Giving from the heart:
Upon returning from Ghandi 3.0 my heart was yearning to create and immediately put all my learnings from the retreat to good use. Nipun kindly introduced me to other volunteers based in Dubai who also recently visited ESI while Nimo's upcoming visit also brought a local community of volunteers together via email as well. There was a flurry of response going back and forth. I observed an urgency to give back in the air. I remember feeling pressured to participate out of wanting to honor and be worthy of the privilege of attending Ghandi 3.0, of wanting to please Nipun and wanting to be a part of the local volunteer community, and I didn't want to miss out. But I also didn't want to fall into the trap of giving out of obligation. Regardless of extrinsic factors I had to go within and meet myself where I was at.
Breathing into the moment
I needed to chill, to rest, to readjust back into my life, catch up with my son Danyal and to revisit my "old ways" and weave in new ones in a slow and steady manner. I remember Uncle Bruce hugging me at the retreat and not letting me go until I slowed down my breath and allowed myself to become present to myself and surrender to being one with all. I remember how when I finally began to breathe into Uncle Bruce's bear hug I also began to receive the love I was being given. It was like a tap had been switched on inside of me.
Aisha at peace as she sews love one stitch at a time.
It was time for me to let go, allow and receive. So I meditated and asked Creator to guide me towards an activity that would allow me to enjoy creating with my hands, to create for the sake of creating, and independent of others validation and expectations etc. With a history of being a high achiever and perfectionist I also wanted to create something new, simple, doable that would allow me to be kind towards myself and the self-compassion to flow.
Jacob smiling ear to ear after making his very first heart pin!
The joy of heart pins!
Upon meditating one morning an image of a heart pin came to me! I remembered how incredibly touched I felt each time a Moved by Love volunteer pinned a heart to me during Ghandi 3.0, I remember the joy of counting the heart pins collected at the end of each day during the retreat, and I will never forget the joy of learning how to make a heart pin with Bonnie, Nipun, Nimo and others on that beautiful sunny morning on the terrace of ESI . Also I remember realizing that making a heart pin seemed to be a much kinder way to achieve a sense of accomplishment. I discovered that the sense of accomplishment I felt upon completing a heart pin was the same sense of accomplishment I experienced after successfully completing near to impossible projects that involved a lot of people, a lot of skill, a lot of external judgment, and pressure to succeed!
Faye closed the circle by asking us to reflect on what we were grateful for.
Inspiration to share
So off I went to a local haberdashery - Al Fida- a place I loved to visit as a teenager- to collect my materials. I remember seeing a fabric with butterflies all over it and whatsapping Milan a photo and heartstorming back and forth with him about other ways to spread love life wildfire through the world. What a joyful morning. On the very same day I came home to make my first heart pin which ended up looking like a kidney and still I persevered. The second one was better and it felt really good. Upon completing a few, I realized it would be so lovely to share the experience with others and maybe even share the skill with a community that might enjoy doing something that makes them feel loved and gives them an immediate sense of accomplishment.
Meredith brings her sewing skills to to the circle! Teaching us the names of the different stitches used in a heart pin- running stitch and blanket stitch.
Capacity-building to the rescue!
My heart making skills were pretty shaky still and I realized that in order to hold the circle we required someone to show us the steps. Enter Kishan bhai
who coordinated with Anar
and arranged beautifully presented detailed videos outlining the steps for us to follow. Enter a friend Meredith
who runs craft workshops as a full-time job here under her brand Turquoise Boutique
who I asked to help with creating a little how-to-stich-a heart kit, who then introduced me to her friend Karen
who has been stitching the very same hearts for over a year in Dubai with the intention of flying around the world and giving out heart pins along the way. At that very moment, Karen was flying over Mount Everest and she had just put a heart pin on the female pilot flying her over from Nepal. See photo below:
As the whatsapp group opened Karen gave a heart pin to a female pilot in Nepal who flew her over Mt. Everest.
Obviously Karen wouldn't make it to this circle but she is coming to our next circle on April 7th hosted by the kindest soul I have ever met Preeti
(who I will tell you more about in my next post) . Dear friend of Zilong
and Nipun-fan Sunita
and I met on her birthday on February 8th and she was excited about the idea of getting together to stitch circles together. Sonia
, introduced to me by Nipun
, who runs an amazing global kindness initiative: The Goodwill Project, also said she would join. Jacob
who co-leads Action for Happiness workshop with Sunita
said he would like to come along as well. Milan's
from Soul Art Center, who he introduced to me via whatsapp also said she will join. Long-time volunteer Sarah
, friend of Sonia, and part of the first Karma kitchen initiative in Dubai also popped by. Faye
who normally hosts Nipun when he comes to Dubai and who attended Ghandi 3.0 with her husband Viresh also called me and asked that I let her know if we come up with any kindness pop ups that she can participate in, and at the very last minute graciously opened up her home and touched us with her hospitality. Last but not least my aunt Aisha
, who recently moved to Dubai from Dar es Salaam and regularly makes rope bowls and sews with her quilting group said she would like to come- and thank goodness she did - if she wasn't there I'm not sure we would have mastered the Blanket Stitch to complete the hearts!
Beautiful Sunita sewing a heart for Zilong's grandmother who just turned 80 years old
The table arranged in Jayesh Bhai style
What went on during the circle
Our first Stitch A Heart Circle Dubai took place in Faye's stunning lush green garden on a perfectly cool and sunny Saturday morning against a backdrop of a beautiful lake and the sound of chirping birds. We carefully arranged the materials on a table with little tent cards explaining each step, Faye had refreshments laid out on a table shaded under an umbrella. Faye, Shaila and I worked on a rangoli (suggestion of Kishan bhai) of a heart filled with red petals which we did our opening and closing circles around. Everyone had a chance to get to know one another a little, to learn how to stich a heart or two or three, to catch up on different activations of kindness, to discuss karma kitchens of the past and potential karma kitchens in the future, to heart storm ways to address the needs of different communities in the city and to simply be in the presence of others who are committed to giving and sharing. For example, we all agreed that integrating ourselves with UAE culture and Emiratis who are the community of the land was important, and that we might look at how we can touch the elderly community in Emirates Hills with kindness. The highlight of the circle was Faye's lovely granddaughter, Ahalia, who was joyfully running around, making heart rangolis with Mimi her nanny, witnessing a heart being made for her mother Natasha, by Sunita, and who indulged each of us with chocolate dipped strawberries. The circle was to be from 10 am to 11am but went from 10 am to 2 pm (and people didn't want to leave) so clearly everyone had a lovely time. The circle was also blessed with the presence of my favourite bird, a Kingfisher, a sign I usually receive from universe when things are flowing naturally and everything is as it is meant to be.
Sara sewing a heart made from the fabric worn by local Emirati men on their heads (Google Ghatra)
While we weren't distributing hearts the act of sewing hearts together was very much a platform for kindness. The circle:
x Inspired kindness towards ourselves
x Helped us stay heart-centered and heart open to new joiners to the local volunteer community
x Helped us be accepting and welcoming to diverse members of the Dubai community
x Gave us the opportunity to learn about each other
x Helped make us aware of local sub-communities that we may not have been otherwise aware of
x Inspired us to celebrate- the rangolli powder normally reserved for annual celebrations was taken out of the cupboard and used for an impromptu gathering of love
x Inspired a grandmother and granddaughter to spontaneously made chocolate dipped strawberries for everyone
x Led to a little girl and her nanny joyfully making a heart rangoli together
x Inspired an impromptu visit to a local organic farm which is located just less than an hour outside the city the very next day,
x Planted seeds for our first major volunteer kindness pop that involved taking 90 Syrian refugee children from 8-12 years old to the farm (keep an eye out for our next post).
In conclusion, as we sewed heart pins, we sowed seeds, a critical part of cultivating and spreading kindness and compassion in the world.
Araia and Mimi making a rangoli heart together.
Faye handing out chocolate strawberries that she and Araia spontaneously made for everyone.
Faye wearing a heart pin (made from Emirati Ghatra fabric) gifted to her from Sehr with love and gratitude for opening her heart and her home to the first Stich A Heart Sew A Seed Circle in Dubai.