Samanvay September 2019
9.30am, day 1 of the Samanvay retreat. In few minutes we are going to meet near the peace pole to start our retreat with a gratitude walk. I come to Maitri hall to check last minute details and that’s when my gaze went towards the pictures displayed in the wall. Pictures of last ten years of retreats, moments that sometimes felt blurred but now came alive through these pictures, so many smiling faces, strangers who became friends and then again went back to their worlds, just like birds traveling from far, resting together in this beautiful tree of Maitri before flying back in various directions taking the fragrance with them. Rangolis and decorations in the centre reflecting unity in our diversity. And it suddenly occurred to me this is what I have earned in last ten years in my time in Ahmedabad. These memories are my true assets. The feeling to be part of all these experiments of love is quite humbling and uplifting.
So here I was in another of these circles in Maitri space, Esi, Sughad. Forms have changed and yet the spirit has always been the same. A humbling effort to connect one heart with another.
This is our 5th Samanvay retreat. It started with an intention to invite people working in social work or engaged in some experiments of service that they offer to community as a gift. In total we had 30 participants and 10 volunteers. Day started with gratitude walk from peace pole and then three hour listening circle. Participants shared about the gifts in their lives. Many personal stories were shared, many hearts were bared opened, our vulnerabilities brought us closer and through each other we also found our strengths. Listening could be an act of love, we truly realized then.
In the center of the circle we had kept a papaya, which we had received as a gift a day before from Vasant dada. This 90 year old Gandhian for last 50 years has been saving almost every single seed from the fruits he ate. He would make saplings of the same and then offered it to the community as a gift. Living a life of self sustainability, his needs very extremely low and heart abundantly generous. Invitation to the group was to reflect on fruits we have received and the seeds of intention we are planting today for our next generation.
Vasant dada offering his seeds
Post lunch we had a presentation shared by Pratyush on exploring Maitri in today’s time. ‘Tantra’ or the tools have changed but the essence remains eternal. Through several examples and stories he shared about tools and practices by individuals, groups and larger society ( vyaktigat, samuhik, samajik sadhna). Followed by discussions in smaller circles helped go deeper in exploring these questions in our personal contexts.
In the next two days as we spent time together in seva cafe, Gandhi Ashram and Esi, our understanding and experience of our interconnectedness deepened. I was reminded of a quote shared by Pratyush told to him by a monk once, “at some point you have to understand nothing is yours, nothing belongs to you but you belong to everyone.”
So with that space of belongingness and in effort to see ourselves in each other, we meet again and again. Sometime in a form of these gatherings or sometimes simply on our path meeting each other with a glance.
We parted by taking a seed each from Vasant dada with a resolve to spread the fragrance of Maitri through us.