Holding Space: A Gathering Of Noble Friends
--Bela Shah
6 minute read
May 15, 2014

What can unfold and emerge from within when we hold space for one another? In the spirit of experimentation, a small group of noble friends gathered for a one-day retreat on May 3 in order to find out. In the love-fueled home of Rahul and Asha Brown, we sat together in a sacred circle, allowing our exterior to melt around its edges.

Our intention was simple yet nuanced, stemming from a common question that many of us are challenged with in our day-to-day lives: How can we move towards fearlessness and liberate the wisdom in our hearts? For some of us, this means overcoming fear of rejection in order to skip through the aisles of a bus and give out bright, pink flowers to morning commuters. For others, it means leaving behind a job or a relationship that’s misaligned without knowing what’s next. Regardless of the meaning for each person, what we all shared was an intention to awaken in every moment, to be kind, and to tap into our interconnectedness.

One of the participants expressed the following reflection on moving towards fearlessness:

“What comes up for me is the question of how far one can go in love. The experience of letting go one step at a time and being lost in love is what I aspire to explore.”

After sharing an hour of stillness in the early morning sunshine, our hearts and minds contemplated a reading by Adyashanti, “When the Real Heart Breaks Open.”.

“You can't lose what you serve. That's the secret.​ One has to find in their heart the devotion to serve the Truth that's found, moment to moment. That's an act of love, to serve,” he wrote.

We were lucky to have Neil Patel, who was visiting from India, open the circle of sharing with a profound question that has been replaying in his mind. “When I depart this life, what legacy will I have left behind?” he wondered out loud. The recent loss of a dear friend has led him to probe into this question even more. About a year ago, Neil’s nonprofit to empower rural farmers through technology had been honored with a prestigious award. But Neil wasn’t talking about that kind of legacy. He was talking about the kind of life that his friend had lead, where spending a day with him could make you realize and feel the goodness that exists in each of us. Neil’s share created space for each person in the circle to be vulnerable and as we flowed from one person to the next, it felt as if our hearts were breaking open little by little.

As the morning melted into afternoon, we continued our journey from head to heart in small groups over the delicious vegan meal that had been prepared by volunteers the night before. A recent NY Times article “Hello, Stranger,” seeded many of our conversations as we shared stories and fears about connecting with strangers through small acts of kindness:

“The behavioral scientists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder approached commuters in a Chicago area train station and asked them to break the rules. In return for a $5 Starbucks gift card, these commuters agreed to participate in a simple experiment during their train ride. One group was asked to talk to the stranger who sat down next to them on the train that morning. Other people were told to follow standard commuter norms, keeping to themselves. By the end of the train ride, commuters who talked to a stranger reported having a more positive experience than those who had sat in solitude.

From this authentic space that we collectively worked to cultivate, we felt inspired to channel our questions and doubts into a hands-on exercise in spreading kindness. Our small groups ventured into the community to practice intentionally and in effect, break the rules of social separation in order to write a new narrative. Some folks went to the subway station, others to a flea market, still others to nearby grocery store. All came back with stories, but even more so practical experience that 'changing the world' actually could begin at a level much simpler than frameworks, policies and business models. One group met a person celebrating her birthday and spontaneously decided to gift her a song, another group practiced making eye contact, with an intention fueled with wellbeing, and another shared small gifts in the form of flowers, hand-written notes, and heart pins. Coming back, it was interesting to note that for all the 'good' that was done, there was not a sense that we had just engaged in a chore; rather, there was buoyancy in the room as smiles and laughter traveled from one heart to another.

We re-grounded ourselves in a few minutes of silence and flowed into a Dil Ki Kahani ("Story from the Heart" in Hindi) with Siddharth and Neil. For an hour, we collectively explored the themes of money, regenerative capital, creativity, authenticity, and faith. Sid shared reflections along his service journey, from a prestigious business school to stock market trading floors to his last several years immersed in the nuances of service, giftivism, and the seeking of truth with the Moved By Love ecosystem in India. Neil added insights on the power of small and the practical edges of living in a gift economy.

Among the gems, Sid shared, "For me, one of the promises I made for myself in 2014 is: 'How do I put aside a certain amount of money just for this? Just for subtle capital? And what are the shifts that I'll have to make in my life to honor that?' It's a question that I'm holding now. And it's a beautiful process because with that money, I'll have to think resilience. So it may just be a dollar, it may just be a hundred rupees at a time, but it's power is so much more. With those few dollars, it might mean buying notes and making inspiring notes for someone and sending them out. So it's not work, it's a labor of gratitude. It's not efficiency, it's resilience. It's not impact, it's regeneration. So those are the kinds of shifts that I'm trying to bring about in my allocated sum of money. And it's challenging me in very different ways."

Neil added, "We often have an idea of where we want to be, or what we want to be doing. And we think we need to just get there in an instant. But really, it's a series of small steps that get us there."

With so much wisdom and insight bubbling in the room, we decided to change up the flow and shift into an exercise where we moved inwards. With our eyes closed, Birju lead us through reflective writing and we imagined ourselves many years into the future. What would that older, wiser person share with us today and what fears and questions and hopes would we share with him or her?

Closing our sacred circle with Madhu’s deeply moving video was an indescribable gift. “Who are you?” he asks each person that is being interviewed. Nipun’s response shed further light:

“I’m pretty sure that who I am is somehow connected with who you are.”

What can unfold and emerge from within when we hold space for one another? On Saturday, we collectively transmitted an energy of acceptance between each other, allowing each of us to let go of own worries and second guessing tendencies, assumptions and judgments. Holding space for one another created a shared container of Trust where the "I" and the "other" surrendered with peace; a weight seems to be lifted off each of our shoulders. As we each journeyed beyond the thin external surface, we felt Love, not a warm, fuzzy kind of love that is usually ephemeral and superficial, but Love that is Truth. It's the Love that is the underlying, invisible current of Life, whether we are aware of it or not. This Love just is.

Posted by Bela Shah on May 15, 2014

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