Empty, Gather, Ripple - InnerService Retreat In London
Posted by Trishna Shah on Jun 12, 2014
Each time we gather in a circle, it’s so inspiring to think about it's uniqueness and how it will probably be the only time this particular circle comes together – it’s so rare for two circles to ever be the same, and this circle was no different! Our circle was graced with Siddharth visiting from India on his way back from a month-long visit to the US where he shared his personal journey in many such circles, along with Ana and Millis who were celebrating their 16th wedding anniversary by coming to the retreat together (Millis’s first such experience), Suzanne who came to London from Paris just for the retreat, Samir who attended the first retreat right after he moved to the UK and now his last retreat just days before he was moving back to the US, Devika who just finished a year at university and was back home in London for a few weeks and many more inspiring souls whose hearts somehow called them to join this particular circle on a beautiful spring day in May :) And amazingly, so many ripples that are created on the day are courtesy of many seeds planted long before and some seeds planted even the night before, as a small group of love magicians had come together to set-up for the retreat.
Our morning opened beautifully, as it always does, with an hour together in silence to empty ourselves, our egos and our baggage, followed by a heartfelt circle of sharing our own personal journeys, what brought us here on this gorgeous day and what we wanted to offer to the circle that has supported our own service journeys in some way. Unlike previous retreats where we took our personal items home at the end of the day, this time we wanted to push our bounds and planned to actually gift these items, which we had brought along, to someone else that afternoon in order to pay forward the love! So many really touching stories emerged as the circle went around – Ani opened the circle by sharing how she recently received the letter she wrote to herself at the previous retreat in February and was pleased to see she had actually held her intention of de-cluttering, mentally, physically and emotionally. In making an offering to the circle, she shared her life-long connection with nature and the role that it’s played in her journey along with the story of a very special mother-like aunty of hers who had gifted her a plant that died but she refused to throw away for several years, waiting patiently for it to sprout again in its own time. In that spirit, the offering she wanted to pay forward to somebody was a lovely plant that she brought along.
As the circle went around, the stories continued to flow, as Roxana offered a yoga music CD and shared the role that yoga has played in centering her journey, while Ana offered an empty journal given the importance that writing has recently played in supporting her journey. Brynn shared a small handmade pot that symbolized her first journey abroad outside of North America, which made her realize for the first time that despite how different we can appear on the surface, how we’re fundamentally all one and the same in our hearts. Hemant’s been pursuing one of his passions in life lately – golf! He shared a wonderful story about two cups from a book that has been supporting his journey in recent months, and how, like the empty cup, we can only fill ourselves with more knowledge, inspiration and love if we empty ourselves first. Millis was very honest in his opening remarks – he was at the retreat because his wife Ana asked him to come, and wasn’t really sure what he was in for :) And then, dug deep into his heart and went on to share a really touching story about how his past enabled him to really draw on his empathy and offer it to someone who needed it in that moment. Matt shared very openly and honestly how thankful he was to have discovered meditation and the role it played in turning his life around from his angry past, to the happiness and joy that fills moments in his life today. He shared how smile cards have been such an important part of this transformation and how small acts of love and kindness can really change you from within. Nalin Uncle, who is about to become a grandfather next month, offered a “Dad” memento that his own daughter had got for him as a child – he wanted to pay it forward to help another Dad out there celebrate fatherhood, passing on the baton as he himself embarked on a new journey as a grandparent. And it was so inspiring to hear Devika share how she decided to meditate each day just before sitting down to study for her exams, and how this was the first year that she passed all of her medical exams the first time – coincidence? She doesn’t think so :)
As the circle made its way around, many more beautiful stories were shared and offerings were made that came from people’s hearts and spoke to where they are in their journeys right now. Siddharth closed the circle by remembering his mother, feeling so grateful for all the ways that she has served him since he was born, and sharing an emotional story about his time with her. Just as he was about to host a Moved By Love retreat in Ahmedabad, he received news from Bombay that his mother was diagnosed with early-stage cancer. Without hesitation, he immediately left to be with her in Bombay, knowing the retreat would be left in good hands. But while he was there, he did wonder from time to time if he was more of service being in Bombay or if he should have carried on with hosting the retreat to support others’ service journeys. As time unfolded, it became clear to him that he had made the right choice in that moment. The few weeks he ended up being at his mother’s side, taking her to doctor’s appointments and hospital visits, ensuring she got all the right treatment, while reconnecting with her in those moments in between that they were spending together, were so precious and unforgettable. This experience offered him a small opportunity to serve someone who has unconditionally served him for over 30 years.
As the theme of rivers and water flowed through the retreat, the reflective exercise we embarked on together was none other than “The River of Life”, courtesy of the Yes! Jams planning guide for retreats! :) Everyone got creative as they took out coloured pens to draw their own river of life, how its flowed, where there have been rocks, where have the waterfalls appeared and where there have been forks in the river. We gathered inspiration from each other, as we broke out into smaller groups and shared our rivers with each other, learning from each other’s experiences in life.
As is always the case at these gatherings, offerings throughout the day were overflowing from all directions, with food that nourished our hearts and tummies with so much goodness (and yumminess!) :), readings that offered us nuggets of wisdom and music that brought joy. Lunch was a sight to see, with twenty of us sitting on the floor all squished onto our balcony, enjoying the rare sunshine in London, while enjoying each other’s presence even more!
After lunch, Liz led an energising 30 minute mindful and heartful music workshop, inviting everyone to get in touch with their inner voices and supporting them to share this love through singing. Liz had the entire room on their feet singing a couple of African themed tribal songs along with a lovely song she learned at another retreat about lifting each other up.
And the beat went on (as did the singing!) as we transitioned to the next part of the day. For this retreat, we decided to deviate a bit from the format of the past couple of InnerService Retreats, and dedicated the entire afternoon to sending ripples out from all the inspiration we had filled our hearts with by doing small acts of kindness together! We offered loads of different supplies so that everyone could use their hands and hearts to make things that inspired them, including signs with inspiring messages, quotes tied to water bottles for runners on a hot summer’s day, roses with quotes and more! The group carried on singing as they made their way out the door to split up into a few areas locally and share the love, gifting strangers with roses, water bottles, quotes, heart pins and lots and lots of SMILES! The groups returned with an abundance of beautiful stories about the people they met along the way, the energy they felt going into the activity (many were nervous/anxious about approaching strangers) and how they felt transformed returning back home, understanding experientially what it means to simply give unconditionally of yourself, while expecting nothing in return.
The closing circle offered everyone an opportunity to share what they were feeling grateful for in that moment and offer it to the circle in the form of a lovely little notecard from Lahar’s mom’s collective art and kindness project in Bombay, Cube of Gratitude! Everyone’s cups were overflowing as they shared gratitude for the space and collective presence of noble friends, for home, love and positive energy, for “showing me another side of humanity and including me in it,” for learning how to give without expecting anything in return, for making us and others smile, for acceptance, for being alive and the opportunity to share with mindful people, for all of the people that life puts on our paths.
As ever, I feel so grateful to be in the company of noble friends who help me to hold this space in my home and in my heart, so that together we can take some time to nourish our inner journeys while sharing the inspiration with the world around us.