Updated: Reflections On 'Surat 21 Day Kindness

Posted by Mihir Kaji on Jan 1, 2016
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One of Nipun bhai’s talk during his visit to Surat while on his recent trip to India inspired two of the attendees, Snehal and Saloni, to start a 21 Day Kindness Challenge. So some like-minded folks got together and explored why kindness matters, why the 21 Day challenge, what is it about and why should we do it? Eventually many chose to sign up for the challenge and let their inherent kindness flow in its full glory!

The challenge started 10 days ago. The acts of kindness done by the participants during these ten days so far, their observations and reflections on what happened inside them via these acts, and their sharing of the same on the website, on the Whatsapp group, as well as during the Circle of sharing that we conducted a couple of days ago, have really been heart-warming, reassuring, insightful and are raising the collective awareness to a higher level.

Some of us got together and held space for each other in the Circle of sharing, this past Tuesday. For most it was the first time they had experienced it. Arjun was moved to share how he was apprehensive about this whole kindness thing, and how most people around him reinforced that. But as he went through the experience of the small acts of kindness, and the sharing during the Circle, he was overwhelmed with gratitude to have this space to even talk about things like ‘kindness’, which he was unable to do otherwise. Anar shared her experience of how her father-in-law responded to her earlier act of giving ‘thank you’ notes to many people in her life, and the friction it caused between them. And it turned out that the next day’s challenge was to not complain! To her surprise, she got a note from her father-in-law that morning, thanking her! She witnessed first-hand how kindness boomerangs :)

Sanjay wondered whether it takes both positive and negative people to balance each other? How would the world be if there was only good all around? Sanjay also shared how recently someone deflated his car’s tyres, but instead of getting angry, he took out the tyres and had fun rolling them to and from the tyre repair shop. It brought back memories of his childhood days when they used to have a lot of fun running around rolling bicycle tyres with sticks in their hands. Shimah expressed her anguish about why people could not see and feel the plight of stray animals on the streets. Shalini shared the shift she could see inside her from her experience of giving away the money she had been saving (to buy an expensive watch) to her driver, and not looking for his response or doubting what he did with it afterwards.

Saloni shared a heart-warming story of how she struggled to do the ‘beautify your neighborhood’ challenge, especially with it being a Sunday! Her little daughter Sanjana got involved and together they made some beautiful art work of flowers from the kid’s craft kit and anonymously put it up near the reception area of their apartment building. She communicated a deep realization that being vulnerable actually resulted in more strength, contrary to the generally assumed belief that being vulnerable implies weakness. Payal brought forth some pertinent questions as part of her reflections that when we go about looking to do acts of kindness, do we actually stop and try to understand what the other person really needs? If not, who are we doing this for? She also reflected that knowingly or unknowingly, we humans beat ourselves up continuously over our past. So being kind to ourselves is probably a good place to start!

Imdad recalled how a stranger helped him and his friends and provided them dinner while they went trekking on some dangerous terrain and were stranded for the night. Nikunj shared how he wanted to surprise his mother with an act of kindness, but could not think of what to do. His family members would nag him to fix the clothes line frequently, but Nikunj would procrastinate. One day he again saw it broken and spontaneously fixed it without anyone telling him to do so. This spontaneous act ended up being a pleasant surprise for his mother! He also recalled an incident where he witnessed kindness coming full circle, when he went to the mobile shop to get his sim card fixed. It was almost closing time and he and one other person were the only two who were allowed inside. He could sense that the other person was in some difficult situation. The mobile store staff was not being very helpful to both Nikunj and the other person. Once outside, he offered his own phone to the other person for him to make the necessary calls and get his work done. This touched the staff, who then offered to help even though it was past their closing time.

Heta was moved to sing a few lines of a beautiful song that was close to her. She shared how she connected with the clerical staff of the college in which she is a professor, when she offered them tea which she had herself prepared specially for them. Carrying forward the power of tea, Nishith shared how he and his wife connected with some Surat Municipal Corporation workers who cleaned the roads late at night. It was Christmas night, and while the city went to sleep after all the merry making, these workers were cleaning up the roads. It so happened that Nishith wanted to serve them tea, but somehow could not find them at some of the usual locations where he used to see them every night. After roaming around searching for them at many places, when he finally located them, it was a delight to serve them tea and interact with them. Ulupi, shared that she was a very strict teacher. But she could see that it was creating a distance between her students and herself. So when she changed internally, essentially shifting from efficiency to compassion, she experienced a dramatic change in her relationship with the children and in how they perceived her.

Mili recalled a heart-warming incident in reference to the ‘no-complains’ challenge. While she was getting her hair done at the parlor, she got into an argument with her husband over the phone. When she disconnected the call, the lady who was attending her, signaled to her trying to convey something. It was then that Mili realized that the lady could not speak. What the lady conveyed to her then, stunned Mili and put things into perspective. She conveyed: If I could speak, the first thing I would say to my husband would be – I love you! Mili also shared the gratitude she felt for the opportunity this challenge is giving her to once again be herself, like she was ten years ago before she stepped into the roles of a wife, a daughter-in-law, a mother, a professional. Snehal shared the deep insights he got from doing these acts of kindness about how being the change, changes the being. He recalled the deep connection he experienced with the security guard of his apartment building, when he sat with him and just listened to him, and thanked him with a lot of love. It was the kind of connection which money or materialistic things had not been able to produce. Snehal also shared his introspection about how we inherently create and operate out of a hierarchial mindset when we try to ‘help’ the other person or ‘fix’ his problems.

Nimisha shared how the ‘Gift your favorite book’ challenge made her aware of her attachment with books. She also realized that she had not even read many of the books that she had in her collection, and could see that there was a subtle, subconscious motive of impressing people with her collection of books. This realization immediately broke her internal blockages and she gave away many books, feeling liberated in the process. Prathama recalled an incident when she and her family had gone out for dinner, and they took the left-over food to give to some needy person. She gave it to a homeless person on the street, and saw that the man went ahead to share it with his whole family. The food was actually barely enough for one person. Prathama was moved to offer more, and felt like turning her car around and buy some more food for that homeless family, but somehow could not do it at that moment. This event made her realize that it was difficult for her to do acts of kindness which were outside her comfort zone. So she has decided that going forward, she will try and do more and more acts which are outside her comfort zone.

In different ways, we all resonated the deep feeling of gratitude for the space this Circle created, wherein we could all just Be. Where we all held each other with the stillness of our minds and with love in our hearts. Where there is no one judging, and no one trying to be what they are not. As one looks back on the past ten days and the 100+ posts on the website and all the sharing on the Whatsapp group and in person, one feels the positive energy washing over and purifying our very being. No one is teaching, yet collective learning is happening!

More to follow as we go along further on this 21 Day Kindness challenge! 

UPDATE 1: Yesterday we had our second Circle of Sharing. This challenge and all the activities associated with it are facilitating us to look deeper into the depths of our being, and thereby raising the collective awareness to a higher level. Here’s what transpired yesterday:

Saloni started the circle by sharing her experience of how giving up her personal belongings felt difficult initially, but then gradually once she started doing it, things shifted inside and it gradually became easier to do so. So much so, that she spontaneously decided to spend the daily ‘me-time’ she had allocated to herself, with her kids. She could now also see with a lot of clarity that the whole universe comes together to make it possible for us to live, to be, and do what we do. We tend to think that we are making things happen, while the reality is that things are happening. So how can we really pay back to all the people who have knowingly or unknowingly paid a part in our lives? We can only pay it forward!

Yogesh bhai brought forth his observation that many times the people we think we know are actually unknown to us. So for the ‘connect with a stranger’ challenge, his wife and him went to their farm-house’s care-taker’s home and had lunch with them. There was a breaking of hierarchies in everyone’s minds, and a much more meaningful and deeper connection happened. Yogesh bhai also shared his observation of how his mind worked during the ‘donate clothing and household goods’ challenge. He initially picked out those clothes to give away which he was not wearing since a long time. When it became apparent how his mind was manipulating events, he ended up buying new clothes and giving them away. Snehal recalled his experience of personally giving away all the clothes that many participants had very lovingly and selflessly paid forward. While he engaged in the activity of giving away the clothing to the 300+ construction workers at one of the construction sites, the realization that those workers and so many more like them and even more unknown hands and hearts had played a part in what he is today, in giving shape to his designs and all that he has achieved, overwhelmed him. A sense of helplessness over how he can ever thank everyone overcame him, and he ended up entrusting the site supervisor to carry out the distribution of the clothes amongst the workers. Snehal and team lovingly served snacks and tea to the workers and connected with them deeply via this activity.

Sanjay shared a few anecdotes about his interactions with a street-food vendor and an auto-richshaw driver, and observed that it seems only a stranger can connect like this and share like this. It seemed to him that the baggage associated with the known comes in the way of such spontaneous sharing and connection. Amrita recited beautifully a few lines from the bhajan ‘Vaishnav Jan To Tene Re Kahiye’, and shared her insight that there is a conflict if we look at others in duality, even while being kind or in service. We are all one, there is no other. Nishith shared a heart-warming story of how he connected with an old friend by sending her a video he shot himself of him creating a piece of art. That friend had asked him to teach her how to make it. There were instructional videos available on the internet, and it may have sufficed to just send her the links to them, but seeing that there were gaps in those videos, Nishith went ahead and shot a video of himself actually making the piece of art.

Falguni ben shared that she had been doing small acts of kindness on an on-going basis in her daily life, but ever since she enrolled for this challenge a couple of days ago, she is getting ideas and opportunities to extend it further. Anar shared a very interesting experiment that she did recently, and has been doing it since – going one full day of not honking her car’s horn while driving! This seemingly simple experiment gave her deep insights into how the mind works, and how when she found stillness inside, there was stillness outside too. She reflected that her ego barriers are being broken as she engages in these acts. Another initiative she took was to donate to a worthy cause, without being told to do so. This would have been difficult for her earlier, but not now. During the ‘call a loved one’ challenge, she happened to receive calls from two of her friends living in America, whom she had connected with during the ‘connect with an old pal’ challenge – once again kindness came full-circle to her.

Nihar shared how he can feel a shift in him from ego to love, as he goes about engaging in these challenges. A recent example of this was when working on a project with some friends and colleagues, Nihar could see the change in how he responded to situations where things did not go as he wanted. Earlier he would react impatiently, and insist on things being done his way – now he is more sensitive of others’ views and is more open to letting nature have its way. Shalini recalled the positivity she has been feeling since our previous circle, and expressed gratitude for the same. She has always had a good relationship with her mother-in-law, but could see that still there was some traces of ego which was creating a distance. Being more aware now, she is experiencing a change in her being, and thereby her relationship.

Arjun touched everyone’s hearts by sharing his wonderful experience of writing a letter to his parents. It was probably the first time he had written a letter to them. As a child, growing up, Arjun had seen his parents go through a lot of hardships, both physically and financially. In his letter, he recalled all that he saw, and thanked his parents for each of those instances. The experience of writing the letter and expressing his gratitude gave Arjun the opportunity to look into the depths of his own being, and in the process, healed him. On receiving the letter, his parents were moved beyond words, and tears of gratitude, joy, satisfaction and love flowed endlessly. One is reminded of Khalil Gibran’s quote: ‘Between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said, most of love is lost.’ Hearing how Arjun reconnected with his parents, one could feel a collective prayer of gratitude that the whole group let out internally towards nature, for facilitating this experience which is beyond words.

From Saloni’s heart-felt and hand-made origami hearts, to Shalini’s delicious carrot-cake, to the love with which everyone held each other as we shared – we were engulfed by kindness, and so very grateful for the ripples that keep on rippling! It seems we may be witnessing what Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne said: ‘We build the road and the road builds us.’

Posted by Mihir Kaji | | permalink

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Comments (3)

  • Jigar Shah wrote ...

    I agree with Mihir, amazing learning is happening within the group. I could see many blockages during the journey of this 10 days. Great going....

  • Nipun Mehta wrote ...

    Great to hear this, Mihir! Some superb collective learning, it seems.

  • Pintu Dholakia wrote ...

    Mihirbhai, I am also feeling the same gratitude around me as i started to see the world from generousity and gratitude prespective.