> <br /> The virtual world we have created has forced our Heads into consumption mode; be it news, social media feeds, gossip, theories or philosophy. We aspire to contribute towards making this world a better place. But how can infertile soil yield nutritious fruit? Isn&rsquo;t it futile?&nbsp;<b>Unless we unlearn whatever we have consumed, how can we cultivate love and compassion?</b><br /> I was lucky enough to travel by train to Pune from Ahmadabad with a Himalayan yogi, Joseph-ji. He shared the essence of life with me in a couple of sentences. He told me, <blockquote>Jaideep, there is no materialistic path nor spiritual path. There is only one path &ndash; in which we give and grow.</blockquote> While washing dishes, while tuning into collective wisdom, while having spirited midnight talks, while enjoying all the &lsquo;masti&rsquo; in a ten-day dorm stay, while munching on little snack a kitchen volunteer offered, while hearing deep whispers in silence &ndash;&nbsp;<b>my heart moved towards contribution, dissolving bit by bit the ego and ignorance.</b><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:754px; width:696px" /><br /> <b>Vipassana at Dhammagiri&nbsp;</b> <h3><br /> <br /> <b>From Scarcity To Abundance</b></h3> <br /> Previously, a social entrepreneur from a corporate background in me always made note of the scarcity my tiny organisation faced. This 3-day&nbsp;<a href="">startup service retreat</a>&nbsp;initiated my&nbsp;<b>inner transformation towards becoming a Heart-preneur</b>. What followed was a life-altering experience of&nbsp;<a href="">Vipassana</a>. It led me to cultivate a farming mindset and stillness, with which came a deep reverence for nature, and the belief that he who offers food will never be hungry. Those were my first glimpses of abundance.<br /> <br /> The oldest of the 6 monks I had met over 2 months,&nbsp;<b>Dada Vaswaniji</b>, gave me a real definition of abundance when he answered a query regarding how many people (numerically &ndash; easily more than thousand!) worked at Vaswani mission. His answer was, <blockquote>One! All our hearts are connected and one heart is working for all us!</blockquote> I have to mention about 2 other monks in normal robes who are supporting KnowYourStar with financial &amp; intellectual capital. You didn&rsquo;t see their names? That&rsquo;s what they asked for- to be invisible force nudging us to keep doing good.&nbsp;<b>How do I repay the abundance they are showering?</b>&nbsp;I think I can only pay it forward&hellip;<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:522px; width:696px" /><br /> Educators Retreat gang&nbsp; <h3><br /> <br /> <b>From Plan And Execute To Search And Amplify</b></h3> <br /> I have had a few opportunities to develop my leadership skills before, thanks to my school and college (who elected me as the leader for reasons unknown), and I learnt how to plan and execute. But in the &lsquo;<a href="">Many-to-Many</a>&rsquo; era, this approach is not sufficient. I realised the need to cultivate (deep values) more consciously, although we did few aspects unconsciously at KnowYourStar and&nbsp;<a href="">India Inclusion Summit</a>, where we searched and amplified the smallest of things. Small is always beautiful &amp; more than that, it makes you a instrument to be a ladder, through which new leaders are born in many to many context. In this era, where we have hundred trillion billion connections, how do we bring out collective intelligence to make the world (inner &amp; outer) better? we need&nbsp;<a href="">laddership</a>&nbsp;to search &amp; amplify&hellip;<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:464px; width:696px" /><br /> <b>Gandhi 3.0&nbsp;</b> <h3><br /> <br /> <b>Considering my work as a&nbsp;</b><b><em>Sadhana (practice/worship)</em></b><b>&nbsp;towards my&nbsp;</b><b><em>Shuddi (purification)</em></b></h3> <br /> As the days went on, I started listening more. It gave me deep satisfaction to think of everything that my team and I do. We do our work ethically, with pure intentions &ndash; something that I now see as a gift we have received unknowingly to purify ourselves to reach the truth &ndash; while still being present in society to engage with our daily chores. Most of the work that my team and I do has now shifted from internet to &lsquo;inner-net&rsquo; &ndash; the strongest connection ever!<br /> <br /> Rev. Heng Sure&rsquo;s&nbsp;<a href="">anti-greed mantra&nbsp;</a>reverberates through me and so does the presence of another of the monks in my life-&nbsp;<a href="">Sheetal-ji</a>, who helped me rediscover my love of music, understanding the lyrics of many a songs, while enjoying the essence of it. It&rsquo;s a good life!<br /> <br /> Thank you for reading this and I hope you it helps you be as inspired as I am. If you want to learn more, get in touch with me for a heart-to-heart conversation.<br /> <br /> &nbsp;<b>I have plenty of stories to share</b>&nbsp;&ndash; both of monks and those wearing normal robes! Some defy logic, some bring smiles to faces, some create a sense of peace, some instill a respect of death, some show the truth, some make you believe, some are just unbelievable(!), some very heartwarming, and some about those love warriors &ndash; the ones creating a safer world in the Himalayas and beyond.<br /> &nbsp;... Jaideep Rao Wed, 15 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 Samdarshan - Learnings from ESI Christopher shares ... <br /> Between October, 2015 and January, 2017, I spent a cumulative total of 13 months living at ESI next to the Hriday Kunj, in one of the &ldquo;Be&rdquo; meditation huts. What unfolded in between turned out to be a somewhat unexpected and arduous inner journey&mdash;the potency of which I am just starting to get a glimpse of now, having left that sacred space a little over two weeks ago.<br /> <br /> I want to share here what I consider to be the root of that experience. Root meaning the deepest learning, deepest insight, and deepest part of me that was affected by that journey. There are<br /> dozens of things I could focus on but I want to try and give words to the primary bhav that feels to be of greatest personal significance.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:480px; width:640px" /><br /> <br /> First, a brief introduction for those that don&rsquo;t me. In 1999, when I was still in college, I met an Ayurvedic doctor in London whose single treatment caused me to understand that everything we tend to seek in the outside world (security, happiness, love) can be internally derived. I intuitively understood that this tool I had just experienced, Ayurvedic medicine, was a path to that end and that by cleansing your inner dirt, as this medicine does, your full human potential can be expressed effortlessly. At once, I realized there was not a more urgent task than this. I traveled back to New York City (my place of birth) inspired to find an Ayurvedic doctor there and continue with this work. Knowing whatever I would be doing in the future would not require academic education or credentials, I even considered dropping out of college (but did end up graduating in 2001 from NYU).<br /> <br /> Who am I? An intention to know myself and discover the &ldquo;Kingdom of Heaven&rdquo; described in the Bible. And the same could be said for all the time and activity that has past since. It&rsquo;s all a reflection of this. After that experience in London, a path opened up, one that I have been walking in trust ever since. That path led me to the underground electronic music industry, to an intense corporate<br /> consulting job, to California to be with my dad during his final days, to studying and practicing various methods of yoga and sadhana, to difficult relationships and dark nights of the soul, to Indian saints and Hindu temples, and then to Rwanda in E. Africa in 2009.<br /> <br /> When I tell this story about reaching Rwanda, I usually invoke Joseph Campbell and his famous quote, &ldquo;If you follow your bliss, doors will open where you would not have thought; and where<br /> there wouldn&rsquo;t be a door for anybody else.&rdquo; In Rwanda, I found my bliss. There, I had the blessed opportunity to work in a therapeutic context with a number of young adults who were left orphaned and severely traumatized by the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The heart breaking &ldquo;survivor&rdquo; stories I heard, seeing how my education in medicine could help, the exquisite sense of humanity I experienced from those with so little, and the joy of travel combined to form a question in my heart, &ldquo;How can I do this kind of work full-time?&rdquo;<br /> <br /> In 2011, I followed my bliss. I quit my job, gave up my home, and shed myself of the majority of my possessions and took a dive into the unknown. I reached Ahmedabad and the Gandhi Ashram and the rest, you could say, is history. The doors that Campbell spoke of, started to open. Present day, I spend large swaths of time in India and Kenya, traveling back and forth in a play of sadhana and seva. After more than six years of living like this, I think I can safely say an answer to the question I asked in Rwanda has come. That&rsquo;s enough about me. ;)<br /> <br /> So what was the root bhav of staying at ESI all these past many months? What was the result of merging with the heart centre of that special space? As I spoke about in last year&rsquo;s &ldquo;laddership&rdquo; retreat, the sanskrit term sam seemed to be following me around quite closely. My room at ESI is called Samagrata. An ashram I connected to intimately near campus is called Samdarshan, and the anchor of that space is called Swamini Guruma Samanand Saraswati.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:449px; width:650px" /><br /> <br /> Something was trying to inform me about essential sameness/absoluteness/completeness. I can be a terrible judger. Terrible. To the point I cause myself and others pain. That&rsquo;s not a<br /> quality that can hang around on the path to zero because it separates zero into one into two. When I judge, I separate myself (as superior) from the thing (usually a person or behavior) I&rsquo;m<br /> judging. Suffering and tension all around is the result.<br /> <br /> At ESI, we sometimes have issues with behavior (mine included) that breaks our fairly strict honor code. What I witnessed time and time again &mdash; much to my awe &mdash; was how those issues<br /> were given space to be, no different than our beautiful palms growing on the Dil Ki Rasta that appear to be &ldquo;in the way&rdquo; and requiring pruning. The issues were not immediately fixed. There<br /> were no sit down talks and the like. Instead, they were given a place at the table&mdash;in certain instances, appreciated even.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; float:left; height:267px; width:400px" />I heard Jayeshbhai say recently, concerning the &ldquo;administration&rdquo; of ESI, that he is not interested in perfection. He&rsquo;s not interested in correcting every single so called wrong. He said he&rsquo;s most interested in people being in a state of joy as they work (imagine!). To me, that means increasing your tolerance for people&rsquo;s idiosyncrasies. ESI is a space of cultivation or incubation, and Jayeshbhai similarly gives all its guests and residents space to cultivate themselves. Often that means allowing them to make mistakes or break the honor code.<br /> <br /> In a powerful sit about a week before I left, he told me directly that he is always ready to love and serve whoever, in whatever shape they are in, no matter what they have done and that he leaves administration and interventions to &ldquo;the space.&rdquo; In that exchange &mdash; and this is not an exaggeration &mdash; I felt as if I had been given a glimpse of what God&rsquo;s love is like. Universal.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:433px; width:650px" /><br /> <br /> Unconditional. Non-judgmental. Totally, 100% forgiving of every blasphemy. It was profoundly humbling knowing my own judgmental tendencies. Such was the root of my 13-month experience. Seeing (and receiving) this type of love and realizing that behind it lies samdarshan. Seeing all as the same. Seeing all as One, which means not believing in essential difference. Everything has its place. All the trouble in the world and in people has its rightful place. All the good, the same. Everything is playing its part. How can we, in our limited understanding of the whole, judge right, wrong, good, or bad? All labels dissolve. Nothing needs changing, nothing needs doing.<br /> <br /> With this understanding more firmly established in my heart, I realize you can relax more. You can let go of any need you might have to intervene but, instead, let things and people be, and allow whatever power that makes the seasons change, handle the rest. In the meantime, our job becomes to enjoy, love, and serve&hellip; for all is well.<br /> <br /> Though the seeds are still sprouting, I feel forever changed because of this unique experience and the love and I knowledge I received. It&rsquo;s as if a stuck window has been opened and the wind and sun are entering again to do their healing rounds. I&rsquo;ve even witnessed myself being more open and loving in instances where maybe that wouldn&rsquo;t have been the case before. I would like to end with a bow of deep gratitude, as well as with a prayer that this new awareness enables me to become a more refined instrument of service to the world, as well as a kinder human being.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:433px; width:650px" />... Christopher Lowman Tue, 14 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 Meals on Wheels Mumbai MBL shares ... Last Sunday, our dear Vidhi officially launched Meals on Wheels in Mumbai.<br /> <br /> Rupali and Ketan lovingly opened up their home (our home &mdash; as they put it) and 25 of us were there; the youngest volunteer was three (he was helping us shell peas) and the oldest, 80. Fragrant heart-shaped flower rangoli greeted us at the door and throughout the home (we also got a glimpse of Rupali's incredible paintings &mdash; she's a gifted artist).<br /> <br /> Vidhi steered us beautifully and Rahul as well as Darpan anchored us throughout. So many hands and hearts came together that day. Reshmi drove an hour and a half to celebrate her birthday with us. Most of the people present didn't know one another, but through the spirit of what we were doing together, felt a strong sense of connection with one another. As Darpan noted, many people shared that they wanted to do something for the community around them, but they weren't sure about what they could do, so they jumped at the opportunity to offer their hearts for Meals on Wheels.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:393px; margin:2px; width:700px" /><br /> Rahul and Kinnari set the tone of the morning by opening with a beautiful, deeply meaningful <a href="">song</a> about how love is meant to be shared and distributed. Love is like a wave, part of the great ocean, not like a contained puddle. Give because love always multiplies. So many present carried that spirit with them throughout.<br /> <br /> Vidhi spoke from her heart about the soulful connection she felt with everyone around and gave us poignant examples of how the lines between giving and receiving were often blurred and it was the love that flowed through us, the spirit with which we connected and offered the food and ourselves that mattered. It was lovely to hear her mother lovingly share that she was proud of her daughter's will and what came to fruition that day; she had always wondered about what Meals on Wheels was all about and it was special for her to share that experience with her daughter that day. Vidhi's aunt just wanted all of us to stay in that state of happiness. Kinnari's aunt who had bouts of fear on occasion, said she forgot all about how bad she felt in the presence of that much positive energy. Kinnari thanked everyone for coming from all parts of the city to be there that day. The Gandhi family that has served the community in Ghatkopar for a few decades now, were also present. We all felt the magic and power of Vidhi's positive intention that drew us together.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:524px; margin:2px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> Everyone shared in their own deep personal reflections about how the experience was about connection, happiness and the energy that we were putting out in the world &mdash; it was exciting to think about how far those vibrations would carry and how they would manifest. Thoughtful Vidhi sent us all an email in which she personally thanked each person for something specific that touched her. Sohum lovingly captured many of the <a href="">beautiful moments</a> on camera.<br /> <br /> Here is a beautiful <a href="">short video</a> on how Meals on Wheels began in Pune with Prem aunty; today she and Vinit anchor the cause there.<br /> <iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"></iframe><br /> Meals on Wheels can be held at any home, with any number of people. On average, four get together, but even two or three people could get together, hold this intention and experience the joy of connecting with one another and everyone around. Please contact Vidhi at or on <a href="tel:8055379362">8055379362</a> to get on the mailing list, to offer your home one Sunday (or any other day of the week that works for you), or to participate wherever Meals on Wheels is being held. It's portable and we hope it will, with your love and support, take root and rotate in different parts of the city organically.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:464px; margin:2px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> If you feel moved to write Vidhi a note about how you feel about her incredible work, please do.... MBL Volunteer Wed, 08 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 Video on Safai Vidyalaya Ranjan shares ... <iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="394" src=";controls=0&amp;showinfo=0" width="700"></iframe>... Ranjan Gupta Tue, 07 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 Principal's Round Table of 2016 Urmila shares ... <br /> <b><img src="" style="height:332px; width:595px" /></b><br /> The last Principal&rsquo;s Round Table of 2016 was an event to remember!&nbsp; It was attended by over one hundred educators including many Principals and Heads, representing schools and institutions across Pune and even a Principal and teacher who came all the way from Mumbai, inspired by Nipun&rsquo;s talk there.<br /> <br /> The evening was opened by Mrs. Malati Kalmadi who, on behalf of Kannada Sangha, warmly welcomed Nipun and everyone who was in attendance.<br /> <br /> Mrs. Vijayam Kartha introduced the speaker in glowing terms and showed a short slide presentation explaining about Poorna Pune and Education Today Society Tomorrow. She also informed us of the <em>change of name</em> from Principal&rsquo;s Round Table to Education Leaders Movement.<br /> <br /> I had never believed that Compassion could be Cultivated, but Nipun, through <a href="">his slides</a>&nbsp;and <a href="">stories</a>&nbsp;and <a href="">Compassion Quotient</a>,&nbsp;proved me completely wrong!<br /> <br /> There are so many beautiful stories on the many websites, I invite you to spend some time browsing through them for ideas and inspiration.&nbsp; There is also the 21 day challenge that we can all do individually and with our friends, families and in our classrooms: <a href=""></a><br /> <br /> <b>Very important learnings:</b><br /> <br /> Kindness and compassion are innate, inborn.&nbsp; We just have to make space for it to blossom and grow. This can happen if we move from a factory model of schooling to a gardening model of planting seeds, nurturing the soil, providing care and patiently growing our beautiful gardens.<br /> <br /> There are many tools through which we can sensitize and awaken our own <a href="">Compassion Quotient</a><br /> <br /> Kindness has a ripple effect that touches others exponentially.<br /> <br /> Compassion is a muscle that needs to and can be developed.<br /> <br /> Generosity opens the heart and breaks barriers between people.<br /> <br /> To be able to give, you have to learn to receive.<br /> <br /> There was a half hour of Q and A during which several school Principals and Teachers as well as Heads of various initiatives shared their experiments in spreading kindness. It was inspiring to hear stories of our own friends in Pune who have already been doing so much towards Cultivating Compassion!<br /> <br /> Arun closed the evening with a heartfelt thank you to Nipun, all the people who had worked to organize the evening, and all the over one hundred people who attended.&nbsp; Urmila presented Nipun with a token of our gratitude, and we all went home determined to Be the Change!<br /> <br /> <img src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:351px; width:624px" /><br /> <br /> Please watch for the invitation to the: <a href=""></a><br /> <br /> Sheetal had this great idea that we all start together on the 14th of February.<br /> <br /> Please also collect the <a href="">Smile Decks</a> especially ordered by Arun for all of you who participated that day.&nbsp; Or let me know how to send it to your school.... Urmila Samson Mon, 06 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 Learning the Art of Surrender Trupti shares ... <em>[At the Laddership retreat held in November 2016, Sachi shares from a deep space about one key shift that she experienced in the past year. In her journey with Ashiyana and Shunya, she reflects about deepening her values and learning to let go and surrender to the higher design.]</em><br /> <br /> I don&rsquo;t know what am I going to say and I have been trying to put this presentation together to make sense of what am I going to say in the next 15 odd minutes. One key shift that I felt in the last year was to let go and actually learning to surrender and probably this moment here is teaching me how to surrender again.<br /> <br /> <b>All Work is a Prayer to God</b><br /> I often think that I am a child of serendipity because life brings me to different situations and I just figure out how to deal with them. As you all know, I have twins:) Yash, my brother made me sign some papers and I became the partner in <a href="">Shunya Alternative</a>s and I thought, I din&rsquo;t have to do anything, I am just helping him fulfill his dream. At the same time in <a href="">Ashiyana</a>, a very dear friend with whom I started Ashiyana, quit. I had actually gone to that meeting to quit myself and she ended up quitting. So, I had to figure this all out - that has been the journey for the past two years. The first year was really disturbing because if you know me, you know how much I love to travel. I don&rsquo;t stay in Bombay for more than 15 days in a month. I like to travel to different places, volunteer and have my hands and legs in many different things and at many different places and that made it difficult to settle down.<br /> In the last one-year, these two strong reminders have guided me. Once I was having this late night conversation at my house with Nipunbhai and he said, <em>&ldquo; ek jaga par toh takvu pade&rdquo;</em> . (You have to set your foot at one place). He asked me to do an experiment, take one jar and put peanuts in it and take another empty jar and one by one transfer all the peanuts in the other jar. And try to do this everyday. I thought this was impossible and I can&rsquo;t do it.<br /> The second one is , two years ago, Guri didi, after Start up Service said &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t think you are doing Shunya or the Childrens&rsquo; home volunteering or ad films. Think of every day as you are waking up and whatever work you are doing is a prayer to God and just believe in that&rdquo;. So in the past year these two things have really helped me ground myself and say that <em>aje je pan aavse eh josu</em> (will see what comes up today) this is my prayer to God. I think we are constantly shifting and the shift is really about deepening our values and for me personally; the intention or practice of surrendering has deepened a little bit in the past year.<br /> <br /> <b>Looking from the Lens of Inner Journey</b><br /> Kabir says,<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:239px; margin:4px; width:400px" /><br /> Slow your mind, everything happens in its own time.<br /> A gardener may water his plants with a 100 pots<br /> but the fruits will only come when it is time.<br /> <br /> This has been my constant learning from the Childrens&rsquo; home, in Shunya where we have been struggling a lot and it is not been easy to take these decisions alone. We have been talking a lot about universe&rsquo;s design and I don&rsquo;t know what the design is but it will happen, if it is meant to.<br /> Another learning that has come up very strongly this year and a quote by Rumi that resonates with it is,<br /> <em>&ldquo;Beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I will meet you there&rdquo;</em><br /> I am someone who really gets stuck about what is right and what is wrong/unfair and doing things the right way. For instance, I was put on this High Court committee to recommend different changes that they can make in the Childrens&rsquo; home and to recommend the High court to give instructions to the Childrens&rsquo; home. Four NGOs were put on this and every time the high court date would come and every time we would go and visit, there is this storm inside me and I don&rsquo;t know what is right. We have done four High court meetings so far and it&rsquo;s been traumatic and I was like if I am doing this for my inner journey, then why am I feeling this way, I can&rsquo;t be like this therefore, I have to drop this. I am looking at things the way I want them to be and so I really have to drop my expectations. Looking at everything from the lens of inner journey has really been a big learning.<br /> <br /> <b>Being an Instrument</b><br /> Another reminder for me is from the Gita - &ldquo;I am not the doer, I am just an instrument.&rdquo;<br /> Yet there are days when I go to the Children&rsquo;s home and feel that &ldquo;Yes, I am doing everything!&rdquo; but the constant reminders help me ground myself. I will share this one incident when I went to this other Childrens&rsquo; home where children get transferred from one home to another home. These are children who mostly don&rsquo;t have families or have broken families and so I go to meet them, to know them, and to just sit and listen to them. Once I was going to meet them and I had two donors with me and I was just taking a round with them when I heard these sounds of pain and shouting. I get closer to the probation department and I see that three children are sitting like hen as part of punishment and one kid is being beaten by another child with a raw stick in his hand and the probation officer is standing right there beating him up and I was shaken. The donors were shaken and everybody was shaken and I immediately went to the superintendent and told that we need to sort this out. I found out that these kids who are 16-17 were caught watching a blue film. This is an institution where you find blue films, drugs, easy get access to charas, etc. And I knew in my heart that violence is not the solution. One of them, Raghu (name changed), had come out during vacations and through Ashiyana, with the help of a friend we supported him in learning English. After this episode at the home, I was leaving and I had no idea what was I doing. Just then another kid runs up to me and says &ldquo;<em>aapko Raghu ne sorry bola hai</em> &ldquo; (Raghu said sorry to you) and I could suddenly see the humanity. The child, who was watching a blue film, realised probably that he made a mistake and he was trying to relay to me, not to the superintendent or the probation officer but to me that he was sorry and I was just really moved by that. For a week and a half, I could not go to the Children&rsquo;s home. I was really disturbed and I wrote to a bunch of our noble friends and it took me exactly one email to get back and say that Yeah, what am I thinking? I am not the doer, I am just the instrument. And I thought, so in that moment of understanding the higher design, It was good that I reached and I was able to save the three other children from being beaten up.<br /> <br /> <b>Honouring the Divine Force </b><br /> I have always felt that a higher power is operating through me. I don&rsquo;t know what that is. When we were making Pav bhaji with 100 volunteers for feeding 490 children, it was pouring. Never ever in a closed remand home have there been 100 volunteers. The superintendent came and asked what is this drama all about and I said &ldquo;<em>Sir aap ne toh bola ke volunteers allowed hai</em> (You only said that the volunteers are allowed). We had more than 3,000 breads that were toasted and I remember it was pouring. The walking path was flooded and we had to take big vessels from the kitchen to the Children&rsquo;s home across. Just when we had to transport those vessels, it started pouring even heavily and I felt like it&rsquo;s testing time☺, we have to do it and the volunteers, without even thinking, just ran across that place! Darpan, who was one of them, felt very clearly that he didn&rsquo;t know from where we all got the strength from but it happened!<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:434px; margin:2px; width:650px" /><br /> <br /> <b>Doing What I Can and Letting Go</b><br /> One clear question that I kept asking myself while working in the children&rsquo;s home was that am I doing this for myself or for the cause that I am working for? Often people ask, are you happy? Are you doing what makes you happy? Honestly, in the last one year, I have spent very less time with the children. Most of my time is spent in organising, handling staff and I am feeling like that is what I have to do right now. It is not about what my calling is or what is making me happy. Those are all secondary things, so I don&rsquo;t know what is right or wrong.<br /> We just started working with children in conflict with law and on Teachers&rsquo; day, where we just created a space for the children to organise the event themselves and have a party - it was so magical and so beautiful.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:441px; margin:2px; width:650px" /><br /> <br /> There was this one child who did not fit in. He is 16 years old and he is alleged for rape and I could not understand why he was there. We had a deeper conversation and figured that someone had falsely alleged him to be inside and the victim&rsquo;s mother was asking for Rs 30,000. I tried to do everything, I made him talk to the psychiatrist, got a report in his favour, spoke to the judge and so on. Then I realized that my role is not to try and get him out, will just leave this to fate and God. Instead, I started to focus on his 12th standard exams that were important and every week it was just about going and counselling, pushing him to study inside the home and telling him to be happy wherever he is.<br /> Here&rsquo;s another incident where I feel like it&rsquo;s all planned and I am no one to decide anything. At Shunya, we were having a busy Diwali week and packing orders like crazy and there was so much to do. But I had committed to a meeting with a lawyer and the psychiatrist. I was talking to Yash about it and he felt that it was more important for me to finish the Diwali orders. I decided to cancel the meeting and tell the lawyer to go meet the psychiatrist without me. Suddenly Yash changes his mind and said that it is important for me to be there and that I should go. After meeting the lawyer, I was sitting and talking in the room and suddenly a probation officer brings a vulnerable child, who has been inside the home for about two years. The child had cut himself with a blade. My counsellor and the psychiatrist tried to talk to the child but the child would not talk to them. Then I went and I just held his hand and said that you don&rsquo;t need to talk, we will just sit. We sat for 10 minutes and he cannot speak and so in sign language I asked him what is the problem, and he said that, &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to be here&rdquo;. I said okay, I get it but that doesn&rsquo;t mean that you cut yourself. So where are you from, lets figure out. I said all the different cities and when I said Delhi, he said &ldquo;Yes, I am from Delhi&rdquo;. Beyond that, he cannot express and so we made a deal saying you will not cut yourself and I will try to get you out of here within a month. And I don&rsquo;t know whether I will be able to do that or not but I gave him that promise and the child was like still not smiling and I tickled him. Slowly he eased out and after doing some drawing, he went back to the children&rsquo;s home. I came back home and I was telling Yash that I did not go there to fix the meeting between the lawyer and the psychiatrist; I was in the home for that child and there are 450 children in the home and I don&rsquo;t know who I will be able to help and who I will not be able to help. If I am not able to help, it is in that child&rsquo;s karma to suffer and it is in my karma to help or not help. So, I am just really being present to that every day.<br /> <br /> <b>Holding the Intention of Peace Circles</b><br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:180px; width:180px" />I have been having this strong feeling of listening to my inner voice. I got some books on Peace Circles and I have been reading about holding these circles in the juvenile home and in Children&rsquo;s home. There is this another Children&rsquo;s home in Matunga where I go every Saturday to just listen to the children and give them that space of sharing and I have been really pained by seeing that there is so much of potential getting wasted. The children want to change but they are not able to. The last time I visited, I told the superintendent that that I am going to sit in a circle every week with the children. We are going to put a six months program in place and let&rsquo;s see how it goes. I have no idea how time will expand, I have no idea who will show up but I have faith. This is just an intention that I have put out in the universe and I am hoping things will happen, when they need to.<br /> <br /> <b>Deep Gratitude to the Community</b><br /> I have shared about all of you supporting Ashiyana in so many ways. In Shunya, literally, Yash and me are two employees. And then I have Meghna who does graphics, I have Sima who does branding, I have Siddharth who helps in finance, I have Nimo, Neil, Anjali who do a weekly call with us. Everyone knows how busy Anjali is but every week she will spend one hour to have a call with us. I don&rsquo;t know, I just don&rsquo;t have words to express my gratitude to this community because of each of you, I am.<br /> Thank you. Thank you. I feel like in that little seed that Nipun bhai had sown, now a little leaf has come out.... Trupti Pandya Fri, 03 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 heART Circle - expressions of love MBL shares ... <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:200px; width:200px" />My heart is happy for my dear friend Rupali whose long held dream finally manifested yesterday. A warm and sensitive being, intuitive and gifted artist, Rupali deeply understands the transformative power of art and wanted to share that with the world.<br /> <br /> Rupali had shared her dream with many of us at the recent Startup Service retreat and was encouraged by all. As one of the participant recalls, &ldquo;I witnessed a big change in Rupali at the end of three days. Her body language was different, her confidence was very high and moreover she was ready and happy to give.&rdquo; Rupali held her first heART circle on the 5th of January and it was incredible!<br /> <br /> It was also a resounding success at many levels - 20 people attended and several teared up during the reflection session because of the love they felt pouring out of their hearts.<br /> <br /> The space was suffused with warmth and love. Rupali had thoughtfully prepared paint kits and baskets, one for each participant. Everyone painted against the backdrop of soothing music and then shared reflections on their work.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:365px; width:650px" /><br /> In the end participants were invited to share what moved them and the story of their paintings. We left feeling deeply connected, loved and filled with peace.&nbsp;Thank you Rupali for creating and holding space in inspiring and loving ways by just being you.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:450px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> More on heART space in Rupali's words:<br /> <br /> heART Circle is a field which is charged with love, whose ordinariness is rich with possibilities of connecting with our heart and experiencing the magic that unfolds from that space.<br /> <br /> The idea of heART Circles is to express ourselves through art. In this, it is the process and not the product that is important. By not judging ourselves with what we are creating, we tap into our creative source, where there are no models to follow and no examples to copy or reproduce. We follow just one strong principle &mdash; when you change within, the world changes. Or, in the words of J. Krishnamurti, &ldquo;If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:488px; width:650px" /><br /> ( All photographs lovingly taken by Vidhi Desai)<br /> (These heART circles are held in Ghatkopar East; no charge; please email for more information)<br /> &nbsp;... MBL volunteer Tue, 31 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0800 Can we work with the power of small? Goli shares ... <b>&ldquo;We are here to hospice the old systems, and midwife the emergent new ways&rdquo;</b><br /> <br /> Typically the term &ldquo;startup&rdquo; connotes small groups of passionate people working away in obscure corners. They work and work, and after lots of sleepless nights and empty pizza boxes, aspiring to create something that would change the world. At some point, maybe earlier or maybe later, that innovation takes on a commercial component. This startup must grow! And the vehicle for this is inevitably commerce and &ldquo;markets.&rdquo; From here, the narrative of faster and slower takes firm hold, so much that it becomes intertwined and impossible for you to think of the &ldquo;startup&rdquo; without thinking of it as &ldquo;business&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Is there another narrative that&rsquo;s possible? In most cases, the startup itself was not a business; it was an innovation that the people behind it wanted to put out in the world, in service to the world. The vehicle to achieve this was business.<br /> <br /> At Startup Service, we come together each year to challenge this narrative. Not as a critique, but to create a space to ask the questions and think differently. Instead of looking at returns and profits can we imagine a different matrix? Instead of a labor of commerce, what emerges if we proceed forward purely as a labor of love? No compromises. We challenge ourselves to trust the universe, which is vast and beyond our full understanding, to provide not what we and our startup want, but what we need. Rather than only fundraise, we practice acceptance and humility, and try to recognize the many <a href="">forms of capital</a> that are around us. Can we creatively leverage them to work within our context?<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:391px; margin:4px; width:700px" /><br /> This leads to a different logic than the traditional startup optimization for big, fast, and scalable. Can we work with the power of small?&nbsp;<a href="">Small is beautiful</a>, because small is rooted in connections. And small is simple. When complexity drops, money can drop, and LOL (Labor of Love) takes center stage. Over the past three years Startup Service has evolved to become a one of its kind platform for &ldquo;soulpreneurs&rdquo; to birth labor of love ventures, to create ripples of positive deviance and social change by manifesting externally deeply held personal values and convictions.<br /> <br /> <b>&ldquo;Good teachers don&rsquo;t teach from the book. They transform the heart&rdquo;</b><br /> <br /> Over the last three annual events, Deven, Nipun, and the Startup Service Team have evolved the format. In this fourth iteration, 31 soulpreneurs were invited to ESI, outside of Ahmedabad, to gather for three and a half days. Participants came with projects at all stages, from conceptual seed to prototype to several years mature ventures. On the first day, after welcome and orientation, 21 of the participants gave a five minute pitch describing their LOL ventures. They focussed on what personal meaning their initiative had to themselves and the impact they envisioned for the audience they served. The &ldquo;intentions&rdquo; spanned agriculture, art, games, community building, acts of kindness, mentorship, youth programs, personal healing, and more. <b>Parul </b>and <b>Gaurav</b> shared their idea to connect startups in India with highly capable professional advisors, in the spirit of gift. <b>Jaideep</b> shared about Mentor India, an initiative with a group of like minded techies and writers to provide training and support to students in a pay-it-forward model. <b>Nilima</b> shared about her work to empower women, reconcile gender inequalities, and balance masculine and feminine energies through a entrepreneurship model she calls &ldquo;Shaktipreneurship&rdquo;. <b>Jyotsna</b> shared her reflections about empowering women through employment generation but leading with inner transformation: her current project &lsquo;Maitri&rsquo; is to develop intergenerational wisdom amongst these women. <b>Vijay </b>shared about his project &lsquo;Jagriti&rsquo; which aims to keep the rich tradition of artists from Kathputli colony alive by using their art as their means of empowerment.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:525px; margin:4px; width:700px" /><br /> Of those 21, the collective cast their support for eight to be supported for the remainder of the retreat. Of those selected, two were asked if they would be open to anonymously paying forward their slot to two other participants in the top 10 whom the volunteer staff felt would benefit greatly from the weekend. Without hesitation, those two individuals silently gave their nod in agreement for the others. In that spirit, all participants self-selected into groups around each of the eight to make a commitment to support each intention for the remainder of the event.<br /> <br /> The eight selected LOL projects were to receive a very precious gift: a commitment from a group of accomplished individuals, putting aside their own work, with no agenda or strings attached, unconditionally lend their time, attention, and skills. &ldquo;What you are doing is important. I am here to give you undivided attention and support to help you take next steps in achieving your vision&rdquo;. For the group members, it was an opportunity to <a href="">ladder</a> another person with sincere motivations, and in this process also gain valuable insight and perspective on their own work.<br /> <br /> Groups spent the next couple of days (and nights :)) refining their intentions through the startup service canvas and through in-depth discussion with their team members. Team leaders brought out challenges and edges in their journey; group members listened, asked tough questions, and offered insights and expertise from their own journeys.<br /> <br /> Over three days, various activities were planned to help participants to reflect and think more deeply about their intentions. On the second day of the retreat, teams went out into the streets of Ahmedabad to practice the core values each project wanted to manifest in the world. <b>Rupali</b>&rsquo;s &ldquo;Discovering Yourself Through Art&rdquo; team created a street mural and invited passersby to contribute. The <a href="">Planet Earthlings</a> team lead by <b>Greg </b>played the <a href=";">Acting Kindly card game</a> with groups in the street. <b>Sheetal </b>approached a group of bank workers out for ice cream that caught on and thought they could play at their bank. <b>Nidhi&rsquo;s</b> &ldquo;Just Being&rdquo; team went into <a href="">Seva Cafe</a> and assisted the kitchen staff with preparing that evening&rsquo;s dinner. They created their own healthy dosa dish and a tasty pancake dessert.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:525px; margin:4px; width:700px" /><br /> During Seva Cafe visit, <b>Bhaskar </b>inspired us with stories about how this cafe, run purely on gift economy, has created shifts with guests; one police officer who was cynical of the &ldquo;wealth&rdquo; box later learned the power of it when he couldn&rsquo;t bring himself to spend the notes he took from it (and instead gave back), and another woman who came to be nourished at Seva Cafe during her pregnancy even as the rest of her family ate at a nearby restaurant. Before dinner, <b>Komnieve</b> shared insights from his entrepreneurial journey, including the importance of selecting team members wisely and looking for people with a <a href="">growth mindset</a> instead of the smartest. <b>Khitij</b> shared about how his work as a social entrepreneur providing guidance counselling to government school students led him to learn about the importance of fighting the ego, despite success and accolades. <b>Tootles</b> shared a very touching, soulful song she wrote herself, the last one she shared with her brother before his untimely passing. In place of applause, she asked each person to hold a lyric of the song in their mind in silence.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:393px; margin:4px; width:700px" /><br /> On day three <b>Arun dada</b> ,an 85 year old Gandhian and <b>Rajni Bhakshi,</b> an author, journalist and Gandhi Peace Fellow opened up the often not so well understood vision of Gandhi. Arun dada spoke of purification of the mind (chitt shuddhi) and the means to attain this (sadhan shuddhi ) as pivotal to all work. Rajni spoke about Gandhi&rsquo;s idea of <a href="">trusteeship</a> and brought out a clear distinction between the ancient bazaars and modern markets and finding that balance for co-existence. She shared an example, of when Singer Company introduced hand sewing machines in India, Gandhi appreciated it because it did cut down the drudgery and was a good creative solution. She pointed that Gandhi&rsquo;s vision of inner transformation and social change got quiet convoluted in fifty years of independence in the debate of traditional vs modern. <em>And,</em> <em>that is where the point got lost because forward is not good to bad or bad to good, forward is different.</em> She asked a powerful question &mdash; &lsquo;In fifty years of independence the question is still the same - Are we truly free / Independent? Or are we more bound by the forces of the market?&rsquo; She shared that freedom is not a result and therefore Freedom has to be in the beginning not in the end.<br /> <br /> Some questions that came up in the group after the sharing were: <ul> <li>Capitalism has helped many people come out of abject poverty and overall lifespans have increased. Capitalism has given many other great gifts. So, can capitalism and love co-exist?<br /> Today capital markets are structured in a way that global markets are dictating every movement. Where is the space of ethical investment? And for real change do we really need 20 trillion?<br /> So many young people coming out of college have questions. What would you tell people like me who are tired of searching, especially when there is so much happening in the world?<br /> Can inner transformation be the fulcrum governing all work?<br /> You cannot solve the same problem with the same consciousness. What are the examples you are seeing where sadhan shuddhi has happened in business spaces?</li> </ul> <br /> <br /> On the final day of the retreat, the eight groups presented their projects to the collective and a distinguished panel that included a grassroots changemaker, several social entrepreneurs, a CSR director, and a senior business leader. <b>Rupali</b>&rsquo;s team presented their concept of birthing art circles in living rooms and studios everywhere. <b>Preet</b>&rsquo;s #Happy2Give platform is an incubator for local, kind activities for a city near you. <b>Kunal</b> shared Chalees and his vision to transform learning by producing fun and engaging educational videos out of dry Indian textbook material. <b>Bea</b> wants to use art and the medium of paper to create cross-border collaboration, sharing and transformation. <b>Nidhi</b> envisions transforming her own home into a holistic healing space which integrates healthy food, mindful cooking, and strengthening yoga. <b>Greg</b>&rsquo;s Planet Earthlings is a global platform for children around the world to collaborate on a kindness revolution, using online and offline games. <b>Tanaz</b> and her team shared their presence and the essence of Esta, which is about supporting and building community through the simple and subtle art of holding space. <b>Deepika</b> and her team presented their vision for empowering every woman and child in every village with a simple and cost-effective way for growing healthy food for family and community with <a href="">Ganga Maa Mandal kitchen garden technique</a>.<br /> <br /> The panellists for the final presentation Anar Patel (who gracefully wears many hats of a business woman, a social entrepreneur, a social worker, a mother and a wife), K. Thyagrajan (Mentopreneur &amp; Visiting Faculty at icreate &amp; Nirma University), Vandana Agarwal (a social entrepreneur, architect and an artist), Sheetal Shah (Indicorps Fellow &amp; Entrepreneur), Madhur Khanna ( Technologist from IIT &ndash; Kharagpur &amp; Community Mobiliser) were moved by the innovations shared, but especially the heart and passion that was behind each intention. Truly labor of love. Tyagi shares in a follow-up note:<br /> <br /> <em>Many thanks for your kind words...but it was equally my pleasure to be amongst you Bapu's experiments with 'truth', your experiments with 'love' have engaged my attention.<br /> <br /> This time around, I noticed that the 'emotive' involvement and expression of the participants was much higher (last year the teams had a tinch of 'business sense') and also that in each of the pivotal participant &mdash; leading/driving the project &mdash; there was this deep sense of having found the right place and environment to pour out their real self and also possibly get selfless feedback. That each of them was moved in one way or the other was very obvious.</em><br /> <br /> <b>&ldquo;The quieter you become, the more you can hear&rdquo;</b><br /> The group work and presentations were the visible fruits, but they were born on a field of incredible acts of kindness laid by participants and volunteers behind the scenes. Truly, there was a 9th invisible Startup Service group named &ldquo;Epic Tags&rdquo; that created non-stop joyful magic continuously. There was <b>Nilima</b> getting tagged with 8 extra copies of her book to gift to others, which required a volunteer to visit every bookstore in Ahmedabad. <b>Vipul</b>, served through his soulful Kabir music for an evening satsang, was left jaw-dropped to find that <b>Sheetal</b>, <b>Neerad</b>, <b>Anupreet</b>, and a team of invisible fans had designed and printed his first studio album, making the occasion the official launch. <b>Neil</b> was given a lifetime memory when a group of his staff members surprised him on stage and stood together as a team of CEOs. There was the hand-written notes and cards placed lovingly on every participant&rsquo;s bed, put together with a prayer and deep spirit of compassion by volunteers. There was <b>Deven&rsquo;s</b> (&ldquo;Daadi wale Baaba&rdquo;) tireless, continuous efforts starting several months in advance of the actual event, conducting phone calls with each and every participant and listening deeply to each one&rsquo;s journey with a spirit of service. There was <b>Vinit</b>&rsquo;s patient, quiet conversation with <b>Trupti</b> at Seva Cafe to help her gather her thoughts and deliver what one observer remarked was the best introduction of the space they&rsquo;d ever heard.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:393px; margin:4px; width:700px" /><br /> Vinit summed up the behind-the-scenes work in a post-event note giving thanks for the opportunity to see &ldquo;the other side&rdquo; of a MBL retreat:<br /> <br /> <em>Hello All,<br /> <br /> What a retreat it was, every-time I come home from the retreat, every-time I'm a little different person than who I was, I sincerely want to thank you all for the efforts you all have taken to make something like this a reality.<br /> <br /> This is the first time I've seen the other (volunteer) side of the retreat and I was amazed to see a full powerhouse in action. The way everyone comes together to put something like this come alive, oh my god, I was really blown away.<br /> <br /> I'd seen the magic happen before, but for the first time, I experienced how it happens, I loved it and I'm coming for volunteering many more times :D :D<br /> <br /> I'm in debt of you all for this experience.<br /> <br /> Love and hugs to you all. :) :)</em><br /> <br /> As Nipun reminded us, in such gatherings we hold the possibility of creating 100 million trillion connections. And each of these are threads that contain the possibility of beautiful ripples. When we trust in the value of relationships we see the value of materials pale in comparison. May we continue to co-create, through our inner work manifested externally, a vast and deep field of goodness to embrace the entire world.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:402px; margin:4px; width:700px" /><br /> &nbsp;... Goli (Rajesh Golani) Sat, 28 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0800 Seva Cafe on History Channel Kishan shares ... <iframe src="" width="450" height="254" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <BR> <br /> Imagine a Restaurant where there are no prices on the menu and where the check reads Rs.0 with only this footnote: &quot;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.&quot;<br /> <br /> That&#39;s Seva Cafe, a experiment in &#39;peer to peer&#39; generosity.<br /> <br /> Driven by volunteers and operated by modest staff, our meals are cooked and served with love, and offered to the guest as a genuine gift. To complete the full circle of giving and sustain this experiment, guests make contributions in the spirit of pay-it-forward to those who will come after them. In keeping this chain going, the generosity of both guests and volunteers helps to create a future that moves from transaction to trust, from self-oriented isolation to shared commitment, and from fear of scarcity to celebration of abundance...<br /> <br /> *II अतिथि देवो भव: II*<br /> <br /> At Seva Cafe, we serve with the spirit of &quot;Atithi Devo Bhava&quot; which translates to &quot;The Guest is God,&quot; a deep and ancient Indian view that honors each guest with reverence. We&#39;re all used to the concept of offering a meal to family or a friend who visits our home, but at Seva Cafe, we extend this generosity to a stranger we don&#39;t even know. The guests are told we trust them to accept this gift and pay forward the generosity so that this experiment can continue.<br /> <br /> When you dine at Seva Cafe, you are not viewed as a customer, but instead as our treasured guest, as part of our family.<br /> <br /> Seva means service. When immersed in the heart of Seva, one finds a pathway to the Divine, and its this connectedness to which we ultimately aspire. Volunteering at Seva Cafe is a conscious exercise in staying tuned to that deep and true space of genuine service.<br /> <br /> As more participate in the joy of giving, the more the experiment thrives. It begins with a single gift: first given, then received... multiplied, and given again, in a growing chain of kindness and care. We hope this Circle of Giving leaves you feeling more nourished, and inspired to carry the experiment forward.<br /> <br /> All costs and income are made transparent, and 100% of any profits are used to support social service projects..!<br /> &nbsp;... Kishan Gopal Sat, 07 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0800 One Small Step at a Time Linkee shares ... <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:438px; width:583px" /><br /> <em>&quot;Happiness held is the seed; Happiness shared is the flower.&quot;</em><br /> - John Harrigan.<br /> <br /> Is the seed sown? I believe, yes. It&rsquo;s only a matter of time that a beautiful flower blossoms. But do we wait before plucking the flower? Nimo answered this question beautifully as he opened the Surat retreat with these lines:<br /> <br /> <em>I spent a long time running'</em><br /> <em>I never knew then, what I know I know now</em><br /> <em>That the fruits they always coming'</em><br /> <em>But you can</em><em>&rsquo;</em><em>t go around just knockin</em><em>&rsquo; </em><em>them down. </em><br /> <br /> I still carry these four lines in my heart every day.<br /> <br /> We were welcomed with a warm embrace into the beautiful space, decorated with candles, rangolis and name tags. It felt like a home outside our home. The air was full of Contentment, Smiles, Love and Hope. The volunteers who have been holding this space for all of us were like the pillars of this home and the participants were like their children who were eager to learn.<br /> <br /> We started with a small introductory circle where we all shared individual quotes that are linked to our hearts. Anjali shared, &quot;Keep smiling and spread happiness&rdquo; while Siddhant quoted &ldquo;You will always regret the things that you didn't do than those you did.&rdquo;<br /> We deeply connected with an expression shared by Shahnaz &ndash; &ldquo;They buried us, they didn&rsquo;t know we were seeds. Nimo&rsquo;s songs elevated all of us and gave us a chance to showcase our novice talent to dance with our spirits. The evening was like a house warming party in an unclaimed house which in its true sense felt like our own.<br /> <br /> Day 2 commenced with an insightful circle of sharing, where Nipunbhai shared his insights on the different stages on the journey of kindness and what service really means. He shared a moving sunflower story which made us all ease in, being in freshman year where we are still exploring moments to contribute in our own small ways. Rachna expressed her gratitude for the peace she felt while searching for opportunities for acts of kindness and being in the freshman year. Snehal shared a story about how he connected with the watchman of his building over cups of tea while Mihir expressed his amazement towards the <a href="">cobbler across his office</a> and his understanding of how we are only a vessel and there is something greater doing astonishing labour through us. :)<br /> <br /> Linkee shared a story on how we tend to forget to take charge of our horse, and just rely on the horse to lead us in any random direction. Shahnaz shared how blissful it was, and wished she could carry this feeling of belongingness with her always. Saloni resonated with Shahnaz, conveying her battle to hold this feeling of love in the world that we live in today.<br /> <br /> Vinita shared a story of Golden Buddha to celebrate the importance of meaningful things in life. Suchiben reflected on how learning to accept herself without judgement has given her eternal peace. The same sentiment mirrored in a quote by Mother Teresa that was shared by Deven, &ldquo;If you judge people, you don&rsquo;t have time to love them.&quot;<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:468px; width:583px" /><br /> Karishma and her deep connection to her friend&rsquo;s mother, making a promise to help at her daughter's wedding, moved our souls. It reminded me of a phrase Nipun quoted, &ldquo;Trees don&rsquo;t eat their fruits, rivers don&rsquo;t absorb their water.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Many of us shared personal experiences of kindness. Vijayita shared how celebrating her maid&rsquo;s birthday gave her a wonderful perspective. Shama quoted how kindness which is the purpose of life is the life full of purpose. Falguni shared her experience of teaching small kids in her neighbourhood. Sneha shared how kindness is not just an act, it has a deeper feeling of peace. Anjali metioned the joy she received when she wrapped all the extra clothes in her house to give away to the needy.<br /> <br /> Shalini shared her practice of praising everyone for each small act of love while Neeta has been finding constant inspiration in positive thinking. Madhushree candidly expressed, &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t believe in miracles, I rely on them&rdquo;. Pinal prayed, &ldquo;<em>Badhanu mangalmay thay</em>&rdquo; (May all beings be happy)<br /> <br /> Chirag made us laugh with his amusing jokes and Hiral&rsquo;s exciting mango stories made us all crave for mangoes in winter while Kalpesh bhai&rsquo;s internal dedication on this journey startled us all.<br /> <br /> Post lunch, we broke out into four groups for exploring how we can serve in the context of business, parenting, education and new service projects. We brainstormed and presented our collective views along with amazing drawings, skits and poems which made us all see a possibility of a whole new world.<br /> Here's a beautiful doodle created by Saloni.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:600px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> Nimisha shared how she believes that our capacity to be more compassionate is always growing while Vinita believes that love can be an answer to all our problems in life. Mirva&rsquo;s practice of offering chocolates to the poor kids has created a deep connection for her while.<br /> <br /> Later, we proceeded towards a silent dinner which was beautifully arranged by all the volunteers. It was quiet and dark where we could hardly see the food, but frankly I have never been so content with food in my life.<br /> <br /> Our stomachs were full, and our hearts were flooded with joy thanks to Rahul&rsquo;s amazing songs. He shared stories of Vinobaji and <a href="">Arun dada</a> which gave us a glimpse into the lives of such selfless people.<br /> <br /> Rahul Dholakia&rsquo;s immense love for his family and his stories reminded us of our childhood and made us all giggle. Dravya shared his experience of living on his own and failing numerous times to find a job and still not giving up and how we don&rsquo;t value things when we have them talking about being choosy about food in his own house while accepting everything that was given to him outside.<br /> <br /> Mitaben and Jumbish&rsquo;s team expressed their gratitude for the peace in working for the underprivileged kids and how it has helped all of them grow into a different individual today.<br /> <br /> The next day started with some amazing <em>dhoti</em> moments where Nipunbhai and Dravya turned up in dhotis with Venkat&rsquo;s help, which made all of us roll on the floor, laughing :) A sweet gesture to honour Venkat's sincere enthusiasm - he had travelled all the way from Chennai to be with us .<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:565px; width:472px" /><br /> The three-steps-and-a-bow experience reminded me of a practice of Dalai lama that Nipubhai had shared&ndash; he would bow one level down to the people who would bow to him during visits. Every bow made me feel thankful for something small that I have.<br /> <br /> Just when we were emotionally overwhelmed, Paragbhai and Mitaben embraced us in a warm &ldquo;jaadu ki jhappi&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Shahnaz touched our hearts deeply with her poem on the bowing experience.<br /> <br /> <em>When asked to follow Mitaben</em><br /> <em>I was seeing how she was doing</em><br /> <em>and bowing as she was leaning</em><br /> <em>it began as an imitation</em><br /> <br /> <em>My forehead bent </em><br /> <em>and I caught the whiff of fresh green</em><br /> <em>my heart hugged the earth</em><br /> <em>the magic began..</em><br /> <br /> <em>Head soar again looking for Mitaben</em><br /> <em>instead I caught the sight of gleaming winter sun above me</em><br /> <em>gentle furrow up my brow</em><br /> <em>and lips set a smile curve</em><br /> <em>palms meet at the heart</em><br /> <em>gratitude flows from toe to top</em><br /> <em>for that green, blue and yellow..</em><br /> <em>I mellow</em><br /> <br /> <em>Imitation undergoes an alteration</em><br /> <em>head melts, ego dissolves, pride I swallow</em><br /> <em>just like a tiny speck in the huge universe I disappear</em><br /> <em>allowing the good grace to appear</em><br /> <br /> <em>I embrace the flow </em><br /> <em>or maybe the flow embraces me</em><br /> <em>I feel one unified with the force..</em><br /> <br /> <em>Sight of cleansing arouses qualms</em><br /> <em>I reluctantly put my feet in water</em><br /> <em>as if confessing my sins to the priest</em><br /> <em>something crumbles inside and creaks</em><br /> <br /> <em>I glean what is left of me</em><br /> <em>I feel softened</em><br /> <em>like thawing in the hearth of heaven</em><br /> <em>absolved and reborn</em><br /> <br /> <em>I feel moved by love</em><br /> <br /> After the closing circle, as we were all hugging over goodbyes, I realised how a community of &ldquo;one&rdquo; was created. Through this community and the spiritual experiences, we all received a space we shall remember forever.<br /> <br /> Writing this reflection makes me wonder how easy the volunteers made it all look. I was humbled to know that Dravya flew in all the way from the US, just to serve this retreat. The memorable gathering was possible only through Zeal&rsquo;s little hearts that she attached to our sleeves, Mihir and Pintu bhai&rsquo;s silent work, Avni&rsquo;s humour and Kyari&rsquo;s eyes where the world was full of hope, Siddhant&rsquo;s personalised cards, Nipun and Pinal ben&rsquo;s gracious warmth towards all of us, Deven&rsquo;s wisdom, Rahul&rsquo;s songs, Anar ben&rsquo;s love, Parag &amp; Mitaben&rsquo;s silent support, Nimo's <a href="">joyful tunes</a> and Nipun bhai's radiant presence.<br /> <br /> Post the love-filled two days, Mirva shared:<br /> &ldquo;As I woke up, all I knew was - I don&rsquo;t know what the day would be made of, but I know there is a River of Love. This river flows from others to me and me to others. And together we are the Ocean of Love. This river has pink petals of Love and White petals of Peace and harmony.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Vijayita reflected on her learnings from the two days that transformed her:<br /> <em>&quot;a) Talking is rare</em> &ndash; Just a conversation where one could speak without being interrupted, share without worrying about judgment and be received wholly regardless of who and what they were was the most healing balm for the soul.<br /> <br /> <em>b) Spirit of giving</em> &ndash; Simple handmade touches and empathetic moments made all the difference in the world. From the personalized table mats to the wrist bands to just a tikka on the head had more of an impact than any 5 star luxury&nbsp; because of the spirit of giving and serving which was all permeating and beautiful<br /> <br /> <em>c) Hurt people hurt people</em> &ndash; One line which has stuck with me. It helps to look at all the actions of others in a completely different light and helps me deal with the situation differently<br /> <br /> <em>d) Radical Generosity &amp; Courage </em>&ndash; It takes immense amount of courage and generosity to host, execute and attend the retreats as vulnerability and receptivity are the only prerequisites&hellip; generosity and gratitude, the only outcomes.&quot;<br /> <br /> After being immersed in this field of love for two days, I believe all we need is love and all we can give is love - reminds me of a beautiful quote by Amrita, &ldquo;Every action we take is either out of love or in the want of love.&quot;<br /> <br /> Love and hugs to everyone.... Linkee Arora Tue, 27 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0800 Four Poems, When I Was Moved by Love Ashwin shares ... ... Ashwin Karthik Mon, 12 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0800 "We Redefined Disablity" Priyanka shares ... <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:467px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> Inclusion Retreat was <a href="">one of its first kind</a> organized by Service space in Ahmedabad. It was a chilled morning when I landed at Ahmedabad Airport where my friend and volunteer of Service Space Madhur was waiting along with Devasish Bhai. The journey of hugs and act of kindness began from here. We entered ESI, in Sugadh and I was moved by its scenic beauty. At breakfast table I met Nipun-bhai&nbsp;and all other guests and volunteers. Here I met Varsha who is an aspiring scientist. We became friends and went out to explore the campus with Madhur. They both helped me see each part of campus, they read the quotes written all over the walls, rooms, garden etc. As I had reached a day before the retreat, I managed to visit Sabarmati Ashram, Akshardham Temple and Adalaj step well with Varsha and George in Uday Bhai&rsquo;s rickshaw. We experienced a new act of kindness with Uday Bhai. He shared his experience of a pay-it-forward rickshaw and touched our hearts.<br /> <br /> The retreat began and I was amazed to see different people with some extra ordinary talent and thought processes within them. Every activity and circle discussion left me with a new thought and different ways of being generous. In this 2-3 day retreat I experienced abundant love, happiness, oneness and generosity. Some special moments which touched me were:<br /> &nbsp; <blockquote>In the blind fold activity, leading the crowd and holding Nipun-bhai's hand and guiding him and also making him realise different techniques one can use when there is no vision. Sridhar clicking selfies with me while blindfolded without changing camera to the front view was funny.<br /> <br /> Drawing a tree with the help of Varsha. Motivating Kiran to draw her own tree and write herself while seeking minimum help from Madhur.<br /> <br /> Cooking Sambar with Sridhar and Karan was an amazing experience. Karan who was shy and had not interacted with me much was so excited and was fully supportive.<br /> <br /> Driving Ramesh Bhai&rsquo;s Scooty with Neha was another experience which I would cherish for my life. Jaideep and Kameshwar made it more memorable with their humour and funny comments and video shoot.<br /> <br /> Visiting Swach Vidyalay and Toilet caf&eacute; was a completely new experience for me. I learnt different ways of sanitation and its importance. Coffee had never tasted so tasty before, as it tasted in Toilet caf&eacute;.<br /> <br /> Dancing in Seva Caf&eacute; with all guests was fun. Jayanthi kaka&rsquo;s dance and the solutions we found to communicate with each other in group dance was beautiful. I loved to dance with Akhil and trying to communicate with him in sign language was interesting.<br /> <br /> During nights, the girls gathering and spending whole night talking and laughing out loud was something I loved a lot. Anju-ben joining us in our conversation made it more hilarious and interesting.<br /> <br /> Nipun bhai testing my recognition skill with his voice and touch whenever we crossed each other.<br /> <br /> Madhur and I returned together. The time spent with her in flight and conversation brought us closer and made our friendship stronger than ever before.<br /> <br /> I had good time listening to Ashwin, Nirav, Kiran and <a href=";fid=20570">Bhawna-ben&rsquo;s experiences</a> and true life stories. These were the people who inspired me a lot.</blockquote> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:467px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> If we look into each one&rsquo;s experience and moments spent at retreat, I can only say &ldquo;We redefined the notion of disability&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> As Jayesh Bhai said, &ldquo;It is not disability but dil-ability&rdquo;. Truly, we all demonstrated only our dil-ability and will continue to do so.... Priyanka Thu, 08 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0800 "There is fun in being ordinary" (Awakin Talk with Jayesh bhai) Neerad shares ... <em>A couple of months ago, Jayesh bhai was in Pune silently serving many in the community there by his presence. Here are some excerpts from his Awakin talk at the Urban Ashram. In a separate post, we will publish the Q &amp; As that followed after.</em><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:267px; margin:8px; width:200px" />God is the smile on someone&rsquo;s face; God is the compassion in his heart. I don&rsquo;t know if God has a form but it is definitely in the form of values. Praying to the form is religion and going beyond the form to look at inculcating values is spirituality. We have a chance of being staunch in religion but in spirituality our heart opens completely. I keep learning that from every one here.<br /> <br /> My father spent his entire lifetime in sanitation work; the kind of work that the whole society had neglected. All his work was deeply rooted in compassion. He used to love being addressed as &ldquo;Mr. Toilet&rdquo;. When I came into sanitation work, he explained to me very nicely that true service is not a hobby. It is a thankless job. Initially you will like it when people say you are doing a good job and you can also flaunt &lsquo;I serve&rsquo;, or &lsquo;I helped someone&rsquo;. It&rsquo;s a feel good factor. The first task my father gave me was to clean 125 public toilets and as all of you know, public toilets are like hell on earth. About 25 years back if you ever entered a public toilet, you will step out as soon as you enter. People didn&rsquo;t even know how to use it. <b>My father used to say, whether it is cleaning or praying as long as you did it from your heart, it is the same. </b><br /> <br /> As I kept doing this work I started realizing that<br /> <b>in &lsquo;Pravrutti&rsquo; (Activity), &lsquo;Vrutti&rsquo; (Intention) is key</b>.<br /> After I took up sanitation work, we started connecting with more people and one of the places is &lsquo;Ramapir tekra&rsquo;. Just like we have Dharavi in Mumbai, Ramapir tekra is the largest slum in Gujarat. It is an extremely poverty stricken area. I&rsquo;ve noticed that poverty and dirt are very closely connected. There is malnutrition, tuberculosis, illiteracy, etc. If a person is sick, he cannot work, if he cannot work he cannot earn well, if he doesn&rsquo;t earn well he cannot eat good food, so he becomes anaemic, and hence remains sick and like this he remains in the poverty circle.<br /> <br /> So we connected personal hygiene with community work and decided to go there every Sunday for a cleanliness drive. I think it was the year 2000. Since there were no toilets they used to defecate in the open drains and because of that there were problems of Cholera, Malaria, etc. We used to carry gloves, masks, etc and cleaned every Sunday. The people of the slum made make fun of us <em>&ldquo;here they come &ndash; Scavengers &ndash; here they come. Now they will click our photographs, have them printed in newspapers and raise a lot of funds for themselves</em>&rdquo;. So our work was criticized stating that this is being done for fund raising. This work is never easy. People become a judge of the mistakes of others and a lawyer for their own. If someone makes a mistake, then immediately we say what should be done and if someone points out our mistake, we say &lsquo;it is because of these causes that we behaved this way&rsquo;. That is when we understood and when you start understanding nature also starts supporting you. At that time there were heavy rains and the whole place was flooded. People used to live on a slightly elevated piece of land and defecate in the low lying areas. But now came the problem, how to defecate, there was water all over, drains were flooding. We decided to supply food packets for all to eat and when I went to a small hut a lady was crying a lot. I asked her Mother-in-law, why is she crying. She replied &ldquo;<em>Jayesh bhai she is my daughter-in-law and is newly married and suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea and the problem is we have no place for her to go to the toilet</em>&rdquo;. She is also reluctant in taking help from us.<br /> <br /> Here we found our starting point. Every evening we would gather people and share her story and tell everyone that we want to build a toilet for this sister. In one evening we built the toilet. There was a noticeable shift. People started looking at us with compassion and they started seeing the purity of our efforts. Slowly everyone started keeping their houses clean and people from all over the world come to see Gujarat&rsquo;s largest slum.<br /> <br /> When we opened our health centre, there were usually around 120-130 patients visiting everyday, today there are not more than 10. We started work on hygiene, nutrition, and sanitation for them. We have around 23 kindergartens for kids. Today we need more kindergartens than temples. In temples we find &lsquo;Shiv&rsquo; (omnipresent) and in kindergartens we find the little &lsquo;jeev&rsquo; (life). According to UNESCO, about 15 lakh children die due to diarrhoea, anaemia, etc. This space started bringing about a big shift in holistic development. There were pre-pregnancy tests, nutrition for pregnant women, healthy delivery, and vaccination and soon there were a noticeable shift in the outlook of people. Superstitions, blind faith, etc all started reducing, but all this took time. This became our learning ground and we learnt a lot from this process.<br /> <br /> <b>From Consumption to Contribution</b><br /> When I come to Pune, I feel very grateful that someone actually opens their home up to nurture so many journeys. It is like a pilgrimage to me where so many people meet with an intention to do good. It is not easy at all. How people were cooking with so much joy, there was no weight, there was gratefulness. It is all done with the spirit of contribution. It&rsquo;s a move from consumption to contribution.<br /> <img alt="" src="'s_home.jpg" style="height:394px; margin:8px; width:700px" /><br /> How can we consume now and contribute later? Most of us think about knowledge also the same way, we want to learn everything, gain knowledge and share later. What I know, I share according to the truth of the moment as per my understanding. It is really the intention that matters. If the share is with an intention to impress you all, I am putting myself more in trouble as I get into the game of managing expectations. Instead I let it flow from the heart and try to share with a noble intention with all humility. I rather be ordinary so as not to get caught up in these things. <b>There is fun in being ordinary.</b> To become special is a trap, where you build a security wall around yourself and end up not seeing the real you. I like to be in a circle with you so I feel one with you. I have come to share space with all of you and support in all the good that happens here. It feels like family to me.<br /> <br /> The biggest asset in current times is the feeling of being a part of the family of noble friends. Moved by love is a family and all are welcome to Ahmedabad to be a part of some of our experiments.<br /> <br /> <b>Small practices and small acts of kindness</b><br /> Long time ago, we were walking a distance of&nbsp;26 kms. Gopal dada, then 87, was also walking with us. He would pick up every stone on the way. He kept picking up one stone after the other. Maria, a phd student who had come from Stanford, observed this strange action, her head started thinking and she asked me so I referred her to ask dada. Dada replied that <em>&ldquo;in my village there was no electricity earlier and it used to be dark and in our village people walk around without shoes. On one such occasion, I had hit a stone which broke my toe nail and it bled profusely. I was very small at that time. Since that day I decided that I will pick up a stone if it comes in my way so someone behind me will not get hurt.&rdquo; </em><br /> <br /> Simple. This was effortless bending down. It was not an activity for him. It was an effortless action for him and the thought behind was that anybody walking or cycling behind can trip over and get hurt. When I was doing the same action today, two three of our daughters and another brother also started picking it up. <b>This compassion is contagious, provided your intention is right.</b> If you do it for showing or impressing somebody then there is no compassion. That is our ego. But if there is a true deep feeling in the heart that I am doing this action so that someone behind me will not suffer and also the feeling that the stone has actually provided me with an opportunity to serve; then I will see things from a different perspective. Then it is deep looking. When we do deep looking; we do deep listening.<br /> <br /> I value this opportunity to talk to all of you. Sheetal had offered that I could attend the silence hour a little late as I had been up last night and been walking since this morning. This is where I see that love is more important than ideal. Otherwise he could&rsquo;ve insisted to begin sharp at 7pm else it would not work. <b>Love is divine flow.</b> &ldquo;Whatever the question love is the answer.&rdquo; &ldquo;All we need is love, love is all we need.&rdquo; These things are written around this space and they are also written at ESI. This love is not the one rooted in attraction but rooted in sacrifice, in giving ,in cooperation, in trust, and in respect. This is what I consider love to be. This is the truth according to my understanding and I thank you all for listening.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:525px; margin:8px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> Please don&rsquo;t consider this as a pressure of my thoughts on you. Don&rsquo;t get influenced but whatever you liked from this add it as an essence to your life. And I will feel happy about it. Even if you don&rsquo;t take anything, I am still happy.... Neerad Trivedi Thu, 01 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0800 Planting Seeds Sachi shares ... Yesterday was one of the most memorable days of my life. We were planting seeds literally.<br /> <br /> For over a year, I have been feeling helpless with this urge to do something every time I visited the&nbsp;Matunga&nbsp;Children&rsquo;s Home.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Why? because:<br /> 1. the children there have a hunger to do something and learn something but lack opportunities and<br /> 2. the children are mostly addicted to&nbsp;churan&nbsp;(bhang&nbsp;goli), are just waiting to pass their time, sitting idle and have nothing to look forward to in their life.<br /> <br /> Yesterday,&nbsp;Priti&nbsp;Aunty and I, sat with 23 children in a circle (at the&nbsp;Matunga&nbsp;Children&rsquo;s Home) who were interested in kitchen gardening. We had no idea what was going to unfold. We started by explaining the kids what it mean to be sitting in a circle. We shared our group values, our hopes for the group and asked them what they expected from the circle.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:447px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> And then got straight into action, cleared a patch of land. Collected 70+ big rocks to create a bed, dug the ground and spread dry leaves and mud, re-shifted BIG really big cut trees to experiment with&nbsp;hugelkultur&nbsp;farming. It was 5 hours of sheer hard work&hellip;<br /> After lunch, when the kids came back some older boys shouted at me for taking out all 23 children to work. (the kids are usually locked up in their rooms in the afternoon). They said what will happen if some of them ran away, you will not be allowed inside. It took me a while to calm them down, and guess what? not a single kid tried to escape. Everyone one was there.. present! digging, passing mud, cutting weeds.. doing&nbsp;hardwork.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:524px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> The kids had a great time and so did we. We did a debrief circle where all of them unanimously said come everyday&nbsp;didi. We learnt a lot.&nbsp;I feel like more than learning about farming or gardening, the kid&rsquo;s biggest takeaway was that they felt really good about themselves. Their confidence boosted and so did their trust and friendship.<br /> <br /> This is only the first step of a long journey and a very good one indeed!<br /> <img src="" /><br /> &nbsp;... Sachi Maniar Wed, 30 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0800 Inclusion Retreat in Bangalore Madhur shares ... We had a half-day&nbsp;&lsquo;Inclusion retreat&rsquo; &nbsp;on 2nd &nbsp;October, 2016 in Bangalore. Jaideep, Priyanka and I invited few guests and it was a close gathering of 9 of us with Deepa, Ajit, Ashwin &amp; Bharat, and Madhumitha as participants and Sreepriya, Vinoth, Jaideep and myself as volunteers. We also had few people from the apartment complex walking by and spending some time as audience.&nbsp;All the guests were completely new to such programs and also our team. Yet, in-spite of their physical challenges, these inspiring people made all the efforts to come down travelling from different areas. I was amazed at the commitment and excitement of our guests who had the courage to come to a new place, for an unknown program with strangers. Their ability to trust others and themselves, makes me admire them as brave hearts.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:450px; margin-bottom:6px; margin-top:6px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> After a quick and warm welcome, we got together in a circle of sharing. Hereafter, for all sharing in the circle, I choose not to put names &mdash; as it appeals to me more at this point in time. Below are gists of sharing and stories from our group discussion.<br /> <br /> <b>Tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on &lsquo;Gandhi Jayanti&rsquo;:</b> Gandhi had strong practices of truth, non-violence, self-dependence, &lsquo;Being the change&rsquo;, &lsquo;Non-Co-operation&rsquo; and insisted on including &lsquo;Harijans&rsquo; in society etc. He fought all his battles and never gave up on the movement, making sure not to allow any violence at any time as well. Value-oriented fighting spirit and unwavering commitment to non-cooperation are deeply admired.<br /> <br /> An 85 year old dada, who has been a Vinoba and Gandhi&rsquo;s follower would wait extra time and change an auto but only use public, shared auto, not a private one. Though, he may be getting late, his wife around 80 years may be sick and he may be exhausted. This and similar daily practices of simplicity, determined spirit of minimal needs and putting community good before self, make our dada an inspiration.<br /> <br /> This woman chose not to speak a lie or cheat even at the cost of losing the only job at hand when everyone else was using these means. While reflecting back, it surprises how she could take such a strong step then. Over a period of time, it has been realised that for little social, monetary and other benefits, we end up losing our own selves, our core values of strength, which is priceless and very difficult to regain.<br /> <br /> From the opening circle, we moved on to discussion on the seed question for the gathering: <b>&lsquo;Any inclusion incident which has been courageous and has moved you or someone else deeply&rsquo;. </b>What followed was a deeper understanding of different forms of Inclusion and the presence ( or lack) of it in our society.<br /> <br /> A physically challenged person experiences inclusion every minute, like breath &mdash; it is a basic need. Someone in the family takes care of feeding food, taking places or other daily necessities. Friends and family share about life and include them in different experiences. If Inclusion does not happen, development of differently-abled as confident, outgoing, working individuals is extremely difficult. Inclusion is must to create this outcome for them. One group member had never stepped out of home for 15 years, her world was defined by the stories shared by her siblings and parents. She experiences Inclusion every minute.<br /> Difficulties are faced by transgender people as they need inclusion in society. A transgender man has learnt sign language (when none in his family / friends were deaf). This is an example of going an extra mile to include others.<br /> <br /> Gender based inclusion &mdash; sometimes expectations are set on the basis of gender and unfair rules are defined. An old, differently-abled lady was supported by her brothers because in their family women are escorted by men. Lately, she can&rsquo;t go out, due to age and disability, she is expected to stay at home. <em>&lsquo;&lsquo;What&rsquo;s the need to go out?&rdquo;,</em> is the question she has been asked multiple times.<br /> <br /> Marriage with a differently-abled needs courage and acceptance. One couple in the group shared about parents&rsquo; interference and questioning, which has been a harsh experience. Women with disability, face an even more difficult situation with marriage, as people prefer a bride who can cook, clean the house , etc.<br /> <br /> Inclusion on the basis of caste system: Gandhi ji did lot of work for backward classes and other leaders put up reservation for them in India (though now it is all politically motivated and very difficult to accept for others writing exams and facing the ill effects of reservation). In a movie called &lsquo;Fandri,' a teenage boy who belongs to scheduled caste is made to clean shit, work with pigs, disrespected and treated as outcaste. It&rsquo;s a wonderful movie which clearly depicts what&rsquo;s going on internally for a young boy and how in the end he becomes furious and picks up a stone. It was an eye-opener, as it clarified the level of difficulties undergone by people on the basis of caste system.<br /> <br /> Another form of differentiation in the society is on the basis of economy&mdash;while the rich have many rights, the poor need to accept everyone and everything the way it is. This woman travelled in second class compartment of train, where she observed faces which told stories of having undergone suppression and disrespect just because they were poor. Her deep concern led to silent connections beyond economic status.<br /> <br /> True friendship and sacrifice for inclusion is evident in the story of two friends &mdash; one person with disability has been able to clear exams and join job because of his friend, who transcribed for him, while sacrificing his own years of degree. This friend has also taken stand and got accessibility enabled in a mall, a cinema hall and other places. He also mentioned how before marriage, his wife-to-be was told of this deep bond and daily togetherness and she became supportive of their friendship as well.<br /> <br /> Why is the categorisation of disabled required? Using nicer names such as specially- abled does not make it any different. <b>Why can&rsquo;t we include everyone equally, at par, was an open question?&nbsp;</b>IIS has been doing a great work in this direction, by providing a platform for the inclusion movement to emerge and connecting these courageous people.<br /> <br /> The discussion progressed into projects for differently-abled. Madhumitha shared her dream project of working with the parents of differently-abled. These parents go through a hard time and it is their mindset and strength which impacts the growth and development of the child with physical challenges as well. Ashwin is already writing a blog piece every week on &lsquo;Truclusions&rsquo; for &lsquo;Knowyourstar&rsquo;, which is a start-up by Jaideep working in Inclusion space. Ajit is creating a startup around humour side of physically challenged people. Deepa heads 20k people in her organization. Sreepriya and Bharath are living inclusion every day. Most of the guests have also spoken at forums like TedX, IIS and other platforms as invited.<br /> <br /> I felt a surge of strength overflowing within me not just then but a continued feeling for days after. As I write to share the magic of the day, it is all coming back to me. What a powerful day it was; I salute each of the warriors who are fighting their daily battles of dignity, inclusion and contribution.... Madhur Khanna Thu, 24 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0800 Maitri Inside and Maitri Outside Moved shares ... <img alt="" src="" style="height:340px; margin-bottom:6px; margin-top:6px; width:700px" /><br /> The gathering opened with a sharing on the story of the mythical bird '<a href="">simurgh</a>' from the classic poem of Persian poet Fariduddin Attar. 30 birds undertook an arduous journey to meet the Simurgh who eventually was a reflection of themselves wrote Attar, in a way 42 of us gathered to dip into the river of 'Maitri' as we opened the circle with a seed question on - What was a key shift that took place in our lives in the past year and any ripples from it. As we all entered the&nbsp;Maitri hall for the opening circle, we were welcomed with a spiral rangoli of friends holding hands and dancing together.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:193px; margin-left:6px; margin-right:6px; width:300px" />Nimo started the circle by sharing small acts that have created magical ripples in the children he volunteers with and the awareness of what feeds his soul; the children are the <em>khichdi</em> (comfort food) for his soul. Last one year saw Neerad come out of a life threatening situation and he shared how<a href=""> looking back</a> he has realised that there is a higher design that is beyond our understanding . Cultivating complete faith and surrender to what is evolving, he resonated with a quote on the wall:<br /> <br /> &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&ldquo;Be willing to be a beginner, every single moment&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Smita ben went through a similar experience and resonated with the sense of surrender to the higher power. Sheetal ben shared how through the difficult moments, she has tried to connect with the hearts of everyone she came across and felt her field of Maitri ever expanding. From the lady who guards the lifts in the hospital to the doctors and nurses. Can we be noble friends with one and all? Many slow stories that have emerged not over last one year but over many years &mdash; Nipun&rsquo;s mom who has been hosting Awakins for the last 18 years is serving sweets for a guest's birthday even when she herself was going through immense pain and the fear of losing her own son; Pinal ben and Lopa ben have been witnessing small shifts in their daughters ever since they started hosting Awakins. These are just a handful of the 42 sharings that went way into the night. A common thread through all was of Maitri, trust and surrender. Jayesh bhai closed the circle with his ever beautiful play of words:<br /> <br /> &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&ldquo;Do what God tells you to do. He is organised; we are all organic&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The opening circle laid the tone for the next 3 days, which were a festival of noble friendships. There were Spirited talks by few friends sharing their personal practices and journeys over the last one year.<br /> <br /> Meghna shared how she has learnt to accept and not resist anything that comes to her. Life throws many &ldquo;googlies&rdquo; at us and most of them unexpectedly, but every person and every situation is helping her deepen her field of Maitri. Like the Japenese art <a href="">Kintsukuroi</a>, of repairing broken pottery with gold paints, we come out of every situation, more beautiful than before, with a little gold paint where the suffering was.<br /> <br /> Parag bhai beautifully put together a journey of moving from constraints to liberation. Starting with the story of Mulla Nasiruddin and his horse, he explained how when we think that we &ldquo;own&rdquo; something, we evidently become a slave to it but when looked from the lens of liberation; whatever constrains us can also liberate us. The 3 main pillars (or constraints) of Service Space (and Moved by Love) of being volunteer run, no fundraising and focus on small are actually akin to meditation, equanimity and love. Instead of constraining, the three actually liberate us to serve better.<br /> <br /> Anar ben&rsquo;s vulnerable and honest reflection on her learnings from the trails and tribulations of the last one year, left most of us teary eyed. She spoke of a lot of edges she has been facing &mdash; of taking authority of her life or surrendering in service; of competing with opponents or develop friendships with them; of maintaining steadiness or embracing change; of putting boundaries or be without limits.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:337px; margin-bottom:6px; margin-top:6px; width:700px" /><br /> Deven spoke about moving from the apparent to the subtle; of deepening his personal practices of sadhana and serving his mother; of discovering his own shortcomings and realising that while he may clean the whole ashram, the empty plastic wrapper lying on his window is also him. For Shaalini, the last one year was all about stepping out of her comfort zone and with every experience she found herself experience the four shifts we so often talk about &mdash; from transaction to trust; from consumption to contribution; from abundance to scarcity and from isolation to community.<br /> <br /> Nipun bhai presented a deeper understanding of the ecosystem and how we are all connected through various ties; how we are all the keepers of each other&rsquo;s songs. He spoke of 3 kinds of changes that one can work towards and how through various offline and online engagements the ecosystem is engaging with thousands of people; organically creating ripples of love and many-to-many connections. Sharing five insights on Volunteerism, he explained how the ecosystem is able to recruit, motivate and retain volunteers for lifelong. Principles like creating a fluid engagement matrix, having low barriers to entry and more that many of us would find helpful to implement in our own work spaces. Speaking on the shifts at various levels when we move from leadership to laddership, he seeded the question of how each one of us can deepen our journey of laddership.<br /> <br /> Ashima shared how a simple practice of saying good morning to everyone she crossed during her morning walk, led to <a href="">a shift from fear to love</a>. Chris shared how living in the Sughad campus for the last 11 months has transformed him to a much calmer person, how his reactions to specific actions have mellowed down and he has learnt to respond to them better. Divyang shared about his journey with his partner, watching her explore different things and not holding back because of failures. He also shared a beautiful moment when he was making a film on gratitude and bowing down to the divine in the other and a child actor suddenly practiced it even with animals. It was not part of the script and it moved him so much that he no longer could put just his name as the &ldquo;maker&rdquo; of that film, for he was just the instrument and someone else wrote the script.<br /> <br /> Vijayam ji showered us with <a href="">wonderful experiences from her teaching career</a>, the relationships she built with her colleagues and students and how we should all be careful of our dreams as dreams do come true!&nbsp;Teji tai spoke of how when there is faith or shraddha, only then do we perform yajna karma. We are all part of the universal yajna karma and are constantly making an offering of oneself. She also shared the story of <a href="">Nachiketa</a> from the Kathopnishad which is very dear to her heart as it was a translation her dear mentor <a href="">Vimala thakkar</a> had given her to do.<br /> <br /> Sachi&rsquo;s talk was an honest confession on the struggles she goes through every day while managing two of her babies &mdash; Aashiyana and Shunya. She shared many <a href=";42920TyeQoE1BJJy5vV1473X~;1ziQ0L2UWttHwZut3HWtCTfj3gOOTrkTfO6jq8~_vQZdZs9wj02eU6~;y~_hGhr8v~;d7IL~_oROG~;knL3Kvhh~;ru7gKOo2OvOz0df5uCZ~;94TMnsftOP892tMbfqFep~_DfvjP5wfw77MsHe0SXR4~;XJ4W~_6~_RGX97V4bfX16rDyr3DzG~_9YPW9D~;K2b97Luf9j6OsPvLfwfz~_GP6nPfwj~;o7Mnz35LlYcD.bps.a.600525936792839.1073741853.294536337391802/600525956792837/?type=3">stories from the remand home</a> where children responded beautifully to love where earlier only authority was used. But often also being torn when her efforts are futile. &ldquo;Is it my karma to be able to help or not? or is it the child&rsquo;s karma to suffer or not?&rdquo;. Very openly she put forth all her insecurities; her confusions and her intentions. Offering her work as a prayer, she has learnt to surrender to the moment and felt amazing ripples emerge.<br /> <br /> Nimo shared his journey of connecting back with music after a gap of almost 7 years. How the unfolding of the kindness song was an unfolding of maitri &mdash; with no plan and no resources within 2 days the song was written, recording and the music video was released. Magically people appeared at the right moment at the right place. Such was the power of the community and true intentions.<br /> All through the 4 days, we had been dancing to his <a href="">songs</a> and in the end he offered a new unfinished creation to the group.<br /> <br /> The heartist&rsquo;s sharing were enriched by <a href="">songs</a>, reflections, hugs and observations from all the participants. In between sessions there were breakout sessions for a smaller group to go deeper on one particular topic for instance &ldquo;our relationships: do we see them as enablers of constraints?&rdquo;; &ldquo;our practices: how do we discern between cultivation and being?&rdquo;; &ldquo;how can we dive into new ideas without fear of failure?&rdquo;; and more. The days were a collection of experiences of grace and surrender. A world tour through each other's journey that subtly changed us. As Meghna recalled a dialog from the movie Pochahontas, &quot;The funny thing about rivers is that you cannot step into the same river twice&quot;, we all were the same on the outside but changed inside after every day.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:314px; margin-bottom:6px; margin-top:6px; width:700px" /><br /> We are all interconnected and one person&rsquo;s journey was not separate from another. As the 30 <a href="">Simurgs</a>, we all came together in our Collected Self when one and many were the same. As we looked into each other, we saw we were not two but one. We held our hands and danced; spiralling inwards and outwards in the dance of maitri.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:275px; margin-bottom:6px; margin-top:6px; width:700px" /><br /> A lot transpired in those 4 days and each one of us felt that we had so much to learn and grow into to be a true ladder. It was not just the 42 friends who were sitting in the circle that made those days magical, so many invisible hands had come together, who couldn&rsquo;t be physically present. From the gifts that magically popped up on our beds, to the rangoli in Maitri floor that grew every night, to the shawls that were warmly wrapped around us during dinner, to the meals and the hot drinks that were there as soon as we felt hungry, to the nightingales who enchanted us with their prayers, to the blessings of the elders that brought us together in the space.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="'_gifts.jpg" style="height:562px; margin-bottom:6px; margin-top:6px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> Some elves stayed up all night to bring all of us the gift of this beautiful <a href="">slide show</a> of&nbsp;'caught on camera'&nbsp;moments. <a href="">Here</a> is the link for all the photos of the retreat.... Moved by Love Wed, 23 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0800 Now I'm inspired even when I lose! Vidhi shares ... <b>How happy can we ever be , if we lost a game?</b><br /> <br /> I was wondering this when I was reminded of a very sweet experience. I met my friend Reva , a five year old girl who taught me the happiness in losing. One day I visited her, and we played games after games. Initially she won, but later she started losing the games and still she was really happy. I was amazed to see that how a five year old can not get upset over losing. When I questioned her that why are you not sad after losing the games, her answer just mesmerized me. She said &lsquo; There is so much fun in loosing, have you ever tried that? Its not necessary to always win.&rsquo; &nbsp;And this champ gave me a profound learning, which actually made me wonder how much fun is it to be at a loss.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:450px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> How many times we always wonder of winning games, people, everywhere. But how many times are we able to think of giving someone a chance to win? or letting someone be the winner?&nbsp;For Reva, those moments came naturally to her. She has left impressions of forever happiness on my mind and soul.&nbsp;She taught me that it&rsquo;s alright if you don&rsquo;t win , but you see happiness in the person playing with you.&nbsp;It&rsquo;s not necessary from where you learn , but it&rsquo;s important what inspires you.<br /> This incident happened months ago, and she has still kept me inspired.... Vidhi Desai Fri, 18 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0800 Transformation without and Transformation within Aabha shares ... <img alt="" src="" style="height:466px; margin:1px; width:700px" /><br /> Just as the Navratri celebrations culminated signifying the ending of the old and beginning of the new, it was time for another Head, Hands, Heart retreat from October 14-16, 2016. With the festivities still lingering on, about 40 of us gathered at ESI, Sughad to explore these new beginnings &ndash; Rebirth &ndash; Transformation, whatever one may choose to call it.<br /> <br /> With the Peace Pole as the witness, Madhusudan led us into a beautiful opening as we began with the peace walk in silence around the campus and into the Maitri hall led by Anupreet. The energy was that of curiosity and yet openness to the possibilities. After we settled in the hall and participated in the all faith prayer, Madhusudan and Chris led us all to chant &lsquo;Om tat sat&hellip;.&rsquo; which infused the hall with a serenity hard to escape. Chris welcomed everyone home with a beautiful <a href="">Prayer of Surrender</a>&nbsp;by an anonymous friend and sharing his personal story or transformation after an ankle injury. Aabha opened the circle with sharing the story of a friend who overcame terminal illness by transforming her thoughts &ndash; the transformation of thoughts led to the transformation of being! The sharings then continued with the participants sharing openly and deeply from the heart. Anupreet shared her learnings from the butterflies and caterpillars and that everyone around us is a teacher.<br /> <br /> One of the participants expressed how he was exploring the power of words and the energy around words. His expression, &lsquo;Forgiveness + Patience = Love&rsquo; was a beautiful learning for all. Another participant shared how after going through a life of hardships and taking credit for all the good and blaming others for everything that went wrong, he learnt it the hard way that there is no short cut to Grace.<br /> <br /> Geeta aunty blessed us with pearls of wisdom from her life learnings. She shared that she grew up with the spirit of &lsquo;Vasudevam Kutumbakam&rsquo; and how she has learnt from her life experiences that we know only the present and only the Divine knows the full story so it is best to surrender. Zilong&rsquo;s presence at the retreat was a blessing. He shared how he was experiencing a shift as he sat in the hall listening to all the sharing and how he was in awe of Jayeshbhai&rsquo;s attention to detail.<br /> Even the flowers fallen on the ground inspired someone by the fact that despite having fallen on the ground they were still giving beauty and doing what they were supposed to do &ndash; spread beauty. She learnt from the flowers that &ndash; &lsquo;no matter where we are, we can do it&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> One participant shared about how we are experiencing a transformation every day with the analogy that we are in our childhood in the morning, so full of energy and an old person in the evening when the energy levels are lower. We travel the journey from childhood to old age every day from morning to evening.<br /> Another participant shared a moment of transformation where he felt he could make a difference simply by being himself. His inclination to not litter the area around the bus stop and therefore taking the effort to walk to the dustbin to throw trash motivated a street vendor to put a larger trash can close to his stall. One participant shared about how he left home after being troubled on introspection as to why we are living on this planet. He decided to do a world cycle tour with his friend to spread the message of world peace. Another participant spoke about how she gave a ride on her bike to a school going girl who at the end of the ride thanked her and said goodbye. That goodbye shifted something in her and from that day she is always on the look out to give a ride to people on her bike.<br /> <br /> Diken shared his conversation with a Moroccan fellow pilgrim on his Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. He learnt that the Arabic language does not have future tense and the explanation for it was that &lsquo;only Allah knows the future&rsquo;. Another participant shared about her train journey in a foreign country and the unconditional love she received from the co-travelers and the food she was offered with so much love by all of them. This strengthened for her the three practices &ndash; gratitude, surrender, trust &ndash; she has been cultivating.<br /> Kishan shared how he was transforming as he was learning from his 5 months old little one who always smiles when she sees him and made him question if he did the same when he thought of his parents. Kaitlyn shared how she instantly connected to the Prayer of Surrender and how she is surrendering to the path she is being led to. Ankita shared how her life changed after volunteering at Seva Caf&eacute;.<br /> <br /> Another participant shared her life learnings from losing her teenage child to a terminal illness and how in the process she discovered herself.<br /> One participant shared this Tagore quote he had written on the first page of his diary &ndash; &ldquo;Let your life lightly dance on the edges of time like dew on the tip of a leaf&rdquo; &ndash; and he later found the same quote on the first page of each of his mother&rsquo;s diaries &ndash; whom he knew very little about since he lost her when he was very young!<br /> Yet another participant shared that seeing a relative suffer from cancer brought about a transformation in him and her started taking better care of his health. The long circle of sharing culminated with Jayeshbhai sharing his pearls of wisdom with all of us.<br /> The evening was spent at Safai Vidyalay. After a chat with Anarben at Safai Vidyalay, the assemblage moved to Seva Caf&eacute; where we were welcomed by volunteers who were busy preparing dinner for us. It was an evening of sharing and conversations, time to understand each other better more.<br /> <br /> By the second day, it was heartwarming to see the participants feel completely at home.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:395px; width:700px" /><br /> It was evident from the fact that they had taken over the decoration of the dining hall, the cleaning of the campus and the cutting / chopping activity in the kitchen.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:300px; margin:2px; width:700px" /><br /> The second day was the Hands day. Devendrabhai in his thoroughly entertaining manner briefed us on the significance of engaging our hands along with the mind. Most of the day was spent in some form of cleaning / beautification of the premises thereby cleaning and beautifying the within.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:395px; width:700px" /><br /> While some loved what they were doing and others started with not being happy with what they were doing, they ended up either loving or being completely okay with it. While all this action was happening at ESI, few volunteers and participants headed to Kabir Ashram to clean and set up Kabir Caf&eacute; for the rest of the group. Ankita Laddha, a silent volunteer along with few other volunteers and some TCS folks who chose to volunteer at Kabir Ashram prepared Daal Baati for lunch. It was the most sumptuous and loving meal most of us have ever had. The love and effort of standing in front of wood fire and baking the baatis could be felt as we had the meal. The evening was rather quiet with some popcorn sharing over a cup of tea and then breaking out into smaller groups for Heart circles. The Heart circles was a profound experience for many. This was followed by Awakin where Chris read us a beautiful passage &lsquo;Every Day is a Day Less&rsquo; &nbsp;to reflect upon.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:475px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> After sharing of reflections, we were led to the dining area for a silent dinner. The dining space was breath takingly beautiful in its simple d&eacute;cor with the effects of Navratri still lingering on and the immense love poured into preparing the space. The participants were moved to tears and rendered speechless after the experience. It was then time to shake and move to the tune of Garba with the next night being the night of Kojagiri Purnima marking the end of monsoon. The day was quite fulfilling and eventful at the same time.<br /> The Heart day began with Jayeshbhai sharing his experiments in love and compassion and his passion for it in his favourite place &ndash; Hriday Kunj.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:466px; width:700px" /><br /> This was followed by &lsquo;Three Steps and a Bow&rsquo; with Madhusudan and Chris giving a brief on the essence of this sacred little pilgrimage around the campus. Many a hearts opened even more during the Three Steps and A Bow. It was an overwhelming experience for many. The three days culminated with lots of hugs and a beautiful <a href="">slide show</a> by the volunteers. Besides the incredible memories and the experiences of the three days, the participants took with them a beautiful handmade photo frame made by some volunteers as a labour of love with a group photo pasted on it.<br /> <br /> One of the participants wrote:<br /> <em>&hellip;.I will just say that I feel so loved over there and even now everywhere I feel so loved... And try creating peace, Love near around me... Aafter coming back I am feeling so many transformations in me, like in my home now I align all shoes and sleeper in proper manner, helping my mom in all the work , not get angry in little things, not complaining for small things, and many more small things... It&rsquo;s now a week that I came back but still I feel like I am there only.... </em><br /> <br /> While another shared this beautiful card:<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:461px; width:650px" /><br /> <br /> One volunteer shares his reflections of the retreat:<br /> <br /> <em>I sometimes wonder if my acceptance of life as a struggle makes it more so. The retreat was a challenge for me. I wasn't keeping well. I also found being in such a supportive environment deepened my feelings of otherness which comes from simple things like language barriers and the deeper cultural divide of being a &quot;foreigner.&quot;&hellip;... I'm still processing the experience and I'm thankful for the opportunity to look closely at my own ideas and responses to such a special situation. Finally, it gave me a lot of joy to create the video montage of the gathering. I wish I had more time to make sure everyone was equally represented, but my life is quite busy at the moment. All the best and hope to get to know at least some of you much better in the coming weeks&hellip;.</em><em>. </em><br /> Here&rsquo;s a beautiful poem shared by another participant:<br /> <br /> <em>Offering my poem to the collective experience...<br /> <br /> Pursuit of Happiness<br /> Rain pours like a dream of a meadow<br /> The meadows thrive like a nation&rsquo;s dream<br /> The trees, as green as emanating leaves<br /> The leaves, as refulgent as an infant&rsquo;s eyes<br /> God strolls like a care-free mind<br /> The minds think like a peaceful soul<br /> The mountains, as high as a winner&rsquo;s spirit<br /> The winners, as abundant as a horizon&rsquo;s stretch<br /> The life lives like a moment that exists<br /> The moments persist like the echo of Azan<br /> The prayers, as pure as a belief<br /> The belief, as profound as a mother&rsquo;s heart<br /> The boundaries vanish like vapor in the sky<br /> The sky remains azure like a painter&rsquo;s wish<br /> The thoughts, as unfettered as an avian&rsquo;s flight<br /> The avians, as cheerful as a joyous journey<br /> The God strolls in a meadow<br /> with a care-free mind,<br /> And himself dreams; that<br /> Humanity walks in the Pursuit of Happiness.<br /> -Ninad</em><br /> <br /> Yet another participant shared this:<br /> <em>By far, this retreat was one of the most heart rendering one I have attended in my life.<br /> Much gratitude to all of us who co-created this retreat... especially to the facilitators and founders. They rock, and so do we all!! </em><br /> <br /> There is very little left to be said after such profound sharings&hellip;..<br /> &nbsp;... Aabha Gupta Tue, 01 Nov 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Maitri Meals - Meals for Friendship Gitanjali shares ... <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:225px; margin:2px; width:300px" />A Maitri Meal as the name suggests is <em>meal for friendship</em>, a meal which not only connects friends but connects the cook with the one who is enjoying it. This friendship is not an ordinary friendship, in Maitri you connect with those beautiful souls whose beauty has always been hidden. These women spend their life in just nurturing their outer beauty, they never get a chance to really feel how beautiful their heart is. But with every box of Maitri Meals, these women are getting that chance to connect with themselves, they are trusting themselves. Now they don&rsquo;t say that they are born to sell their bodies or serve men rather they confidently say; &ldquo;I cook really well, I cook with love, have one meal and you will get a glimpse of my love in it.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> And this is the dream of Maitri Meals. It started with a simple dream to offer life choices to women who are sold in the brothels in Delhi&rsquo;s red light district to show their bodies, and get money for that.<br /> For <a href="">Kat-Katha</a> they are our didis and their children are our friends be it a new born or an adult. They have accepted Kat-Katha as their family and that is the reason when we shared with our didis about a startup, they showed interest. Though in the beginning, they had inhibitions, and those were not about our capability to run the project rather they doubted if someone would ever buy a meal made by a sex worker. Initially our plan was to have a food cart with the name called Chatori Zubaan, where the idea was that it will be run by our didis and it will be a special cart which will not only sell snacks rather it will be a point for people to come and not only enjoy the food but really enjoy being there. Imagine standing on a cart which is handled by mothers, the mothers who are putting all the love in each pani puri you are having. The women who are in love with the food they are serving. But due to some technical issues we had to drop the idea of having a cart.<br /> <br /> But as we always believe that universe is keeping an eye on Kat-Katha and its different dreams and from somewhere we got out first small funding for this idea of making our didis as entrepreneurs. This happened in less than 24 hours and we told ourselves that we need to keep the fears aside and just go with a flow. As a result we started with a pilot kitchen where our didis went through a training to make food and on 13th August, we launched our dream project, our very own Maitri Meals and on the very first day we were able to sell 60 boxes.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:525px; margin:2px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> Not just this, on the second day we invited around 50 children for a lunch and the children demanded for Tofu and sweet dish and Indian bread called poori, and one more vegetable to add the twist to the lunch. The day was super awesome, the children had fun and our didis put all their love in making the food and at the end of the day we realised that we were flooded with the blessings of little ones.<br /> <br /> From Day 3, our didis took control and today after 2 months, they are not only cooking rather they keep the kitchen like their own &mdash; spic and span, they go to market and choose the best, and now they are also going to deliver though in the beginning they told us clearly that they will never deliver the boxes.<br /> <br /> With every passing day something is shifting inside our didis. Now they no more talk about their pain rather they share how grateful they are for every thing. They sit in circle, they pray before starting their kitchen and most importantly pray before having their meal. They have a mentor who comes to spend time on their academics. Now they happily agree to go with us even outside of GB Road, they have learnt the language to deal with their owners.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="margin:2px" /><br /> <br /> Maitri Meal&rsquo;s only purpose is to tell the world that love can be shared with anyone and in any form. It is us who have to open our heart and accept the other person.<br /> Every day I wonder why we judge people because of the surroundings they live in? Why do we judge people because of their profession? Why cant we accept that a sex worker is also a mother and can be a chef and if given a chance can be a great entrepreneur.<br /> <br /> &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;<em>&ldquo;If you judge people you have no time to love them.&rdquo; - Mother Teresa</em><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:466px; margin:2px; width:700px" />... Gitanjali Babbar Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Beauty in Monotony — Teach for India Retreat Teach shares ... Teach for India teachers were recently in ESI Sughad campus for a 2-day service retreat. Whether it was sitting in silence, picking rags, serving food, prayer rounds or interactions with local heroes and children; every activity led to exploring, reinforcing and even challenging their values and beliefs. Lovingly served by volunteers and staff at ESI, these gardeners (as teachers truly are!) left with a renewed sense of purpose, commitment and inspiration. Below are some pictures and a bouquet of reflections shared by many participants.<br /> <br /> <b><em>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</em>You often hear that poetry comes out of inspiration and love but it was the first time that I have felt so inspired, moved and loved that silence was the only way to express that feeling.</b> I just hope what my words did not say, was conveyed somehow to all my colleagues sitting there who I know have my back at all times, to Jayesh bhai whose every word and action is like Gita personified, to Kishan, Krishna, Nimo, Madhu, the staff of Madhav Sadhna, Seva Cafe and all others who selflessly served me and allowed me to experience the love they had to share and to Ankana who truly made it all possible. This was undoubtedly the best retreat that I have been to in my many years at TFI and nothing short of a life changing experience. &mdash; Dimple<br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <b>Finding novelty and beauty in monotony</b> - Venil<br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;I'm thinking about the power of loving what you do, <b>finding joy everyday in everything, making the time to be.</b> Be with myself and be with those I love - Romana<br /> <br /> <img alt="Jayesh bhai" src="" style="height:393px; margin:2px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The thought that really resonated with me was the role of stamina in defining our success and why it is more critical than just talent. <b>It made me reflect on how important it is for each of us to simply keep moving every day and keep doing all the small things consistently and excellently.</b> The other thing which stood out to me was Jayesh bhai's love &mdash; for everything and everyone! &mdash; Dipti<br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Those two days were such an overwhelming reminder of the immense power embedded in gratitude, joy, love, and simplicity. <b>I'm returning not only feeling refueled, but also more aligned with my larger perspective on purpose.</b> - Sandeep<br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Thank you Ankana and the entire Manav Sadhna team for a rejuvenating couple of days focused on cleansing my lenses towards being more rooted in purpose and simplicity. Of the various things I watched, listened to, touched and experienced, the analogy of a seed (of course, thanks to Nimo's Planting Seeds as well!) is most striking: <b>The importance of being in touch with our dual responsibility as the seed and the gardener. </b>To operate with stamina and continuous learning in a way that helps me be the best gardener self everyday, knowing that each seed will turn out differently in the end while also making choices that express gratitude towards roots and ecosystem that helped the seed in me grow. A critical component of this learning is all the people who facilitated the learning journey so openly and so passionately, a big Thank you to all! - Archana<br /> <br /> <img alt="Everyday heroes Ahemdabad" src="" style="height:525px; margin:2px; width:700px" /><br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;These two days have allowed me to <b>connect with myself and pushed me to think about the relationships I have cultivated and value</b>, so much today. I was deeply inspired by the relationships I saw play out at ESI and I am thinking a lot about what it means to fully give, without any expectation of receiving. Most of all, I was reminded that you cannot expect results to drive relationships but honest relationships will always yield results. &mdash; Tanya<br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;To call an experience life changing takes a lot of thinking and I have been doing precisely that since I left Ahmedabad. There were so many moments in my time at Ahmedabad where my deep beliefs and values were both reinforced and challenged. Be it serving dinner at Seva Cafe or picking rags with Chandrika and Lalita didi, or taking a walk with Lilapur village kids, I experienced a strange yet liberating stillness. And finally, the highest point came for me in the evening prayer walk on our last day. As I was walking and bowing, I had Romana walking in front of me with her hands raised in prayer, I knew she was performing namaaz. I, a Hindu, was performing a zen ritual, followed by a catholic (Arhan) doing the same thing. And all of us, praying with Gurbaani playing in the background. <b>Never in my life I'd seen such beautiful confluence of different religions. I know I walked out of ESI campus a changed person but this is just the beginning of a long journey.</b> I can only feel a deep sense of gratitude for Ankana, the entire Manav Sadhna Team, the TFI family and everyone who made those 2 days a truly life changing experience for me - Anand<br /> <br /> <img alt="Seva Cafe - TFI retreat" src="" style="height:393px; margin:2px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Where do I begin for the kind of experiences that ESI/Manav Sadhana team and Ankana have provided for all of us mid-last week? The space, the people and the culture, everything was so peaceful and full of love that it was a great retreat overall! Whether it was distilled wisdom from Jayesh bhai or just a silent walk around ESI campus or the sumptuous food at the canteen or the soulful conversations with Madhu bhai or the hospitality and generosity of the students at Riverside School/Kiran Sethi or the lives of many servant leaders (including many volunteers at Seva Cafe or people like Chandrika didi from rag picking experience) across the community...<b>each of them resonate a commitment to continuously practice service and perfect their game towards excellence.</b><br /> Huge gratitude to Ankana for painstakingly putting together a memorable, inspiring and a timely retreat for many of us. - Karthik<br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;For Ankana - Thank you for taking care of so many little things that are not seen but make such a big difference. so proud of you for pushing yourself out of the comfort zone.&nbsp;For Manav Sadhna - Thank you for making me <b>experience the true meaning of selfless seva and reminding me of my value system.</b> - Anuja<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:395px; margin:2px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&ldquo;There is beauty in monotony. We need urgency in depth, not breadth. You need stamina for evolution, not completion.&rdquo; &ndash; Kiran Sethi. Senge called it &lsquo;personal mastery&rsquo;. Kiran called it &lsquo;beauty in monotony&rsquo;. She spoke about how talent or great ideas are over-rated. Unless you have the will and the stamina to act, your talent or ideas are worthless. <b>Doing the same thing, day after day, but a little better every day is what leads to mastery.</b> Most people in today&rsquo;s world don&rsquo;t persist long enough to make a lasting impact on the world. Similarly, sitting on accolades gives you a sense of accomplishment, but never a sense of fulfilment. You end up becoming complacent to your own detriment. Excellence is a response to calling, not a deadline, goal, project or competition. You can&rsquo;t be excellent if you can&rsquo;t tell yourself &ldquo;I learnt something new about my work today than I knew yesterday&rdquo;&mdash; Kapil<br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;A heart-felt thank you &mdash; for so many years of inspiration, for so much that you make me believe and feel, for opening your heart to Akanksha and then Teach For India - and in doing so, for shaping us irrevocably. <b>We could not have had a better way to explore our core values of reflection, integrity, sense of possibility, excellence &mdash; and love.</b><br /> And for you, Ankana, thank you for believing in these days, for demonstrating every one of our values in the organizing of them, for pushing yourself to be and do and organize all at the same time. We would not have had these countless incredible moments without you. With my love, &mdash; Shaheen<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:525px; margin:2px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> &nbsp;... Teach for India team Tue, 18 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0700