In the last 8 months I’ve been in Thimphu, Bhutan, I’ve been a part of hosting a local Awakin circle. Our circle is held in the simple, but beautiful library of Madam Deki Choden’s primary school, the Early Learning Centre (ELC). Upon entering the school, one notices that the atmosphere is remarkably welcoming and comforting. Surrounded by the presence of children’s books and inspiring messages, we feel immediately as though we are home. The space is an extension of the community that comes together every week – a group of remarkably caring people, from all walks of life. And here in Thimphu, we’ve had a diverse community of local school-going youth, educators, healers, musicians, artists, poets, environmentalists, activists, working professionals, international volunteers, and more, each with his or her own unique story to tell.
Week in and week out, we’ve shared hearty laughter, heartfelt tears, and vulnerable moments with one another, deepening our collective self-awareness and allowing others to see us as we truly are. A father sharing about the difficulties of his daughter’s death. A school principal opening up about her inspiring journey and describing the real challenges of educating her students for universal happiness. A young woman sharing about her fears and inner strength during her mother’s illness. And a few weeks ago, a former substance user opening up about his story. He shared of the adversity he faced growing up in a broken family and how he finally learned to look within to face his own suffering and anger in order to lead a life of service. Today, he creates music and supports other young substance users who face similar challenges that he went through. Later that evening, inspired by the week’s reading, Nimo’s lyrics to his song “Graduation
,” we had an improvised musical jam session with several different instruments including an electric violin, a guitar, a viola, an ukulele, flutes, and a tambourine.
The song that emerged was beautiful – a mosaic of our different melodies and stories harmonizing as one.
This week, we had a particularly meaningful Awakin circle with nearly 30 youth from local schools across Thimphu. We held a vigil and sharing circle in the loving memory of Tandin, a young Bhutanese student who recently committed suicide. As we cried and held space for our grief, compassion and hope emerged. We remembered the beautiful moments that defined Tandin’s life, letting them remind us of the importance of love in our own lives. Before his passing, Tandin attended a few of our Awakin circles and would always show up with a big smile. He and his friends would even take the initiative to wash everyone’s dishes after our shared dinner. He never spoke a word at our circles. His silence, however, spoke volumes about his wisdom, as he listened deeply to others sharing insights and difficult moments. It demonstrated his willingness to learn from elders at a time when most youth in Bhutan are labeled as “lost” and uninterested in their own culture. His presence, kindness, and wise spirit at his young age was uplifting – and a reminder that we have so much to learn from our young people and that we owe it to them to offer our wholehearted support.
Without a doubt, these Awakin circles have been an opportunity for kindred spirits to come together in inner and outer service, to change ourselves in order to bring positive change in the world. And in the last 8 months, I’ve been “Awakin”-ed to our interconnectedness, the possibility that our inherent generosity blossoms into small acts of service which ultimately form the ripples of collective social transformation. On a personal level, I am reminded to live deeply for Tandin, to serve from my heart, and to harmonize my life with the world around me, just as we co-created a melodic song with the unique gifts we each offered. Awakin Thimphu has really become a sacred space for all of us, and I hope we continue to learn and grow together in our beautiful community.