| 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) Mon, 16 Jan 2017 13:45:42 -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 'What I Learned From My Time With Jayeshbhai' Abhishek shares ... There are few things more difficult than capturing profound experiences in words.<b> </b>Language becomes like fetters that limit how far one can venture.<br /> <br /> However, fettered in language, I still try to capture time spent with Jayesh Patel (Jayeshbhai) of Manav Sadhna.<br /> <br /> <b id="docs-internal-guid-d7aa220f-d347-a78b-cd0a-3127f09a4a4a">Why did I &lsquo;shadow&rsquo; Jayeshbhai?</b><br /> <br /> Those who are connected to Jayeshbhai have a sense of the impact his presence can leave you with. For me he represents a living legacy of Gandhian ideas.<br /> <br /> At times, he simplifies metaphysical ideas with the ease of a compassionate scientist. At other times, he responds to a question with the grace of an artist. And mostly, he is a flow of love, trying to honour what emerges.<br /> <br /> The word &lsquo;darshan&rsquo; means seeing. From an initial fascination with Jayeshbhai, to spending time absorbing his ideas to heading back into the world with him as a pole star, my relationship with him (in my head) has had different seasons.<br /> <br /> For a while now, a desire was brewing, to see Jayeshbhai in action even more closely. How would it be to experience him deal with life on a day to day basis? How could I observe his ideas in action? Would I be able to absorb the energy that he moves around with?<br /> <br /> If it would be the time of India&rsquo;s freedom struggle, I&rsquo;d have surely gone and &lsquo;checked out&rsquo; Gandhi, wondered at his ways and absorbed the inspiration. In these times, it is Jayeshbhai for me.<br /> <br /> <b id="docs-internal-guid-d7aa220f-d347-a78b-cd0a-3127f09a4a4a">CUT TO THE END -&nbsp;Me heading for Ahmedabad station</b><br /> <br /> On my way back to Mumbai&nbsp;with a grin on my face and a flood of memories (imagine hearts floating in the air), I was heading to the station.<br /> <br /> I was reflecting on all that I had seen and learned. I wrote it down immediately. Then I re-wrote it. And, finally, this is my third attempt at trying to articulate it<b>. </b><br /> <br /> I have tried to stay true to the spirit of action that I learned from Jayeshbhai - with a pure intent and a surrender to the flow of words.<br /> <br /> <b id="docs-internal-guid-d7aa220f-d347-a78b-cd0a-3127f09a4a4a">TO&nbsp;HOLD PURE INTENT,&nbsp;&nbsp;AND SURRENDER - TO GIVE FULL&nbsp;CONSENT TO NATURE TO WORK IT'S MAGIC.</b><br /> <br /> Towards the end of my trip,I listened as Jayeshbhai read quotes from his room in Sugad. One of the quotes implied that there is abundance and intelligence in nature. We, those engaged in seva, must create space to allow nature to work through us. And this consent, coming from surrender, must be complete. &nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Jayeshbhai has put this quote in his room as a reminder to practice this daily.<br /> <br /> As I reflected on this, a few questions emerged. Have I really allowed my work to happen through me? Have I fully surrendered? Surely not! There is still so much of &lsquo;me&rsquo; in my work&hellip;.but perhaps that is what I was here to see and learn&hellip;<br /> <br /> <b id="docs-internal-guid-d7aa220f-d347-a78b-cd0a-3127f09a4a4a">MOST OF JAYESHBHAI&nbsp; IS NOT ABOUT 'ME'&nbsp;BUT ABOUT 'YOU'&nbsp;AND 'US'</b><br /> <br /> Life is beautiful and there is much to be grateful for. Out of this gratitude comes hope, and it is this hope that moves his being.<br /> <br /> In the time I was with him, I saw him spend time and attend to very senior officials and young giggling girls. I saw him engage with many volunteers and plants and trees. I saw him speak to laborers and joke with kids.<br /> <br /> Is there &lsquo;value&rsquo; to this kinship? Does it make any difference to the world?<br /> <br /> <b id="docs-internal-guid-d7aa220f-d347-a78b-cd0a-3127f09a4a4a">JAYESHBHAI'S&nbsp;'THEORY OF CHANGE'&nbsp;&nbsp;SEEMS TO BE ANCHORED IN 'MAITRI'</b><br /> <br /> It is maitri that is going to move the world. More than organizations, which have a purpose, it is when people convene in love that they make change happen. It is when we put our egos aside and share vulnerably. From this sharing, collective intelligence is birthed, and from there, action emerges.<br /> <br /> To him, as he says, it is very clear - Noble friendships are the way. Sharing is the way. And out of deep love and compassion for each one (each one being the best possible that a person can be at the moment), there is flexibility in embracing people as they are, for who they are.<br /> <br /> For<b> </b>me<b> </b>this was a very important<b> </b>aspect to understand.<br /> <br /> At some stage, my fellow-traveller and brother Kishan and I were reflecting on what is it that would be non-negotiable for Jayeshbhai? We saw him engage with large corporations as well as the government, we saw him deal with very ambitious people as well as humble ones.<br /> <br /> If everything is okay - what is not okay? What is the basis then, of engaging - what is the ground to stand on.<br /> <br /> Through this reflection, we realized that <b><em>we could see no other ground except deep love</em> - </b>&lsquo;love&rsquo; manifesting as compassion, empathy, playfulness, acceptance, nurturance, faith and attention.<br /> <br /> The last one was particularly interesting to see - deep attention to small things. At a tree plantation ceremony, Jayeshbhai bade farewell to the guests of honor and then started out on a round of all the trees planted with the girls.<br /> <br /> With each tree, he asked the girls its name. In a moment, he was a biologist talking about the qualities of the plant. In another, a story teller plucking a right fruit from our mythological wilderness. And while we digested the story, he would become a momentary philosopher, leaving us with something deep to ponder about!<br /> <br /> To be in this space for a few hours a day seems feasible but for all the time that I was with Jayeshbhai, I experienced this <em><b>space of slowness </b>and care.</em><br /> <br /> I don&rsquo;t think Jayeshbhai takes himself too seriously, in that, for a man of such wisdom, he is often playful and fun-filled. This connects him to a whole range of people across gender, age and cognitive modes.<br /> <br /> At one time, in response to a question I asked him, he invited a lady to come and sing one of her favourite songs, leaving it for me to find my answer. At another time, he willingly posed with a beautiful peacock on the terrace of Safai Vidyalaya. And when I complimented his cook for an amazing breakfast, he sheepishly replied that it was Jayeshbhai who had done the cooking!<br /> <br /> Talking about cooking, another beautiful metaphor Jayeshbhai gave was that of the flour-mill. The &lsquo;chakki&rsquo; has two stones - one that stays still and the other that moves. Only in that combination of stillness and action does flour come out!<br /> <br /> <b id="docs-internal-guid-d7aa220f-d347-a78b-cd0a-3127f09a4a4a">ACTION GROUNDED IN STILLNESS-&nbsp;</b>Seems a very potent mix!<br /> <br /> &nbsp;I have given a lot of thought to the stillness that Jayeshbhai embodies.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> I cannot get that stillness by quoting him. I don&rsquo;t think it can come by having the same experiences as he did either. Rather, it seems to come from an exacting practice, done every single day, with every single act.<br /> <br /> And it is this practice of stillness, that is what allows the magic of connections to unfold. From top officials to very &lsquo;simple&rsquo; folk, Jayeshbhai brought in an unconditional acceptance of everyone who walked his way. Rather than avoiding connections or selectively choosing to engage, he opened himself to be fully present to whoever and whatever entered his world (at one stage that included a dancing peacock!).<br /> <br /> There were many requests that were made of him - and I saw his loving refusal to a woman who was pleading with him to have her toilet roof fixed. It wouldn&rsquo;t have been too difficult for a man of Jayesh bhai&rsquo;s stature to do that but he said, &ldquo;Send your sons to me. I will speak to them.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> I saw him hold this opposite :<b> <em>Deep acceptance combined with gentle nudges.</em></b><br /> <br /> His methods are two [or multi] pronged - letting people be free to be themselves (like having tobacco, for example) and yet constantly reminding them about the possibility of giving up those habits. And while the suggestion sounded spontaneous, I was sure that he had repeated these nudges several times.<br /> <b id="docs-internal-guid-d7aa220f-d347-a78b-cd0a-3127f09a4a4a">Where was that patience coming from?</b><b> </b><br /> <br /> In every conversation, every speech, every joke, there was a movement towards the same direction. This was the direction of a higher possibility, a greater vision. Relentlessly, he shared what he saw happening to a particular space or a person.<br /> <br /> In this open space, we are planning to create a new kitchen. There, we will be creating a gaushala. Why don&rsquo;t you send some Blue Ribbon volunteers to come and stay here?&rsquo;<br /> <br /> <b id="docs-internal-guid-d7aa220f-d347-a78b-cd0a-3127f09a4a4a">As he did this, individuals around him eagerly waited to take this up and make it happen.</b><br /> <em>Repeating his vision and scattering the seeds of it every moment,</em> he let&rsquo;s Nature take over and run the design for him. The specific HOW isn&rsquo;t his to figure out.<br /> <br /> But not all seeds are &lsquo;scattered&rsquo; - some are also very deliberately planted. He shared the example of Bhaskar, whom he sensed would be very successful at running Seva Cafe. He planted him there, based on his potential.<br /> <br /> <b id="docs-internal-guid-d7aa220f-d347-a78b-cd0a-3127f09a4a4a"><em>Each of us serving to our potential with our talents</em> -</b> this was the message.<br /> <br /> And what was Jayeshbhai&rsquo;s offering? What was he focussing on?<br /> <br /> Having moved to the potent background of Manavsadhna, Jayeshbhai is silently supporting it in many different ways. In many other trusts related to Gandhi, he is one of the youngest trustees. It is this legacy that he is now holding and living.<br /> <br /> The various trusts that occupy spaces around Gandhi ashram have differing ideas about what to do with them<b>. </b><br /> <br /> Some of these spaces are neglected, others are under-utilized. The journey then for Jayeshbhai, is to reclaim these spaces - through a variety of means and tricks.<br /> <br /> Some of these have produced a backlash for some members of the community, and these require firm handling. Depending on what the situation needs, Jayeshbhai provides it.<br /> <br /> There is a flexibility of approaches that I see Jayeshbhai having. Some of these are so contradictory that Jayeshbhai, exercising them may seem hypocritical. However, all these approaches are exercised with<b><em> love for the other.</em></b><br /> <br /> It is this love that makes Jayeshbhai&rsquo;s every act filled with intensity. The power of the small actions that happen around this man travel all across the ecosystem as inspiring stories that move others.<br /> <br /> What is it that makes these actions so viral? What about them is so touching? What is it that pulls people to this unassuming love-filled being?<br /> <br /> It is probably an ineffable but very potent quality that affects us at a visceral level.<br /> <br /> It is the space of love that takes years of patient cultivation. This love has flowered in Jayeshbhai. His stories, his energy and his warm blanket of love, all point to the saadhna of love that he engages in.<br /> <br /> As we were heading out of his home, there was garbage on one side of the road. Jayeshbhai placed a call to the Municipal corporation to have it cleared. It was the road named for Eshwar Kaka (his father). Even Jayeshbhai takes these ironies in his stride and continues to do his work.<br /> <br /> We spoke about how Jayeshbhai did not have a car or a driver for a while. It was finally after Anarben&rsquo;s insistence that he agreed to have one. Living within one&rsquo;s means, and living while supported by his wife were totally comfortable ideas for him. At the same time he pushed for ensuring economic stability -<b> <em>money is a good slave but a bad master.</em></b><br /> <br /> The intellectual in me had gone on this trip for exotic conceptual complexity. Instead, what I returned with was an experience of simple love. It was an experience that I could not fully codify, nor could I break it down and make it my own.<br /> <br /> But I was inspired - ahead of me is a long path of expanding my capacity to love. The same love that would manifest as attention, stillness, patience and connection. I cannot help but bow, even in this moment as I write this, to that beautiful embodiment of purity that I found in Jayeshbhai&rsquo;s being.... Abhishek Thakore Mon, 17 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Reflections from a Recent Adventure with Life and Death Neerad shares ... It&rsquo;s amazing how time keeps moving on leaving behind subtle traces of learning to be picked up and placed in such a way so as to complete the puzzle. My life was almost turned upside down when I was diagnosed with a rare cancer mutation of the blood. No form of medication was available in India and whatever was to be imported was super expensive but more importantly not proven, so I would be in the initial line of guinea pigs. The only other alternative was a bone marrow transplant, which&nbsp;was possible&nbsp;if we found the right match in the family. Now after 9 months into the process and on path to complete recovery, I decided to step back and take a look at some of the learning that stood out during this process.<br /> <br /> <b>Everything is a process of weaving back into wholeness</b><br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:429px; width:600px" /><br /> Only last week we received a beautiful card and a shawl from a lovely person named Catherine living in America. My wife and I couldn&rsquo;t stop crying for several hours holding this beautiful piece of stunningly well knitted shawl. Every thread spoke of its warmth and love and every knot a prayer for healing. Even the message was full of love and left with us a learning of a lifetime. Our only wish at this time was to be used as a thread to connect heart to heart&nbsp;and share the warmth that we received ever so lovingly. What was even more beautiful is that we were being weaved all along into wholeness without our realization till we looked a little into the distant past.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:450px; width:600px" /><br /> When we decided to go ahead with the tests for mapping the DNA for marrow transplant, we were very vary of the results as in the recent past a very dear friend did the mapping for his brother and the result was not positive. I have two siblings &ndash; a brother and a sister. As nature had planned it, my sister whose blood group was different than mine turned out to be a 100% match and my brother with whom I shared the same blood group did not match. The probability of matching at the first go with immediate siblings is so rare that the doctor called us to share the good news. Prior to admission and committing to a year long process with chances of success ranging from 50-70%, I decided to have some fun by meeting my farmer friends and other friends in the community in my hometown. There were hugs, tears, prayer circles and more importantly the faith that nothing can happen to me. One even went to the extent to say that &lsquo;nothing incurable can come to souls like yours. You are surrounded by universal grace and all our prayers&rsquo;. Little did we understand then what it truly meant until we saw the big picture.<br /> <br /> What are the odds that your wife goes on a completely open to trust pilgrimage across the country for more than half a year only to meet an old couple in Kerala (down south in India) whose son will turn out to be our heamato-oncologist doing the bone marrow transplant. Who could ever fathom that my sister who had then recently lost her husband to cancer, would find hope in her life to save her brother from cancer. Even if we were to stretch our imagination to the maximum, little would we know that my sister would find a noble friend in my doctor&rsquo;s brother with a future possibility of sharing the rest of their life together? Even to be able to see this in this lifetime is truly a blessing!<br /> That is when I was reminded of the well-known Sanskrit sloka &ndash;<br /> <em>Purnamadah Purnamidam</em><br /> <em>Purnat Purnamudachyate</em><br /> <em>Purnasya Purnamadaya</em><br /> <em>Purnameva Vashishyate<br /> Om shanti, shanti, shanti</em><br /> <br /> Om.<br /> That is the whole, this is the whole;<br /> from the whole, the whole becomes manifest;<br /> taking away the whole from the whole,<br /> the whole remains.<br /> Om. Peace! Peace! Peace!<br /> <br /> As we now understand, we were probably torn from our internal fabric, our true essence, our being and all this play was just to &lsquo;weave it back into wholeness&rsquo;.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>The overwhelming feeling of grace is the closest to nothingness</b><br /> There are very few times when you are completely drenched and enveloped in the feeling of grace. One such incident that left my mind paralyzed (in a good sense J) was this. As part of the process, one is administered Chemotherapy for the first week of the treatment for the bone marrow to stop making new cells as their DNA had the cancerous mutation. &nbsp;After this new stem cells from the donor are administered. Between the reduction of existing cells and the development of the new cells from the bone marrow there is usually a lag of 9-10 days. During this time a spiritual leader (again from the same ashram as the old couple in Kerala) was visiting Pune. My wife requested if he could come home and chant for a while and bless our home. That time for me at the hospital was the most critical one as I was on day 9 with my counts not growing and reaching its lowest ever. My platelets were at 2000, white blood cells at 100 and haemoglobin at 3.<br /> <br /> So Swamiji (as we addressed him) comes home and so does my doctor as he is also very close to Swamiji. I was connected by Skype and we got talking. He was asking about my health and I responded with whatever energy I had. That is when he turned to my doctor and asked &ldquo;How much stem cells have you administered?&rdquo; and the doctor replied &ldquo;Say about 330 ml.&rdquo; Swamiji pauses for a while and asks him again &ldquo;How many cells would that be?&rdquo; The doctor patiently thought, did some calculations and said &ldquo;about 3.3 million cells&rdquo;. That is when Swamiji smiled and said &ldquo;Oh, 3 million &lsquo;Ram naam&rsquo; in those cells, what can possibly go wrong.&rdquo; We all had tears in our eyes, realizing how he was looking at everything as an element of the divine while we tend to look at all things fragmented. As soon as this thought crossed my heart, we felt I was truly in the line of grace showered with so much love and drenched in its never ending flow. The next day my platelets were 20,000, white blood cells 2,000 and so on. In just four days, all counts moved up by a multiple of 3.<br /> <br /> That&rsquo;s when we truly realized our fragmented thought processes, our belief for &lsquo;our&rsquo; or &lsquo;my understanding&rsquo; to be right and when that crashes to something as beautiful and loving as grace, everything just melts into nothingness. You literally start staring at a blank canvas.<br /> <br /> <b>Deep compassion effortlessly leads to non-attachment</b><br /> When our cup of compassion is full, the ability to let go becomes effortless. When life is at the edge and we are faced with the question of survival, there is a certain clinging and a very deep sensation attached to it. One is not free. True freedom comes with gratitude, overflowing into compassion, leading to built up of so much love that all other things literally weed out and one feels so light at the end of that understanding. We cannot wait for that understanding to be seeded in, it just dawns and if one is aware, it sinks in, else just passes on.<br /> <br /> Every time a new drug, chemo, blood, platelets, etc., was administered, my wife was given a form to sign. The form stated that if anything ever happened to me in the above process, the hospital was not to be held responsible. Frankly, even the hospital was right in doing this. How can one promise an outcome dependent on the forces of nature? My blood group was changing from O+ to B+ and in this process, an intrusion like a medicine or a new blood with its numerous anti-gene antibodies could trigger any reaction that one cannot fathom. It could even lead to death. We saw that in two cases right in front of our eyes. I can&rsquo;t imagine what my wife must have gone through every time she had to sign this form. Once she even lovingly fought with the doctor, and asked him with teary eyes &ndash; &ldquo;Would you sign if it was one of your close family members?&rdquo; Nobody had answers to difficult questions like this one. One day, we were talking about the role of God in our life and how grateful we were to feel his presence moment to moment. That is when it hit us that all the doctors, nurses, staff, etc., were all &lsquo;<em>nimitta</em>&rsquo; (designated) to carry out this task. Doctors&rsquo; life was not easy at all and so were the lives of nurses and staff. We realized that there was really nothing the doctor could do beyond a point and he was left to the mercy of nature like all of us. That was the seeding of compassion for everyone around.<br /> <br /> Every single day the blood was monitored to see the progress and I was so attached to the results that my mood for the day depended on the results. I would literally hound the junior doctors for results. My mind had become so attached to the goal that it would blind me to everything else. I didn&rsquo;t enjoy my food, my mood sucked, wouldn&rsquo;t talk to anyone and just go into one big negative spiral. With that huge act of grace, the understanding of &lsquo;<em>nimitta</em>&rsquo; dawned upon us and we became detached with the results to the point that we started making fun of it. Blessed with an auditor&rsquo;s mind, i would memorize all the numbers for 2 weeks in a row only to rattle them off to the senior doctor when he would enquire about a particular date. All of us would then break into a huge laugh. When you develop deep compassion for others, there is a complete sense of non-ownership with the outcomes and you start looking at everything objectively, designated to be done by someone. The universal alignment could choose anybody for the task and all one can see is the outcome. If one creates immense compassion to the &lsquo;<em>nimitta&rsquo;</em> then the outcomes become irrelevant. We realized even between my wife and I that the more we are committed in a deeply compassionate way, we tend to give more and more freedom of expression to each other.<br /> <br /> <b>One can walk fearlessly into death only when one&rsquo;s being is childlike<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:432px; width:600px" /></b><br /> My best friends in the hospital are these two young monks &ndash; Om and Aksa. Om is six and Aksa, five. Our transplants have happened at different times; however we still meet every Tuesday for our weekly checkups. All of us have this line which runs 50&nbsp;cm into the body to meet the artery. It&rsquo;s called the cavafix line. I have it in my arm and they have it on their chest &ndash; yes &ndash; chest, as kids tend to play a lot with their hands, their lines are short and connected directly to the main blood line. Every Tuesday we all walk into the Heamat &ndash; day care almost at similar times. Aksa is mostly to my right and Om to my left. It&rsquo;s almost a sight when they meet me. They show off their new dress or a gifted car or a new handkerchief and it&rsquo;s a delight to watch them fully engrossed in their toys or watching a cartoon called &lsquo;Chota Bheem&rsquo; (incidentally my favourite too). Even as you meet them in the hospital lobby, they walk as if they own the place. No waiting line, they directly enter the doctors cabin to say &lsquo;Hi&rsquo; and laugh and shyly close the door. They sit at medical counters while their moms pick up their weekly dose of medicines and the kids would audit them. One would even shout, &ldquo;No mom, this one should be a yellow pill not a red one&rdquo; and the mom would obediently check with the medical guy only to find that he had given a higher dose and the kid was indeed right about the colour.<br /> But the best learning happened when all of us go through the weekly procedure of our bandage being completely ripped open and have the cavafix line cleaned. Even as an adult, I must admit that sometimes I am in tears as the bandage pulls with it some hair, some skin and it&rsquo;s not easy. These two kids are quiet till the procedure begins. Then they leave out a loud cry when it&rsquo;s being done unable to bear the pain. This was also my biggest test of equanimity. They would cling on to their mothers&rsquo; arms and even go to the extent that they hate the nurse. This is the same nurse to whom they would show off their new toy and tell everyone that she was her best friend. The funniest part is, as soon as the procedure is over, Om would still be crying but would tell his mom &ndash; &ldquo;I am hungry, give me something to eat&rdquo; and Aksa would clean her tears and put the small purdah that she was made to wear, being from the Muslim tradition and say &ldquo;Mom, I need to go to the bathroom.&rdquo; I remember carrying this pain for days in my head till I met these two little monks who taught me to live moment to moment.<br /> <br /> They fearlessly walked the path of life and death only when they had the innocence to let go of the pain and start living their joyous self. In a moment, they would cry, the next moment &ndash; eat, sleep, laugh, share stories and hold very little memories from the past. For them, everyday was a new day not bothering what their counts were, whether they had fever the earlier week or not, whether one was suffering from cough and cold and so on. For them it was business as usual with the same smile and the same joy. Something only the kids can teach.<br /> <br /> <b>Paths are ignited only with faith and devotion on either side</b><br /> Till last year, I was experimenting with different service opportunities and found that the closest to my heart, was working with farmers. Nevertheless, there was still a gaping hole in my levels of surrender to the same. I was in flux even when I walked into the transplant about what I wanted to do. There was something missing in finding the thing that was closest to your essence. This is where I learnt my biggest lesson in faith. The doc had to share with me the consequences of my report (about the deadly mutation) and the way forward. I presume my wife had already spoken to him earlier and looked like I was in for a deep counselling session. I told the doctor that I was ready to face whatever the consequences may be and I didn&rsquo;t want to go through any treatment. He looked into my eye with a certain confidence, a surety, a concerned brother&rsquo;s look and said &ldquo;Look, get through with this in a year and serve the farmers for 20 more years&rdquo;. My wife looked at me and nodded in agreement and said &ldquo;Trust him, he&rsquo;s right&rdquo;. I closed my eyes for a second only to open and say yes. Yes! meant a lot of things. One, I was agreeing to go through all the chemo, transplant, painful procedures, etc., and secondly, saying yes to either making it or not at the end of it all. But once we have faith, the universe aligns all the processes. Someone paid forward my charges for Ayurvedic medicines that would help me prepare for the chemo, an NGO would raise funds for my treatment, my sister who had just lost her husband a couple months ago got his insurance money which turned out to be the exact amount that would be used for the treatment. The community raised quite a huge sum and suddenly there was abundance all around. Everyday we would wake up to a new trick the universe would&rsquo;ve played on us only to help us melt our egos more and more and surrender completely with faith.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:510px; width:600px" /><br /> The other thing I learnt during this process was the power of prayers.&nbsp; Sinking deep in devotion, I found my essence. Not the religious kind of devotion but a kind of power that constantly reminded that you are taken care of already, just play your part. It did take a while to understand this with bouts of negative spirals and emotional outbursts but in the end, devotion stood apart to hold me really strong. We would get messages from all around the world about someone fasting for a day, someone sitting in meditation and sending metta or an old missionary mother saying with so much grace &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know with age how long I can pray but I definitely promise 3 hours each day&rdquo;. 3 hours everyday!!! While some held circles, my farmer friends held community prayers and a few other friends from villages held a bhajan night to pray for my health. My sister would constantly keep chanting &lsquo;Ram naam&rsquo; while serving me at the hospital. When I say constantly, it meant for about 5-6 hrs non-stop. During a puja at home, she even painted &lsquo;Ram naam(s)&rsquo; on a stunning ochre cloth. Suddenly amongst all this, there was an overwhelming feeling of being taken over by the power of devotion and when I came home, I started listening to chants, songs, lectures gifted by friends in the community. Slowly and steadily it grew on me and I started singing along, humming along only to get to a slightly better understanding about life and all of consciousness.<br /> <br /> Faith and devotion have ever since remained so deeply ingrained in my being that I feel to have found my essence. One naturally tends to become more effortless in their pursuit of day to day tasks. The eternal faith that one is being taken care of moment to moment helps one push more boundaries to serve more and more without any expectation or self doubt. One is no longer a slave of the circumstances; instead each one has a choice to make fearless decisions with an expanded freedom.<br /> <br /> <b>Affinities cannot be polarized</b><br /> As soon as people heard about my condition and future treatment, there were scores of emails, messages, phone calls, skype calls on how they were with us during the whole process with constant prayers and help of any kind. There is one incident that we cannot just not take away from our hearts. One day, I was in severe need of platelets. My wife messaged the entire community in Pune and within a couple of hours, people started calling up and lining up for tests. After a series of rejections, we found out the minimum criteria for donation so we started informing that they check their haemoglobin and weight before coming here. A mother and son came all the way from a place 20 kms away after doing the haemoglobin and other tests with a certain surety of being able to donate platelets as her son had a very athletic body. On arriving, the lab did some tests and said that his platelet count was 1,75,000 and the minimum requirement was 1,80,000, so we can&rsquo;t take it from him. The mother was so disappointed that she called up my wife and said, &ldquo;Please request them to take the platelets, I will feed him properly, take good care of him when I get back home but for now, please ask the lab to take his platelets as Po requires it so badly&rdquo;. At that time, we felt so moved when my wife narrated the story that both of us were in tears as we&rsquo;ve never seen someone who would feel so hurt that she was not able to serve at that moment.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:342px; width:600px" /><br /> One more incident was during my home coming. A group of noble friends decided to give me a surprise on my return home. Three of them in particular travelled all the way from Mumbai and Ahmedabad to paint love on the walls of our home. There was a huge painting in our living room, healing symbols in our bedroom and the portrait of a monk in prayer with my favourite verse written below in free hand, oil paint dripping love. I was literally in for a super sweet shock when I walked in from the hospital.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:330px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> The second time a group of friends across the country surprised me on my 100th day post transplant. It was so funny because I was supposed to be in quarantine and about 15 of &lsquo;Noble&rsquo; (according to the doc, they were irresponsible J) friends. But what a beautiful day and lovely circle of sharing. It was great meeting everyone after a long haul.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:323px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> Looking back today, with my counts stable, no trace of the mutation in the blood and immunity at decent levels, it all seems like a distant dream with fond memories and tons of learning. Can I hold a view about religion when an Anglican church takes 8 months to weave the shawl, old Missionary sisters committing to 3 hours of prayer or a Jewish boss who stood like a rock amongst all this, Aksa, a Muslim girl teaching me some fine lessons in life, a Buddhist monk whose prayer beads bless me each day or my mom&rsquo;s teacher who chanted several verses from the Vedas to pray for me or the countless Ram jaap that was showered each day. Can I hold a view about prayers, meditation, bhakti, fasting, sweets off food, circles, and healing chants; when everything seemed like a blessing? Brothers, sisters, my spouse, mom, noble friends, neighbours, strangers and all of the doctors and staff literally becoming one family to make we walk into a new life. Which one do I say is better than the other? Can I distinguish between my mom and other moms who prayed for me? Aren&rsquo;t the sisters the same when one shared her blood and others their heart and art and the one who drove for over 100 miles just to meet a Chinese doctor for an alternative medicine?<br /> <br /> At a juncture where one sees this wholeness, there is no duality, no presence of the other. If I am a miracle of life, so is everyone and if we all are one, how can affinities be polarized?... Neerad Trivedi Sat, 08 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Seeing the Extra ordinary in The Ordinary Drishti shares ... <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:400px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> The Moved by Love retreat this September had a beautiful theme woven into its gentle yet expansive being. As 40 beautiful pilgrims from across the country gathered to meet each other in 'Maitri', cultivating deeper friendship and understanding, with&nbsp;the bhaav to transcend the meeting of kindred souls with a deeper understanding of what binds us together. What roots are interconnecting us beneath the surface and what stirs within us to engage with each other in the spirit of 'Vasudeva Kutumbakam'.<br /> <br /> Sanchi opened the gathering with a heart felt welcome to all our dear brothers and sisters, while Chris bhai shared his little practices of seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary in each moment of his day. How a single movement in his weight lifting routine taught him so much to how powerful making a broom and meditating with it as he pulled out leaf by leaf of a branch of the palm tree to create a single jhaadu. The beauty he found in these simple moments which gave him so much internal peace and equanimity and nourished him from within. Khush Di shared the story of Tambe Kaka in Pune who after retiring from his job at 60 started looking after the forest in his neighbourhood and would go early every morning to do his little bit for the trees - watering, planting saplings, creating terraces, little canals etc and kept doing this for years on end inspiring hundreds of daily walkers in the forest to also do the same, which has resulted in a co-created happy forest :) Shubhangi shared how she visited an underprivileged home and as she went in enthusiastically to play with the kids, she realised that they were visually impaired and so couldn't do much of the activities she had planned, but she realised that they had other gifts - singing, stitching etc and when she engaged them in that, they were overjoyed. Kopal shared how she had a practice of smiling at everyone as she travelled in the metro in Delhi. Once she smiled at a lady who smiled back at her;&nbsp;Kopal felt an inner calling to hug this lady and she mustered the courage to do so. As she went up to her and hugged her, this lady was all smiles and shared that she really needed a hug today and was grateful to receive it.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:450px; width:600px" /><br /> Banshi sweetly shared how she once met an uncle in her new neighbourhood who was giving away a bag-full of books to the <em>raddiwala</em>. She was intrigued by the books which were spiritual in nature. Although she didn't read any of these books she felt it was a treasure house of knowledge and should not be wasted! She asked the uncle for this bag of books and kept it with her in her room. From time to time, she would gift her friends these books and in return she would also collect other books. Over a period of time, she gave away many books and received many in return. She still treasures this bag of books which keeps multiplying the more she gives them away :)&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Preksha reflected on how she noticed when there was construction activity taking place nearby that the labourers would always share their food with all present even if it was wandering street dogs. They never hesitated in feeding them. Also the street dwellers would never take food if they had already eaten which was such a lesson in taking only what one needs. Sonika, who is a Tai&nbsp;chi teacher shared that how when she teaches, many people come to heal physically or emotionally and how when she is able to help even one person by being there for them, it makes her so grateful. It may look small then, but it means so much. Shubhi spoke of how she was inspired by Jayesh bhai, and once outside a large temple premises, she started collecting strewn plastic wrappers. Soon other people also started doing the same and the ripple turned into a wave :) Murtuza spoke of how he once went to give a motivational talk at the Paraplegic centre of the army in Pune and how he returned much more motivated and enriched by their sharing's instead while Hardik shared of growing up in a male chauvinistic household and how an incident with his mom taught him to be humble. He started helping her with the household work and how he overcame the male conditioning in the house which strengthened his bond with his mom and today she is his best friend.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Rahul reflected on how he and his dad once went to visit an ancient Ganesh temple in their city. It was a big festival day and there were thousands of people. When they reached the shoe stand, they realised that only 4 volunteers were manning this stand and due to the large number of people coming and going, everything was in chaos. Without thinking for a moment, his dad jumped into the shoe stand and started helping the 4 people. He also pulled Rahul in and together for a couple of hours they selflessly served everyone passing by with the safe keeping of their shoes. Slowly some more volunteers joined in and things started functioning well once again. It was on this day that he truly realized the power of seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.<br /> <br /> Jayesh bhai shared that how just listening to the beautiful people in the opening circle, he had 'Dhairya darshan' - where he saw immense patience in all as the sharing went on for about 3 hours. He felt that where there is respect, there is deep friendship.<br /> <br /> Meghna di and Sheetal bhai shared our collective Moved By Love values in a short presentation as they emphasized on the 4 shifts that keep us going retreat after retreat - From Transaction to trust, Isolation to Community, Scarcity to Abundance and Consumption to Contribution.<br /> <br /> Post a wonderful visit to Gandhi Ashram and Safai Vidyalaya, the Karma Bhumi of a lot of invisible ladders who lit up the path for others by their daily practices of love in action, we reached Seva cafe &nbsp;where we began to understand its tagline - 'Living is Giving'. The sheer joy of service and love felt in its surroundings was palpable.<br /> <br /> Natasha shared with us her service journey of experiments in Gift economy with her work as a Chiropractor, while Drishti shared her experiences of being inspired by Seva cafe to experiment with a one day seva cafe experiment in Mumbai where she and her brother took over a restaurant for a day and served more than 100 people as guests along&nbsp;with the help of a lot of volunteers and how that was a huge learning for her. Bhaskar and Raju shared their incredible journey of 10 years with Seva cafe and Devesh and Himanshu enthralled us all with their soulful bhajans. What a magical evening :)<br /> <br /> <em><b>Give Your Hands to Serve - And your Hearts to Love</b></em><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:389px; width:600px" /><br /> It was a beautiful morning on day 2 of the retreat as Sonika, who is a Tai&nbsp;chi expert led the group through some simple yet intense exercises to connect within and flow in the harmony of the universe. Rejuvenated by this simple flow, the participants gathered for a circle of sharing with Devendra Bhai who has worked for more than 25 years in the field of Sanitation and whose joyful demeanor and playful stories bring glee to our hearts as he shares wonderful experiences and anecdotes from his life's journey. He helped us understand the value of using our hands effectively, with discipline and devotion, to find the harmony, the catalyst between the Head and the heart. He shared his favourite quote with us - ' May all good work begin with Me ' and the importance of taking the lead to effortlessly begin action where needed.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:400px; width:600px" /><br /> As all the participants got ready for a day of service, they were quickly divided into 3 teams - one making brooms with Chris and Kanchan dada. One painting tin oil cans to create beautiful dustbins in the campus and one to cook for all at Kabir ashram. Each team put in their best 'Hands' forward and magic was created, whether it was the meditative practice of slicing a palm leaf one by one with extreme care and focus to get one tili of a jhaadu or the painting of the tin cans which needed careful washing, scrubbing, preparations in order for it to be base painted in the first place.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:338px; width:600px" /><br /> Kabir ashram was turned into a beautiful space with decor using local material, welcome drinks, a grand welcome and delicious prasad for everyone made by the participants. It was incredible to see the energy with which each and every person was served.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:400px; width:600px" /><br /> Anar didi gave a wonderful talk on her own practices which help her maintain a balance of the head, hands and heart in her life.<br /> <br /> As Sanchi shared the following after the Awakin circle -&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <em>This retreat brought two very beautiful shifts. While I sat on the cushions facing everyone to host the Awakin circle on the hands day I sat with the obvious anxiousness around what will I speak, everyone is watching me so back unnaturally straight etc :) and through that thirty minutes of silence a lovely feeling emerged. What is this anxiety about and this thing of doing ( sitting back straight then) to impress?&nbsp;</em><br /> <em>Isn't it because I feel I separated myself from the participant brothers and sisters who sat in front of me and also from volunteers. A oneness sprouted there and then. We are all one and this retreat is us. Our being. And not a performance. A melting of something uneasy inside happened. A little bit more towards the one pure flow in all of us.</em><br /> <br /> <em>And second I just loved Anar Didi say it loud and happy ' I am a true mother.' The honest person that she is to express her shortcomings to everyone. Her also saying that hey! This is my strength! &nbsp; Was an aha moment for me! I felt how sometimes I do not accept public appreciation and it is not shyness or humility. It is sheer ego. That somewhere inside knows I have that strength but the same ego tells you Oh! How can you express and accept in front of everyone. You HAVE to be humble. And underplay it.&nbsp;</em><br /> <em>This underplaying is ego too! As much as over playing :) it is sameness in a 5 star buffet and the roadside tapri that is egoless-ness :)) I guess.</em><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:450px; width:600px" /><br /> The beauty of the Silent dinner brought stillness into every heart and created a space of deeper reflection into what we had received and what the day had taught us. Later as we came out of this sacred space it was wonderful to see the Anganwadi teachers who had a training in the same campus, dancing in abandon to the garba music playing in the campus. We all joined them and danced our hearts out :)<br /> <br /> <b><em>In the end, nothing we do or say in this lifetime will matter as much as we would have loved one another.</em></b><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:338px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> With smiles and open hearts, we entered Hriday Kunj, the little heart shaped grove in the ESI campus which was the venue for a heart sharing by Jayesh Bhai. Chris was asked to introduce Jayesh bhai and it was beautiful how he opened with,&quot; Everyone talks about Jayesh Bhai's father, Ishwar bhai Patel but I rarely hear about his mother Vasudha Ben Patel. I wish to share about her today. Every time she enters the campus, she lovingly greets everyone and blesses everyone with a kind pat on the head and love in her eyes. I have been the recipient of this love by Mother Vasudha several times and each time I feel so full of emotion by her grace and generosity.&quot; As he mentioned these beautiful words about Vasudha Ba, Jayesh bhai was overcome with joy and emotion as he proceeded to share his journey of service, love and the Joy of giving.<br /> He spoke of Ekagrata - Oneness and Samagrata - wholeness and how when we connect within, with the soul with detachment we connect with the entire humanity.<br /> <br /> After a sharing on the Humble practice of two Buddhist monks in California who took<a href=";who=hengsure">&nbsp;3 steps and a bow</a>&nbsp;to bring peace within themselves and through that, prayed for peace in the world, we set out to bring this humble practice into our own lives right there in the ESI campus. As 35 of us bowed with reverence around the periphery of the campus, there was a feeling of oneness, a feeling of shared love, a feeling of unity in our hearts.<br /> <br /> As we sat once again in a closing circle to pour our hearts out, there were no words coming forth to express the feelings. It was as though our cups had been emptied and our hearts were overflowing.<br /> <br /> <em>As Natasha, a volunteer shared later -&nbsp;Another retreat has filled my heart and emptied my mind. If I had to take away just one thing from this last retreat, it would be to breathe just a little deeper.&nbsp;In a discussion, one of our ladders shared that these retreats show us our mistakes so we have the opportunity to correct them and that one retreat makes her 1% better. I couldn't agree more. How huge to improve so much in just three days. Not that it's a race but it is important to be improving ourselves if this is the path that we have chosen or have been put on. Either way, this is where we are and as Kabir says &quot;where we are is the entry point&quot;.&nbsp;I've enjoyed receiving that which I need for my journey in this moment and being that much more aware of it lately.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:400px; width:600px" /></em><br /> <br /> &quot;To see the&nbsp;World in a Grain of Sand and the&nbsp;Heaven in a Wild Flower,<br /> Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand and Eternity in an hour.&quot;<br /> ~ William Blake<br /> <br /> <a href="">Click here</a> to see more photos from the retreat!... Drishti Trivedi Mon, 03 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0700 The Joy of Serving from the Heart at Seva Cafe Linki shares ... &ldquo;Atithi devo bhava&rdquo;- All of us thoroughly know the connotation, &ldquo;The guest is equivalent to God&quot; but do we honestly feel the happiness we gain via this opportunity to serve The God here? I used to think- yes! And then I visited &ldquo;Seva Cafe&rdquo; in Ahemdabad. It altered the way I felt about this. Seva, in its true sense can be observed in this place. Yes, it can also be spotted in many places around the world and I have had the opportunity to visit two of them - one was &quot;The Golden Temple&quot;, it was on a large scale and the peacefulness I got at the end of it was marvelous, the feeling of oneness and purification. And the second was when I visited this petite beautiful place in Ahemdabad- Seva Cafe.<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 who dine after you.&quot;<br /> That's Seva Cafe, an experiment in 'peer to peer' generosity.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:450px; width:600px" /><br /> The best part of this visit was that I got a chance to visit this place with my students. 7 students from an IB school named Fountainhead, based in Surat. They wanted to bring this concept to their own city-Surat, as one of them had visited Seva Caf&eacute;, Ahemdabad prior and was truly touched by the space. They wanted to bring this idea as their CAS activity, which is like a compulsion for an IB-Diploma student. It was&nbsp;a win-win situation for them.<br /> <br /> Most of the students come from a potentially sound financial background. They were 15-16 years old, carrying their questions to comprehend a place like this, with no motive except to spread smiles and happiness. How their minds and heart reacted to it was the amazing part. No doubt they entered with so many inhibitions, confined worldly thoughts and one can't blame them. We live in a world with several motives, with progression, with results and so do these children but one thing I can assure you. They all were so happy by the end of those two days, some of them didn't want to come back, some of them had tears, few were amazed, their hearts were filled with delight. They were inspired, inspired by the rush to smile and serve everyone and hold that feeling for long as possible.<br /> <br /> There were these two events out of so many which really moved me on our visit.<br /> <br /> There was this heart circle and every one was expected to speak about one of their dream places, which they wished to visit in this life time. One of the servers in Sefa cafe said he wanted to go to Amazon, Africa to which instantly a student asked &ldquo;How will you fulfill that dream with the little that you earn from here?&rdquo;<br /> <br /> He smiled and said he was in a way already living one of his most important dreams, the &quot;Dream to serve&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> By the end of the day, we were all exhausted. The students earned a choice there, one was to return back to our space and rest and the other to serve tea to individuals on the streets, who for them were complete strangers. At this point, even I wanted to rest truthfully. Yet as soon as the students received this chance to obtain the joy from serving again, they grabbed it with a gigantic smile and if one could see the glee they had while serving, they all were brand new again, free from any weariness.<br /> <br /> Being a teacher of such wonderful students, I was proud of them. Not just that, I was proud of my profession owing to these little champs.<br /> <br /> Personally, I selected to wash dishes and there were many times while fulfilling my task, I just wanted to stop for a moment because of the emotions that were flowing through me. Washing each dish rinsed my soul, from the worries of tomorrow, from the regrets of yesterday, I was entirely in the moment feeling so delighted and self-ruling.<br /> <br /> No matter where we come from, we have it in our hearts to serve, it comes naturally to give our hands to others. We often get off track along the way but it doesn't change what our core is made of. I believe there is hope after all.<br /> <br /> I wish everyone could feel the oneness.<br /> <br /> Those little steps in Seva Cafe guided me closer to self.<br /> <br /> &nbsp;... Linki Arora Sat, 01 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Discovering the light beyond darkness Sachi shares ... <a href="teacher's day"><img alt="" src="" style="height:250px; width:600px" /></a><br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:125px; width:200px" />&nbsp;In June, we started holding sharing circles with 20 children being tried for sexual offenses at the Observation Home. In a session on gratitude, the children expressed the desire to do something for their teachers on Teacher&rsquo;s Day. We started brainstorming and without realising it, all eighty children had been included, groups been formed and anchors appointed.<br /> <br /> Since we were introducing the children to team work from our side, we used this opportunity to discuss effective leadership skills and introduced the term &lsquo;anchor&rsquo; because leader and monitor have a very different connotation for them and in the Observation Home. It usually signifies a child who monitors other children and maintains control through violence. We discussed how as an anchor, you are holding the group together, taking responsibility for tasks, working in the shadow and helping team members grow.<br /> <br /> <b>80 children, 4 days and loads of enthusiasm!</b><br /> A cooking team to prepare bhel&nbsp;(snack) and sharbat(juice), a welcoming team, an entertainment team, a decoration team and a card and invite-making team were all set to make Wednesday, 07th September special for their teachers.<br /> <br /> The only condition laid down for them was that they all had to work together. &nbsp;Of course, there were fights, but we saw them resolve these on their own instead of complaining and, or using verbal and physical violence. We were racing against time and did not have much volunteer support. The children lived upto every challenge that came up and a lot of &lsquo;small shifts&rsquo; were visible.<br /> <br /> The children were skeptical. How will this be executed? Who will show up? During the planning circles many had said, &ldquo;This is going to fail,&rdquo; or &ldquo;No one will come&rdquo;. Often, they gave names and repeatedly checked with us whether a teacher or officer would be showing up. All we would say was, &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s put in all our efforts; we don&rsquo;t know who will show up.&rdquo; &nbsp;It was amazing to see everyone of them light up as Wednesday crept closer.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:125px; width:400px" /><br /> On Sunday, invites were made and decorations planned. The cooking team had prepared a requirement list and a plan of action without any assistance. The anchor of the cooking team, who usually doesn&rsquo;t talk much, took full control of his team and guided them as they created a delicious snack for all. The enthusiastic anchor for the show made inane requests to be helped with the script. When he wasn&rsquo;t working on the script he was busy helping the decoration team.<br /> <br /> Krishna, a volunteer dance teacher came to the rescue and helped fulfill the children&rsquo;s demand to perform a dance. 12 children choreographed a dance in less than six hours. The anchor for the dance team rediscovered his passion for dance along with his excellent leadership skills over those four days. A child battling anger issues, his wide toothy smile reappeared as he danced and his softer side temporarily displaced the mask.<br /> <br /> Usually, children are called by their crime &ndash; Section 376 boys, rape children, or so &ndash; at the home. The children, along with us, decided to make heart-shaped badges where they could write their names and create an identity beyond their crimes. An activity planned for one hour extended to three and the children thoroughly enjoyed designing their own badges. &nbsp;<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:244px; width:600px" /><br /> In a circle while making cards, I asked if I could charge her phone. &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t put anything here, it will be stolen,&rdquo; &ldquo;Oh! iPhone, this is the one I sold in the market for Rs. 6000/-.&rdquo; along with many more comments came in. I had to raise my voice and shout. &ldquo;Stop it! You may be experts in stealing but at this moment, in this circle, I trust you.&rdquo; Afterwards,&nbsp;Rayna absent-mindedly left her phone around the place and it&nbsp;was returned to her each time she lost it.<br /> <br /> Invites were given to the teachers, probation officers, NGO workers, guards etc. on Tuesday. The anchor responsible for inviting the staff made sure all of them were there.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:259px; width:200px" />When knives were given to the cooking team, a child&nbsp;passed a sarcastic comment saying&ldquo;Didi, everyone here knows how to use a knife.&rdquo;&nbsp;(Many children cut themselves and indulge in self-harm with blades and some of them are also in for attempting Murder).&nbsp;&nbsp;One of the children suggested that we appoint a &ldquo;good boy&rdquo; to oversee that knives were returned. This was another opportunity to tell them that we considered&nbsp;each one of them as &lsquo;good&rsquo; and that we trusted them. We told them&nbsp;&nbsp;how their crime was separate from who they were.&nbsp;And there is a lot more to&nbsp;children than just their crime. It was just that many of the children may have never heard this before.<br /> <br /> <b>Small gestures, big changes</b><br /> On the day of the event, we saw all 80 of these children work as a team. We saw them back each other up instead of pull each other down. As the last decorations went up, and the onions and tomatoes were being chopped, some children who were not assigned responsibilities appointed themselves to do the&nbsp;swaagat&nbsp;(welcome).<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:407px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> All were ready to welcome the staff members by 15:30. Two children on the first floor stood with a big smile and folded hands to wish the teachers as they walked in. Six others stood in a line &ndash; one for apply&nbsp;tilak, one to put rice, one to hand each teacher a rose and the rest, who in turns, put the badges on the teachers&rsquo; shoulder. The anchor of the swaagat&nbsp;(welcoming) team gave up his position so that new children got a chance.<br /> The guards stationed outside the children&rsquo;s room refused to join stating that the children did not respect them. Immediately, a few children who overheard the conversation came out, held the guards&rsquo; hands and led them for the event. It was beautiful to witness the small gestures they had planned to make everyone feel special. All the teachers, the superintendent, judge of the juvenile justice board and the probation officers were touched.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:389px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> One of the anchors was seen counseling a team member who did not want to participate. This was a refreshing change from the brute force that life has taught many of them to use. Even small things, like the tone or the language they spoke in, began to shift in just 4 days. One monitor, who usually disciplined the rest through abuse or violence was challenged not to do so over two days and was successful. Their belief in themselves was boosted.<br /> <br /> One boy, who has been in the home for 9 months, said he has never seen anything like this and didn&rsquo;t even think this was possible. Another fell in love with dancing and thinks he can dance even when he goes out, which he thought was not possible before.<br /> <br /> When filling water for&nbsp;sharbat (juice), one guard shouted at four children, &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t dance around near the gate. What will work with&nbsp;didi(sister) won&rsquo;t work with me. Crime children have to live like crime children.&rdquo;&nbsp;We saw the children&rsquo;s faces drop&nbsp;and experienced a little of what they felt the moment they were put back in that same place!<br /> <br /> We feel blessed to be put in positions where we can bring back hope in the lives of these children who have become so hardened not only because of their circumstances and the crime they have committed but more so because of how the system and the society treats them as criminals or lost cases.&nbsp;For that day, we saw the beautiful human being in each of them, who are usually introduced to us as CRIME children.... Sachi Maniar Sun, 25 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Flowers Bloom at Different Speeds, So Do Children Vijayam shares ... <em>[Vijayam Kartha is a life-long educator. Her journey started as a librarian in 1974, then kept getting prompted till she became principal of a 3200 children school, and then director of a network of schools in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand and Orissa. She's received many national awards, including &quot;<a href="">Most Outstanding Social Worker</a>&quot; and more. And most recently, while based in Pune, she's been working on re-imagining schools and education.]</em><br /> <br /> <b>Ramesh</b> was a 'naughty child, so said the teachers. He picked up fights and abused people. He was also a good sportsman. I wondered whether our school could give an outlet to his boundless energy. When he reached Std.8, teachers started requesting me to throw him out as they felt that 'a rotten apple would spoil the whole lot.' I would counsel Ramesh, sometimes reprimand him and would ask his teachers a single question - 'What if he were your child?'<br /> <br /> Somehow, Ramesh completed Std.10. While preparing the admission list for Std.11, one of my Plus 2 teachers walked in and told me that he would not teach if Ramesh sits in his class as he had heard 'a lot' about him. I had to drop him from the Plus 2 name-list as the teacher was one of my best teachers. Within no time, I had Ramesh in my room pleading for a final chance. I told him what the teachers felt about him and that this time, I would not be able to do anything for him. Ramesh would not leave my room and stood there pleading, promising never to let me down again. I relented. I told him that I would give him admission but on one guarantee. If he committed any mistakes, I would resign and leave the school along with him. He agreed and after much persuasion, the teacher did too.<br /> <br /> In a few months, one day, the same teacher walked into my room to say that Ramesh has turned to be a 'gentleman' in his class. At the end of that year, in Std 11, Ramesh got into the Navy and went out of school. That Teacher's day, I received a card by post, from Ramesh somewhere in Mumbai. It had the picture of a monkey in the front and inside the card was written 'Thank you Ma'rn for helping me to evolve from what I was (earlier) to what I am today'. That was one of the best rewards that I have received...<br /> <br /> Raj had joined our school in Std 11 from another school. He was another naughty boy of the school, fearless and bold. Complaints used to to me to me from teachers and students against him. As usual, I tried to counsel him and sometimes would shout at him .He would mend his ways for some days and again there would be a problem. One day, I was really irritated and told him &quot;It is better for me to resign and go if I cannot reform a child like you&quot;. I was very annoyed. His answer was, &quot;Ma'm, you can't leave&quot; Why, I asked. &quot;You have taken care of me and one day I will get married and you have to take care of my child too&quot;!!<br /> <br /> My class teacher of Std.3 stormed into my room one day, pulling along a little girl. She was very thin and had a scared look in her eyes. The teacher commented that this little girl kept stealing things. The teacher said she had tried everything, from counselling to punishing but she still kept stealing. She had now given up on her and had brought her to me. Looking at the little girl, my heart bled. I wondered what compulsions could make such a little girl want to steal. I asked her about her family. She replied that her father was jobless as the Company where he was working, was closed down. The school had permitted all the employees' children to continue their education without paying the fees. I held her close and looked into her eyes. The thought crossed my mind - If it were my child? ... I somehow controlled my own tears. I told her that from that day onwards, she was not to take anything from anybody. If she needed anything, she should just walk into my room and ask for it and she would have it. I gave her a pencil and a rubber and sent her to class. After a week, the same teacher once again walked into my office and asked what miracle had I performed. The little girl had stopped stealing. Mind you, she neither came to me for anything since then.<br /> <br /> A long time ago, when I was the class teacher of Std.5, one fine morning, a rustic lady came to meet me. She identified herself as <b>Mrinal's mother</b>, one of my students. She was an illiterate woman and her husband was a driver who stayed away from home for days together on his trips. As we spoke, she told me that Mrinal always mentioned about me at home. She had asked him the day before, how many children I had. Mrinal answered- '54; 52 in school and 2 at home!' She said chat after hearing this, she just had to meet me.<br /> <br /> Mrinal taught me one of the greatest lessons of life. Here I was sharing a bit of my love with my children at school and look at how much I received in return. Almost 15 years later, I was sitting and reading a book in the railway platform waiting for my train. Somebody touched my feet and I looked up to see Mrinal along with a friend. After exchanging greetings, he turned to his friend and told him - 'This is Kartha madam about whom I told you just now. During his wedding rituals, his mother made me sit next to him at the rightful place of his mother saying that I deserve to sit there.<br /> <br /> <b>When I started my career as a Principal,</b> <b>I was very strict with promotions as I had thought that the stricter we are, the better our students would be. </b>Once at Asia Plateau, Centre for Moral Rearmament (now Initiatives of Change) in Panchgani, I heard the maxim- 'Flowers bloom at different speeds, so do children'. It struck me like an arrow. I realised that history is replete with so many examples of so called 'good-for-nothing' children transforming into geniuses. My own classmates, some of whom were considered very bright in studies were leading average lives while some of the 'dull ones' had overtaken them in life.<br /> <br /> I remember <b>Arjun</b>, a sickly child who failed in Std.5 but went on to join IIT. He told me later that quite a few of his classmates in IIT had failed in some class or the other in their school life. Arjun is a highly successful IIT professional now.<br /> <br /> <b>Meena</b> was another student who had joined our school as she was not doing well in her studies and wanted a change in school. Presently she is working in Microsoft as an executive and is one of their valued employees. The other day, I got a call from an ex-student who wanted to meet me. A mediocre student in school, he had gone on to become an IAS officer.<br /> <br /> I still remember my first parent -teacher meeting as a class teacher. I was agitated and was looking forward to meet a few of my parents. As I was getting ready, I even planned my words. What do these parents think? Once they put their child in an English medium school, they need not bother?<br /> <br /> The meeting started. As the first parent walked, I could relate the bewildered look in his eyes to that of <b>Arman</b>, one of my students. His soiled uniform and the helmet in his hands indicated that he was coming from the works. Something in him stopped me from asking why he was not taking care of his son. Instead, I started asking him about him and his family. What poured out was a sad story. His wife was a mental patient and he had to take care of the entire family. He could have sent his wife back home but thought that it was his duty to look after her. He did the entire household work and took care of his two children. Instead of taking him to task, I consoled him and told him that from that day, Arman was my responsibility.<br /> <br /> One after another, the parents poured in. <b>Everyone had a story.</b> An illiterate mother whose husband, a driver, was away most of the time, an educated rich businessman whose child somehow could not cope with his studies.... the stories went on. And I found myself assuring everyone not to worry and that I would take care of their children. I realised how important it is for a teacher to know the background of her students if she really wants to help chem. Therefore, the first thing that I did as Principal was to have the same teachers for the same class for a stretch of 3 years. And the results were immediate. The teachers, who used to ask me to detain students earlier, started requesting me to promote them as they believed they could work with them. Hence, the school turned out to be a happier place.<br /> <br /> History is replete with such many more transforming stories. <b>My beliefs have been reinforced, yet again, that it is Love and Compassion that always triumph, even in these trying times. </b>Children, by their very being, inspire unconditional love. And I keep thanking God for all that has come back to me. My life has become richer with the love and gratitude I have received from my students, their parents and my colleagues, so much so that my life has become a prayer.<br /> <br /> I realize how powerful I am as a teacher. I believe that I am not only teaching children but building a nation. I also believe that my duty as a teacher is to help the child bring out their inherent goodness and help them evolve as a human being. Thanks to my parents who taught me that the same energy pervades the entire universe, especially to my father, who exhorted us to see God in all animate and inanimate things. During my journey, I might have hurt some also. The only consolation I have is that all my actions stemmed from my unconditional and absolute love and concern for my children and others.<br /> <br /> If I have another life, I definitely want to be a teacher and I keep telling my colleagues - 'Who are we to write the destiny of these children?' If at all we want to write, let as write it in golden letters.&quot;... Vijayam Kartha Mon, 12 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Lessons from Living in Nature Sheetal shares ... On a rainy Sunday evening, several of us came together at The Urban Ashram, Pune, for a heart-lifting conversation with <b>Nisha</b>. Presented below is a transcript of her candid sharing followed by Q&amp;A. <hr noshade="noshade" /><br /> <b>The Journey from Circumstances to Aspirations</b><br /> I feel that all of us have a set of aspirations and also have a set of circumstances &ndash; sometimes these circumstances are empowering and sometimes limiting. If our aspirations are deep enough, we can flip the circumstances around so that we see the imaginary rope that ties us to a diving board, realize that we are on a diving board and have the courage to release the rope and jump.<br /> <br /> There are people who are very severely constrained to put bread and butter on the table every single day and such. But when we are adorned with a certain set of privileges, circumstances have to be flipped around for us to reach our aspirations. Those of us who have those set of privileges have a greater responsibility to not let the circumstances limit us and that&rsquo;s the crux of my perspective on making a shift.<br /> <br /> I was raised very simply in a small town and my father built a house which was very far away from the city because that was the space he could afford. And we had a garden so I always had this connection with the soil. Right from Grade 1, most of my vacations were spent roaming around the neighbourhood, planting cuttings from neighbours and asking people for seeds from their gardens. I realized my love for greenery was there &ndash; a value that my father had that he subliminally transmitted it to me.<br /> <br /> <b>Making Life Choices: The Three Guiding Principles</b><br /> As we grew up then, the whole focus was on education and I rode the same software wave that many of us have in the years 1999 and 2000. I worked in a very privileged environment, was living in the Bay area and you have so many good things happening, just like this space. Similar spaces were available to us and specifically, we were fortunate to be part Service Space.<br /> In those days, a phrase kept coming in my head and didn&rsquo;t let me sleep. Everybody keeps talking about California Lifestyle. The question that came up was &ldquo;Do I want a life or do I want style?&rdquo; We had been introduced to meditation for about 4 years then and we were drawn to that mode of existence that is not be filled with sensory inputs all the time.<br /> While I was struggling to find answers and resolve or sometimes subdue these conflicts, I happened to walk into an Awakin gathering and I met this person who taught meditation to prisoners. I had never heard of him before and never saw him after.<br /> <br /> One of the questions put across to him was <b>&ldquo;What were your life choices that brought you here?&rdquo;</b> He said it can very simply be traced to three aspirations:<br /> <b>1) To stop accumulation. </b><br /> I think to myself:<em> Is he talking about life </em><br /> <b>2) To do work that is good for me and not harmful for others.</b><br /> At this moment another light bulb goes up and sets me thinking<em>: I really want to get away from meaningless work and do something more wholesome. I had felt so happy volunteering during the green festival and sowing that one seed of beans and seeing it flourish. Perhaps he is referring to that.</em><br /> <b>3) Spend more time in reflection. </b><br /> <em>I too feel the need to do that but I am just having sleepless nights.</em><br /> <br /> As he spoke further, only the first few words entered my ears and the rest faded away like in a movie because I was hearing my own aspirations through his words. I had not taken many steps in that direction and I just had questions and he seemed to be articulating answers to those questions as a set of 3 principles<b>. </b>A lived truth always appeals to one much more than theory.<br /> <br /> I went home and told my husband Ragu all about it and said, let&rsquo;s put up the house for sale tomorrow morning, first thing. And he happily agreed. That was the beginning of our shift back to India.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:448px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> <b>You Take One Step, Nature Takes Ten Steps</b><br /> So we moved back and found this piece of land in a village near Coimbatore. Somebody else found that land for us and we didn&rsquo;t know much at all and bought it without research and analysis. Later, we learnt that this was a land where they had grown only vegetables for 35 years without crop rotation and tons of fertilizers. When they ran out of ground water, the owner decided to sell it and we happened to buy it. It really didn&rsquo;t matter that much to us so we planted about 9,000 hardy trees, a good percentage of them survived and the land rejuvenated itself. It is a source of everyday joy to wake up to the mini forest and the birds and the countless rabbits that are running across. It still gives me a startle. It is all nature&rsquo;s work. You take one step and nature takes 10 steps. This is where we are today.<br /> <br /> <b>One Experiment Leading to Another</b><br /> There were a few learnings in this process. You step into one holistic exercise and you soon find yourself moving into many holistic experiments.<br /> <br /> <b>Building an Eco-Friendly House</b><br /> For instance, it was not possible in our conscience to have this piece of land that we would joyfully work on reviving, but build a house that is conventional, lot of concrete and mortar. Hence we decided to build a house as eco-friendly as possible, re-use old wood, use native stones and minimize steel by using bamboo. Ragu and I embarked on this construction journey with no back ground in civil engineering and no understanding of labour and material management. We ended up building an eco-friendly house (with many mistakes) that we love living in:-)<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:450px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> <b>Farm Schooling our Son</b><br /> The other experiment is to part ways with mainstream schooling. I believe it is set up to produce either a blue collar worker out of somebody who does not get math and science or a white collar worker out of somebody who gets math and science or communicates really well. We asked ourselves if we really want to do that. We sent our son Aum to school for one year and realized that the rhythm set by the school routine is in complete contrast to the natural rhythm of a child. So we started farm schooling. Here, he learns mostly from nature by observation and questioning. We have some structure for a couple of hours but I believe he learns far more by observing nature.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:400px; width:350px" /><br /> <br /> <br /> <b>Serving the Local Community through Nature Cure</b><br /> We saw friends and family falling sick some times and the anxiety around going to the doctor, buying medical insurance and so on. Questions like what would we do if we are detected with cancer, what if our parents have chronic medical conditions, what would we do when our child is running a temperature of 104 for 4 days were common. We had no answers.<br /> <br /> Fortunately, a few of our friends had attended a Nature Cure workshop. We were curious to learn Nature Cure principles from an authentic teacher and see for ourselves. So we learnt how to take care of our body and mind and use food as medicine. We saw the many similarities between Nature Cure and Meditation and putting these two together, learnt that undigested food and undigested thoughts are chief causes of diseases in an otherwise normal person. It was very humbling to re-learn how to eat food and how to cook food.<br /> <br /> We felt called to share the knowledge of this life science with friends, family and the local community and started holding Nature Cure camps along with other friends and volunteers to disseminate this knowledge as a gift. We held 15 residential 7-day camps and quite a few 2-3 day courses at our home and in homes of generous friends.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:450px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> Soon we realized that all these good things are anchored only by our own centeredness. Once when we did a usual 7-day camp for 130 people, a few volunteers wanted to scale it to 200 people. That really made us pause and think what we were getting into. The reflection helped me see that it&rsquo;s easy to nourish our ego and fall in the trap of scale and forget all about detachment.<br /> So we applied brakes and made efforts to decentralise the camps. We then decided to do camps with just 20 people &ndash; the smaller the better. Local camps have been happening regularly and there are new people who have taken it upon themselves to keep them going. And we focus more deeply on the community in our physical and mental vicinity.<br /> <br /> Being in nature has really taught us that when the fruit is ripe, it just falls.<br /> Like in the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra<br /> <em>&ldquo;Om trayambakam yajamahe, sugandhim pustivardhanam<br /> Urvarukamiva bandhanat, mrityor mukshiya maamritat&rdquo; </em><br /> When a cucumber or melon is ripe, it needs no effort, it just falls. Similarly, when an action is ripe, it will happen through us. We don&rsquo;t have to go and tug at the action.<br /> <br /> <b>Action and Activity: Understanding the Context</b><br /> For a long time, I had a bias that my life should be filled with action and not activity. Vinoba Bhave beautifully distinguishes between activity and action. Sometimes, I felt that I was standing in the way of a lot of good things in our neighbouring community because I was looking at everything with that judgement. I was <em>pro</em>-action and <em>anti</em>-activity. When I look at nature&rsquo;s design, I cannot understand everything. I don&rsquo;t understand if leaf shedding by a tree in Autumn is an Activity or an Action. Sometimes it&rsquo;s just best to leave it to emergence as long as it is not mis-aligned.<br /> <br /> <b>Emergence of Badminton Fun, Language Classes and Sunday Health Market</b><br /> Co-incidentally, around this time in the village, a person who was paralysed on the left side said that he really wanted to play badminton with other villagers and wondered if we could offer a space for that. We showed him a place with a pile of rubbish -- that was the only place where we had not planted trees and told him that it will be a lot of hard work to convert it into a badminton court. He nodded his head. And in just one and half days, there stood a badminton court with proper sized poles and net. 12 volunteers, machinery, a roller and a truck made it manifest.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:450px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> Alcohol is a big problem in our village and we suddenly realized that these two dozen people who come to play belong to the only families in the village who do not drink. This group slowly became a cohesive volunteer force with consistent interactions. They started by asking &ldquo;Sir, can we learn English?&rdquo; As they were learning English, Ragu would talk about Gift economy, sharing, and how the villages took care of each other in earlier times, how we can have better life, better health and so on. They were listening to this content but they thought they were learning English. So when things came together, they asked &ldquo;Why don&rsquo;t you do a Nature Cure workshop for us? Do it in Tamil so we can bring our families too!&rdquo; We have done 3 local workshops so far. And then I felt the need to pause and deepen the understanding and relationships. So now some alumni of these 3 workshops meet regularly and we talk about case studies or recipes. With smart phones everywhere, an active Whatsapp support group also exists.<br /> <br /> Recently, a photographer who was on the verge of giving up his profession due to the issue of varicose veins was cured just by following the Nature Cure diet. He became a brand ambassador and I often see him preaching Nature Cure to a small group of villagers:-)<br /> <br /> And few months back, one of the workshop participants asked us &ldquo;You eat organic food and talk about it but we don&rsquo;t have access to it. Can you arrange for it?&rdquo; A few more wanted to feed wholesome food to at least their children. This led to us organizing weekly purchases and now we have an online messaging group for placing orders. And every Sunday, they would pick up whatever they had ordered.<br /> <br /> That&rsquo;s our little organic market! There is also a much larger network of organic farmers and consumers in Coimbatore that we feel quite connected to.<br /> <br /> Once I felt so humbled to see someone who makes only Rs 6,000 a month spend Rs 800 on organic products. When questioned, he said that rather than giving Rs 500 every month to the local hospital and pharmacy to handle illnesses, he is only spending only Rs 300 extra to eat hexane-free oil, fibre rich rice and pesticide free Raagi.<br /> Then we also started encouraging them to pluck nutritious vegetables like Moringa and greens for their families every Sunday. And out of that goodwill, a group of 6 people formed a Green Brigade to work on our farm for an hour after badminton on Sundays. This group is not just about an activity called Badminton any more though that is how it started.<br /> <br /> <b>Conclusion</b><br /> So these are some glimpses. And none of this is possible without the buffer that nature provides us. Without a practice that helps stay grounded like reflection, meditation, whatever you would like to call, everything else would have no context. Everything that comes is like a bunch of roses with thorns &ndash; when something doesn&rsquo;t go right, it pricks and there is pain but it doesn&rsquo;t translate into suffering because you know that there is a larger context in which we are living and it is meaningless to amplify pain.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; height:402px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> The farm has given us the base from which we are able to practice this theory a little bit, a little more easily. I&rsquo;m not suggesting that everyone needs to transition into a farm-based or village-based life. There are many holistic professions that one can commit a life to. To me, it depends on our circumstances and our journey from circumstances to aspirations. How clutching the circumstances are and how deep the aspirations are and how much we are willing to do &ndash; that would decide the hour of the journey.<br /> --------<br /> <b>Q &amp; A<br /> --------</b><br /> <b>Q:</b> <b>How easy or difficult was it to give up all the comforts and suddenly transition from a life of lot of choices? Because there are lot of intermediate goods and you not only have the needs but you also have the wants. How &shy;do you reduce from that? Did it happen automatically or did it require effort?</b><br /> <b>A:</b> I was blessed with a middle class life from the beginning so we never had too many creature comforts to begin with. And the creature comforts started coming only after I started earning at the age of 23 and lasted till the age of 32, till we took the decision to move back. Perhaps 10 years is too short a time for the mind to get set:-) That could be one reason.<br /> <br /> Another reason is that we did not get attached to many things even back in the US for example our living room did not have any furniture, it only had cushions and even my neighbours would come and sit on the cushions happily, so we never felt any peer pressure even back there. We didn&rsquo;t have a cable TV connection but we were attached to books.<br /> <br /> The bigger shock of adjustment came when Ragu and I decided as an experiment to live in a shack for two years in the village when we first moved there (while our house was being built). It was like one room divided into kitchen, toilet and bedroom. It had a roof that leaked all over so when it rained heavily, it would be hard to find a spot we can put our son without water falling on him, while we tried to fix that leak. We went through that phase for 2 years. It was very painful but we had context. Being exposed to five elements all the time at their best, at their worst in these two years prepped us up and you could call it voluntary simplicity, but it didn&rsquo;t occur to us to give any labels at that time as we were doing it to learn and learning is always fun. Hence it wasn&rsquo;t a sacrifice nor was it something done to prove to the world that we can live in a shack. If any of you are considering moving to a farm, you could start by taking your family along on weekends and expose them to the farm life. Slowly, they may start thinking that this is also living.<br /> <br /> To answer your question about how the transition was, I am reminded of a quote by Adhyashanti here - &ldquo;<em>The more aware you are of your intention, the more choices you have</em>&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> <b>Q: You talked about action and activity, can you elaborate on it?</b><br /> <b>A: </b>Vinobaji in his book <em>Moved by Love</em> distinguishes between these two. Activity is shallow and action is more coming from insight, has a purpose and has deeper meaning. I always thought that in our life only meditation, yoga and farming had action in it and the rest of the things like playing badminton or learning English, are just activities, time fillers. So something that aids inner transformation vs. something that fills your time.<br /> <br /> <b>Q: How important do you think is faith in the journey of your shift to the farm?</b><br /> <b>A:</b> There is a definition of faith that I find very illuminating &ldquo;<em>Faith is withholding of conclusions so what is can arise</em>&rdquo;. That aside, when I hear you say faith, I believe it is conviction that you are talking about.<br /> <br /> <b>Q: How do you get clarity in life?</b><br /> <b>A:</b> Clarity is not an event, it is a process and if you are really seeking clarity by immersing yourself in those circumstances, it has to come. How do you accept a simpler way of living? It happens by packing your bags and going to a simpler place and trying to be simple and experimenting for yourself. Similarly, conviction is a process, it is also a culmination but before that it is a process. When you have it, have clarity, you don&rsquo;t need courage. Clarity supersedes courage. For us it came in bits and pieces. Clarity came to me when I heard those 3 principles spoken as a lived truth. If the quest is on, it would have come from any direction. But theoretical seeking of clarity pushes us to more analysis and is not the path I am a fan of. If you are interested in farming, sow a seed. I am big believer in that and my bag always has seeds, wherever I go, the first thing I do is to find a space and plant seeds. Everyone in every domain can find a simple small practice that keeps that little flame within alive. If that is alive, you will seek clarity and if you seek it, it will come.<br /> <br /> Osho once famously said, &ldquo;<em>If you are in darkness, go light a candle. Nothing else, don&rsquo;t talk about darkness or even about the candle</em>.&rdquo; This is what we keep practicing gently in Service Space. And the Gandhian quote,&ldquo;<em>Be the change you wish to see in the world</em>&rdquo; articulates this truth so well. Talking is good, sharing is good but it is better if it is accompanied by action.<br /> <hr noshade> <b>About Nisha</b><br /> Nisha moved to the US at age 26 and spent 9 plus years there, primarily in the Silicon Valley, before returning to India in 2008. She has been part of the <a href="">ServiceSpace</a> sangha since the early 2000s and has been planting seeds of consciousness in several of us by simply being the change she wishes to see in the world. She, her husband Ragu and their 10-year old son Aum enjoy the privilege of living in a farm forest in the outskirts of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. On their <a href="">blog</a>, they describe their life as &quot;our experiment in laying a new path on an old road that leads to simplicity, sustainability and dare we say, spirituality&rdquo;.<br /> ... Sheetal Vaidya Tue, 30 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0700 Unseen Delicacies - an inclusion event Priyanka shares ... On 18th June 2016, an inclusion event was held at Bangalore called &quot;<a href="">Unseen Delicacies</a>&quot;. This event was one of its own kind-- as the theme was to demonstrate culinary skills of a person having visual disability.<br /> <br /> I approached <a href="">Madhur</a>, a volunteer of <a href="">Servicespace</a> and expressed an interest to organize a cooking event. She was thrilled and we started our planning. Earlier in 2015, the idea of doing an inclusion event came up during my introduction with <a href="">Nipun Mehta</a> sir, at <a href="">India Inclusion Summit</a>.<br /> <br /> Our requirement of having participants cook in front of audience, was best possible in a posh restaurant, which we blocked. However, later due to financial constraints, it was not possible to go there. At this point of time, I felt... it might not work and we will have to cancel the event. But Madhur came up with an idea to conduct it in the common hall of the apartment complex, where she resided.<br /> <br /> We could not think anything better than this where we can spread the message of our event among all age groups at a time. It also became easy as Senior Citizen Women group of the apartment were very supportive of this idea; and hence we became a team of 30+ people now. Everyone was amazed as they never thought that even visually-challenged can cook and live his/her life independently. They were thrilled with this new project!<br /> <br /> <br /> When I approached my friends to participate in the event, they liked the idea and appreciated me but were hesitant to cook in front of large group of people. They had their own concerns like &ldquo;if the food burns what will others think of us?&rdquo;, &ldquo;what if the taste does not come good though being my signature dish&rdquo; and so on&hellip; It took efforts for me to convince them and ensure that &ldquo;I will provide them completely accessible environment and will be around them full time.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> I was able to get 6 participants who formed3 teams and cooked different dishes. They all were working with MNC's and were either partially or completely blind.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:466px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> A few days before the event, our motherly hosts requested us to go for fire-less cooking due to their concern for safety. They said &quot;We should not allow them to use gas stove, induction- what if they burn themselves or cut their fingers while using knives&quot;. &quot;We should have a first aid box&quot; etc.<br /> <br /> I realized that somewhere essence of the event will be suppressed with this. I suggested to Madhur that I would talk to them directly, during our preparation meeting, a week prior. In the meeting, I explained about the challenges faced in my daily life due to partial vision loss and how I overcome with different solutions; with or without use of technology. They were super impressed with my words and agreed to all my terms of cooking. Madhur was completely surprised to see the change of mind-set from the same group of women had agreed to allow the blind to cook using ignition without any questions or objections.<br /> <br /> Our hosts had offered to bring food for all guests, later this changed to preparing lunch for all of us at their homes. The cooking event became more inclusive, with this approach! These senior ladies were super-excited and started preparing menu and dividing responsibilities among themselves&hellip;.<br /> <br /> We had invited Richard and Harmeesh, my friends to play guitar, <a href=";=">Rajdeep</a> <a href=";=">Manwani</a> as our guest speaker. All 3 have visual challenge. Mr. <a href="">Bal</a><a href=""> K</a><a href="">rishna Birla</a>, was requested to judge the cooking event.<br /> They all joyfully accepted the invite and supported the initiative. <a href="">Ashwin</a> <a href="">Karthik</a> was also invited to speak but he could not join as he fell sick. He had been really excited and this came as a sad news, a day prior!<br /> <br /> Finally, the day arrived and we all gathered at our venue. We were welcomed in traditional Indian style and honored with prayers. I was surprised to see the arrangements! An amazing welcome speech by our anchor, Mrs. Chandramukhi touched my heart.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:495px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> We had music and song program; Rajdeep inspired us with a message to believe in ourselves; Mr. Birla also shared about his life and encouraged us to develop will power.<br /> <br /> We displayed few assistive aids used by a blind person in his daily life to spread awareness e.g. &lsquo;currency recognition wallet, chess board, cane and signature guide&rsquo; etc.<br /> <br /> The senior citizen group had organized a fun game for our visually challenged friends: to identify different ingredients used for cooking and articles used at home. Our visually challenged friends used sense of touch, taste &amp; smell to identify these.<br /> <br /> Now, teams gathered at cooking stations and started their work. Our anchor was interacting with each team. She asked questions around how they identified ingredients, temperature or food consistency etc. Audience were eagerly waiting to taste the delicious food as the aroma of spices and whistle from the pressure cooker was irresistible.<br /> <br /> <br /> Finally, all the 3 teams were ready with their dishes and it was tasted by different set of judges. Judges commented that the food was cooked evenly- ingredients were added as much required, flavors were added by using different spices and even presentation was good.<br /> <br /> Name of Participants &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; --&nbsp;Dish cooked<br /> Kameshwari Rao &amp;&nbsp;Raghavendra Girippa&nbsp; &nbsp;--&nbsp;Coconut Rice &amp; Chaat<br /> Ganesh Gode&nbsp;&amp;&nbsp;Nagaratna&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;--&nbsp;Aloo bhaath&nbsp;&amp;&nbsp;Vegetable Rayta<br /> Sunil Dubey&nbsp;&amp;&nbsp;Rajneesh Dwivedi&nbsp; --&nbsp;Poha&nbsp;&amp;&nbsp;Coriander chutney<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:438px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> During lunch, there were so many dishes; cooked by our lovely, motherly hosts and those prepared by the cooking event participants. I overheard few ladies sitting behind me, talking about the food cooked by teams. One of them said &quot;the coriander chutney has been prepared exactly like mine. It has the same taste&quot;. I was very delighted as this appreciation came from experts having 40-50 years of cooking experience.<br /> <br /> Babu, who has polio in a leg voluntarily covered our whole event in camera along with another friend. We also gave small gifts to all our contestants, musicians, guests and volunteers.<br /> <br /> <br /> During that day, I only experienced love &amp; kindness all over&hellip; All of us held hands many times as required. It brought so much warmth among us and created a strong unseen relationship. The day was truly filled with &lsquo;unseen love and kindness. Caressing touches and smiles made it such a special day&hellip;.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:466px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> During conversations after the event about the warmth our friends brought-in; Mrs. Renu said &ldquo;they are normal, we have become different due to fear, social stigmas we hold within&rdquo;. Mrs. Suman was proud that she was able to contribute to society.&quot; Madhur said, that &ldquo;Holding hands was such a wonderful, simple way to connect. People with normal eye-sight, don't do this but I feel this was something beautiful, being missed'<br /> <br /> The participants were amazed at this kind of initiative which was new and much needed. They were delighted to contribute towards spreading awareness about independent living of a differently-abled. Many expressed heart-felt gratitude for being invited as guests. Everyone encouraged us and suggested to do more work around Inclusion.<br /> <br /> <br /> I had been with my mother and she was so happy to see my efforts and love received from all the ladies in the form of blessings. The moment is unforgettable for me as it made my mother to be proud of me. I felt as if I was able to tell her that this is the fruit of your upbringing and love for me.<br /> <br /> <br /> I am thankful to Madhur for believing in my idea and giving it life, without her it would not have been possible. My special thanks to all our host ladies whom I would call young enthusiastic women rather than senior citizens, as they showed true team spirit and were super energetic. My thanks to my friends who participated in cooking, played guitar, sang song, photographers, Rajdeep Sir to motivate us with his words and Birla ji to judge our event. Last but not least the security guards at the gate of apartment who helped all the guests to reach the hall with directions and support.<br /> <br /> <br /> An unforgettable experience of my life...... Priyanka Agarwal Mon, 29 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0700