| Change Yourself, Change the World ServiceSpace is a global platform for generosity-driven projects. We leverage technology to inspire and empower peole to do small acts of service. By honoring both internal change and external impact, we aim to support a shift from consumption to contribution, transaction to trust, isolation and community, and scarcity to abundance. generosity, gift economy, volunteer, nonprofit, inspiration, good news, service eng (Service Space) Thu, 23 May 2024 01:54:17 -0700 Stitch a heart! Sunita shares ... Everything was perfect about Saturday morning; beautiful weather, lush green garden overlooking a tranquil lake (an odyssey in the desert), warmth of the host (Faye) and eight enthusiastic heart weavers! That morning,one of us had prayed for beauty to unfold and does the universe ever let down a sincere prayer?<br /> <br /> Inspired by the beautifully crafted heartpins, we, in Dubai decided to give it a go. Sehr, the lucky seamstress who had witnessed the process gave us the lead. She arranged for instructional videos to be shared from India, purchased all the items and, finalized the venue, day and time. We went with the flow!&nbsp;<br /> <br /> The morning took off with a minute of grounding, followed by, &#39;inspirational&#39; hugs, Faye laid the table with food and beverages and her angelic granddaughter gave us company with her innocent curiosity. Steps for preparing the heart pins were numbered and placed on the table. The whole process was a therapy.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:400px; margin-bottom:10px; margin-top:10px; width:400px" /><br /> <em><b>Five&nbsp;takeaways from the process are :</b></em><br /> 1. Collective circle makes learning fun even if it means many, many trials.:)<br /> 2. Stitching/craftwork is a mindful process.<br /> 3. There&rsquo;s joy in working with our hands. (Experienced childlike thrill when done).<br /> 4. We are grateful to the ladies who craft these hearts because we understand how meticulous the process is.<br /> 5. Finally, it&#39;s a &lsquo;stress buster&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> <em><b>Feedback</b></em>:<br /> &#39;It was lovely to meet new people and to be in that energy. I would like to take part in more heart opening circles where just being in a space with an open heart vibrates through all.&#39;... Sunita Lama Mon, 26 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 The Role of Compassion in Education: Educators Retreat, Mumbai Ragunath shares ... The evening before the retreat, I was looking at an Excel sheet given to me by some ladders that had the flow of the retreat planned to the last minute.<br /> <br /> It had details of which volunteers will welcome the participants, which ones will take care of the thaalis, teeka, heart pins, diaries and pen. Which one will sit with the sound console, and which one for the podium. Two volunteers sat up till 2 am to finalize on the participant list and coordinating with last minute sign ups.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" border-width:1px="" src="" style="height:394px; width:700px" /><br /> Teachers, principals, administrators and other educators - 79 participants in all came into the venue and were greeted by big smiles, hugs, decorated name tags, heart pins... before they were seated, there was joy in the air.<br /> We started with a minute of silence, followed by a prayer song; an opening story that set the context for the need of <a href="">Compassion Quotient</a> among educators; a heart-on-the-sleeve, goosebumps raising presentation and Q&amp;A on the need and power of compassion; a panel of four amazing speakers; a break-out session along with lunch and a summary of the break-out after; and finally a few examples from the <a href="">ServiceSpace</a> ecosystem presented by a few ladders as<a href=""> take-away practices</a> for the educators.<br /> <br /> All of the above between 10am and 3:30pm. Oh, I forgot the Nimbu Paani break that happened sometime before lunch and I have no idea who had arranged for both.<br /> Sure the retreat was packed with a lot of content. Great content. But these were educators. They are used to a lot of content. They could probably give a course on compassion to anyone on a short notice. What they came for was not content. They wanted to learn how compassion is applied in real life. What it looks like, feels like to be compassionate under stress.<br /> In addition to doing my bit of story telling, throughout the day, I was noticing the faces, hands and postures of the participants.<br /> <br /> Paragbhai, while introducing Nipun, mentioned that if Nipun were to be a school&#39;s principal, he would have two classes for all - a class on friendship and a class where students will be tested on their ability to not give answers but to ask questions!<br /> <br /> A row of faces lit up, perhaps signaling a recognition of what they already knew in their hearts.<br /> Throughout <a href="">Nipun&#39;s presentation</a> and Q&amp;A, I saw a range of facial expressions - some trying hard to pull back their tears, rubbing their eyes and cheeks, looking down or up, some tightly clasping their hands, gripping their seat hands... and the eyes, the eyes conveyed so much that it is futile to label them. They were responding and resonating partly to the concepts but mostly to the real life stories, the authenticity, the humility and the personal examples. At some point I realized that this presentation was not being recorded only to feel later that what carried the words to the audience was subtler than air and could not be captured by a camera.<br /> <br /> Rekha Shahani opened the panel speech with her experiences and insights in being a school principal, being an Acharya of Bhramo Samaj, in training teachers and principals - something she might have done many times. Suddenly she decided to share a very personal story that touched everyone. It was not another speech anymore. It was a feeling of &quot;we are all in this together with our vulnerabilities and unexpected courage&quot;.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" border-width:1px="" src="" /><br /> <br /> Mugda Shridhar Gore shared her work with Helpers of handicapped integrated school for the physically challenged. If one were to observe her speak without the audio, one would think that she is describing an exciting vacation she took. She shared her initial challenges and personal transformation in working with differently abled kids; poured her heart out to the audience and responded to a lot of questions. A gust of youthful energy blew through the room.<br /> <br /> Chaitanyabhai, the trailblazer educator who has proved that you could create a school out of pure passion spoke in Hindi. While some of his words were beyond my bollywood vocabulary, his deep care for his students gave everyone a glimpse of what the guru-shishya parampara of ancient India would have been. His classroom in the village is built not with bricks and cement but with trees and care; and his main teaching method is to help the students see the universe in a grain of sand. He does not impose subjects on his students. Instead, he subjects his students to reality as a whole. For the audience, it was the equivalent of watching a &quot;wild educator&#39;s story on discovery channel&quot;.<br /> <br /> And then came Kunal Chawla. He was asked to be on the panel and hour prior to the scheduled time. But for a person who offers online courses that reach 2 million people, it was normal work. His approach to finding teachers in unexpected people conveyed the raw intelligence and compassion he brings to his work. For example, he asked an injured Olympic athlete &nbsp;to teach anatomy and the result turned out to be much more than anatomy. He brings to life Rumi&#39;s words, &quot;&ldquo;The wound is the place where the Light enters you.&rdquo; His insight is that people who have suffered have the rare combination of passion and compassion to teach to alleviate suffering in the world. They make great teachers.<br /> <br /> The effects of the morning sessions were seen in full bloom during the break-out sessions which had topics like, &quot;Compassion Vs January&quot; (January being a metaphor for the standard, inevitable and stressful goals of a regular school), &quot;My Language Vs Our Language&quot; and &quot;Now Vs The Future. Each group had a moderator and everyone dug into the topics with gumption and presented a summary.<br /> <br /> When the retreat ended, no one was leaving the venue. There were selfies and hugs all around. It was a Saturday. And Saturday in Mumbai is premium time. These were not educators sent by their institutions to some HR program. Yet they came voluntarily and met with another set of volunteers to have a heart-to-heart on the role of compassion in education.<br /> <br /> In spite of a long-ish blog post, I have a feeling that I have not captured what made this retreat possible. For example, I don&#39;t know what Sachi, Smitaben, Swara, Paragbhai, Kinnari, Vidhi, Drishti, Rupali, Yash, The Hair Stylist and names I am sure I am forgetting did to pull this off.<br /> <br /> I don&#39;t know what I or anyone specifically learned in the retreat. But I am sure that this was one retreat the Dalai Lama would have been proud of.<br /> &nbsp;... Ragunath Padmanabhan Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 Outsmarted by Love Kavita shares ... Last month, me and my husband, Rakesh, were visiting our son Pratyush in Ahmadabad. Every visit to Ahmadabad is filled with lots of stories of love but something extra special happened this time.<br /> <br /> It was&nbsp;Rakesh&#39;s,&nbsp;birthday. Some of his batchmates from BITS&nbsp;Pilani,&nbsp;who are now&nbsp;staying in Ahmadabad, gathered to make this a wonderfully memorable day for us. It is a totally no fuss group.<br /> <br /> We all met at Gandhi Ashram.&nbsp;Pratyush gave them a guided tour of the ashram and then we headed for lunch at a restaurant nearby.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:375px; margin-bottom:10px; margin-top:10px; width:500px" /><br /> What happened next was an out of this world experience for all of us. This Pilani group goes dutch on the bills, that is they split the bill equally&nbsp;among themselves, always. So all the men, including Pratyush, went to the billing counter. They asked the cashier for the amount and lo and behold, the cashier told them the bill was already paid for!&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Some were dumbfounded and two literally threatened the cashier to divulge the name who &#39;outsmarted&#39; these MEN of the WORLD. Finally the cashier pointed to a now empty seat and said--- <em>&quot;the gentleman sitting there paid the bill and left this note for you&quot;</em><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:592px; margin-bottom:10px; margin-top:10px; width:500px" /><br /> The group couldn&#39;t take it and contributed to match the bill and gave the amount to Pratyush.&nbsp;<a href="">Nimesh</a> is a dear member of Moved by Love and lives in Pratyush &#39;s building.<br /> <br /> We added to the amount and had difficult time convincing Nimo to accept it for the kids he works with :-).&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;... Kavita Rajavanshi Fri, 16 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 Heartist's Expression Vidhi shares ... <blockquote>&ldquo;Compassion isn&rsquo;t about solutions. It&rsquo;s about giving all the love you have got.&rdquo;</blockquote> <br /> Recently I was at a cancer home where kids and parents live together. Every day these families fight the struggle against cancer, together. &nbsp;I feel blessed that I get some time with these kids living with cancer each week, and we find joys in those little hours.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:281px; width:500px" /><br /> Last week &nbsp;we did a <a href="">heart circle</a> where the kids got an opportunity to just be the way they are. They were told they can use their playful imagination to create whatever they want to and the colors added power to their joyful beings.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> The kids started exploring different ways of painting on papers, using their hands, fingers, and palms. They could use everything in abundance, which they felt was the biggest gift of that day. One boy came and shared that he had never been so happy as he was then. He said, <em>&ldquo;Didi, its not about the colours but it&rsquo;s about letting us do what we want, without any thought constraints of somebody telling us or giving us a topic.&rdquo;</em><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:500px; margin-bottom:10px; margin-top:10px; width:500px" /><br /> Heart circle has evolved with this intention of letting each individual feel and acknowledge who they are and how they feel about it. It&rsquo;s a journey of diving deeper, of colours that create miracles, sparks and moments of happiness that keep our inner strengths growing.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> It has been almost an year since heart circles started. The joys of heart circles are the moments of being child-like, of being powerful to powerlessness, of being vulnerable. These circles are a journey in which we are all together.<br /> It is not the beauty of art you paint, its what your heart says and you feel it..!... Vidhi Desai Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 Going Back: A journey of surrender, hope, love, and generosity. Kinnari shares ... (this is a transcript of Zilong Wang&rsquo;s talk on 13th January&rsquo;18, as part of the one-day <a href="">Youth Retreat in Surat</a>)&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Zilong:</b> I feel so blessed this morning going around in the circle - hearing the question what breaks your heart and what gives you hope - if you are like every time I hurt, &nbsp;it is a crack opened up within you, so that the hope can come in.&nbsp;There is a song called &#39;There&#39;s a crack in everything and that&#39;s how the light comes in.&#39;&nbsp;&nbsp;So, thank you for breaking our hearts together so that the light can in and shine out. Dhiren sitting here, when asked what he is working on - he said he is working on a fusion reactor. By 2025 the fusion reactor would be ready. I feel like I am sitting in a fusion reactor right now and it&#39;s been &nbsp;ready all along and thank you for fusing our hearts and..... also hearing about the projects that Parth, &nbsp;Aarti, you all are working on...&nbsp;&nbsp;I am really so moved and so humbled.&nbsp;&nbsp;Even at age 22 even earlier, &nbsp;you are serving so many people and how that&#39;s changing you and like you said &#39;hurt people hurt people and healed people heal people&#39; and in your story, I am also hearing that to heal others, heal yourself and to hurt others, we hurt ourselves too. And I feel like comparing, well&nbsp;not really comparing...&nbsp;&nbsp;But the journey that I am on is about first seeing the spirits of service in others that inspired me to go on an inner journey and how that inner journey can have ripple effects in other ways. &nbsp;<br /> <img alt="" margin-bottom:10px="" src="" style="height:300px; width:400px" /><br /> So just as a general information - for the past two years, I am on this <a href="">bicycling pilgrimage</a>, mostly by bicycle from US back to China. So, every day I would bike about 40 - 100 kms, then in the evening I would knock on the doors of strangers going into small villages and say &quot;I am on a pilgrimage and may I set up my tent in your backyard.&quot; And every single night, someone has said yes.&nbsp;&nbsp;So, for 10000 kms, more than 200 different families, every single night I not only had a place to stay but also hot shower. And most of the times they would also invite me to come inside and join them for dinner and then breakfast.&nbsp;So when they open the door they are always a little suspicious and say &quot;We don&#39;t get these kind of requests often especially from a foreigner.&quot; But by the time that we leave in the morning, we are like best friends, we are hugging, adding each other on Facebook, promising that if you come back to our country, you have to come back here.&nbsp;&nbsp;Everyday within sixteen hours of transforming from strangers to new-found family members - it just gives me endless hope. And for these past two years, some surprising statistics - one is I&#39;ve met exactly zero bad person, not a single ill-willed person, or insult or any accident and there were also zero flat tyres (laughs).&nbsp;&nbsp;So, this shows me that it&#39;s definitely not me definitely not the brand of the tyre, &nbsp;it&#39;s the Guardian angels - the blessings of the so many families and friends near and far.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Because we are all in the same age, facing the same questions in life,&nbsp;I would love to share a bit of the inner journey on some of the themes &nbsp;- for example, work versus job, &nbsp;family - the support of the family and freedom versus the morality, the ethics that we would want to live by. I would start by saying that after college, I was working for a consulting company in San Francisco.&nbsp;&nbsp;They help companies to go green. They are really doing good work but soon I realized they are putting a band-aid on cancer patients. They have all the good intentions and the work is needed, but it&#39;s not really addressing the root causes. So during that time,&nbsp;I know that this is not the work that I want to do for life but I don&#39;t know what is the real work to do and luckily at that time, I met <a href="">ServiceSpace</a> -&nbsp;I started volunteering and started meditating. And slowly these activities changed the questions in me. Before the question was <em>&#39;what do I want to do with my life&#39;</em> and after that, the question became <b>&#39;if I give myself more fully - how can this body, mind be an instrument</b>&#39;.&nbsp;&nbsp;So, while holding those questions, and not knowing what&#39;s really my work to do for almost one year, it was very painful because I know the job that I am doing is not the real work, but I don&#39;t know what the real work is. What really helped me during that one year was the small practices - In the office, on my way to the office, I would buy some apples and then during the day, when I am in office, I would wash the apples, cut them up and then just go around and offer apples to the colleagues and I feel like that&#39;s the single most meaningful thing that I do during the day.&nbsp;All the other work is we say - Oh! I have helped produce this many tonnes of carbon-dioxide. It doesn&#39;t really matter.&nbsp;But for one, it&#39;s so far remote it doesn&#39;t create change within me. Second, for all the help that we are trying to do, it&#39;s really wiped out by the necessity to grow.&nbsp;&nbsp;The companies we are helping, we helped them to become 3 percent more efficient but the market required them to grow at 10 percent every year. So, it&#39;s those small practices that I feel has become my real work. So in the office during those times I&#39;ve been waiting. Then one day, there&#39;s a calling &ndash; an inner voice that just says, &ldquo;Go back to where you are from.&rdquo; And it&#39;s not exactly the language but the knowing, it&#39;s just so clear, I almost got tears in my eyes and I know that this is it and the rest is detail. But then, that means I&#39;ll have to quit my job which means I&#39;ll lose all my insurance, green card and all the perks and things that my family have been expecting.&nbsp;So, the ego was really torn. But there&#39;s a saying in the Gospel of Thomas which is &#39;If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth, will kill you.&#39; I feel like when the calling arrived, every moment that I do not surrender to this calling, it&#39;s like a slow suicide. So, I realized if I continue to play this game of ego, like what I want to do with my life, I can see the end of it - it&#39;s not very promising. Mozart or Alexander, the Great - they both died at around 32 &ndash; 33. I am 26. So, within six years,&nbsp;can I became Mozart or Alexander,&nbsp;the Great? Or even looking at people around. If I want to just play the game of ego, there&#39;s no point in it. But, if I surrender, let this drop go back to the ocean, then say that the life you can plan is very small for you to live. But if you surrender to the calling, life has brought me to meet all of you - to be in India. It&rsquo;s so much more meaningful and even from the perspective of just the joy of life, fun of life - surrendering is a much better option than what do I want to do with my life. &nbsp;<br /> <br /> So, after deciding okay -&nbsp;I have to follow the calling and quit my job,&nbsp;the next big hurdle was how do I tell this to my parents because I am their only son. They have really worked hard, supported me, have high hopes. So, I called my parents on Skype and then told them that I&#39;m going to quit my job and ride a bicycle back home! They were already a little resistant to all the volunteering and meditation.&nbsp;&nbsp;My dad said, &#39;Well, if you wanted to meditate and volunteer, you could have stayed in China. Why go all the way to San Francisco? You are in the heart of America!&#39; and this and that. So, I told them that and they were pretty surprised and shocked and they raised their voice! So I said, &#39;Dad, I&#39;ve to hang up the phone and I&#39;ll call you back in ten minutes.&#39; So, I hung up the phone and cried for ten minutes straight because we&#39;ve always been like best friends and I am afraid that from there on, our values shall part. We&#39;ll no longer be able to understand and support each other. I know the parents here, they are deeply supportive of all of your journeys and planting seeds. So such great blessings! I also know for some of us or some others, it might be more like a journey to bring our parents along. So, when I called back in 10 minutes, my dad - he has calmed down. He has to my great surprise, accepted the decision. Said, &quot;Oh! You&#39;re young, you can afford to make mistake, if it makes you happy, &nbsp;go ahead and do it.&quot; So, I know he accepted but didn&#39;t fully understand and support. But, during the next year, when I went back home, one day suddenly, my dad said &quot;Well, that 10-day meditation thing you&#39;ve been going to - I think I would like to sign up too!&quot; That totally surprised me because my dad - he is a very good person, but he also had habits - Like he has a fast temper. I would never expect him wanting to meditate or sit quietly.&nbsp;&nbsp;But he went for 10-day meditation and came back a changed person.&nbsp;He quit smoking, quit alcohol, became vegetarian.&nbsp;&nbsp;He is meditating two hours a day and has recently served a 30- day meditation course and is pretty much a completely changed person.&nbsp;&nbsp;He has quit his job and he and my mom - they are right now helping to start an eco-village in China. So, now it&#39;s their turn to explain to their parents what they are up to (laughs). But later on, when my dad went to more meditation courses, the teacher tells me and him that my dad has actually more affinity with this practice than me. So, either through me or through some other person, he will come back to this practice.&nbsp;I am so grateful to this universe that they let me to play a part in my dad&#39;s turning around. Now we joke when we call each other. We don&#39;t say dad and son -&nbsp;we say dharma-brother dad and dharma-brother son!&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Before starting the journey, I went to <a href="">Guri</a>, Nipun&#39;s wife, for help, for advice and for homework. And she really asked me to sit with two questions -&nbsp; <blockquote>one is why exactly are you doing this and other is how is it a service to others and not just a journey for yourself.&nbsp;</blockquote> <br /> So, as a part of that exercise, I decided to pick a set of precepts both as a practice and also as a gift to the people who I meet.&nbsp;&nbsp;For our age freedom can be more enticing and I realized taking of these precepts for the last two years has given me more freedom than what the Hollywood or the Bollywood would define freedom as.&nbsp;So, these six precepts are very much inspired by the wisdom tradition - no killing, no stealing, no lustfulness, no intoxicants, no solicitation, commercialisation or no financial aid or asking for money or no profit-seeking and finally, no meat-eating. You might notice that I took out &lsquo;no lying&rsquo;, &nbsp;because after a few months, I have been thinking about it, &nbsp;I thought I wasn&#39;t ready because as long as I am talking, I&#39;ll be breaking / bending the truth all the time.&nbsp;I couldn&#39;t do that yet. So, for the past two years, I would regularly check whether I am keeping to these precepts.&nbsp;One biggest gift internally is that last year after one year of keeping these precepts, one day suddenly, I realized that I want to keep these precepts for the rest of my life and all lives to come. And also the realization in these precepts is much deeper.&nbsp;For example, no killing means of course, no killing beings - but in the past, if there&#39;s a mosquito at night, I&#39;d just kill the mosquito, but now I realized that&#39;s breaking the killing vow. So, the mosquito comes, I&#39;ll just shoo the mosquito away. But then I read the story in the Buddha&#39;s life, when he was going on alms round with one of his disciples. When the Buddha walked by, all the people just closed their doors. But when the Buddha&#39;s disciple walked by, the people were all very happy - they were like opening door, inviting him, making him the alms offering. So the other disciples were confused and asked the Buddha, &quot;What happened? You are fully enlightened and they are not making any offerings to you.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;So the Buddha said, &ldquo;Many many lifetimes ago, when my disciple and I were both practitioners,&nbsp;we were sitting under a tree.&nbsp;&nbsp;There was a beehive above us that was bothering us.&nbsp;So, I took out a torch and drove all the bees away.&nbsp;&nbsp;But my fellow practitioner in that lifetime, who is now my disciple in this lifetime, was very compassionate to all those bees and did not drive them away. Now all those bees have been born as those villagers living in the same village and that&#39;s why when they see me, they don&#39;t know it but, in our karma, they are just shooing me away while they are welcoming this other monk inside.&rdquo; So now whenever I shoo a mosquito, I think &ldquo;Oh! All the people who close their door on me, that&#39;s probably why!&rdquo; (laughs) So that&#39;s the precept of no killing. The precept of no stealing - of course, I won&#39;t take things without being given, but I realized to sleep more than my share, to eat more than my share is stealing - I am stealing food from those who need it more. I am stealing time from the day from cultivating or serving others - the opportunity cost is high.&nbsp;So, whenever I am just lying or rolling around on the bed, I realize that I am stealing time and this is breaking Sheela. &nbsp;<br /> <br /> And third, about no lustfulness - at the physical level, it&#39;s easy to maintain celibacy. But then I realize when I see a beautiful girl walk by, &nbsp;my eyes would follow her and I notice that a lot of other men do that and I realized that that&#39;s breaking Sheela, because it&#39;ll make the woman feel really unsafe with all these men are looking at her body. And I am also repeating the habit pattern in my mind, even if I said I am not doing anything or saying anything but I am just reinforcing that habit pattern of letting my senses go out to chase after beautiful forms.&nbsp;&nbsp;So, now I would train my mind whenever I am looking at a beautiful girl walking by - turn around and observe what&#39;s going on internally &ndash; just wishing her well, wishing I come out of my habit pattern and wishing there is safety for all my sisters in the world.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> And with the vow of no intoxicants,&nbsp;it is easy to say no to drug or alcohol or tobacco, but now I am realizing more and more sugar is a major intoxicant. What it does neurologically in our brain is the same as cocaine or heroine.&nbsp;It activates the same part of the brain.&nbsp;The production of sugar also has a long history of colonization, slave-trade. So, can I slowly wean myself off the socially-licensed intoxicants?&nbsp;&nbsp;It&#39;s probably not a very popular proposition in Gujarat (laughs). But just seeing all the deeper layers of the vow, I am realising everyday if I am breaking the vow at much subtler level. On the surface level, it&#39;s easy work. But keeping these vows at a deeper level is the biggest gift that I am giving to others &ndash; the gift of peace of mind. And also give myself the space that I can know that at the more lower layer, the deeper layer, I am still breaking Sheela.&nbsp;So, these are some reflections on the past two years and there are many stories I can share from around the world that&#39;ll be more fun.&nbsp;But I just want to get the more &ldquo;head&rdquo; part of the reflection out.&nbsp;&nbsp;Thank you so much for walking your pilgrimage. &nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Nipun:</b> For someone like Zilong, this is really the best way (to keep silence).&nbsp;&nbsp;If you applaud, it really feels so cheap though we all feel very touched. Thank you. People have thoughts or comments or questions for either one of us or for each other.&nbsp;&nbsp;This could be a nice time - we have 15 minutes to do that. &nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Question:</b> What happened on the first day of pilgrimage? First night when you had to knock the door and ask someone to let you in. Was it easy?<br /> <b>Zilong: </b>Even before the first day, it took me a long time get started. It was because I always kept delaying the departure date. A wonderful teacher said just do it one day at a time. You could do one day and then wake up to another. So that helped me to get started on the first day.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Actually, on the first day of the first trip across the US, I didn&rsquo;t have the courage to knock on the door so I went to sleep in an empty Boy Scout Camp. I found there is a Boy Scout Camp so I thought I can sleep there. But it was horrible. When I tried to take a shower from the hose, a flood of ants came up, because it had been unused for long and all the ants were crawling in the hose pipe. And then I got 30 mosquito bites and so much so that the next day helmet wouldn&#39;t fit because my head had swollen from the mosquito bites. So I felt that it&#39;s a sign from the universe that I have to do it. First day was not easy because I felt so awkward. I was afraid of rejection. But slowly, two things helped. One is I change the inner orientation. It&#39;s not that to get something.&nbsp;&nbsp;But, here&#39;s an opportunity where I can offer a silent prayer. It doesn&#39;t matter if they say yes or no. If they say yes, okay, if they say no I wish them well and silently move on. So if more people say no, it gives me an opportunity to&nbsp;offer silent prayers. With that, it took the nervousness away, and the yes rate also went up. But also, the other interesting take up point is, as you knock on more doors, you unconsciously become better and can tell who might be more open. For example, who grows food in their yard, would never say no. If they have made their garden growing tomato or pepper, and I go up to them they have always welcomed me. I don&#39;t know why, but I think there might be something about connecting to the land and the abundance of nature.<br /> <img alt="" margin-bottom:10px="" src="" style="height:300px; width:400px" /><br /> <b>Question:</b> Didn&#39;t you even have fears about your future? Like when we complete school and go to college and we have fear about what will happen to us in the future. We have questions about our marriage. You said very beautifully that you can take off your eyes from a beautiful girl, that it&#39;s not very easy for boys. But you are practicing it. Don&#39;t you have fear about what will happen to your family if you are on this path? Because you have to sacrifice a lot in service life. So, don&rsquo;t you have any fears? What motivates you to always go ahead on this path?<br /> <b>Zilong:</b> So one thing is, once surrender happens, there is no going back.&nbsp;The prayer I had in my heart is, if I give myself more fully. But when the calling came,&nbsp;there is no if. I can&#39;t say &ndash; no, no, no I take it back. I didn&#39;t want to surrender. (laughs). There is just no going back. So in that sense, it&#39;s not my future. So I can&#39;t worry about that. And the part about family and marriage, it did worry my parents when I told them about these vows I am going to keep for the rest of my life. They just told me if I wanted to practice no lustfulness, does that mean you will not get married or have no children. For a few years, I always thought family and marriages are a blockage for inner cultivation. But then, I met people like Nipun and Guri and all along the way, met many couples who are really spiritual partners. They are stronger in their cultivation. And really after seeing, they decouple their marriage and their physical attachment. I just know that it is also an option but that it is much more difficult. Now, I know my level is at the kindergarten and only when I get deeper in these practices and in the future, if Insha-Allah whichever is the higher plan, and I also know that marriage, family life, is not against cultivation. But it&#39;s the next level. It&rsquo;s graduation.<br /> <br /> <b>Question: </b>Over the past two years when you were cycling, what was the happiest and the most difficult moment of your journey?<br /> <b>Zilong: </b>The happiest part is the time with nature. The parts that like the most is when I biked the whole day without seeing another human (laughs). Those were the best days because those were the days when I felt not alone, those are the days I feel so connected. I realized nature is the best listener. Each thought I carry, nature is a web. Sometimes nature would make it apparent, by sending serendipity signs like seeing the same bird, seeing the same butterfly, so I know that nature is aware. It is one. Those were the happiest times.&nbsp;<br /> And the most difficult time is how the mind keeps turning the physical pain into mental affliction. As Nipun probably knows from their <a href="">walking pilgrimage</a>, which is another level, but on bicycle too, it&#39;s never comfortable. It&#39;s either too hot or too cold. And physically it&#39;s always uncomfortable. And the mind keeps turning the discomfort in pain. &quot;Oh my! What was I thinking (when I started out on this path).&quot; I think that was the most difficult part - turning pain into suffering.<br /> <br /> <b>Question:</b> How did the whole journey help in discovering your calling?<br /> <b>Zilong:</b> To go on this journey is a calling and so, it&rsquo;s both a means and an end. It&#39;s end in itself as it is life. There is no purpose, or in order&nbsp;to get to somewhere. But, I also realise two years of biking is preparation of something. I didn&#39;t get to know what that something is, but I know this is the right preparation, and I am certain to get clues of what that something is, because by going all this way around it helps me to know that the grass is not greener on the other side. And the answer is not outside. Beforehand, I wouldn&#39;t have the patience and humility to look where I am from, or to assume that my work is where I am from. So, I was looking outside. But after going on around, it helped me to realize that there is nothing out there that you need to look for. All the work is already in there. Also, all the going around and connecting more strongly with the culture that raised me, helps me feel like the whole journey around the world is actually earning the return ticket to enter the home again.<br /> <br /> <b>Question:</b> You met a lot of people in your journey, practiced compassion, discovered about yourself a bit more. You talk about giving. How do you plan to do that? In what manner? Some people practice in terms of jobs, some in terms of social work. How do you plan to do it now?<br /> <b>Zilong:</b> The whole pilgrimage is a rehearsal for real life. I go on this pilgrimage so that I can maintain the spirit of pilgrimage when I go back. I don&#39;t know exactly or in what form of delivery system of service. But I know the practice. I can see the growth in inner practice. Even within the pilgrimage, I feel like the biggest gift I can give people is the listening &ndash; non-judgmental listening.&nbsp;&nbsp;So many families that I&nbsp;go into, I just listen. Asking them questions, I listen to the stories. Then the husband would look at the wife and say, &ldquo;You never told me that!&rdquo;&nbsp;It happens almost every time. I feel one of the biggest scarcity is deep listening. Each one of us are so rarely being deeply listened to without being judged. I feel like you are gifting me that right now, so thank you for that gift. Or how can I offer that as it gift to each&nbsp;family that I go into. Now that has become more like a habit. I know I can now carry it into my normal life.<br /> <br /> <b>Question:</b> Any stories when you had an unpleasant experience?<br /> <b>Zilong:</b> Honestly, I can&#39;t think of any one unpleasant experience. I think there are probably two parts. One part is the universe is very kind in giving me what I can take so I have a strong faith that everything that comes to me is because the universe knows this is something that I am ready for. The universe won&#39;t assign me tasks that I that I am not up to. I don&#39;t feel like I have been with those challenges that is really beyond my range and also, the universe is really a mirror. If I don&#39;t harbour any ill will, not even a flat tyre will happen. I&#39;ve never been sick, or felt like I faced any hostility. And I tell this to all the families that I visit that the best way is for the family to switch off their TV. Because of the news that they receive, they have a picture of the world that is so negative. But I have met exactly zero negativity all around the world till date. All the families who were hosting me so generously, were so careful with outsiders.&nbsp;<br /> <img alt="" margin-bottom:10px="" src="" style="height:400px; width:300px" /><br /> <b>Question:</b> What were some of the countries?&nbsp;<br /> <b>Zilong:</b> The countries were US, Mexico, China, Tibet, Nepal, India, and in Europe / Western Europe, England, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and in the Middle East - Turkey, Iran, Dubai. And the most hospitable country is Iran - just the culture and&nbsp;hospitality, it completely shattered all the prejudices. In USA, I would knock on 5 doors on an average for somebody to say yes. In UK it is one in 8. In Western Europe, it is 1 in 3 or 4. But in Iran, it is 1 in 1 or sometimes even before I ask, I am not even ready to knock yet, people wave me down on the street. They wouldn&#39;t speak English but they say &quot;Oh come home, have food and stay.&quot; They really rose in my mind and heart and I have deep gratitude for them. And also, when I go back to China or USA, I told all my friends don&#39;t believe the news. I didn&#39;t stumble upon any nuclear bombs. The people are kind.<br /> <br /> <b>Question:</b> Where does India stand?<br /> <b>Zilong:</b> Even before I ask, I have been invited in the house. So, 1 in 0! (laughs)
<br /> <br /> <b>Nipun:</b>&nbsp;Thank you so much. Zilong &ndash; it&rsquo;s not just about the fact that he is a wonderful human being because he is on this pilgrimage. It&rsquo;s interesting, but it is about how he is doing it. And just the kinds of things that he is practicing, the depth with which he is practicing and the way in which he listens &ndash; it happens to all of us, that if Zilong is listening to you, you start sharing very different things. It&rsquo;s just something you can&rsquo;t describe but you can observe. Ultimately, it is not just about one person, but about all of us practicing in our own ways. So, the idea is where do we find our calling of practicing compassion &ndash; may be we can&rsquo;t go all the way, but can we help each other? Behind each person, there are other people. So, can we bring their spirits into the circle. That is the hope, we all start to be like brothers and sisters and support each other in failing in our experiments in love and surprising ourselves in how we can succeed. May be we hold a minute of silence in the spirit of how deeply Zilong has shared. So, thank you so much.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" margin-bottom:10px="" src="" style="height:300px; width:400px" /><br /> <br /> [In gratitude to his being and all the gifts Zilong&nbsp;shares&nbsp;with the world, Service Space volunteers have come up with a <a href="">21-Day Pilgrim&#39;s Challenge</a>. Each day of the challenge is one quality of Zilong&nbsp;that has inspired us. With each day there is also an anecdote or a story that he had earlier shared!]... Kinnari Mehta and Rupali Bhuva Mon, 12 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0800 Startup Service in Auroville: Designing for Generosity Zilong shares ... <em>&quot;Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.&quot;</em> -<a href=""> Auroville Charter</a><br /> <br /> <em>&quot;For in this ideal place money would no longer be the sovereign lord; individual worth would have a far greater importance than that of material wealth and social standing. There, work would not be a way to earn one&rsquo;s living but a way to express oneself and to develop one&rsquo;s capacities and possibilities while being of service to the community as a whole, which, for its own part, would provide for each individual&rsquo;s subsistence and sphere of action.&quot;&nbsp;-&nbsp;</em>The Mother, in <a href="">A Dream</a>&nbsp; Envisioning an Ideal Society<br /> <br /> On Dec 16th 2017, a group of 40 friends from around the globe gathered in Auroville to dive deep into the question: how can we<a href=""> design for generosity</a>, and lead with inner transformation in our labor-of-love projects?<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:466px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> The retreat invitation read: <em>&quot;We will bring together people from diverse backgrounds and a common intention of manifesting a Gift Economy. We will look into practical nuances of conscious engagement with money and multiple forms of capital in the current context and also steps we can take to create a future where &#39;money would no longer be the sovereign lord.&#39; Having hosted over a hundred retreats focused on Inner Transformation, we have repeatedly experienced the magic that unfolds when a group of people take a step together into the &quot;unknown&quot; and collectively hold space for sacred emergence.&quot; </em><br /> <br /> The typical <a href="">three-day Startup Service retreat</a> was condensed into one day, but the spirit and love was by no means diluted. Below are some glimpses from our time together.<br /> <br /> <b>Tilling the Soil</b><br /> The seeds for a<a href=""> Startup Service retreat</a> in Auroville have been planted long ago. The confluence is obvious -- and inevitable -- to any friends who are familiar with both Auroville and ServiceSpace. Auroville is a &quot;site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.&quot; It has been fostering the spirit of <a href="">Karma Yoga</a> and has incubated several <a href="">social enterprises</a>. ServiceSpace has been leveraging <a href="">&#39;Technology with Love&#39;</a> and co-creating <a href="">projects</a> in the spirit of <a href="">gift economy</a>.<br /> <br /> Four years ago, Startup Service retreat was<a href=""> born</a> as an initiative for turning our service intention into action. It brings together people from diverse backgrounds and facilitates the process of starting a new project, adding momentum to an existing project, or collaborating with like-hearted participants on emerging projects. Since then, four such retreat has brought together generosity entrepreneurs around the world.<br /> <br /> One year ago, a core anchor for Startup Service, <a href="">Deven</a> and his family, moved to Auroville. In addition to holding weekly <a href="">Kindness Circles</a> with 10-year-old school children, they have also been also laying the groundwork for Startup Service Auroville.<br /> <br /> On the evening before the retreat, there were a couple of events on &#39;Transformation of Consciousness and Money&#39; held in the<a href=""> Unity Pavillion</a>, a symbolic and most fitting space. (Jaya and Shivaya, the executives of Unity Pavilion took their project to the retreat the next day.) Nipun first gave a talk on &quot;<a href="">Gift Economy and Inner Transformation</a>&quot;. He summed up the message with a quote from Vinoba, <em>&quot;All revolutions are spiritual at the source. All my activities have the sole purpose of connecting heart to heart.&quot;</em><br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; float:left; height:394px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> On 4th October, 1958, the Mother placed a &ldquo;<a href="">challenge before the whole financial world</a>&rdquo; to transform the earth by putting it into contact with the supramental forces that would make life bountiful. She also said <em>&ldquo;Money is not meant to generate money; money should generate an increase in production, an improvement in the conditions of life and a progress in human consciousness.&rdquo;</em> Deven and Jaya&nbsp;made a presentation to share insights from an exploration of an experiment called <a href="">Mother&rsquo;s Bank</a>&nbsp;that had emerged while asking &ldquo;what would a financial institution or a bank look like if it were to be created today for manifestation of the New Creation based on the vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother?&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The evening ended with a candle-lit <a href="">Awakin Circle</a> in the Hall of Peace, which also houses the Peace Table for Asia, which was gifted to Auroville by the Nakashima Peace Foundation in 1996.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; float:left; height:394px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> And all these events are just what happens on the front stage. Behind the scene, countless hands have poured so much love to the smallest details, with volunteers coming from around India. For instance, several volunteers stayed up till 2am to draw exquisite notebook covers with inspiring quotes, and hand-made all the name tags for retreat participants.<br /> <br /> <b>Setting the Context</b><br /> The Startup Service retreat on December 16, 2017 was generously hosted at <a href="">Verite</a> in Auroville. It started with Yoo-Mi sharing the &quot;startup&quot; days of ServiceSpace, a young organization with ancient and<a href=""> counter-intuitive values</a>. Deven followed up with connecting the dots between ServiceSpace and Auroville&#39;s vision.<br /> <br /> We then went around the room to invite each participant to share one quote that inspires them. People offered Hindi poems, Chinese songs, sayings from saints, and lived wisdom from their own life. A 20-year-old Austrian entrepreneur, Elisa, reminded us, &quot;Don&rsquo;t let rejection define you. Let your reaction to rejection define you.&quot;<br /> (Little did we know that a few volunteers were busy taking notes, and then spent their whole afternoon to weave the quotes and each participants&#39; photo into a <a href="">slideshow</a> as a surprise gift at the end of the retreat!)<br /> <br /> Nipun then led the group for a <a href="">birds-eye view</a> of what&#39;s happening in the forefront of business and technology. Referring to the values underlying the innovations powered by the Seven Deadly Sins, he posed six questions for generosity entrepreneurs as antidote:<br /> - Are we designing for impermanence?<br /> - What are our<a href=""> creative constraints</a>?<br /> - Are we using<a href=""> multiple forms of capital</a>?<br /> - Are we leading with inner transformation?<br /> - Are we unlocking the<a href=""> many-to-many</a> potential?<br /> - Are we working without an exit strategy?<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:466px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> <b>Designing for Generosity</b><br /> With these questions and values as our shared context, seven teams of change-makers shared their labor-of-love projects with the whole room.<br /> <br /> Aarti from Mumbai is on the cusp of taking her mental health healing circles to the next level to support more survivors of sexual violence. Her first paid project made her feel very ambivalent about receiving money for her sacred work.<br /> <br /> Helena and Rajan from Auroville have received the support and blessing to create a community center and retreat house to offer circles, exhibitions and meditations related to the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. But they are facing hard questions on financial sustainability and relations with local villages.<br /> <br /> Arun from Bangalore has created software to support distribution logistics for essential medicines to villages across India. He asks, &quot;How can we really embody the &#39;selfless service&#39; in &#39;SaaS&#39; -- software as a service?&quot;<br /> <br /> Archana&nbsp;from Indore presented her idea of unconventional and self-learning program, as well as her daughter&#39;s idea of connecting neighbors to come together for home-cooked meals.<br /> <br /> Dinesh&nbsp;from Pondicherry shared about his work and vision to connect local farmers and consumers through organic food store and related initiatives.<br /> <br /> Jaya and Shivaya&nbsp;from Auroville shared their intention to shift the Unity Pavilion space towards a complete gift economy approach.<br /> <br /> Chandresh shared a vision of creating a residential and co-working space for young people in Auroville that also serves as a fab lab and maker&#39;s space, fostering innovation and new ventures in the spirit of &#39;new economy&#39;.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:466px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:466px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> With such a rich menu of inspiring projects, all the participants spread into small groups, huddling around each project. For the next two hours and over lunch, the groups delved deeper into the nuances of each project, and pooled the collective intelligence to explore how the labor of love could be a living laboratory of gift economy and inner transformation. The groups returned to share their progress with the whole room before the closing of the retreat. All the teams received a bagful of offerings from the participants in multiple forms of capitals.<br /> <br /> <img alt="Startup Service, Auroville: Group Photo" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:472px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> The new perspectives and friendship fueled another two hours of informal conversations, as many participants lingered around to connect with one another. As one participant quoted Mother Teresa, <em>&ldquo;We can do no great things - only small things with great love.&rdquo;&nbsp;</em>Now that&rsquo;s a design principle for all generosity entrepreneurs:)<br /> <br /> Here are some <a href="">photos</a> from this gathering.... Zilong Wang Mon, 29 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800 Sangham Sharanam Gachhami - Laddership Retreat 2017 Rahul shares ... <br /> <img solid="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; float:right; height:300px; width:300px" /><b><em>What does&nbsp; it take&nbsp;for a tree to bear Fruits?</em></b><br /> <br /> Sun, air, water, fertile land, microbial activity below the earth, etc..and to top it all, a deep connection and harmony underlying the whole ecology :) What looks like a very typical process of flowering and fruiting on trees in nature by itself has the entire universe working in harmony behind it. 47 of us gathered in <a href="">Sughad</a> in Ahmedabad on a chilly winter morning with a very clear sky for a 3-day<a href=""> MBL laddership retreat</a>. In fact, much before that, the retreat made a gentle start in our mailboxes with a wonderful welcome kit sent by<b> Khushmita</b> and <b>Meghna</b>, who can&rsquo;t not be awesome.<br /> The attempt of the retreat was to cultivate noble friendship, till the inner field for fertility and be in harmony with each other. One thing what brought everyone together was deep resonance to <a href="">values </a>of MBL and commitment to live those values. It was a fun-filled and joyous three days for all, and there was lot of laughter, late nights, and listening to stories of life over a cup of chai :)<br /> We started the retreat with a circle on the lawns of Sughad with<b> Kishan</b> welcoming all, invoking the divine feminine with a loud Jai Mata Di! and expressing gratitude to all the forces which align for all of us to be together. &nbsp;Few of us offered prayers to the circle followed by a silent walk to Maitri hall led by <a href=""><b>Arundada.</b></a> At the entrance of the Maitri hall, volunteers welcomed us with a customary tilak, hugs, and heart-pins.<b> </b><b>Rahu</b>l and <b>Neeti </b>welcomed all in the opening circle with a warm smile and poetic words of<a href=""> Narsinh Mehta</a>, welcoming the Lord to his home.<b> Rahul</b> felt this gathering as a celebration of life and was joyous to see all his favorite people in one frame. <b>Neeti</b> felt like an annual pilgrimage, much akin to the traditional yatra of the<a href=""> vaarkaris</a> and bowed to every one of us.<b> </b>They&nbsp;opened the circle to get everyone&#39;s voice in the circle by asking a question--<br /> <br /> <b>What is your key learning of your service journey during the past year? </b><br /> The pre-retreat team had thought of awesome middle names for all participants &ndash; e.g. <b>Parag </b><b><em>Ginta-Kaun-hai</em></b><b> Shah, Sheetal </b><b><em>aa-jao </em></b><b>Sanghvi, Shaalini </b><b><em>Superrraaa </em></b><b>Shah </b>and so on. As participants shared their reflections along with their middle names, the Maitri hall reverberated with laughs. <b>Neeti</b> opened the circle sharing a beautiful story and summed up that in the event of a dichotomy between expressing empathy and holding on to values, values should be a priority.<b> Sheetal</b> shared that the learning for the year is that service is a way of being and way of doing (&lsquo;Once you are a part of a river, you are always a part of the river&rsquo;) and is constantly vigilant about space he is operating while doing any act of service. <b>Neeta</b> shared that how not to react to an overpowering situation is something she has learned. <b>Smita-ben</b> shared constant cultivation on her journey is blurring the line of separation and feeling one with people around her.<br /> <b>Gopal</b> referred to shifting from a large joint to a nuclear family during the year and shared how life comes as a package deal of pleasure and pains and how he is growing in equanimity to situations that life brings up. <b>Suratvanti </b>too shared that to keep going on in the face of adversaries is the learning for the year. And how pleasure and pain are transient.<b> Sanchi</b> shared how she is learning how not to get attached to her work and be in the moment.<b> Purvi</b> shared how when we change ourselves; the world changes for us while hosting circles and holding space for organic growth of her local community.<br /> <br /> <img solid="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; height:450px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> <b>Tharanath</b> shared he is finding stillness in his work, and that is regenerative in itself. <b>Amit Arora </b>shared that being an active anchor of Baroda community, he is surrounded by<a href=""> goodness</a>, and that is working on himself in being good. He also felt that volunteering as an end in itself and not a mean to something else was his lived reality for the year. <b>Nipun Shah </b>(N2) shared that being disconnected from the ecosystem from volunteering, he felt he was losing his calmness. The year is some sense organically brought him the value of noble friendship<b>. Jaimit,</b> who is an active participant of Prayer Circles at Baroda each week, shared that prayers are helping him to be a better listener and he is gaining strength in power of prayers.<b> Anupreet</b> shared that to surrender to the flow of life is something she is learning through lived experiences. She also shared how Awakin Dialogues became her instrument to connect to the community and how it held her at a time when she was adjusting to the life at<a href=""> Navadarshanam</a>.<b> Deven&#39;s </b>growing awareness is helping him to differentiate between service and disservice (<em>ku-sewa</em>) at a very subtle level, in a very nuanced way, and, in the process, deepening the layers of inner transformation.<b> Arundada </b>shared that there are two kinds of &ldquo;dada&rdquo;s, the ones who run people over and the ones who can be run over - and that he is in the second category :). He resonated well with the newness of life by stating that even if he sings a song for the <em>n</em>th time, it always brings a fresh meaning to him.<b>Shaalini</b> shared the life in last year has increased her faith in the higher power in organizing her life and yet how ego shows up more frequently while serving one&rsquo;s own as against the world outside one&rsquo;s family.<b> Drishti </b>is learning to slow down and observe and introspect within her in every act of service.<b> Trupti</b> shared that she is learning to observe the space from which she operates while serving.<br /> <br /> <b>Bhumika</b> is learning to be kind to herself even when she falters, and that is bringing her lot of peace and calmness. <b>Divyang</b> attended a three-day silent meditation retreat course and felt very anchored in <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; float:right; height:225px; width:300px" />silence for the first time in life.<b> Ragu</b> also brought forth how the external world greets each other by either (hand) shake or (back) slap, but at MBL, a welcome is through either hold or fold &ndash; he is learning to integrate this hold/fold method in all situations life brings to him.<b> Sunita</b> who came from Dubai shared that the year&rsquo;s key learning is learning to love and what it means to be loved and to give love.<b> Goli</b> shared that they moved to a new community called navdarshanam during the past year and he has come to realize that any action arising out of compassion can never be wrong.<b> Gitanjali</b> spends a lot of time with herself in observing the space she operates, and she is learning to be mindful in all her intention behind every action of service.&nbsp;<b>Avani</b> shared a very touching story of a very young friend who was diagnosed with cancer during the year, and she is learning that to be detached with life is a great way to deal with life.<b> Nipun</b> shared that the events of the year are deepening his understanding in being grateful for every moment in life.<b> Ashish</b> shared that &#39;Sahaj Sveekar&#39; of every moment life brings to him is his learning for the year<b>. Khushmita</b> was in the mode of factory reset and learning for the year is to be free from the known !!<b> Parag </b>shared seeing everything from the perspective of a spectrum instead of bearing the cross of a polarized viewpoint, has softened him. He shared that he is learning to see the edge in every act he likes and in every act of other, that he dislikes. To be aware of his polarity is what he is learning throughout the year. He also shared how sitting in circles and listening deeply has brought about this learning for him. <b>Amit</b> <b>Maheshwari</b> shared that the learning for the year is to listen to his heart and act out of that deep calling or intuition.<br /> <br /> <b>Mihir</b> shared that his learning for the year has been that the way things appear to him depends upon how he sees them. And given that he does not know who-he-is, the illusion gets more nuanced!<b> Devesh</b> shared that to hold presence like a child and live life in innocence is the learning for the year. <b>Diken</b> shared that year has brought one realization to him-- &#39;You are more important than I.&#39; <b>Suchi</b> shared that she has learned to be available to others and how paying attention is the best form of expressing gratitude.<b> Jignasha</b> shared the experience of serving <b>Arundada</b> for almost 2-3 months during the year, and that has given her deep insight <b><img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; float:left; height:225px; width:300px" /></b>that in giving we receive!!<b> Vidhi</b> Is exploring and experimenting with volunteering for the year and is observing the way spirit in going up and down in different moments of life while doing service. <b>Sachi</b> shared that she is feeling grounded in the year pass by and she is letting go fix ideas and letting come whatever life has to offer. She also expressed deep gratitude to our noble friends to make a gathering like this possible.&nbsp;<b>Meghna </b>is learning from her failure and feels that there is a lot to be grateful for in a tough year.&nbsp;<b>Rupali</b> gratefully shared she has learned the language of love from the MBL community. She shared that the last one year has changed the course of her life and got immense love and deep connections with the community<b>. Jayeshbhai </b>shared that serving the world is serving myself and that is getting deepened through lived experiences throughout the year.<b> Swara </b>shared that she is learning a lot from the whole ecosystem and she is learning what is invisible service from the way she is being served. She is also deeply learning to operate from the power of love within the local ecosystem in Baroda<b>. Kishan</b> is learning to search and amplify goodness in others in every situation. How the divine feminine operates out of all of us &ndash; and a seven year Reva becomes a mother to a 1.5-year-old Maitri, and Maitri in turn mothers an 8-month old neighbor :)<b> Vinod&rsquo;s </b>learning has been to beware of the ego.<b> Vinit </b>is learning the spirit of volunteering and how when he operates from the spirit, he never feels the burnout and instead, felt rejuvenated in all acts of service.<b> Jaideep</b> shared that the year had some great insight on volunteering and in times of confusion and conflicts, connecting to noble friendship is the way out.<br /> <br /> <br /> Post a short&nbsp;break,<b> Khushmita</b> and <b>Meghna</b> were in the anchor&#39;s seat for the post-lunch session called &ldquo;<em>MBL Prem-station</em>&rdquo;. It was a very nostalgic feeling when they shared the journey of MBL and all its <a href="">projects </a>and spirit.<br /> <br /> <b><em>How can we build deeper Maitri? </em></b><br /> <b><em>How can we lead with Inner transformation in all our service work? </em></b><br /> <b><em>How can we keep love in the center in all our activities?</em></b><br /> <br /> The above were the primary questions which lead to the birth of MBL, Looking back to all these years, they briefed the circle on all the projects and events happening within the ecosystem. There are 28<a href=""> Awakin circles</a> in India started during the last 10&nbsp;years, <a href="">Seva Cafe</a> runs for 6 days a week for last 12 years, different retreats throughout the year, including shorter retreats in locations other than Sughad, are happening since last 7 years,<a href=""> Karma Kitchen</a> in different cities for last 7 years, <a href="">Wisdom craft </a>for last 5 years,<a href=""> Karma Meals</a> for last 4 years, <a href="">Maitri Tunes </a>for last 3 years, A<b><em><img alt="" border-width:2px="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; float:right; height:201px; width:400px" /></em></b>wakin Dialogues for last 18 months<br /> and<a href=""> Laddership circles</a> and<a href=""> Heart circle </a>for last one year.<br /> <br /> Few reflections during this session were:<b> N2</b> sharing that Awakin Circles have changed the culture of his home and relationship he shares with his family.<b> Smita ben </b>shared that NGO retreats are creating a synergistic relationship between the donor and the NGO.<br /> She also shared that the Educators are excited about the paradigm of gardening versus manufacturing and the ripples need to be caught during the year.<b> Meghna</b> shared that Wisdom Craft is bringing a lot of artists from multiple locations in the same spirit and building deeper bonds within the community. <b>Suchi</b> shared the challenges of Karma Kitchen (KK) Hyderabad, where good people<br /> came together with good intention but not deeper bonds, which created issues in operating KK and as a community this was a learning process and insight into the spirit of KK.<br /> <br /> <b>Parag</b> shared that Laddership circle is creating awesome ripples within the community and also in other communities and on a lighter note he shared that the quality of hug is different when two laddership circle alumni hug each other !!<b> Vinit</b> shared that Karma Meals are discerning the difference between distributing food and sharing food, Vidhi who operated Karma Meals in Mumbai shared that serving together is creating deep bonds within her ecosystem.<b> Sheetal </b>shared that Maitri Tunes which crossed 2100 subscribers a little while ago are a way to treat our being with devotion to the Divine<b>. Mihir</b> shared that Awakin Dialogues is creating gentle ripples in the community and is a great space to learn nuances and edges as well as reflect on the core learning of sages. He poignantly shared that on our own, we can get only a little bit far but collectively, we can go much farther.<b> Rupali</b> shared that since Heart Circles are held on Thursday, her family calls it Happy Thursdays as she is in a different zone. For her, Heart Circles are a silent reminder that everybody is good at something. <b>Shaalini </b>shared that editing the MBL newsletter is about amplifying goodness for the wider community. When she comes to know that the newsletter is reaching 10,000 plus subscribers, it fills her humility and a sense of fulfillment that she is becoming an instrument to record the acts of goodness and inspiration for such a large community.<br /> With an overview of all the projects and happenings within the ecosystem, we concluded the pre-lunch session and broke for lunch. It is to be noted that the assembly line dishwashing process team super-ably laddered by <b>Simran</b> did not allow many of us to offer dishwashing sewa during the entire retreat!<br /> <br /> Post lunch,<b> Mihir</b> anchored a session called &#39;<b><em>Nested communities</em></b>.&#39;<br /> He put <b>Jaideep</b> and<b> Gopal</b>, who laddered the inclusion movement, on the mat first. Jaideep briefly shared some highlights and ripple from<a href=""> India Inclusion Summit</a> and<a href=""> Inclusion Retreat.</a> The container team of 40 volunteers connected with 800 participants for six months prior to the Inclusion Summit created heart rendering scenes at the Summit. &nbsp;That connection ran way deeper than the event gathering itself and was a very transformative experience for all involved. As a creative constraint people on the disability spectrum (disabled people) also volunteered with temporarily-abled people, and it is a transformative experience for all.&nbsp;<b>Gopal</b> who leads<a href=""> youth4jobs</a> is a recruitment and training NGO for people on disability spectrum. So far, they have employed 11000 people on the spectrum enabling them to earn a right livelihood. They have 22 centers in 12 states, and after coming in contact with MBL, they have shut down the &ldquo;head&rdquo; office and moved to a decentralized model. He shared stories about Raghava who is deaf but has trained 800 people and Renuka who is on crutches, and yet seamlessly hosts events for 400 people.<br /> <br /> <b>Mihir</b> then called upon<b> Shaalini</b> and<b> Deven</b> to share stories of their local community<a href=""> Auroville. </a><b>Deven</b> shared that during last year<b> Nipun</b> visited Auroville and he hosted a talk at Unity Pavilion that had series of ripples. So many people in local community resonate with Service Space/MBL values, and that leads to series of events this year in Auroville. Start up the retreat, KK in <a href="">Tibet Pavilion </a>touched many a heart &ndash; the Talk organized at <a href="">Unity Pavilion</a> on Laddership, as well as a talk in Pondicherry on Humility and Generosity brought about curiosity about learning more as well as the desire to go deeper into these values.<b> Shaalini </b>shared that she is hosting kindness circle for children in schools that engages both the teacher and parents community.<br /> <br /> Next was the turn of<b> Sanchi, Diken,</b> and<b> Kishan</b> who are laddering the entire Gandhi ashram ecosystem. There are five institutes and some 900 students including a teacher training college. <b>Kishan </b>shared that Gandhi ashram ecosystem is an attempt to bring the spirit Jai Jagat and Love Jagat to humanity. It is building bridges between government and local communities. <b>Sanchi </b>shared while working as a volunteer she is experiencing a deep shift within her. To surrender to the elders, to accept and be with the flow of life is the core shift. Building deep bonds with students aids in resolving so many interpersonal issues.<br /> We ended the circle of <em>Nested Communities </em>and parted for tea-break soaking in all the wisdom that was shared during the session.<br /> <br /> &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;<b><em> &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;<br /> Post tea-break, we had&nbsp;an impressive youth gang on the spot for sharing their Journey of life with all of us-</em></b>-<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; height:450px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> <b>Drishti, Vinit, Trupti, Vidhi</b>, and<b> Jaimit </b>were on the dais with<b> Jignasha&nbsp;and Deven&nbsp;</b>anchoring the session called the <em>Journey</em><em> of Young<br /> Ladders</em>.<br /> <br /> <b>Trupti</b>, who is working with a<a href=""> remand home</a> in Baroda, where the inmates are orphaned children, mentally-challenged women, children who are being tried in juvenile courts - in short, the most difficult and wounded people of society. Yet, quite akin to the Japanese art of kintsugi, she does not see any problem with the imperfections of the community she serves. Quite contrary, her lived experience is a shift from fixing the problem to holding space for expression which eventually leads to healing. She uses different tools and processes for healing like Meditation, Gardening, Chanting, Hypnotherapy as well as Circle work. She realizes that her full presence and deep listening, even to what is left unsaid, is very effective in healing the inmates. She also experimented with the magic of many-to-many, wherein the most neglected group of elderly women (perceived to be of no utility) became an asset as they effortlessly took care of the children. Trupti brought with her cards made by the children as gifts for all of us.<br /> <b>Vinit</b> shared that his story is a spiral journey-- doing the same thing again and again but in the process getting transformed every time he does the same thing. He shared how the journey of Karma Meals in last four years has transformed him. While at the core the idea is to cook food and serve needy, they have incorporated some practices like silence while cooking, holding circle before and after the event and bringing their presence in action. Some of the shifts he has experienced are from effort to effortlessness, from distribution of food to sharing (how they shared food and ate along with Ravibhaiyya, a penniless beggar), from scarcity to abundance (moving focus from the number of meals served to having no limits on the serving size), and from isolation to community (how Vinit&rsquo;s moving away to a different area of Pune made no difference to the Karma Meals as volunteers took it upon themselves<img solid="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; float:left; height:300px; width:400px" /> to continue). He was grateful for his community for laddering him all the way.<br /> <b>Vidhi</b>, a very young volunteer in 20&#39;s, is leading with &#39;dhishoom to cancer.&#39; She is working with children who are suffering from cancer, and her only tool is holding space for such children and doing some playful activity to bring the smile on their faces. She knows she is fighting a losing battle, but detachment to her work and looking for that elusive smile on children faces internally motivates her to do this challenging work.<br /> <b>Jaimit</b>&rsquo;s journey of inner transformation is about Seva, Satsang, and Sadhana. As his Seva, he does clowning in children&rsquo;s hospitals, look forward to local volunteering opportunities in the Baroda community. To him, Satsang is all about attending Awakin Circle, anchoring Prayer Circle and volunteering circle with the local community. Sadhana is about silence and observing his motivation in all his acts. Jignasha shared how Jaimit is attending a circle or other every single day of the week and forever finding excuses to serve the community. He would never turn down an opportunity to drop off any community member to their homes post Circles, even if it meant taking a diametrically different route.<br /> <b>Drishti</b> shared that her journey is all about a small step and small act of kindness at every given opportunity. She shared how it has been transformative for her, and the depth of his relationship with her brother is a reflection of their transformation. On this journey, she is learning to receive gracefully, and she looks at service as a way of life. She says she has enough opportunity in the life of service to lead with being the change and that is a transformative approach for her. She was very grateful for all who have laddered her in her journey.<br /> <br /> After their sharing, there was Q&amp;A anchored by<b> Deven</b> and lot of edges and motivation were explored during the Q&amp;A.<br /> With the end of this session, we parted for dinner. Post dinner,<b> Sheetal</b>, and<b> Jaimit</b> anchored a beautiful <em>Prayer Circle</em>, and few of us sang different prayers in silence. The circle was very soothing after a day full of inspirational stories.<br /> <br /> The second day of retreat &ndash; Christmas day - started with Masti gang of<b> Bhumika, Vidhi, Trupti, Drishti, Vinit </b>and<b> Ashish </b>donning Santa costumes and guitar in hand, waking everyone up singing <em>Jingle Bells </em>and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas :) It was a joyous start for the day.<br /> Post breakfast, we again gathered in Maitri Hall after customary welcome. <b>Swara </b>opened the circle and after a round of brief popcorn style sharing about the previous day, she introduced<b> Nipun</b> quoting a poem (<em>March on, sweet ants, March on</em>) that inspired<b> Nipun</b> into his journey of service a decade and a half ago.<br /> <br /> <b>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</b><img solid="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; float:right; height:396px; width:400px" /><b>&nbsp;Nipun</b> shared stories of deep connections during his trip to India in various city, and he can see fruits all over the ecosystem every day during his visit. Well on the face of it we may not be able to notice but what it takes to build such ecosystem? And it brought us to the core question of the retreat, How do we cultivate untiring mind?<br /> <br /> He then proceeded to give his key insights on Volunteering :<br /> <b>1) Volunteering isn&#39;t mean to an end, but an end in itself.</b><br /> <b>2) Transformative volunteering is regenerative.</b><br /> <b>3) More diverse the ecosystem, lower the barrier to entry, greater is the pull for volunteering.</b><br /> <b>4) The fluidity of engagement spectrum is directly proportional to the time duration for which a volunteer engages with the ecosystem.</b><br /> <b>5) Volunteers group works at a lowest common denominator.</b><br /> <br /> He shared stories from his lived experiences for all key insights. He also touched upon laddership and what it takes to be an effective ladder? And the crux was greater the skillfulness in leveraging multiple forms of capital, more effective the ladder is. The second part of the presentation was focused on transformation driven service.&nbsp;He also&nbsp;highlighted how transformation driven journey is a slow story. He smilingly held out the warning signal that those of us who look upon the winter visits as tsunami season, means that they are on vacation the rest of the year. Transformation driven stories are forever in the making, say, at the speed of the growth of a forest, and not a consumable experience of a sensational story. Reiterating that this is a journey of several births, he underlined that our yatra has to permeate through the year. He raised some key questions for all of us to breakout in small groups and dive deep into it. the questions &ndash;<br /> <b>1) &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Are we designing for impermanence? </b><br /> <b>2) &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Can we embrace imperfection?</b><br /> <b>3) &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Can we become the wounded healers of compassion?</b><br /> <b>4) &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Can we create a Mobius strip of nested circles?</b><br /> <b>5) &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Can we live in a dynamic many-to-many relationship?</b><br /> <b>6) &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Can we see the middle path in the spectrum of each moment?</b><br /> <b>7) &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Can we cultivate skillfulness with multiple forms of capital?</b><br /> We had an intense dialogue within the breakout group, and after the group sharing, we parted for lunch with some deep insight from presentation and breakout circles.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" border-width:2px="" src="" style="height:600px; width:600px" /><br /> After lunch, we had a little longer break for spontaneous sharing and connecting with people in the different group creating some space for emergence. There was a surprise waiting for us, and we were all guided to the terrace where<b> Bhumika </b>and<b> Rupali</b> were ready to welcome us with lots of colors, crayons, brushes and a long strip of canvass stuck to the floor. We all sat next to each other on both sides of the canvass. The session was about connecting with ourselves and with other through art, which<b> Rupali</b> anchors every Thursday at her Mumbai studio, calling it Heart circle.<br /> The seed question as we started painting in silence was what is your relationship with yourself, the society around you and with nature. In silence, we expressed through painting what was emergent in all of us. It was a quite a scene with deep intensity - everyone was focused on canvass and playing brushes and crayons. So many of us touched canvass and color first time after their school days but felt at very ease in Heart space. So much fun and joy exploded on the canvass and in all of us as we ended the session with a cup of tea and listening to thoughts behind everyone&#39;s painting. Seeing the collective canvas, Amit later reflected that common themes of hearts, clouds, rainbows, hands and trees abounded on the canvas which really showed our inter connections, while Sanchi shared that the Heart Circle shifted her approach from thinking-drawing to feeling-drawing :) The very next day, she got herself brand new crayon box!<br /> <br /> <img alt="" border-width:2px="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; height:600px; width:600px" /><br /> Through the retreat, some volunteers were up to some Bollywood dancing during breaks and late nights khakra parties. Some of this madness spilled over during this break as participants broke into a few Dances. Post evening tea, we headed back to Maitri hall for a session on <em>Community Gardeners</em> - <b>Sachi </b>and <b>&nbsp;Parag</b> anchored the session with four speakers sharing their journeys-<b> Sunita Lama</b> from Dubai,<b> Avni </b>from Surat,<b> Gitanjali</b> from Delhi and<b> Aashish</b> from Ahmedabad.<br /> <br /> <b>Sunita</b> shared the story of how deeply she was touched by attending one Awakin circle which lead to hosting &nbsp;Awakin circle in Dubai<b>. Avni</b> shared the Surat Karma Kitchen story and how service was instrumental in bridging the gaps in the team and the bonds it has created within the team and the local community in Surat.<b> Gitanjali </b>very candidly shared how chasing impact created burnout and stress within the local Kat-Katha team and the lesson of leading with inner transformation is deepening in her.<b> Ashish </b>who work with TCS a multinational technology company is doing small acts of kindness and drives some service projects within the TCS community and sees the blooming of a deeply connected community in a very corporate market-driven context.<br /> All were very insightful stories with a built-in inspiration. The moment we funnel all the stories, how so ever different it looks, the underlying theme was same &ndash;<br /> <b>1) Service connects and creates community </b><br /> <b>2) Inner transformation-driven service is regenerative and creates its own momentum </b><br /> <b>3) Impact-driven approach has its challenges leading to Burnout, and </b><br /> <b>4) When we serve together, we create deep bonds with others.</b><br /> After listening to insights on community building in different cities, we headed for dinner, and the day ended with a lot of insight and inspiration.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" border-width:2px="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; height:450px; width:600px" /><br /> Day 3 morning being a Tuesday was an Awakin Dialogues morning, and quite a few of us came together in Maitri hall at 6 am in the morning to have a live Awakin Dialogue with<b> Arundada.</b> He shared his morning routine that included the chanting of the dhun: <em>kaaljaaranam </em>(this world is impermanent), <em>snehsaadhanam</em> (love is the way to this world), <em>katukavarjanam</em> (avoid being a critic), <em>gunanivedanam</em> (search and amplify the good in others). He shared stories of Saint Madhavdas, Kabeer, and Vinoba while explaining the nuances of the dhun. Later, he addressed questions at the intersection of family responsibility and transformation-led service. We ended the session with <a href="">a beautiful French prayer</a> by <a href="">Fenelon</a> translated by Makarand Dave in Gujarati.<br /> <br /> 26th December being the death anniversary of<a href=""> Ishwar-kaka</a>, the morning session was dedicated to his memory.<b> Anarben</b> and<b> Nipun</b> gave a brief talk highlighting the life of<a href=""> Ishwar-kaka</a> and his works, which epitomise transformation driven service. The session ended with bhajans by <b>Narendra Bhai Shastri</b>. He soulfully sang <em>Sabse oonchi prem sagaai</em> (Love is the greatest bond), <em>Koi nahin paraaya mera ghar saara sansar hain</em> (No one is unknown, the whole world is my home). Arundada also sang <em>Shubh mangal ho</em>, praying for goodness for the whole of life and creation. &nbsp;<br /> <br /> <br /> Post-lunch, we headed to the last session of the retreat with<b> Rahul</b> and<b> Neeti </b>back on the anchor seat for the closing session. A brief popcorn style sharing was called upon to get what everyone is feeling and what was expressed by all in different words was Deep Gratitude for Noble friendship, and big heartfelt thank you to all volunteers who were preparing for this retreat since a month or so.<b> Rahul</b> summed up the retreat by emphasizing the importance of cultivation on the path of virtues and how vital is the Sangha (community) or Sangath (togetherness) on this path. He left everyone with this question, <b>what we have to become to create such environment at home, work, and society where we live in</b>?<b> Neeti </b>revisited the story of <em>vaarkaris</em> with which we had opened the retreat and said that the vaaris (pilgrims) address the Lord Vithoba as <em>mauli</em> (loving mother). Indeed, as she reminded us, the sangha and the tender yet deep connections which have been forged is the <em>mauli</em> that connects us all.<br /> With these wise words, the retreat was brought to a close. A few volunteers had plowed through late hours to create a good-bye presentation, which was put up on the screen, and we all were hugging and laughing as the screen flashed some fascinating<a href=""> Kodak-moments</a> of the retreat.<br /> <br /> We quickly moved to our rooms and packed our luggage to be transported to the PTC Vidyalaya, Kanyaashaala and Chhatraavaas area of Gandhi ashram. The participants were give<img float:right="" src="" style="float:right; height:400px; width:300px" />n a lovely welcome by the ashram shala girls who sang <em>Jabse pyaara ishwar aaya, mera jeevan badal badal gaya</em> (ever since the Lord has entered my life, it feels different) as well as a few garbas. Madhu and Jayeshbhai gave an introduction to the space talking about a few hundred saplings planted by Gandhians several decades ago which have become large trees. Jayeshbhai described these trees as ashrams in themselves, offering silent service through their lives to all around them. A walking tour then took us around the campus which has been transformed over the years &ndash; by the service offered by volunteers such as<b> Madhu, Sanchi, Diken, Kishan</b> as well as the motherly and aesthetic touches of <b>Jayeshbhai, Nimobhai</b> (the school where Jayeshbhai studied and now, the Heart Center anchored by Nimo is a part of this campus). We sat in the company of the community garden of Swagyaan and the recently built Jai Jagat amphitheater at the base of a tree around which a heart shaped Hrudaykunj like space was in the works. &nbsp;Co-incidentally, the same day,<b> Jayeshbhai</b> had decided to give it the name of Mauli. How serendipitous that the first gathering to ever happen at the <em>Mauli</em> (loving mother) space was a baby shower for <b>Anu and Goli </b>who are expecting their first kid in a few months! <b>Jayeshbhai,</b> saying that the mother is bought into this world by the child, sent prayers upwards as we sat holding each other&rsquo;s hands at <em>Mauli </em>space. As he expressed deep gratitude for our intertwined paths, he made a promise for life to be around and offer whatever he could to all our journeys, eyes teared up. I was left wondering that the retreat which started with Jai Mata Di was drawing to a close in <em>Mauli </em>space :)<br /> <br /> After the emotion-rich moments at the Gandhi ashram space, we all moved to Tagore Hall where <b>Nimo </b>and team had put together a show on Bapu&rsquo;s life and values with almost 260 of the ashram shala kids. Over a period of two hours, the kids put up an amazing display of talent from dance, to acrobatics, to acting. All the time, the values of diversity, community, small is beautiful and universal love would show up in some story or the other. The audio visuals in the background beemed inspirations from the stories of world leaders like Dalai Lama, Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr as well as everyday unsung heroes like love-cyclist Zilong and peace-warrior Pancho. One moment the kids would break into a song capturing the essence of Gandhi&rsquo;s life (<em>Vaishnavjan to</em>), the other moment, scores of them would be out in the audience distributing heart shaped cut outs to the audience who was thoroughly soaked in the experience. As the show ended, the reverberations of the chants of Jai Jagat never left the hall as the kids expressed their love for the organizing team.<br /> <br /> Our inter-connections were so deeply entrenched throughout the retreat, as we often reflected on this quote ~<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; height:338px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; height:338px; width:600px" /><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; height:338px; width:600px" /><br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:1px; float:left; height:394px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> Relive the moments with <a href="">more photos</a> from the retreat :)... Rahul Mehta Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0800 It is beautiful, when we pay it forward Suratvanti shares ... <br /> When God or whoever created human beings, s/he smartly placed the stomach in the body. And since then, the small, little stomach has made human beings toil hard, from hunting to sowing, and from educating to earning. A significant portion of what we earn, goes to pay for our food bills. Every human being has found a way, to pay. Now, imagine going to a restaurant. There is fragrance in the air and flowers on the table. The menu is there, but the prices on the right are conspicuous by their absence. The food is offered in the truest spirit of giving - without a price tag with the warmest smile. When the bill comes, it reads - <em>&ldquo;Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those who dine after you.&quot; </em>And you are like, &quot;What! Is this for real?&quot;<br /> <br /> <a href="">Karma Kitchen</a>, is a volunteer-driven experiment in generosity. Many similar <a href="">experiments</a> with food and service are incubated in Vadodara. This children&rsquo;s day it was our fourth KK experiment in Vadodara. Volunteers signed up on different teams and everyone contributed to make it a joyful experience. A peacock &lsquo;rangoli&rsquo; at the entrance, flower arrangements and candles on the table changed the poker themed restaurant in a sacred space filled with warm welcomes and smiles. After all, &lsquo;food + love = prasad&rsquo; was to be served, and the kitchen team was all ready with the offering. <a href="">Bhaskar</a> bhai and Pintoo bhai came from <a href="">Seva Caf&eacute;</a> Ahmedabad to balance out our experiment with their years of experience in cultivating the spirit of service and generosity.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:433px; margin:10px; width:650px" /><br /> <br /> Kindness table was overflowing with&nbsp;seed bombs&nbsp;made from&nbsp;home made compost, key chains&nbsp;and&nbsp;book marks&nbsp;made by special needs children from Varsha&rsquo;s school, super arty handmade cards sent all the way from Mumbai, dried leaves with quotes, kindness diaries, <a href="">smile cards</a> and a box of books sent all the way from Surat. Friends from all over were coming together in the spirit of service and generosity. Monika our first time volunteer wondered why there were <a href="">no price tags</a> on all the handmade gifts on the kindness table. She was thrilled, when she found out how so many friends were invisibly and selflessly giving to support this experiment. Moksha, a guest was leaving after having food, when some friends entered with a pet. Moksha volunteered to take care of the dog for almost an hour while the guest finished her dinner. This kind of an act seems effortless in a space that is operating on trust as compared to a regular restaurant that is mostly profit driven. &nbsp;<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:433px; margin:10px; width:650px" /><br /> <a href="">Smile card</a> is such a simple and incredible thing. A couple of days after Karma Kitchen one of our volunteer received an email. The email read,<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <em>&ldquo;Hello, I wanted your help. I had taken a smile card that day. I have been thinking about it everyday how can I give justice to it.&nbsp;Now I want to show some kindness to my ex father-in-law, with whom I haven&#39;t talked in some time. (I have filed for divorce and I am at my parents&#39; place since two months.). I still have high regards for my ex father-in-law. And he really likes Indian sweets. He runs a garment shop. So I thought I&rsquo;ll go some time before his opening time, drop a box of sweets with short message and the smile card taped to it. Completely anonymous.&rdquo; </em><br /> &nbsp;<br /> <em>&ldquo;What I wanted to ask is, does this count as an act of kindness?&rdquo;</em><br /> <br /> It wasn&#39;t until yesterday after the closing circle that I reflected more deeply on Karma Kitchen.&nbsp; To me, Karma Kitchen, now, seems like an opportunity to dive deeper into service and a great space for people to experience radical generosity and kindness. I had been skeptical about experiments like Seva Caf&eacute; and Karma Kitchen, as I could not see what it was doing. Feeding well-off people did not mean anything to me and people paying it forward seemed like just an alternate way of billing! What I failed to understand was the power of the ripples. And it is not for nothing that ripples are used as an analogy. The ripples are the cause and effect unto themselves. Karma Kitchen to me is a part of an imagined future which can come true through the power of the collective.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:433px; margin:10px; width:650px" /><br /> Jaimit who was serving at the tables shared how so many guests wanted to volunteer. Some guests stayed till the end to help us clean up the place. Another couple who owned a restaurant offered their space for the next Karma Kitchen. Someone shared how this Karma Kitchen is going to be a good life time memory for them.<br /> <br /> This time in Karma Kitchen we all felt that little nudge in the <a href="">direction of moving</a> from me to we, from transaction to trust, from self-oriented isolation to shared commitment, and from fear of scarcity to celebration of abundance.... Suratvanti Thakkar Sat, 16 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0800 Tagore, a young man and a schoolgirl Aban shares ... Yesterday I gave myself a treat. I had not been in a bus for a long time so I decided to take the 37 Bus to Nehru Centre where I thought a lecture on <a href="">Tagore</a> was to be held. I left early and hopped onto a relatively empty bus. It was fun to be with people in an airy vehicle, instead of a stuffy taxi, even if air-conditioned.&nbsp; I soaked in all the sights and sounds around me. I waved to the Haji Ali Dargah shimmering in the afternoon sunlight. The sea was calm and the waves hardly crumpled the surface of the water.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> I got off at the Lotus bus stop facing the gardens and lawns of the Centre. The traffic was heavy and no car had the courtesy to slow down at the zebra crossing. I joined an impatient group of pedestrians waiting to cross the road. A ten year old schoolgirl in her olive green uniform, her hair plaited and looped, stood anxiously with us; nervously staring at the cars whizzing past. A young man in a green shirt noticed her plight and asked her if she wanted his help in crossing the road. The child nodded solemnly. He gently took her by the hand and when the traffic thinned he walked her to the other side, saw her onto the pavement and then crossed back to the bus stop I had<br /> alighted at.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;<img alt="" src="" style="height:295px; margin:10px; width:448px" /><br /> It was all done so unobtrusively, in a silent, matter of fact manner; no desire to be thanked or recognised for his good deed. Perhaps, no one but me had noticed his actions. But it made my day. A quiet happiness spread through my being. A little girl and a young man had briefly met on life&rsquo;s path, held hands, crossed in safety and then let go of their fleeting encounter, perhaps never to meet again in this lifetime.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> I cheerfully entered the cool gardens flanked by tall trees shading the emerald-green lawns. It was as if the hustle and bustle of the crowded city had vanished. I was in another world, though only for a minute.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> At Nehru Centre I was met with blank stares. There was no programme on Tagore that day. I had made a mistake. It was to take place on Friday.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> A little disappointed I began to walk back to Haji Ali. A cool breeze mitigated the heat of the afternoon sun. Birds floated lazily in the sky. Fishing boats bobbed up and down in the dark waters and the palm trees waved their friendly fronds at me. I sat at the Haji Ali bus stop soaking in the scene. Turning towards the invisible presence beside me I wondered what song would emanate from his lips, what short story would be penned by his hand from this momentary encounter: when a school girl&rsquo;s frightened gaze was met by a young man&rsquo;s reassuring look?... Aban Mukherji Fri, 08 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0800 Surrendering to Grace: A Pilgrim's Journey Anonymous shares ... On 7th November, 14 yatris (pilgrims) started on a sacred pilgrimage, walking the same path that Gandhi ji and many Satyagrahis had walked from Sabarmati Ashram to the coastal town of Dandi during Dandi Yatra in 1930.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:488px; margin:10px; width:650px" /><br /> <br /> The pilgrimage started with many of us coming together in the prayer space at Gandhi Ashram, walled on 4 sides and open to the sky. While not everyone was walking, everyone felt deeply connected with the journey that was about to start.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:488px; margin:10px; width:650px" />&nbsp;<br /> Pratyush, one of the 14 yatris, very beautifully expressed this feeling: <blockquote>&ldquo;it&#39;s not just the pilgrim who walks, it&#39;s the whole lineage and community that walks together.&rdquo;</blockquote> <br /> As the pilgrims walk on the pilgrimage, the journey continues with us too in subtle ways.&nbsp;Ever since the pilgrimage started, Kavita Aunty, Pratyush&rsquo;s mother and a mother to many of us, has been cooking and feeding 14 known and unknown brothers and sister, every day. Everyday as she cooks and serves the food, she has experienced beautiful moments of grace and serendipity.<br /> <br /> Here are just two of those many encounters:<br /> <br /> <b><em>What you are seeking, is seeking you</em></b><br /> <br /> &ldquo;Since this morning, I am witnessing God&#39;s special mercy on me. There have many practical problems in the preparation of food &mdash; especially the early cleaning of the kitchen as bulk cooking takes time; winter setting in; late sunrise, and etc. The lunch has to be ready by 12 to be carried down within the best time to serve on the road.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> YET with God&#39;s grace someone or the other steps in when I really need help.<br /> <br /> Just today, a lady cook in the campus who used to chop vegetables at our place many years ago, walked in as I was packing food to carry downstairs. One of the family she cooks for is away and she wants to serve with me . She wants to make chapatis everyday till the family returns. &nbsp;&zwj;&zwj;&zwj;<br /> She insists that she will not take any money for this.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> This was her way of being part of the pilgrimage and serve.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:488px; margin:10px; width:650px" /><br /> <br /> <b><em>A Simple man with a vision</em></b><br /> <br /> &ldquo;Surendra, the gardener (40years old) ,who came to lunch today was a bright student as a youngster in a village, with big dreams. His family wasn&rsquo;t rich, but they had enough.<br /> He got married while he was still studying. His mother had an accident and her foot was crushed. They had to sell their buffalo and many other things for her treatment.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> After some time he decided to come to city, alone,&nbsp;to find work as a labourer and enrolled his wife for private B.A. in the village. He says this was the only way to fulfil some of his dreams and have a better future. He loved reading and borrowed books from the houses he worked for. Books on different topics that would increase his knowledge. After a couple of years when things were better at home, he too enrolled for private graduation.<br /> <br /> His wife completed her B.Ed. and started teaching in the village school earning above 20K per month. His mother gradually regained the use of her foot and helped around the house. Father took care of the two buffaloes, milk and other things in the village.<br /> <br /> His elder son aspired to be an engineer and went to Kota to prepare for entrance exams. But after hearing of the frequent student suicides in the city, he brought him back after a few months (not caring for the fee he had already paid).<br /> <br /> Now, the bright, industrious boy is doing B.Sc at a college in Kanpur and also preparing for UPSC exam scheduled after 2years.<br /> <br /> During his work, Surendra came in contact with many good hearted educated families and imbibed a lot because of his keen mind and insistent questioning. He may not have degrees but is well read. Today while talking of adolescent age, he gave me the practical gist of adolescent psychology.<br /> <br /> He is forever trying to find ways to do things in a better way.<br /> Two take aways in his words----<br /> 1. I could have found a clerical job in an office after graduating but then I would not have constant guides around me. My job as a private gardener to good families gave a good peep in how to bring up children + investment guidance<br /> &nbsp;2. Since I was not always with my 2 boys as they were growing up, I made it a point to supply good books to them. I read them before sending and then we would discuss them and life lessons over the phone &mdash; public booths at first and when the technology came, cell phones. He refers to the extra expense as investment to his children&rsquo;s future.<br /> <br /> He is a family man and gives full credit to his parents, wife and the happy relationship they all have.&quot;<br /> <br /> As the pilgrims on the Dandi Yatra continue walking on their path, Kavita aunty, knowingly and unknowingly, embarks on a journey with each of the 14 beautiful souls she touches with her compassion.&nbsp;And inspires us to keep walking this path of serving and forever surrendering to grace.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Bowing down to all the fellow pilgrims.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:400px; width:300px" /><br /> &nbsp;... Anonymous Fri, 24 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0800 The Warmth of Coming Together - HHH Nov'17 Vidhi shares ... <blockquote>&ldquo;A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. I enjoy it when the world smiles, the more smiles there are, the warmer I am.&rdquo;</blockquote> <br /> <img alt="D:\DO NOT DELETE\USER VD\Desktop\DSC_7405.JPG" src="" style="border:none; height:416px; margin:10px; transform:rotate(0rad); width:624px" /><br /> As 25 of us gathered together on a pleasant Friday morning around the Peace Pole at ESI, we felt held by the beautiful vibes of peace and love that enveloped all of us. After sharing a collective and individual intention for world peace, we walked towards the welcoming Maitri Space to be warmly greeted with a tika and hand-made name tags.<br /> <br /> Once we settled down inside, Sheetal opened the circle by sharing about the essence of Ishwar dada&rsquo;s work on external and internal sanitation that was at the foundation of ESI. Bhumika then introduced <em>Hunfh</em> (Warmth, in Gujarati) as the theme of the retreat and invited everyone to share a story about when they had experienced warmth by being held, loved and cared for. She started off by sharing her own story about Elsa, her friend&rsquo;s dog, who expressed so much love and care in its own special way after inadvertently hurting Bhumika, and how that experience really moved her. We were all fascinated with how beautifully Elsa could express her regret and care towards Bhumika without any language, and how offering a sense of warmth is something anyone can do.<br /> <br /> And then one by one, everyone shared their own heartwarming story about <em>Hunfh</em>, and we could feel the magic unfolding. We started off as a diverse group of college students, professionals, business persons, teachers, home makers, travelers and even a feisty 75 year old grandmother, Taru ben. We could relate to each and every story, and it brought back more memories of moments filled with warmth and love. We listened to stories of kindness from strangers and friends, and even babies and realized how the smallest of actions done with genuine intent can offer so much warmth to another. And with every new story, we could feel the walls of separation melting away, as we realized how each of us yearns for the same things &ndash; acknowledgement, warmth and care. Jayeshbhai summed up the collective feeling with a beautiful observation &ndash; <em>Parinaam ki apeksha ho, toh parivaar nahi hota hai.</em> He shared that we can easily resolve the tug between the mind and the heart by emptying our minds and opening our hearts. Because there can be no selfishness when you listen to your heart. Indeed. :)<br /> <br /> The first day, the Head day, followed with an <a href="">inspiring</a> presentation by Meghna and Vidhi on what Moved By Love is about, inspiring a shift from transaction to trust, from consumption to contribution and from scarcity to abundance. We got to learn of<a href=""> many</a> experiments in <a href="">generosity</a>, how they were taking root from <a href="">each other</a>, and inspiring many <a href="">offshoots</a>, just like how a banyan tree<a href=""> spreads</a> its roots all around.<br /> <br /> After this we all moved to <a href="">Safai Vidyalaya</a>, where we were welcomed by soulful bhajans and tika by the Ashramshala girls. Diken shared about the history of Safai Vidyalaya and <a href="">Ishwarbhai Patel&rsquo;s</a> inspiring life work. We saw many different models of toilets, and were amazed at the thinking and research that must have gone into all of that.<br /> We also had a chance to visit <a href="">Gandhi Ashram</a> before heading to the much awaited evening at <a href="">Seva Caf&eacute;</a>.<br /> <br /> <img alt="D:\DO NOT DELETE\USER VD\Desktop\DSC_7427.JPG" src="" style="-webkit-transform:rotate(0.00rad); border:none; height:416px; transform:rotate(0.00rad); width:624px" /><br /> The evening saw us all experience the magic and warmth of Seva Caf&eacute;, a restaurant where the food was cooked and served by volunteers with a lot of love, making it as special as <em>prasad</em>. Another highlight of this restaurant is the fact that it has no prices on its menu, because how can you really put a value to the love that goes into preparing the food? And also, because your meal has already been paid for by someone who visited before you, and you can choose to keep the chain of generosity going, by paying it forward for someone else. Our time at Seva Caf&eacute; was magical, as a few among us shared deeply intimate stories about our journey and learnings that everyone could relate to. We were strangers no more, as each person beautifully held space for another to share, and just be.<br /> <br /> Bhaskar introduced the rockstar <a href="">volunteer team</a> who served us with so much love and care to each one of us. Then we invited Sayani to share about her learnings through life and her sharing about the confusions and each moment being able to explore the world, totally moved everyone. Siddharth who has been a regular volunteer at Seva Caf&eacute; shared a heartfelt poem from his treasure chest of poetry. Everyone was totally moved by his love for seva. Dadi sang a bhajan and everyone joined in the humming, creating a peaceful environment. Arpit shared about how he and his wife Sakshi decided to quit their jobs and listen to their callings, which have moved them to Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh, and engage with organic farming. And he felt immense courage to have been able to take this decision. Emma shared her very moving journey with how her mother brought up her brother and herself. She went on to share about her mother&rsquo;s last days, and how they all felt so bounded and connected. She beautifully shared about her most important learnings that we are the strongest if we believe in ourselves. Everyone responded with a deep prayer and silence for Emma&rsquo;s mother. We ended the circle with some beautiful bhajans and chants that we collectively felt moved to sing together. After this we returned back to ESI, hearts filled with gratitude and joy.<br /> <br /> Day 2, or the Hands day, started off with Meghna &nbsp;introducing &nbsp;Devendra bhai and his immense love for sanitation. She shared stories about how he would go to literally every village and clean every toilet himself and enlighten everyone around with his labor of love. In this happy session, Devendra bhai shared about his experiences working with Ishwarbhai, peppered with funny anecdotes and moving moments, along with his rich experiences of hand building toilets around villages nearby and how he would receive abundant love from local people.<br /> <br /> Moving ahead we all left for Kabir Ashram where we divided ourselves into three groups &ndash; to cook, clean, and decorate the space for all. It was a beautiful experience to have so many hands, and hearts, come together with a common intention &ndash; to serve through action.<br /> <img alt="D:\DO NOT DELETE\USER VD\Desktop\DSC_7537.JPG" src="" style="border:none; height:416px; margin:10px; transform:rotate(0rad); width:624px" /><br /> After we got back to ESI, every participant was invited to offer their <em>Hunfh</em> (Warmth) to their fellow participants by writing an anonymous note and leaving it in an envelope for another person. This was an experiment that we felt moved to try, and it was really heartwarming to see all envelopes filled with notes and messages of love, appreciation and warmth, and more importantly, brimming over with smiles and friendships to last a life time. :)<br /> <br /> We also got a chance to listen to Anar didi, as she shared about her journey and challenges of coming to peace with the person she was, and how she was inspired to find out her own ways to express and offer from her Heart, while accepting the Head space that came naturally to her. Her authenticity and candor made us feel an instant connect with her, as we looked deeper within to accept ourselves as we were.<br /> <br /> The evening ended with a soulful shared <a href="">Awakin meditation</a>, followed by the silent dinner. The silent dinner, which was held in an open space lit up only with candles, saw our plates, and our hearts brimming over with gratitude and love. To experience the warmth and love that went into the whole experience, from the preparation of the meal to the beautifully done up space, to the warmth of volunteers serving the food was an experience that moved everyone present, to share the same.<br /> <img alt="D:\DO NOT DELETE\USER VD\Desktop\DSC_7590.JPG" src="" style="border:none; height:291px; margin:10px; transform:rotate(0rad); width:437px" /><br /> <b>Day 3 was the Heart Day, where Jayesh bhai</b> shared about his journey and what moved him to start doing the work he did, despite some initial feelings of resistance. He lovingly shared that Bhav (Intention) is very important when we do anything, and the rest is always taken care of. He mentioned how he has witnessed that we all learn from each other, and the thread of kindness, compassion and love can bind us all together in a joyful flock. All of us gathered were moved with his insights and profound perspectives on life and serving.<br /> <img alt="D:\DO NOT DELETE\USER VD\Desktop\DSC_7655.JPG" src="" style="border:none; height:416px; margin:10px; transform:rotate(0rad); width:624px" /><br /> <br /> Sheetal and Bhumika then introduced <a href="">Three Steps and a Bow</a> - a pilgrimage of more than 800 miles, that Rev Heng Sure and Rev Heng Ch&rsquo;au undertook for 2 years and 9 months, with an intention for world peace, and complete trust and faith about being taken care of. We all started on our own journeys of three steps and a bow, led by Vidhi with the intention of connecting with the peace within, and peace without.<br /> <b><img alt="D:\DO NOT DELETE\USER VD\Desktop\f r.JPG" src="" style="border:none; height:291px; margin:10px; transform:rotate(0rad); width:437px" /></b><br /> After two and a half days, we were no more strangers, but a close knit family bonded by warmth and love. We realized what it really means to be humane and how it often takes the smallest act of kindness and consideration to share our love with the world around. <blockquote><em>&ldquo;If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.&rdquo; &ndash; Lucy Larcom</em><br /> <br /> Jai Jagat!</blockquote> You can view more pictures from the retreat <a href="">here</a>.... Vidhi Desai and Ruchi Parikh Mon, 20 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0800 Aligning with Nature - MBL Laddership Circle Trupti shares ... <blockquote> <p>There is no better teacher than Nature.&nbsp;</p> </blockquote> <br /> We just wrapped up our second round of <a href="">Mbl Laddership circle</a> where 13 of us came together for creating a space of deep inquiry, <a href="">holding space</a> for each other and aligning ourselves to <a href=";id=14446">Emergence</a> without any preconceived idea or achievement in mind. The space of deep inquiry is the space of not knowing, which is a space of creativity and innovations. The process was many-to-many learning, and people did connect deeply to support each other in visible and invisible ways. Cumulatively we were holding a lot of questions and exploring them with all the edges and nuances. <em>What does it mean to lead with <a href="">Inner Transformation</a>? How can I lead with love in my work and my life? What are the design principles and structures for my labor of love projects? How many to many learning manifests?&nbsp;</em><br /> <br /> What are our learnings and <a href="">insights</a>? It seems to me that we have ended up creating a field, which can hold <a href="">paradoxes</a>, is open to nuances, amalgamating <a href="">edges</a> and is a&nbsp;breeding ground for insights. We ended up sharing a deep resonance to values of Inner Transformation and collective conviction in Compassionate design-building on <a href="">gift ecology</a>. A very resilient field of such kindred souls ended up <a href="">serving</a> each others&rsquo; journeys in unseen ways, and everyone felt profoundly grateful to visible and invisible forces behind this circle.<br /> <br /> It &#39;s hard, to sum up, everything that transpired in last six weeks but I would like to pen down how the spirit of this circles manifested in different ways.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:330px; margin:10px 20px; width:434px" /><br /> <br /> <br /> <b>1) &nbsp;How did many to many learning manifested in the circle?</b><br /> <br /> Circle by its very structure is very resilient as everyone connects to everyone else and it creates a very deeply connected web of relationships. Everyone brings <a href="">wisdom</a> to the circle, which is a breeding ground for collective intelligence.&nbsp;<br /> In a field where there is no hierarchy, and everyone ends up holding space for each other, many to many learning manifests in subtle but yet in profound ways. The moment we start <a href="">assuming value</a> in each and everyone we tune into the wisdom of everyone, and without much effort, we let seeds of truth planted within us in invisible ways.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Deven</b> from <a href="">Auroville</a> started calling his mother every day after <b>Anjali</b> shared that one her daily practices were to call her grandma and just listen to her without offering any solution or advice which she usually ended up doing in the past. <b>Poulami</b> was so inspired by <b>Rupali&rsquo;s</b> <a href="">art circles</a> with the cancer patients that at the end of 6 weeks she started conducting similar circles which were her dream project since 2014. <b>Vidhi</b> who felt heard and was held by her fellows started doing the same with strangers while traveling in the local trains where she would unconditionally just listen to a fellow passenger&rsquo;s story and ease their anger with a gentle smile or a simple hug.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <b>Rahul</b> shared that for the longest time, he nursed a desire to offer a lift to people when he was driving back from work to home, but he never did that regularly as he realized that there was some hesitation. Nudged by the &#39;Hands&#39; assignment, he hesitantly stopped at a traffic signal and rolled his window to offer a lift. As he made small conversation with them, he realized that the hesitation was just in his mind. It seemed so routine for them to have accepted his gift of a lift. He shared, &ldquo;I hope that this experience helps me in opening up to acts without thinking too much about how others would <a href="">receive</a> it.&rdquo;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Preeti</b> shared a very insightful story of Amelia, &nbsp;a young intern from the US who landed in my Mumbai office, bewildered and wide-eyed by the traffic, population and pace of the city. As her first day drew to a close, On reaching the taxi stand she found auto-rickshaws and decided to sit in only to be told it was a sharing auto to the station. On reaching the station, a continuing to be bewildered Amelia asked for the ticket counter, tried to make sense of her departing platform and destination - does the train from East Andheri head to Mahalaxmi? One of her co-travelers came to her aid - bought her ticket, walked her to the platform, boarded the train with her, dropped her to the hotel and as he bid her goodbye - she thanked him for the help and presuming that he lived around the area, asked where he lived. He informed Amelia that his home was right next to the station and he had decided to help because he sensed her discomfort. The next thing she knew - he was gone - possibly back to the station to board the train back home! As we all slipped into the sweetness of this story, &nbsp;the power of the human connects, empathy and our ability to give. We all learned to see the <a href="">goodness</a> that surrounds us as we go along our everyday lives!<br /> <br /> <b>2) The spirit of laddership is manifested in Nudges and holding space for all in an inclusive way. What does it mean to hold space with authenticity? What is the process of Emergence? How did it manifest in the circle?&nbsp;</b><br /> <br /> What does&nbsp;it means to hold space? Is it a passive response to a situation? We all realized that the space from which&nbsp;we are motivated to act or to not act decides the depth of holding space and the laddership&nbsp;calls were an experiential learning on&nbsp;holding space. The process makes us vulnerable at the same time opens up enough to plant the seeds of truth within us, and every time we all felt that how fast 90 minutes fly and we all ended up with lot more questions than answers after the call.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Atul</b> shared an incredible <a href="">experience</a> from his school where a group of <a href="">Teach for India</a> volunteers passionately took up a cleanliness drive which wasn&#39;t part of their training or curriculum which turned out to be an example of how 1+1&gt;2. Atul silently laddered the whole process to make this process a sustainable one while going deeper into finding the cause and resolving it at the same time.<br /> <br /> <b>Lavanya</b> shared about her experience of holding space for a very agitated participant who kept judging her, but she kept her intention of &quot;may the highest good emerge&quot; intact and gave her full <a href=";id=15525">presence</a>. Soon the wall melted, and there was a beautiful shift that she witnessed. She was trying to hold space in the midst of chaos by not fighting with the situation, but by silently observing what was emerging and in that process she could identify with what it means to hold space and how valuable it is in all aspects of her life.<br /> <br /> <b>Vidhi</b> ended up holding space for volunteers from another ecosystem who were not keen on holding a circle of reflection or customary silence when they all came together one of the Sundays for a <a href="">Karma Meals</a> event. They said that they couldn&#39;t sit in silence and this circles concept does not go with them and that they were just keen to cook food and share. It was challenging for her to communicate the spirit of the event but she ended up holding space for them and with simple nudges and leading with change, organically things fell in place and with a deep presence she was able to hold a circle and the reflection went well. The insight to the story was instead of binding others by her thought she brought her presence to all and embraced the emergence.<br /> <br /> <b>3) How small act of kindness creates its ripple?</b><br /> <br /> The design principles of laddership are deeply rooted in <a href="">small</a> acts, and it did touch everyone in a very meaningful way. When a group of people comes together, and everyone contributes their gift in skillful ways, it creates its momentum and ripples out beyond imagination, and we all experienced that in a very nuanced way.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Ruchika</b> volunteered for a milk project in her neighborhood. The milk is served to children every day whether she goes there or not, what was nourishing for her was to have sweet conversations with them and play. She was deeply touched by how the presence of the volunteers is as important to these children as the milk that is served. One nourishes the body other the heart. Her act of <a href=";id=18964">volunteering</a> with her full presence brought a lot of smiles to children and to her.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Atul</b>, a volunteer teacher for Teach for India, started Vipassana Anapana session for all kids in class V to VIII in a school, where he teaches. Around 300 students in these classes have started to go deep or at least close their eyes for 10 minutes during assembly and 10 minutes before the end of the school. He can see a different level of awareness within students and teacher community at large.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Anjali</b> surprised us all as she shared her small acts of kindness, her friend&#39;s mother in Nashville who is slogging through a difficult round of chemotherapy got a copy of a book she&#39;s been longing to read; her aunt in Sydney who has been having a bad month at work got a bouquet to liven up her dreary day; her dear friend who just got fired in Washington got a big box of chocolate. The reaction did trickle in over directly or indirectly to her and brought a smile on her face but she did realize how this acts will ripple out in totality is beyond her imagination.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Poulomi</b> listened to the story of young girl who was going through a rough patch and was suffering. She felt fortunate to listen to her life story and understand her. The whole act of listening without giving any advice relieved the stranger and with a small act of a giving heart pin to her brought smile and peace to the stranger.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Lavanya</b> love for birds pushed her to find right seeds and a feeder at her home balcony but as it stands today the whole family enjoy the process of feeding and serving water to the birds, and her home is also a home for dozen parrots who are regular at her home.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Vidhi</b> shared her experience of just offering her presence to patients at cancer homes without knowing how it&rsquo;s going to help them but it ended up making her more compassionate and loving.<br /> <br /> Children from a local school in Auroville wanted to sell something, and <b>Deven</b> shifted their conversation from selling to gifting and then hosted them at his home to bake cakes and then going to the street to gift it to strangers. The whole process created so many ripples in the local Auroville community.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>Atul</b>, just for a change thought of celebrating his daughter&rsquo;s first birthday at the school where he works as teacher, out of love for his school children and it beautifully rippled out beyond his imagination with kids doing performance in class, decorating with ribbons and balloons writing handmade birthday wishes and other teachers arranged for cakes and gifts. The whole celebration ended up deeply connecting the school community at large.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <b>4) Life demands and rewards us as we enlarge our perspective and worldview. Instead of accepting status quo or assuming we have all the answer the circle ended up holding very different and difficult questions. Following are few question we were left holding, and in some sense, the circle will continue to perpetuate in our real life, what question we ended up holding?&nbsp;</b><br /> <br /> <b>Vidhi</b> explored the importance of listening and how it can be a transformative exercise for both the listener and the speaker. She held the question- <em>Have we learned to be in the present moment?</em><br /> <br /> <b>Ruchika</b> shared she wonders <em>how true it is that the&nbsp;outer reflects the inner? Does her messy room imply that she has a messy mind?</em> <b>Parag</b> continued the line of thought by asking <em>what would happen if we&rsquo;re with a group of meditators or a group of violent people?</em><br /> <br /> <b>Trupti</b> shared few question she is holding on theme Stories-- &nbsp;<em>What are the stories that connect us? What are the stories that we buy into that isolate us?&nbsp;</em><br /> <br /> <b>Atul</b> shared the big question he was holding that is <em>&ldquo;How do I transform myself such that the project sustains itself even when I&rsquo;m not around?&rdquo;</em><br /> <br /> <em>Ruchika</em> is left holding few question on different forms of wealth-- w<em>hat is the opportunity to give in the present moment? It could be material or non-material wealth. What would money look like if I don&#39;t label it in good or bad? And the importance of receiving gifts!! Can I receive that joyfully?</em><br /> <br /> <b>Rahul</b> questioned out loud whether he is choosing to put the blinkers of a story on, so he doesn&rsquo;t have to see the whole picture? He opined that the choice of a story born out of our perception of reality is ultimately the product of our mind, and so in a way reinforces the ego while giving a focus for a little bit. It&rsquo;s good to go by, for one story is enough to last a lifetime. But <em>if we get too involved with a story born out of the mind, is it the right choice to make in comparison to living life by whatever unfolds moment by moment, which is closer to reality?&nbsp;</em><br /> <br /> <b>Preeti</b> is holding a pertinent question on life and death wondering how content she would be if death came calling? Her insight into Inner transformation was that most of the triggers in her transformational journey had been brought by episodes of hurt and pain. She questioned <em>whether crisis could lead to transformation?</em><br /> <br /> <b>Deven</b> is holding questions on Inner transformation &mdash; <em>Am I really on a journey of inner transformation or is it just an illusion? How are the outer and inner connected? How are they affecting each other?</em><br /> <br /> <b>Anjali</b>, being the only person in her corporate friend circle to have taken up service as a full-time occupation, <em>questions about the story of success that has been taught to us since childhood; the formula that everyone follows in their path. She is left holding the question, What is a successful life?</em><br /> <br /> With such rich insights we all parted our ways after the seventh circle on service, and though we all felt that the circle has ended in some sense with the quality of the connection, we felt we have just connected to a much deeper and richer dialogue in life going forward.<br /> <br /> The seven-week circle left a very pertinent question for all of us, <em><b>what do I have to become to create such community in my local ecosystem?</b></em>... Trupti Pandya Fri, 13 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700 When I met Radha didi Sunidhi shares ... I met Radha didi on one of my field visits. She must have been in her late sixties and she was very beautiful. She was in one of those brothels where you find young girls only and when we first entered that brothel we were not welcomed so I tried to initiate talks from my side but nothing was working, I tried all my conversational tricks but the didis were running away from us like we were the ones who would bring the wrath of God on them if they talked to us, but we did not go away, I held my bag close to my chest, folded my legs and sat there, observing them, trying to make eye contact with them and smiling whenever I was successful in doing so. After sitting for around fifteen to twenty minuets I decided to go in the other room of that brothel which was a little inside. So I gathered all my courage and went in, that&rsquo;s when I met Radha didi, a cheerful lady with an infectious smile. She scolded me, <em>&ldquo;why have you come?&rdquo;, &ldquo;we don&rsquo;t want to talk to you.&rdquo;, &ldquo;You NGO people cheat us.&rdquo; </em>But even in her scolding I did not feel any hatred so I went back and sat down again and after sometime she came to me with a bottle of cold water and offered me by saying <em>&ldquo;bahut daant dia na&rdquo; (I scolded you a lot)</em>. To which I said <em>&ldquo;apka daant bhi pyaar lagta hai&rdquo;</em>&nbsp;(your scolding feels like love)&nbsp;and you should have seen her laugh at that. I teased her further and when she understood that we won&rsquo;t go away that easily, she brought a chair and sat down with us saying <em>&ldquo;you can ask me anything but no personal questions, not even my name.&rdquo;</em> to which we agreed happily.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:375px; margin:10px 40px; width:500px" /><br /> <br /> My team mates asked if she has seen&nbsp;any change in the society&rsquo;s view towards G B Road, to which she said that nothing has changed, people did not accept them then and people don&rsquo;t accept them now. But when we said we are also from the same society and&nbsp;we want to know you better, be your friends; &nbsp;she replied, <em>&ldquo;when you come again, I&rsquo;ll make biryani for you and we&rsquo;ll sit and talk&rdquo;</em>. Our conversation went on and on after that, at times she would tease us and sometimes we would tease her. I just sat there and watched her smile, it was one of the most beautiful smile that I had seen. One thing led to another and at one point she asked me <em>&ldquo;will you get married?&rdquo;</em> To which I said <em>&ldquo;only if you find a suitable boy for me&rdquo;.&nbsp;</em>Se replied, <em>&ldquo;there is no need to get married, stay single, you&rsquo;ll be happier&rdquo;</em>. Then she asked one of the male member of my team if he had any girl friend? When he said no, she said <em>&ldquo;whenever you find that girl, just love her with all your heart&rdquo;</em> and her eyes got wet.&nbsp;&nbsp;When one of my team member tried to make her smile by saying <em>&ldquo;kya didi! abi toh humare kehle kudne ke din hai&rdquo;(What didi! we are too young right now)</em> she smiled at her and said <em>&ldquo;Mai bhi tumhari jesi thi&rdquo;(I was just like you)</em>&nbsp;and started crying. I could feel her pain even without knowing the reason behind it. She said that women on G B Road need love more than any one and in that moment I wanted to hug her and tell her that &quot;didi, I know people have hurt you, took advantage and been ruthless with you and I want to share your pain and give you all the love that&rsquo;s in my capacity.&quot;<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:375px; margin:10px 40px; width:500px" /><br /> <br /> Then one of the didis came from inside and asked us to leave the brothel and scolded Radha didi for entertaining us for so long. When we stood up to leave, Radha didi folded her hand in apology for the other didi&rsquo;s behaviour. I held her hand and hugged hand and she hugged me back with the same love and slowly whispered her name to us <blockquote>&ldquo;Radha&rdquo;</blockquote> <img alt="" src="" style="height:375px; margin:10px 40px; width:500px" /><br /> <br /> (All images lovingly captured by Magical Lens)... Sunidhi Tue, 10 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Connected Deeply - within & without Trupti shares ... On a misty Friday morning, when the Sun was playing hide and seek, 43 of us came together for a three-day Head, Hand and Heart retreat at &nbsp;Sughad.&nbsp;<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:314px; margin:5px 10px; width:700px" /><br /> Both the participants and volunteers came from all corners of India and abroad. Amongst the participants were Anganwadi teachers from rural Gujarat, organic farmers from Saurashtra, a CEO of a prestigious football club, an educator from London, founders of a yoga studio in Ahmedabad and an NGO working towards women empowerment.<br /> <br /> The amazing volunteers who came to serve at the retreat lead lives deeply rooted in the service of society &mdash; entrepreneurs, film makers and change makers, psychologists, founders and community servers from all over the country. Each volunteer at the retreat had an incredible story behind them.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> When such a group comes together to hold difficult and different questions of life, what unfolds is highly unpredictable. With this humility towards the unknown, Sheetal and Jignasha welcomed all of us with an open heart by expressing their gratitude for each one&rsquo;s presence. Each one mattered because each one was unique in their own ways which made the circle so invaluable and rich. They also brought in the presence of everyone&rsquo;s lineage and elements which were serving all of us in a very subtle way. The floor was opened with a seed question of sharing one moment of deep joy (aanand) that one has experienced.<br /> <br /> As we had a big group of teachers with us they shared how the unconditional love they receive from children overflows their cup of joy each day. Stephane shared a very touching moment that she had experienced few years back &mdash; a father of a 7-year-old constantly complained about his daughter who did not write despite going to the school. Suddenly this father called up one day and asked, &ldquo;What did you do to my daughter, she has suddenly started writing and that too in her vacation time!.&rdquo; She reflected on how we can only provide a conducive environment for the children to grow, rest we just have to trust.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Renuka shared that joy is not in knowing that the child has learned all that is written in the textbook, the real joy is to see when the child reflects the values in his daily life. Sachi shared how she feels immense joy to see people who are bringing change by being the change themselves. She shared about her experience of the scabies drive that was undertaken by the children with whom she has been working for the last five years along with few other volunteers and how just to see everyone joining hands for the noble cause brought so much joy to her that she still cherishes. Aditya also shared how his work with children and different forms of art brings so much joy to him each day. Kishan who is a teacher at ashram- shala shared how when you do anything from the space of your heart, it brings joy. While resonating with Kishan, Saraswati, Mina and Prahalad also shared how observing children play, a warm hug from them, a simple Namaste or just a simple gesture of concern that the children show towards them makes their day.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> We were blessed to have many mothers with us who shared their experiences of deep joy while experiencing motherhood. Vidhya shared her moment which was 22 years ago when her newborn daughter was put in her arms and when both of them looked into each other&#39;s eyes for the first time. Rucha also shared of how she feels immense joy to see that spark of trust for herself &nbsp;in her child&rsquo;s eyes along with observing nature bloom. Sanju, a mother of two beautiful children shared how she feels immense satisfaction when she is able to fulfil the needs of her children while being the only provider in her family. Manisha while remembering her mother shared how she misses her physical form but is able to connect to her essence in various other forms. &nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> Neil shared how he and his whole family managed to dance to the fullest in utter chaos when his brother was getting married few years ago and even today when he remembers that day he can feel his cells dancing. Madhavi who is a speech therapist shared her moment of deep connection at soul level with each of us while standing near the peace pole. Praveen who is working at grass root level in environment conservation shared how regenerating greenery, connecting with the farmer&rsquo;s community and sustaining nature brings joy to him. &nbsp;Rajesh&rsquo;s sharing of finding joy in cleaning toilets made all us think of so many stories of Ishwar dada.&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> Krutika beautifully shared how when she is able to decode the games that her mind plays, brings joy and peace to her. Pooja who is a yoga teacher finds joy in the process of giving to others. Her intention is to walk from Swaarth to Ni-swaarth in all aspects of her life in the process of giving. &nbsp;Sunita very briefly but very deeply shared that being present to life brings joy to her whereas Manisha finds joy instantly as she connects with others. Bhumi felt the journey of self-exploration and knowing self is bringing joy to her while Supriya feels accepting life as it is and choosing happiness in every situation brings her lot of joy. At the end Pranit shared how he could connect to each one&#39;s authentic self while listening to pearls of wisdom and deep connection with self, nature and others. &nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> Post lunch we had masti time with Trupti and Gitanjali who connected all of us with the child within with few energizers. Followed by a presentation which Jayesh bhai lovingly says Love-station by Khusmita and Meghna shared about the mother ship- <a href="">Service space</a>, &nbsp;<a href="">MBL projects</a>, online spaces such as <a href="">Laddership circles</a>, Awakin dialogues and few offline spaces such as <a href="">Karma kitchen</a>, <a href="">HeART circles</a>, <a href="">Karma Meals</a>, <a href="">Awakin circles</a> across cities where the intention is to lead with Inner transformation.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:525px; margin:5px 10px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> Post-tea break we headed for an outdoor trip to <a href="">Safai Vidyalaya</a> where Sanchi and few children from Ashram-shala welcomed us with few prayers and briefly introduced us to the institution and the legacy of <a href="">Ishwarbhai Patel</a>. We all had a glimpse of the life of Ishwar dada and his dedication towards inside-out sanitation. We also had a chance to see <a href="">Sabarmati Ashram</a>, before heading to the much awaited evening at &nbsp;Seva Cafe, a restaurant that defies normal economics.&nbsp;<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:525px; margin:5px 10px; width:700px" /><br /> The evening was weaved in with prayers and spirited talks. Ashish shared his journey from a successful investment banker to now his exploration as an <a href="">inner-net</a> banker. Gitanjali shared her work with the didi&rsquo;s and children at Delhi, sharing stories of kindness, authenticity, love and compassion in the dark and dense alleys of<a href=""> G.B road </a>. Umang a teacher from Asharam-shala shared how she had to imbibe practices herself while teaching tribal children right from taking bath, to combing hair, brushing teeth to seeding values through daily practices such as praying, greeting other with respect, sharing and caring for others and how.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Our day ended with our hearts full of gratitude for the Seva Cafe team for hosting us so warmly and for serving us <a href="">Love + Food= Prasad</a>.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> The second day morning started with frisbee, yoga, meditation and chopping veggies in the kitchen followed by conversations with Devendra bhai who shared his journey of internal cleansing via outer sanitation. He shared few personal stories with Ishwar Kaka who always focused on amplifying and appreciating the good. He never preached or advised but just did the work because it was the right work. Devendra Bhai urged us to shed all our doubts on self and the universe and just take the first step towards the right work. <a href="">Arun dada</a> shared his experience of his journey to <a href=";fid=22624">Cyprus</a> and beautifully ended the circle with a <a href="">bhajan</a> which filled every one&rsquo;s heart with love.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> The second day typically signifies hands activities and how outward act of service can transform our inner being. The group was divided into various activities where everyone wholeheartedly cleaned toilets, made Jhadus (brooms) for the first time, washed floors and cooked food for the entire team. &nbsp;Vivek very candidly shared, as part of the kitchen team at Kabir ashram he enjoyed serving everyone. &ldquo;In giving, I receive&rdquo;, he reflected. Kiran ji remarked likes attracts likes and act of service create soul affinities. The action-packed day ignited his understanding about service. Avdesh found joy in making brooms and realised that the lessons of life are in doing such simple acts. He was deeply inspired by the life of Arun dada, and whenever he thinks of him, it brings a smile on his face. Varsha, who choose to clean toilet while doing 28 acts of kindness on campus, felt little unusual in the beginning, and she shared, &quot;as resistance to the work collapsed the job became effortless,&quot; which brought a lot of smiles to everyone sitting in the circle. Priyam, observed while doing the cleaning work everyone was working in harmony and they all brought their resourcefulness without anybody telling them what or how to do it.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:393px; margin:5px 10px; width:700px" /><br /> At the end when we came together in a reflection circle, in silence we all felt how service created deep <a href="">affinities</a> with people we hardly knew before 24 hours.:)<br /> <br /> After a small break, we hosted an <a href="">Awakin circle</a> and Parag explain the spirit of the circle and how it is rooted in <a href="">giving</a>. Devesh lead all of us for dinner where silence and prayers merged into a pious evening filling each one&#39;s plate with deep sense of gratitude. &nbsp;<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:525px; margin:5px 10px; width:700px" /><br /> The day of the heart opened with Jayesh Bhai speaking about his own journey with sanitation, service, and love. His deep learnings from his father who even in his last breath thought of others and constantly served thousands of beings throughout his lifetime.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:525px; margin:5px 10px; width:700px" /><br /> Three steps and a bow, a pilgrimage that Rev. Heng Sure and Rev Heng Chow did for 2 years and 9 months with the faith and a wish for world peace by cultivating peace within was led by Trupti with the intention:&nbsp; <blockquote>&ldquo;Forget the harvest,<br /> As much as you seek,<br /> thats how much you will be obstructed.<br /> Don&#39;t seek enlightenment,<br /> just Bow.&rdquo;</blockquote> <br /> The three days of retreat left everyone with this question, what do I have to become to create this eco-system of joy, love and interconnectedness inside-out ?&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:525px; margin:5px 10px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> <br /> Jai Jagat!<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> &nbsp;... Trupti Pandya & Parag Shah Wed, 27 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Small acts with great love Pranita shares ... <br /> <em>Atul currently works in a school, as part of Teach For India and has been sharing some amazing school stories during our Laddership Circle. While we pondered upon how the collective can be greater than the sum of its parts, while holding space, we had a chance to hear this amazing and heart-warming story by him.</em><br /> <br /> It was an everyday affair that the housekeeping staff of the school complained to Atul saying- <em>&ldquo;Bhaiyya, see what your kids are doing in the toilets!&rdquo;</em> Atul was aware of these state of affairs where all the 6-7 toilets of the school were always dirty and smelly. He started pondering upon what could be done in this situation, such that there is a sustainable solution to this problem.<br /> <br /> While at it, Atul was joined by a group of volunteers from Chennai TFI Team, who were just out of their colleges and universities, eager to serve! The first thing Atul heard from them after they settled down was the same complaint that the housekeepers had shared earlier. Taking this opportunity to use the collective power, Atul asked out loud whether there was something they could do to solve this problem!<br /> The volunteers took up the problem statement very seriously and were back to him with an idea.<br /> Volunteers &ndash; We have an idea. How about all of us clean the bathrooms ourselves?<br /> Atul &ndash; That&rsquo;s a great offering. But what after you clean it, how can the cleanliness be maintained? Who will continue cleaning it?<br /> <br /> The volunteers went back to brainstorm further and came over the next day with a new idea.<br /> Volunteers &ndash; How about involving other stakeholders here, like the parents and kids?<br /> Atul &ndash; Getting kids onboard at this point might not work, but we can definitely involve parents. But how can we convince them to take part in this toilet cleaning venture?<br /> <br /> The volunteers continued racking their brains for more ideas and were back again the next day.<br /> Volunteers &ndash; We could do a street-play in the communities, spread awareness about the situation among the parents, and encourage them to join hands.<br /> &nbsp;Atul &ndash; That&rsquo;s an awesome idea. Let&rsquo;s do this!<br /> <br /> The volunteers prepared an informational and educational street-play around toilet hygiene and cleanliness. After Atul acquired the required permission from the village authorities, the volunteers went around three communities while beating drums on the road and asking people to come outside and watch. Lots of people gathered and listened to them very attentively!<br /> <br /> The volunteers also figured that though there were taps in these toilets, there were no mugs or buckets that the kids could use. The next day, the volunteers contributed and collected enough funds to buy the necessary equipment to clean the toilets. <b>They also started cleaning the washrooms themselves, and were soon joined by many parents.</b> Watching all this changed the perspective and behavior of students towards the toilets drastically. Further, a large scale community change was also witnessed in this regard, which went on to show how <b>small acts done with great intentions can go such a long way</b>!<br /> <br /> Right from the seed to the blossom of this event, nothing was planned or pre-meditated. All it took was the presence of highly motivated and passionate individuals getting together as a group to solve a problem. None of this was a part of their curriculum or training. What Atul bore witness to was a beautiful example of the wonders that simply holding space for each other can do. The sacred space created by Atul and the young fellows became fertile ground for valuable emergence. Their collective efforts portrayed beautifully that <b>1+1 &gt; 2</b>.<br /> <br /> After this incident, the housekeeping staff has never come back with the complaint &ndash; <em>&ldquo;Bhaiyya, see what the kids are doing in the toilet!&rdquo; ;)</em>... Pranita Bhatt Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Art and its infinite possibilities Vidhi shares ... Every moment is a possibility from the tangent of life, and each moment turns up like a dew drop to the present situation. Yet another evening at <a href="">heArt circle</a> helps me bring back my areas of possibilities through my life&rsquo;s jigsaw puzzle.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:466px; margin:4px 30px; width:589px" /><br /> The inter-tangle pieces of mind land up in confusions and I can feel resonated as every time I come across a situation and its momentary joy. The colors help me portray the significance and connected-ness as life predicts different shades in so many ways which just flows and carries the journey with the soul.<br /> <br /> I have been contemplating on the thought of what is art? And does it refer to just a piece which is drawn with perfect lines and shapes. And spaces like heArt Circle gives me a possibility of hope that Art can be anything that pleases my own eyes. It can be spontaneous flow of ideas and creativity of any individual. I can resonate to this -&ldquo; I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart. &ldquo;<br /> <br /> I feel it takes acceptance &nbsp;to let go off the hurdles created by our very own being, and feel free not just in actions but also allowing one self to explore the possibilities in each segment.<br /> <br /> When I put my thoughts across I resonate that for every possibility there is some source I can feel the connect with, which stays underlined for me - as where do we see the better side of life. And shades when put to colors bring the tiniest of my insights to paper, canvas and I define them as &quot;ART&quot;.<br /> <br /> At times&nbsp; due to some thoughts which stand as hindrance in day to day to life- Possibilities help to earn a bonus point on the canvas and flows along with happiness to push yourself hard to be okay with whatever is just happening.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> heArt circles are a blessing..!!<br /> &nbsp;... Vidhi Desai Thu, 10 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Surrendering to the emergence Neerad shares ... This weekend we had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with Shri. Babulal Gandhi, a living legend. Babulalji, now 90 years old ,has had the good fortune to be a part of the <a href="">Bhoodan movement </a>and walk with Vinoba throughout the journey. Babulal ji was sitting at the gate waiting for us when we walked into his beautiful lush green organic 100 acre farm that he has developed over the last 50 years in a small town and rain shadow region called Phaltan, in the interiors of Maharashtra.<br /> <br /> The conversation we had with him has left a deep impact on me. Because here is someone like me who strives to explore his so called &lsquo;Individuality&rsquo;,&nbsp;sitting opposite a man who has lived his life for the society. Once Vinoba ji and others were in a camp where people were coming to join the Bhoodan movement. One of the senior members asked Babulal ji, do you think you can dedicate the rest of the life for the society? Without a second thought, he took out a piece of paper, wrote on it that he is surrendering for life and gave it to him. That&rsquo;s it. Since then he has never looked back; serving the society continuously ever since.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <img alt="babulal Gandhi" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:2px; height:443px; margin:4px 50px; width:513px" /><br /> <br /> I asked him <em>&ldquo;Babulal ji, How can you surrender so effortlessly?&rdquo;</em> He replied saying, <em>&ldquo;where there is effort, there is resistance so it has to be spontaneous when your heart is ready.&rdquo;</em> I was immediately reminded of Sahajta that <a href="">Jaideep</a> brought out on the call. The question I am holding since then is, what are the foundational pillars of Sahajta? How do we cultivate this spontaneity with complete surrender to the emergence? What must be our heart quality and our connection for us to be able to make choices that we never regret?&nbsp;<br /> <br /> As we were holding these questions and a few of us sharing our journeys, one of the youngest participants asked him, <em>&quot;Dada, if you were to do something for the society, where does it begin?&quot;&nbsp;</em><br /> Babulal ji, thinking very intently, took out his spectacles, wiped it and said gently;&nbsp; <blockquote>&ldquo;Keep the vision of the world and your feet firmly on the ground you are standing. All the decisions you take have to hold the quality of service to the people. So what are the steps:&nbsp;<br /> <b>Vichar parivartan</b> &nbsp;- Change in your thoughts, perspectives, etc&nbsp;<br /> <b>Aachar parivartan</b> &ndash; Change in your habits, actions, responses etc&nbsp;<br /> <b>Hriday Parivartan</b> &ndash; Significant change in the quality of your heart and&nbsp;<br /> <b>Samaj Parivartan</b> &ndash; Changes around you, society, world at large.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> So <b>every change begins with you</b>. Focus on the longest and widest vision with your feet firmly in tune with your reality.&rdquo;</blockquote> There was complete silence as he finished saying this. Everyone was literally in a state of a deeper inquiry, some teary eyed and some analytical folks still wondering, what just hit us.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Leading onto the inquiry, we asked him another question. &quot;<em>Dada, there are many times one has to make a decision with multiple choice points, how do you discern which action is the most appropriate?&quot;&nbsp;</em><br /> <br /> Dada, paused for a long time before he started. He said,&nbsp; <blockquote>&ldquo;I have never thought about myself alone. However, since you have posed the question there are 3 things that come to my mind now.<br /> First, <b><a href="">Anekantavad</a>,</b> the art of holding multiple perspectives. Just like the story of<a href=""> 7 blind men</a> describing their experience of touching an elephant. Each one is true in their perspective, however the sum total of all the experience is also true. So one has to take everyone&rsquo;s views into consideration and then take a decision.<br /> Second,<b> Jagruti </b>(Awareness) of the environment, world around you and the world inside you.<br /> Thirdly, <b>understanding from your own truth</b>, which is a culmination of all the experiences you&rsquo;ve had till date and surrendering to the emergence. Then whatever decision you take will always be appropriate.<br /> <br /> It&rsquo;s not so much about right or wrong but being true to the moment of choice.&rdquo;</blockquote> <br /> The impending question to me was, how much do we know about ourselves and be in tune with the emergence?&nbsp;<br /> Jai Jagat !!... Neerad Trivedi Mon, 07 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Life is indeed a song to sing… Rahul shares ... <em><img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; float:left; height:225px; width:300px" />[Rahul Hasija volunteered for the first time at a recent Moved By Love retreat and shares his heart-warming reflections and insights post three days of serving with love.]</em><br /> <br /> As little Reva would often say, &quot;I am half volunteer and I am half participant&quot; - I feel volunteering indeed got me more participating than I was when I actually attended the retreat as a participant. All the days of retreat and preparation taught me many beautiful insights that I feel were my takeaways for my life as well as for my work and living space at Swaraj University.<br /> <br /> The acknowledgement from Moved by Love hosting team in one of the first interactions of volunteer briefing that &#39;this coming together is not meant to answer something or some issue or it is not an act of saving the world&#39; was beautifully put across as it lay the foundation of creating the humble space for gratitude, love and compassion to grow and blossom. In today&#39;s world, where all efforts are pushed towards &#39;changing the world&#39;, this acknowledgement was a gentle yet powerful reminder to look within, pause and accept ourselves and the world as it is.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:533px; width:400px" /><br /> <br /> One of the biggest gifts I&#39;m taking back from the retreat is the sense of being alive to life and to the small acts of love. I am deeply moved by the power of small acts of love that I was witness to at the retreat. &quot;She was here on earth to grasp the meaning of its wild enchantment, and to call each thing by its right name. By its right name&quot; This line from one of my inspiring movies &#39;Into The wild&#39; sums up this experience for me. Having names for brooms, tables, chairs, rooms, and every possible element around made me feel that I&#39;m around my relatives, whom I can relate to, love and nurture and get nurtured by.<br /> <br /> I cherish and am deeply in love with how some stories were flipped, that subtly nudged the status quo, coming from the heart rather than from just the head. By inviting the Heart into all the processes - Presentation to Prem-station, Disability to Dil-ability, TEd to SpiriTed, Newton&#39;s reverse apple story - I felt it created a much richer ground for our participation and co-creation. The three companions of Vinobha - Jhadu (Hands), Musical instrument (Heart), Book (Head) - were a good reminder of bringing together these elements of life in any act we get into.<br /> <br /> I am also taking back lots of energy and love to hold the space and team at Swaraj, a space that already is inviting and caring, yet has scope for beauty, care and spaciousness to emerge. &#39;Labour of Love&#39; is something that resonates deeply and would love to go deeper into what it means and see how it manifests.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="height:525px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> Today morning when I was actually planting seeds in my garden, I remembered the planting seeds song and the amazing musical night we had at Seva Cafe and I fondly remembered my time at one of our heart circles, sitting in one the small meditation huts, listening to the sharing of participants and listening to the beautiful wind chimes slowly whispering into my ears saying &quot;Life is indeed a song to sing, hum and cherish.&quot;emembered my time at one of our heart circles, sitting in one the small meditation huts, listening to the sharing of participants and listening to the beautiful wind chimes slowly whispering into my ears saying &quot;Life is indeed a song to sing, hum and cherish.&quot;... Rahul Hasija Sun, 23 Jul 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Here Comes the Rain: Two Laddership Circles! Meghna, shares ... <em>&quot;Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better&quot;</em> - Albert Einstein<br /> <br /> There is no better teacher than nature. When we align ourselves with its myriad ways, we witness the silent offerings of abundance, patience, surrender and harmony it brings with itself. As we entered the month of June, the whole of India welcomed its first rainfall. With a cooler beginning, a fresh dose of inspiration from the rains and after an incredible<a href=""> pilot</a> circle, we are back with a stronger commitment and a deeper engagement for a second round of the <a href="">MBL Laddership Circle</a> this July.<br /> <br /> Over the last few years, many such <a href="">Laddership Circles</a> have explored various themes, stories and edges around inner transformation, that have held a lot of value for changemakers and community organizers. It is very humbling to witness the overwhelming interest and collective pull to <a href="">engage</a> in this nuanced way. Inspired by the volume of applicants, we decided to host 2 concurrent circles (instead of just 1), for a total crew of 16 fellows, alongside 9 anchors and few more invisible advisors who helped shape the curriculum &amp; continue to provide oversight.<br /> <br /> Here&#39;s more on the inspired posse that will be diving deep into <a href="">gift-ecology</a> ideals over the next six weeks -- and creating ripples (which are likely to be waves :)) of goodness into their local communities around the globe.<br /> <br /> <br /> <b>Saturday Circle:</b><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:225px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Vijayam Kartha:</b><br /> <a href="">Vijayam-</a><a href="">ji</a><b> </b>is the Vice Chairperson at <a href="">Kerala Public School Trust</a>, Jamshedpur and the Director at Kerala Samajam Hindi School. In a career spanning 30+ years in education and development, she has led the <a href="">transformation</a> and turnaround of multiple schools. Having played the role of a Librarian, Teacher, Vice Principal, Principal, Director of several schools, she has consistently been able to bring out the best in everyone (teachers, administration, students) involved in her institutions. She also has anchored several workshops and programs for schools, academicians, institutions, industry, and NGOs. Education is in her DNA, and She has dedicated her life to serving the Education fraternity in various capacities. She has won quite a few awards, and President of India has honored her with National <a href="">Award</a> for teachers in 2007.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" height:100px="" src="" style="float:left; height:100px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Abid Ali:</b><br /> From Hyderabad, Abid Ali, in spite of rising fast up the global IT ladder (or he might say because of it), has lived a parallel life: one in which he has been relentlessly questioning the nature and validity of an acquisition and consumption based life. Deeply moved by <a href="">J.Krishnamurti&#39;s</a> work, he with his brother and their families have been slowly but steadily building up the internal and external resources needed to shift to a more radical lifestyle. He is in the <a href="">process of creating</a> an agricultural community rooted in sustainable living in harmony with nature called - ANHAD, which means &#39;living without any boundaries&#39;. He volunteers for the local community project for sustainable living and also part of the team that hosts national and international <a href="">permaculture</a> conferences.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:151px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Yashodhara Robin:</b><br /> Yashodhara carries a big heart of service like an ocean. She has been hosting <a href="">dariya dil dukaan</a> at <a href="">her home</a> as well as other spaces. Dariya dil literally means big hearted which is exemplified through her labour of love projects be it <a href="">mystic</a> mandali where she invites musicians to her home for satsangs or supporting <a href="">transformative spaces</a>. Not only does she anchor many community projects, but also anchors herself in cultivating her inner stillness. She finds deep inspiration in <a href="">Meher Baba</a>.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:150px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Priyanka Agarwal:</b><br /> <a href="">Priyanka&rsquo;s zest</a> is contagious. A <a href=";fid=20572">question </a>she asked manifested into a 3-day <a href="">inclusion retreat</a>. While leading a team at IBM she wears many hats - recently she took up a modeling assignment - &lsquo;Face of IBM&rsquo;, incredible <a href="">cook</a>, motivational speaker, hobby dancer and an independent traveler. While facing a disability herself she helps break the myths about disability and gender. She has a heart of <a href="">service</a> and wants to be good at giving irrespective of her constraints. She teaches computer with a screen reader and life skills to few blind students.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:150px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Madhu Maddipatla</b>:<br /> Working in Banglore in the field of technology, and 16 years into the corporate world, she felt &quot;something is missing&quot; in her life. This lead her to the doors of service. She has a deep yearning for pushing the eject button to serve in the field of education. A good day to her is when she does something good for others. Gandhi and Vinoba are her heroes of life, she is an avid reader of <a href="">Krishnamurti</a>, uses all opportunity at work to serve, is a regular practitioner of vipassana and follows Buddhism from Japanese tradition called <a href="">Shinto</a>.<br /> <br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:150px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Priyanka Peeramsetty:</b><br /> &ldquo;I was sold at the word Laddership&rdquo; exclaims Priyanka as she finds a deep connect between her work at a startup called <a href="">&ldquo;L2O&rdquo; </a>and the opportunity to be a part of Laddership Circles. Building a tech platform to &lsquo;recognize&rsquo; people in a community and engaging with them without the barriers of their skill sets takes up most of her time at work. Her experience at the <a href="">Young India Fellowship</a>, left a deep impact within her that transpired her onward journey to create a multidisciplinary approach towards real time Business and Social problems. In the middle of her wedding preps, she looks forward to having Laddership circles as an anchor to ground her and keep her connected to her dreams while she embarks on her new journey!<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:150px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Salil Ganeriwal:</b><br /> His experience as a Yoga Teacher for many years and an <a href="">NVC facilitator</a> for the past few years has birthed the idea of <a href="">Inner Bell</a> an online offering of nurturing personal, interpersonal and spiritual development through Non-Violent Communications. As a Life Coach, he facilitates workshops and encourages to live an &ldquo;authentic life&rdquo; at the heart level. His heart doesn&rsquo;t flutter a second before he shares that all of this is offered as a Gift!! With many deep questions, conviction towards inner reflection and an authentic approach to life, he remains open to discover all that is to emerge in his Laddership journey.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:113px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Ritesh Gohil:</b><br /> Ritesh is a journalist with a leading newspaper in India. He is also a graphic designer, <a href="">out of the box</a> thinker and a natural volunteer. His childhood was a practical laboratory of living Gandhian values during his primary education in an Ashramshala. He likes to spend a lot of his time exploring rural villages of Gujarat and tries to understand the possibilities of individual and systemic shifts within those dynamics. An idea that he is holding is to bring forth the inclusion of <a href="">&lsquo;trusteeship&rsquo;</a> within mainstream media. Ritesh has always lived a very simple life. While in college he would ride 10 kms on his bicycle writing anonymous kind notes to all those who rode a bicycle. This and many such everyday little stories of kindness are woven into Ritesh&rsquo;s life.<br /> <br /> <br /> <b>And our volunteers for the circle are:</b><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:179px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Jaideep Rao:</b><br /> He is a techie by education, based in Bangalore, India. In his initial days after Graduation, during the day he worked in software development and by nights, weekends, and all other hours he serves around the clock&mdash;orchestrating a volunteer-run <a href="">Saturday school</a> for underprivileged rural youth, developing an open-source values-based educational curriculum, amplifying <a href="">stories</a> of unknown change makers and supporting an annual inclusion <a href="">summit</a> for individuals with <a href="">disabilities</a>. Since last year or so he has given up his job and embraced service as the<a href=""> way of life </a>and living and provides great inspiration to his students by being the change.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:100px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Swara Pandya:</b><br /> Swara didi - as she is fondly called by a bunch of young service warriors within her community is an infinite source of inspiration wherever she goes. Her smiling spirit and a <a href="">heart</a> of service is endearing in all she does, whether it&rsquo;s <a href="">sharing presence</a> with a rural village woman&rsquo;s soft soul, or deepening engagements in the field of <a href="">education</a>, or visiting Gandhian elders and capturing their <a href="">stories</a> of <a href="">simplicity</a>, or even anchoring a <a href="">pay-it-forward</a> restaurant in her hometown of Baroda, India. Most recently, she <a href="">engaged</a> in a 6-week internship with 35 college students which became a huge catalyst in building a strong local volunteer community in Baroda.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:145px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Neerad Trivedi:</b><br /> A student of <a href="">life</a> and a soulful singer, he is deeply passionate in supporting the organic farming community and raising awareness for organic products in Gujarat. Having spent over 13 years managing teams of 200+ people in the corporate sector, he now fills his time with <a href="">experiments</a> that embody deep-rooted values, simplicity, and compassion. A volunteer with the <a href="">Moved By Love</a> ecosystem in India, he finds joy in <a href="">supporting</a> others&rsquo; journeys, doing <a href="">small acts</a>, and recently embarked on an <a href="">Organic Cycling Journey</a> to connect with and learn from organic <a href="">farmers</a> across Gujarat, India.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:152px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Meghna Banker:</b><br /> She is a dedicated servant &ldquo;ladder&rdquo; based at the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, India. A talented filmmaker, graphic designer, and artist, to many of us, she&rsquo;s perfected the art of invisible service&mdash;whether in supporting &ldquo;<a href="">heARTists in action</a>&rdquo; with <a href="">Wisdom Crafts</a>, hosting weekly <a href="">meditation gatherings</a> in her home (with some remarkable <a href="">stories</a>!), or as a down-to-earth mother, where she continually inspires with many <a href="">profound lessons</a> from her 6-year-old daughter<br /> <br /> <br /> <b>Sunday Circle:</b><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:194px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Preeti D&rsquo;mello:</b><br /> She had a thriving career as an Executive &amp; Leadership<br /> Coach, <a href="">Developmental Speaker</a>, Integral Facilitator. But now has reached a stage of life where service and spirituality are non-negotiable. Turning the corner from business to service brings her to Laddership Circle. Looking to create a space for Business with service and conscious business approaches, she is in the process of initiating her next stage of work in Leadership for Social Impact and Personal Development for Peace and Productivity. Her idea is to create learning and developmental interventions that are one to one, one to many and eventually many to many.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:200px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Rahul Mehta:</b><br /> Rahul is an IIM Ahmedabad alumni and a resident of Mumbai. He works for 12 days a month and spends the rest of his time in serving the local community and the<a href=""> ancestral </a><a href="">old age home</a> which was started with an intention to serve the community. Rahul wears many hats, to name few, he is a devoted student of<a href=""> Vedanta</a>, a very passionate singer, an encyclopedia of Gujarati songs, a committed volunteer of MBL, loving father of 2 kids, Co-anchor of <a href="">Maitri tunes </a>and has a great sense of Spiritual humor. He has<a href=""> laddered</a> the local community in a<a href=""> very</a> invisible ways.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Ruchika Shukla:</b><br /> Inspired by her own family&rsquo;s commitment to serving the <a href="">Siddhayoga</a> Ashram for generations, she has been serving unconditionally for the past 4.5 years with her primary role in organizing events and workshops on the premises. When she attended an<a href=""> MBL retreat</a> two years ago, she was pleasantly surprised to find the deep resonance of values between the Ashram and the MBL spirit. She is close to her five-year mark dream and is now transitioning back into the world with more energy and a heart full of service to deepen the work she started in observance at the Ashram.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Vidhi Desai:</b><br /> Trained in Psychology, Vidhi works with specially-abled children. Her energy, smile, and <a href="">quiet acts</a> of love light up any place around her. She offers this energy as a <a href="">gift </a>through her voluntary projects. She anchors <a href="">Karma Meals</a> in Mumbai where volunteers come together to connect with friends on street in a meaningful way and share a meal. Recently co-anchored a one-day <a href="">retreat </a>that brought around 40 service-hearted friends in Mumbai. Every Tuesday you will find Vidhi spreading smiles at a <a href="">cancer institute </a>while spending time with terminally ill children. The commute each way takes couple autos and train change but the mundane doesn&#39;t deter her spirit.<br /> <br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Poulomi Pal:</b><br /> Her heart got momentum when she participated in a <a href="">Startup Service </a>Retreat in the winters of 2014. With an opportunity to witness the growth of a participant&#39;s value-based children&rsquo;s game called <a href="">&lsquo;Kinditude&rsquo;</a>, she knew instantly that children, games, and stories are her way to inner journey. Born in Assam, now in Kolkatta and an ardent Buddhism follower, she lives a very simple family life witnessing her parents and their relationship as a role model. Having worked with kids for over ten years, she knew that this was a <a href="">gift</a> she wanted to offer in the world. This birthed her own little dream called <a href="">Better Stories</a> - a portal for children and adults alike to share their Better Stories through the medium of art and games.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Anjali Alpappat:</b><br /> From Bangalore with an undergraduate degree in English literature and a master&rsquo;s degree in Journalism, she is a full-time volunteer to <a href="">Knowyourstars</a> and is living a life of service. She is head of content and is committed to making all content of Know Your Star website accessible for people on the disability spectrum. With deep humility she describes herself as total South Indian when she shares that her father is from Kerala; mother is from Andhra Pradesh, is brought up in Tamilnadu and lives in Karnataka. She attempts to nurture <a href="">deep connections</a> with everyone around her and create affinities to hold each other. She&rsquo;s an ardent feminist who believes in karma, equality, social activism, and a passionate supporter of gender equality &amp; responsible journalism.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Lavanya Singh:</b><br /> An ICFA Certified Transformational Coach she works with people towards their holistic development and well-being.<a href=""> She</a> has actively participated and supported projects that deal with the realization &amp; enhancement of human potential, leadership skills &amp; qualities, inner power, emotional intelligence, and communication. She has traveled widely across the globe and learnt a lot from different traditions and cultures. An avid Yoga and Pranayam practitioner, she believes that inner wisdom leads to outer abundance. She is exploring the wisdom of vulnerability in her profession and wants to explore from the heart of what it means to connect with that aspect of a community.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Atul Sahu:</b><br /> After being in the corporate world over a decade at a lucrative job in South-East Asia, Atul moved to India to teach at a government school in Pune through the <a href="">TFI fellowship</a>. Very passionate about teaching and inculcating values in children, parents, and community, he says one of the turning points in his class was when he did <a href="">21 days kindness challenge</a> with his grade 2 kids. His life of service is dedicated to bringing Education to the underprivileged communities. One of his long-term visions is to bring programs like TFI to 2-Tier cities and villages.<br /> <br /> <b>And our volunteers for the circle are;</b><br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Pranita Bhat:</b><br /> She is the CEO &ndash; Chief Everything Officer :) &ndash; of <a href="">KnowYourStar</a> and is based in Bangalore, India. After quitting her job at IBM she found a calling at <a href="">K</a><a href="">YS</a> which she started as a hobby weekend project with three friends in September 2012. In addition to ensuring the original inspirational content on almost daily basis, she anchors an educational outreach program called <a href="">Mentor India</a> with the help of volunteers, where spoken English classes using value based stories are taught in rural schools. She wants to make this world a better place and master the spirit of service, gratitude, and generosity. She also co-anchors <a href="">Volunesia</a> circles and is <a href="">flipping</a> the conventional paradigm of volunteering.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Deven Shah:</b><br /> After experiencing the corporate ladder and reaching it&rsquo;s peak, Deven went through a transformative<a href=""> stage</a> of his life where he quit his high-profile corporate job and embraced a life dedicated to service.<a href=""> He</a> is one of the volunteers in the MBL ecosystem, living a life dedicated to <a href="">service</a> and inner transformation. He is the visionary behind the StartUp Service <a href="">retreats</a> that encourages <a href="">entrepreneurs </a>to lead their social change work with love and inner transformation. A deep meditator and a passionate father, he resides in <a href="">Auroville</a> with his wife and daughter. Currently he is actively involved with <a href=""> Integral yoga</a> online course as full time volunteer.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:169px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Trupti Pandya:</b><br /> The youngest of the <a href="">Pandya sisters</a>, she is holding questions on Laddership and how its <a href="">self inquiry</a> process brought her to volunteer for this circle. At a very young age, she has had many soulful <a href="">experiences</a> of <a href=";fid=14749">volunteering</a> and has co-created a very vibrant local community of youngsters who are dedicated to service. She is working with a government home, which is composed of a diverse crowd, including <a href="">women</a> and children with various mental, physical and emotional issues. She is keen to cultivate <a href="">values</a> in the most vulnerable class of society in such homes.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:186px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Rupali Bhuva:</b><br /> A passionate mother of 2 teenagers; and an <a href="">Artist</a> by heart, she wears a loving smile all the time when you see her. She is a very popular drawing teacher as she engages with around 100 children on a day-to-day basis. Over the years her cups of gratitude overflowed which sparked a thought of integrating Art with spirituality. This birthed the idea of hosting <a href="">heARTCircle</a> on gift basis. A passionate learner, she enjoy&rsquo;s life through the lens of a beginner.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="float:left; height:154px; margin:0 8px 4px 0; width:150px" /><b>Parag Shah:</b><br /> He gets lit up by infusing the spirit of giftivism in all elements of his life-- whether in launching a <a href="">WisdomBook Store</a>, galvanizing his <a href="">IB school</a> to pilot <a href="">Karma Kitchen</a>, bringing a Gandhian <a href="">ethos</a> into his diamond business, and <a href="">holding space</a> that ignites powerful ripples in his community. He&#39;s also an avid reader <a href="">of Krishnamurti</a> and lives in Surat, India with his wife and sons.<br /> <br /> We are all looking forward to the emergence!... Meghna, Swara & Parag Fri, 23 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Feeling the Flow of Grace: One-day MBL Retreat in Mumbai Anonymous shares ... <em>I do not at all understand the mystery of grace &ndash; only that it meets us where we are, but does not leave us where it found us.<br /> &ndash; Anne Lamott</em><br /> <br /> All of us have felt the power of that mysterious &ldquo;invisible hand&rdquo; of grace in our lives, weaving together incidents and people in remarkably touching and inspiring ways. On a sunny Sunday in April in Bombay (30th), at the Narmada Niketan home for seniors in Belapur, forty people from all across the city felt connected through grace as they shared stories, opening space, Darpan noted, as family would (how could we not, with all of the thoughtful touches that the volunteers sprinkled in the air).There were many stories about families and yet, far more about the multiple ways in which we find family all around us through unexpected acts of kindness and memorable moments of connection.<br /> <br /> Those moments of connection and finding family began the day prior to the retreat. Many of us arrived at this lush, leafy residential home for senior citizens in Belapur the evening prior, to interact with the beautiful sapient observers of the world who welcomed us into their home - Narmada Niketan, which houses close to 180 silver-haired lovelies. Darpan, Vidhi and Vinit greeted all of us with warm hugs and bright smiles, whipped out organized charts that showed us our room assignments and let us know which dining room we would help decorate. Vidhi lovingly offered each of us a thoughtfully created map of the space to orient us (such thoughtful attention to detail; she handed over each map with so much bhav - by establishing eye contact, bowing slightly with her head and smiling). Mona aunty (Vidhi&rsquo;s mom) toted incredibly delicious theplas which she lovingly made at home for all of us to enjoy over tea (her fortunate and thankful roomies had the privilege of indulging in a delicious sneak snack preview). As we made our way to our rooms, we noticed the thoughtful green touches, broad benches and the mindful placement of beautiful heart thoughts all along the walls. Each quote was so inspiring and added to the serene energy of the space. Even the quotes were born out of an act of love and symbolized the theme of the retreat &ldquo;unexpected kindness and grace&quot;. It was as though the artist who presented the quotes released love into the universe, trusting it would find its space in the world.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; float:left; height:466px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> Lifts were airy and capacious, designed to accommodate wheelchairs. As we entered our rooms (each one thoughtfully named after earth elements or states of being), we were delighted to find colourful bed sheets, customized bookmarks, a beautiful hand-written name tag and of course, chocolate awaiting us on each bed. The volunteers&rsquo; thoughtful touches made our experience special and we felt a sense of deep gratitude running through us. We made our way to Vishram Dham for tea, and there, near the temple, we found ourselves drawn to a melodious medley of voices. One of the women shared that she comes to spend time with the ladies there and they sing together in the evenings on the steps of the beautiful open temple. They asked us where we were from and after we exchanged notes, we delightfully cheered them on by clapping and thumping to the beat, smiles all around. After that, we stood in silence for Aarti and as the bell rang over and over again, it felt as though blessings were cascading upon all of us.<br /> <br /> Excited chatter filled the air as we headed toward our respective dining halls to prepare for the surprise candlelight dinner - it was decoration time! Armed with a big basket of flowers, tea lights and more, we headed to our respective dining halls. We placed tealights at the centre of each table and adorned them with flowers, a different flower rangoli design at each table. Buoyed by excitement and enthusiasm, we then put a few tea lights and flowers at the base of the pillars. As the residents entered the space, the glow of the candles and sweetness of the flowers awaited. We welcomed them with chants, teekas, flowers, hugs and smiles. Once they were seated, it was project heart-pin time. As we pinned hearts on their shirts and blouses, conversations, smiles, hugs and even music flowed.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:466px; width:700px" /><br /> <br /> After dinner, we gathered in a circle outdoors, under the stars and the watchful eye of the moon as Sheetal invited us to share songs that captured the essence of who we were. A few of us broke into bhajans, Gujarati and Sufi - songs close to our hearts. All present connected deeply with the spirit of the songs and the intent with which they were sung. After Rahul sang a <a href="">Gujarati song</a>, he shared a very touching story about <a href="">Arun Dada</a> that ended with &ldquo;There&rsquo;s always room for ice cream&rdquo;. Suddenly, volunteers armed with boxes of Suchmuch Aam (Cream Bell) began distributing deliciousness, one bar at a time. What a memorable entry the ice cream made and what a &ldquo;cool&rdquo; surprise it was to bite down into what tasted like pure aam raas. Rahul &ndash; we are grateful for this find, and highly recommend that everyone reading this blog entry try it. Many who tasted this ice cream for the first time wondered where it had been all of their lives. The ripples of Suchmuch Aam also continued well after the retreat and everyone who tried it for the first time loved it. Sach-much &ndash; it was a blissful evening.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:466px; width:700px" /><br /> The next morning began bright and early with Khushmita&rsquo;s laughter yoga session. Khushi flows through and out of Khushmita so effortlessly and soon, all of us, including the thirty residents who joined us, were engulfed in waves of roaring laughter. We connected to our child-like states through smiles and laughter.<br /> After a delicious breakfast, we entered the serene retreat space, a hall, built just off the side of the mandir. Volunteers welcomed us warmly with smiles, hugs, heart pins, beautiful hand-written name badges with big smiley faces adorning them, and tilas after which we sat down. Each of us was given a beautiful diary covered in white with a bright red heart popping out. At the centre of the space, a beautiful rangoli heart flanked with the glow of tea lights and scent of beautiful flowers took our breath away. All of these thoughtful acts of the volunteers allowed love and grace to flow through each of us freely. Over story sharing, our connection deepened. <b>Vidhi</b> opened up about the special connection she shared with her brother who always encourages her. With his support, she gathered the courage to ask her family for permission to go on a solo trip abroad and then dove headlong (and heartlong) into that three month adventure, discovering her own voice in the process. <b>Vinit</b> shared about how the legacy of kindness and grace that flows through him and connects him to everyone has its roots in how hard his father worked to feed their family years earlier. <b>Shaila</b> aunty spoke about making friends our family and how heart energy binds us all together powerfully; once, she made sarsoon saag bhaji out of methi grown by children in a garden at Matunga. They remembered the love they tasted that day and thanked her for it profusely when they had an opportunity to meet her weeks later, adopting her as their mother through the language of love. <b>Geeta</b> aunty tearfully reflected about how the children she volunteered with (and other volunteers who went out of their way to help arrange for whatever she needed at the site) offered her unconditional love that helped her heal when she lost a close family member, reminding us that ultimately, giving and receiving just melt away into love. <b>Mona</b> aunty spoke about how her family anchored her through her recovery from an accident so serious that she was not expected to walk; instead, surrounded by love, her inner motivation only strengthened and she was moved to give back to the community once she recovered. Toward the end, she shared she felt lovingly held as she shared, by forty family members.<br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; float:left; height:700px; width:467px" /><br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Through a deep moment of connection, sometimes, the first time we see certain people, they feel like soul family. <b>Neha</b> shared how the night before, at dinner, she connected with a NN resident who sang a beautiful, soothing song for all the volunteers and residents in the dining hall. <b>Vipul</b> expanded on the grace, wisdom and love that flows from those older and wiser as he shared how he was lovingly held by two lovely elderly women who offered him not only a room at Gandhi Ashram in Delhi at a time when he needed it, but also space in their hearts, which he needed far more. When <b>Ishu</b> travelled to Rajasthan as a Gandhi fellow, a family there adopted her as a daughter and that bond continues. <b>Prasanna</b>, who saw a naked man on the street, gathered up the courage to give him his pants and reflected on how that act connected both of them through love and dignity. <b>Gargi</b> shared how her nephew, an engineering student who shared a deep connection with animals, showed up late for his viva because he just had to save an injured bird. The professor allowed him to take the allotted time to complete his examination later. <b>Shivani</b> spoke about how a ride home on a fairly empty train created space for a transgender woman to have a connected conversation with her that left her amazed and shifted her view of the community even further.<br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Then there are divine acts of grace that strengthen our belief in the benevolence of the universe. <b>Ketan</b> bhai, little Aarya&rsquo;s father, shared how a boy appeared out of nowhere and then disappeared into thin air after guiding their car toward a mandir they wanted to visit. &ldquo;That child is God&rdquo; his mother and mami proclaimed. <b>Ashutosh</b>&rsquo;s uncle helped him get through a trying academic period through offering support, encouragement and wisdom. Though initially being worried about missing a train in bad weather, through divine coincidence, <b>Parth</b>&rsquo;s family met three other families one day twenty years ago and they have all been one happy family since then.<br /> <br /> &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; Finally, many present offered beautiful reflections on grace. <b>Chetan</b> bhai wondered what it takes to find hidden grace in tough situations and shared that the true value of grace is in feeling and touching it in trying times. Unexpected grace, <b>Abhishek</b> reflected, is the fuel of life itself. Trying to find answers as to how and why grace enters our lives is not only futile, but also beside the point, <b>Rahul</b> noted. Yet, we feel its presence immediately. Through <b>Anantraman</b>&rsquo;s commitment to &ldquo;supporting doing&rdquo; as well as all of the stories we were privileged to feel and hear, it became clear that grace, which has no beginning or end, sends out endless ripples in the universe.<br /> <br /> <img alt="" src="" style="border-style:solid; border-width:0px; height:466px; width:700px" />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> In the concluding circle, Rahul shared what it was like for him to grow up around Narmada Niketan as a space. Sheetal also shared how the Narmada Niketan team has held the intention of hosting a retreat for several years and small changes were mindfully being made in the space, tilling the soil for such a retreat to take place. The retreat was also supported by so many invisible hands - one volunteer worked till the end despite knowing that she would not be able to make it to the retreat. Another volunteer gifted clay bottles, each hand painted with love by two other volunteers who did not even attend the retreat, to all the participants. We offered thoughts of gratitude to the staff members of Narmada Niketan, especially <b>Ashok bhai Purohit</b> who were helping selflessly throughout the duration of the retreat. We saw how the lines between participants and volunteers blurred, as one of the participants tagged us with hand-crafted diaries to make notes during the retreat, another brought sweets that were distributed during meals, someone brought treasured Shewsburry biscuits from Kyani and Company in Pune, and finally, another one offered freshly plucked jamuns from the trees to everyone around. Overall, it was pure grace to be in presence of so many open hearts and exuding so much warmth.<br /> <br /> &nbsp;... Anonymous Wed, 24 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700