Awakin London: Being Fearlessly Authentic
Posted by Trishna Shah on Feb 11, 2014
Our circle of sharing and offerings opened as each person was welcomed into the room with warm hugs from Ani and Hema and offered a wooden heart ornament with each person's name, for them to place on the gratitude tree in the center of the circle as we co-created the space we would be sharing during the course of the one-day retreat. After spending the first hour hour in silence together, as we went around the room digging deep and sharing from our personal journeys and making offerings to the circle, our hearts began to connect with each others and we collectively transformed the space into "our home" with the offerings we shared with our new family :)
Inspired by the Moved By Love retreats once again, we explored activities connected to our heads, hands and hearts. We opened with a reflective writing exercise, designed to give us an opportunity to reflect on our own Medicine Wheels by looking back at this past year with respect to our Mind, Heart, Body and Spirit. We then looked ahead at the coming 3-6-12 months and thought about our intentions for this time ahead in line with what a healthy Medicine Wheel might look like for ourselves. To set the intentions in motion, we wrote letters to our future authentic selves and sealed and self-addressed them, so that we can receive in the post some time in the next 3-6 months :)
Our "hands" activity at the last retreat was dedicated to serving homeless men at a day shelter, so this time we dedicated our service activity to the women's group at another day shelter, The Whitechapel Mission. We wrote anonymous love letters to each of the 50 women in the group and packaged them up with a canvas bag for the clothing donations they pick up from the shelter, which read, "A smile is the best thing a girl can wear" all wrapped together with a lovely wooden heart ornament with an inspiring message on it. Most of us had never written anonymous love letters before and many found that the process evoked a deep empathy in them, to really think about the place these women are in. They felt moved to meet them in this place in their own hearts and offer the women some words to lift them up from that place. Quite fittingly, these gifts of love will be offered by Ani, who volunteers at the Mission every week, to each member of the women's group this Friday on Valentine's Day :)
In keeping with our "heart" theme from the last retreat, we dedicated this session to cultivating collective gratitude. Each attendee was offered a handmade gratitude journal and a leaf. As we listened to Nimo and Daniel's song "Grateful" we all connected with the things in our own lives that we are grateful for and spent time afterwards writing this down on the leaves. As we went around in a circle, each person shared one thing they are grateful for and placed their leaf on the gratitude tree in the center. We invited everyone to continue this practice in their own way and at their own pace using the gratitude journals.
When you put your heads and hearts together to plan these kinds of retreats, we put a lot of love into thinking about all aspects of the day and all the things you feel moved to offer to serve the attendees from decorating the space with inspiring messages and uplifting quotes to offering food and refreshments to nourish the body and soul all day long to tagging everyone with gifts. But so much of the magic of what happens at the retreats is what you *don't plan* -- those small heartful moments throughout the day that you will never forget. Like when we opened our eyes to discover that each of us was anonymously tagged (not by the organisers!) :) during the first hour of meditation with a beautiful long-stem rose, just because somebody's cup overflowed and they wanted to share the love. During the opening circle, Katie brought two offerings and decided that instead of offering one of them to the circle, she would gift the healing crystal to Jeeva, who had earlier shared that she was going through a difficult time as her mother was very ill and lived far away from her in Sri Lanka. Faika was nearly in tears when she offered her friend Kiran to the circle for being a huge source of inspiration on her journey.
And then there were the food offerings, which were overflowing with love, and even included offerings from Deepa who was ill but still sent raita with her father, and Ana who couldn't make it from Chippenham this time, but mailed two of her delicious homemade Portuguese cakes in a tin filled with origami cranes to share her love with everyone at the retreat! This inspired another ripple when at the end of the retreat, Liz led an origami workshop for a few others, teaching them how to make the cranes that Ana had gifted to everyone :) There was even a spontaneous group hug in the middle of the retreat when we paused to take a group photo during one of the tea breaks -- we all danced to "Give Love" by MC Yogi and embraced in a giant group hug after the photo :)
The ServiceSpace ecosystem held our retreat together in so many invisible ways, it was such an honour to channel inspiration from so many of you and weave it in throughout the day! Reverend Heng Sure's Buddhist melodies were offered before mealtime, as we cultivated gratitude for all the generous offerings while listening to "I Have Enough", and to conclude the retreat as we listened to his powerful "Dedication of Merit" and shared the love from the day spent together with the world around us. George's beautiful rendition of "Om Mani Padme Hum" guided us through our walking meditation, as Nimo and Daniel's "Grateful" evoked so much gratitude in our hearts. As I pieced together music for this retreat, I realised we could have our very own ServiceSpace soundtrack, with music entirely produced and gifted by lovely and talented artists in the ecosystem :)
We came together to spend the final hour in silence, and as we approached the second half of the hour, we continued to sit with our eyes closed listening to each other's intentions for the coming year, which were inspired by the day we spent together: to make time to meditate twice a day to stay connected, to be a calm and powerful listener, to de-clutter both in the material and spiritual sense, to stretch, to stay on the path, to practice mindfulness, to be an unconditional parent, to make time and space for service, to believe that one is good enough and ready to commit.
We offer some photos from our day together in the spirit of inspiring ripples elsewhere, as we have been hugely grateful for all the inspiration we have received by photos that were shared from retreats around the world :)