Monday, November 20, 2006

[11-01] Akanksha Retreat

The three days went by in a blur. Before I knew it, I was sitting in the closing session where everyone was sharing their thoughts and feelings. One after another, the students expressed their gratitude and learning from the three days and I didn’t know how to react.

For three days, my focus was these participants. To make sure that each thing went smoothly, that they were receiving all that we had to offer. From adjusting the schedule to moving them around, they were all that I could see. I must have lapped around the Sughad campus over a hundred times over the course of the retreat, seeing what needed to be done and checking that things were ready, but never did it feel like a chore. I simply did what needed to be done.

What I heard at the last session blew me away. The participants were in tears because of the love and attention that they had received, from the fireworks at the initial welcome to the dolls at the end during Secret Angel reveal. I had forgotten the power of one’s first interaction with Manav Sadhna and Jayeshmama. But they had more to share about than just Jayeshmama and Manav Sadhna. They were also talking about me, about the love and care that they received. I was dumbfounded. A girl spoke of not having any sisters, but she received the love of a sister from me. Others would now always think of me when they heard Raghupati Raagav Raja Ram.

Nirali had given me the idea – wake them up with a prabhat pheri (going around and singing bhajans accompanied to soft music). I didn’t wake any of the MS volunteers, but Ellie woke to join me in the morning. We went around singing and putting our hands on each participant’s head to wake them up. Later the Manav Sadhna guys were complaining to me about the morning singing session, so the second day, I hesitated and ultimately, did not go around waking the participants by singing. But the one day was enough. My thick voice had been music to their ears. The experience of been woken up with so much love and positivity was something most would not forget. At the end of the retreat, they insisted on me singing Raghupati Raagav one more time.

After they gathered their belongings, we congregated in the front lobby- holding hands and standing in a circle. “Didi, you never sung the song,” they said right before we closed our eyes and prayed. When the last lines of Shanti were spoken, I took out the bookmarks (their parting gift) and went around the circle, singing Raghupati Raagav Raja Ram. The group joined in and waited as they received their momento. Earlier that day, Jayeshmama, Nirali and I were thinking of how to close the retreat. A bowing walk amidst other things were suggested, ultimately we decided to see what happens. None of the ideas was used. What we did was simple and beautiful, there could not have been a more appropriate way to end.

Before the retreat, I had been in a negative space for some time and was slowly coming out of it. The retreat gave me a focus and an opportunity to submerge myself in something outside of myself. At one point, during the planning, I had thought why did Jayeshmama give me this to coordinate- I didn’t know how to do a spiritual dinner and they are so many MS folks who have been through a spiritually oriented MS retreat, so why me. I simply wanted the retreat to be over, so I could work on my other projects. Ultimately, I understood.

I had not done anything intentionally over the three days. I sat with the students, talked about my own experiences and listened to theirs. My job was to make sure they were getting all that they needed and that’s what I did. There was no conscious thought process that led me to think that now I will selflessly serve. It just happened. By submerging myself in the moment, I was able to give everything I had, which included my love. I only realized that what I had selflessly serviced after the fact when others, who I highly respect, brought it to my attention.

The learnings from the retreat by no means were one-way. Each Manav Sadhna worker walked away learning something from the interaction as well. I personally, realized, yet again, the importance of all the small details as I saw and heard the impact they had on the participants. People from Manav Sadhna found the inspiration to improve their English and other skills sets. If not all, atleast a few Akanksha students and teachers left Ahmedabad with a different perspective on life, self and seva. In three days, so many preconceptions and ideas were thrown out the window. Some really began to learn the power of love, the heart and selfless service.

1 comment:

viral said...

great reflections -- thanks heena! :-)