What a joyous Awakin Teens Service Day
over the weekend at Banyan Grove!
On Sunday evening, a few families came together to prep the space and also circle up again since our last meeting in September. Simply coming together in the spirit of service led to powerful conversations and joy in wholesome presence.
Right from the beginning, the teens got to work (after a game of basketball :)), picking apples from the trees, which Sandy and Tim's mom Jane magically turned into a delicious apple cobbler! Seema arrived and instantly super sweetly whipped up some vegan chai for everyone as well!
After some icebreaker activities with our spirited "guest speakers" for the evening, Tim
, we had dinner, and then the teens flowed into a young-people-only :) circle on "Stories of Success".
afterwards that many questions that came up on this topic were "not easily answered either, but the input from the peers in my circle was comforting and I was relieved to hear that everyone else shared the some of the same question as me."
"It was inspiring to hear the quality of questions and reflections that surfaced in the trusted space," Audrey reflected. "Arnav framed the convo for us, by kicking off the circle with some thoughts on how his view
of success and happiness has evolved. Then, Tim and Vishesh shared some stories from their shining journeys in navigating notions of perceived and genuine "success". And we had a circle of sharing on related reflections and questions we're each holding. I was amazed by how teens' wisdom really shine through. Some questions that came up include: "How do I engage with family members and friends who I seem to only have 'superficial' conversations with?". "When I look at careers in fields like business and politics, those systems seem to stress competition and a culture of one-upping each other, which can inflate the ego. I don't want to become like that, but is there an alternative? How to integrate these values of service, and this way of interacting with others, into what people call the 'Real World'?" We then broke out into small groups to dive deeper. It was amazing to see how their questions and conversations were so deep and insightful -- and how everyone listened to each other with so much respect. These teens really are amazing teachers, and feels like a blessing to learn from them in such deep and insightful ways. :)"
In parallel, us parents had our own impromptu circle of reflections, which raised some thoughtful themes and insights around parenting and letting go of expectations. In the middle of it, 9-year-old Fox got bored with the teen convo, and as soon as he joined us, he was up happily making and serving hot chocolate to everyone!
We closed out the evening with some songs, with our musical youth! Aum suggested we sing "Stand By Me"
which prompted us to reflect and share stories around "What's a memorable time when someone has stood by you, and what did you learn from it?"
Before bed, Kozo did his daily bowing practice, and four of us (including 3 teens) spontaneously joined him in bowing. In the process, the youngest amongst us started naming people to do a bow of gratitude to, including volunteers who made the gathering possible, and everyone who's passed through the Banyan Grove retreat space we were in, and all beings everywhere. :)
After the blessing of the evening, we were ready to roll up our sleeves in service together the next day! In the morning, the teens welcomed
attendees at the gate, with smile signs and ukulele songs. :) They also sent a birthday song to Vishesh's sister. :)
After everyone arrived, the 22 of us circled up. Jade and Lena led us in an opening circle inviting: "Share your name, and what is one way you express gratitude?" Answers ranged from "Spending time to appreciate silence" to "Trying to listen better" to "I take care of my mom if she is sick." :)
Then we rolled up our sleeves and got to work on the service projects! One group sanded and varnished an old wooden table on the property. Another group sheet-mulched parts of the garden. And a third group mixed in compost to some garden beds to build the soil for future planting. Others assembled benches and an archway for one of the walking paths. All the while, Pragalbha, Manish, and Seema were cooking up a love-filled gourmet meal in the kitchen! Kiran also brought a delicious fruit salad, and Sandy added the cherry on top, with super fancy homemade desserts like cake pops and hello kitty chocolates and vegan s'mores and apple crisp with apples from the apple tree outside!
After lunch, we had clean-up and a closing circle of reflections. Many people reflected a feeling of experiencing service not necessarily as an act to make an impact, but a process that also transforms ourselves along the way. After a group photo and hugs, we gradually dispersed back to our corners of the Bay.
As he was leaving, 9-year-old Fox took a "free hugs" sign (that Lena had made couple months back for a school circle!) asking "Can I take this with me? I want to use it when we go to San Francisco to visit my uncle." :)
Bunch of teens are looking forward to the next gathering
, and seeing what emergence continues to hold in store!
[More smile-filled photos.]