Friday, June 28, 2019

The heart is the true kabba:)

Before we started our walk we went to Brahma Vidhya mandir, Pavnar to seek blessings from the elders some of whom have walked thousands of kilometers as part of the land gift movement along with Vinoba Bhave. 

I remember having a conversation with Usha tai around ego and relationships. To expand on the idea she shared about one of the practices that they follow in the ashram, Sarvanumati i.e consent of all. This meant from the smallest to bigger decisions all were made only after each and everyone in the ashram comes to the consensus. There are thirty of them living in the ashram for many years practicing the same principle.

She explained further with an example saying, “If I want to conduct a workshop at the ashram, the proposal will be put across everyone in a meeting. If everyone agrees to it, I will go ahead. But if there is even one person who is not willing to have that workshop, the event will be kept on standby. Unlike the majority where 51% wins against 49% which happens in a democracy. 49% is equivalent to zero. But in the case of Sarvanumati even if 99% of people agree to one thing, 1% view is equally taken into consideration because each one matters."

We asked her how do you feel when your project or something that you really want to do is kept on standby or is told no?
She very gracefully answered asking us, “what matters more “my project” or my love for the other person who is saying a no? Yes, to some extent my ego will feel bad because there is an “I” associated with “my project” but if I am able to extend my boundaries of love for the other person the “I” really doesn’t matter.”

Here is a small note by Vinoba ji that I found on ways and means to bring consensus and the difference between Sarvanumati and Sarva sammati.

On that note, SheelaTai in a different conversation said something equally powerful. She said no matters what happens but don’t break someone's heart. It is a very sacred place and it reminded me of a poem by Rumi which says:

Circle the Kaaba of the heart
If you possess a heart.

The heart is the true Kaaba,
The other is just a stone.
God enjoined the ritual
Of circling the formal Kaaba
As a way for you to find a heart.
But if your feet walk
Around the Kaaba a thousand times,
And yet you injure a heart,
Do you expect to be accepted?

Just thinking how would the world be if we looked at each heart as Kaaba, as a place of pilgrimage:)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

I am the Universe

In my dreamlike state, I had always imagined myself sleeping under a tree with the sky hanging up. On the fourteenth day of the moon cycle, my wish comes true.

I lie down on the ground under which lies a web of strong roots. Some ants are busy collecting their food.

I can see the moon peeping from the roots hanging down from the banyan branch; reminding me of ‘change’ being the only ‘constant’ yet looking at it is bringing some stillness in me.

I hear crickets rubbing their legs to create symphony around me.

The leaves gently dancing as the wind comes to greet me.

The cow is making her presence felt by ringing the bells tied around her neck.

Meanwhile, I hear the dogs barking far in the dark old corners of the fields. 

The night has engulfed the light so I can’t see the river flowing beside me. But I still know she is there with me.
Likewise, there is so much that I cannot see but it’s all inside me; the leaf, the ant, the roots, the star, the earth, the moon, and the river. Every unit is part of me.

I am the universe. The universe is in me. The universe is me.   

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Extending the gift of presence:)

There are a few events which you feel like rewinding and this was one of them. As we were walking on the highway we saw a dog stumbling with a car. The car driver did not stop. Meanwhile, a teenage boy came running towards the dog and held him in his arms as if holding a small baby and started running towards his home. Midway we saw him pausing and placing the dog on the road.

Swara asked me if I would want to go to the kid and I said yes. The kid kept holding his tears while looking at his dead dog. Meanwhile, the boy's grandmother came running in our direction and started scolding him for carrying his dead dog home and for all the time and love that he had invested behind the dog. More family members joined in the chaos. At the back of my mind, I had flashes of a few deaths that I witnessed and how the social chaos did not let me get in touch with how I was feeling. It had taken a few years to connect and listen to that voice again and make peace with it.

In between the grandmother looked at us and identified us as parikrama-vasi so she invited us for tea at her place but we denied her invitation for the time being and kept standing with the boy and the dog. Swara intertwined the chaos and asked the boy if he wanted to pray for a few minutes for his dog. Tears kept flowing while we held hands and prayed in silence. I could feel the pain of death, my own attachments, pain for lack of space for expression, and for being vulnerable.

One of the family members gave him a washed shirt as there were bloodstains on his cloth. He silently changed it. His mother asked him to go after the buffaloes whom he had left in the farm so that they don't eat away the harvest. With a heavy heart and a little hesitation to leave the dog, he started walking towards his buffaloes. Before we left that spot Swara asked him if he wanted to cremate his dog but he denied, partly because of the social pressure I assume. We saw him slowly walking in the direction of his buffalo as we started heading towards the highway.

We looked into our bags if we had something to share with the kid and we found some grapes that someone had given us in the morning. Swara went to him and shared it along with a few pocket change that she had and told him to do some act of kindness with that money. Before leaving she extended a big hug to him. 

When Swara started walking towards me the boy called her and started checking his pockets. Swara thought he would be giving back the money. Instead, he took out the two ice candies that he had got for him and his younger brother and shared it with her saying one is for her and one is for your sister:) I was witnessing this beautiful moment from a distance and this time it was tears of love that were flowing from our eyes. We knew how priceless those ice-candies were for the child and to witness his giving especially when he had lost something very close to his heart was invaluable. We were walking one of the driest patches without a single tree on the road on a sunny morning. This encounter with the little kid made our hearts drenched with unconditional love and was reminded of this song that Arun dada sings which has a line saying, “Ankho ma pani to have ne jai nathe bhetar bhinash thate oche”. (Water in the eyes comes and goes. But the moistness within never dries)    

While reflecting on what just happened in the last hour, I realized, I might have witnessed the accident, maybe prayed, and silently walked ahead. It was a gift that my co-pilgrim extended to me because of which I experienced the power of presence. I was thinking in the later years if the boy might remember us. Not sure of that but I would at least make an attempt to pause and share my presence next time. Grateful to my co-pilgrim for being the torchlight; where my consciousness ends, she gently shows me a step further:)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Mother

dear friend shared this song with us in the middle of our pilgrimage. And I feel so grateful to her because this song felt as an expression of our unsaid experience of being carried by some unknown yet a known force gently across the rivers, ocean, mountains, thorny roads, marshy land, and thick forest trails.

If asked, how would you describe the smell of the wildflowers or the breeze touching your eyes or the smile of a newborn child? How would you describe the love that you have received from your mother? I might be able to share her actions or say her "doing" part but not the essence of her "being" and the omnipresent love that I feel at all times. Likewise, it is hard to put in words the unconditional love, care, and compassion that wraps us day and night. 

As the artist shares, this song is a dedication to the feminine, to birthing, to compassion, love, to mother nature,  mother earth, mother Reva, to all the mothers before me, to all the mothers after me and to all the mothers around me.   
"She is a boat, she is a light
High on a hill in dark of night
She is a wave, she is the deep
She is the dark where angels sleep
When all is still and peace abides
She carries me to the other side,
She carries me to the other side...

And though I walk through valleys deep
And shadows chase me in my sleep
On rocky cliffs, I stand alone
I have no name, I have no home
With broken wings, I reach to fly
She carries me to the other side,
She carries me to the other side...

A thousand arms, a thousand eyes
A thousand ears to hear my cries
She is the gate, she is the door
She leads me through and back once more
When day has dawned and death is nigh
She'll carry me to the other side,
She carries me to the other side...

She is the first, she is the last
She is the future and the past,
Mother of all, of earth and sky
She carries me to the other side,
She carries me to the other side..."

p.s- We even have a version of this song by Rev. Heng Sure

Friday, May 24, 2019

Sometimes it is like this, Sometimes it is like that

Today morning while walking on the highway I saw trees on both the side of the road making a canopy above us. My mind said, oh! I don’t need trees now. This patch should have come in the afternoon when the temperature is at its peak. 

Likewise there are days when we are offered meals more then once while on some days we would just have a packet of biscuit. It was interesting how during our afternoon breaks we would be invited by extremely warm host families who would even request us to stay for the day. Its tempting to accept the request as evenings would be a difficult time for us to find secure and safe space to stay the night. I hear my tired mind say where do these warm hosts vanish after sun set. 

This mindset was taking me away from being in the present moment, from embracing the gifts that I had in the now. 

And it was latter that I realised that this pilgrimage was all about being in the present. As soon as I was finding comfort or attachment with a person, place or thing, it was time to move on. Attachment with the past was bringing suffering for the future.  

So the next time when the cloud came in front of the Sun to give us a little shade, or a child came running giving us a smile, or we took a little longer route we remembered Kanti dada and with gratitude started singing

"Game game game life is a game. 
We came crying crying 
We shall go laughing laughing 
Sometimes it is like this, sometimes it is like that 
Game game game life is a game"

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Share some change :)

We hear a voice calling us from the other side of the road and when we pause we see this old grandfather waving his hand. We cross the road and greeted him. Narmade har!!

He started searching for something in his pocket. We asked him what was he looking for? He replied by in return asking us if we had three rupees change. We checked our pockets and found a ten rupee note which we gave him. He returned us the note and kept checking all his pockets. In the meanwhile Swara dropped a fifty rupee note in his upper pocket not sure if it was to tag him or so that he can give that to us.  

He kept looking for about five minutes. Swara asked him to check his upper pocket that’s when the neighbor said that he can’t listen because of old age. Finally he nods saying he can’t find it. He wanted to give us some money because we were pilgrims.

We tell him to just bless us and he smiles and shares his blessings. In a local dialect he shared that he has also done the pilgrimage. When I showed him his picture on my phone he laughed out loudly and waived us goodbye. 

We remembered our grandfather who would give us not more then five rupees during Diwali. Jokingly I told Swara that even if he would have found the fifty rupee note he would have asked for forty eight rupees change:) 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Endless Love of Sakhi's

Few days ago we met these extraordinary grannies in a village. After crossing a little stream, trekking a rocky hill and walking through few farms we reached Bel Gau. As we were walking through the village we found a little space (otlo) to sit. We sat there for some rest, water and snacks.

There were friendly nods and greetings with people passing by. We shared snacks with kids. They suggested that we can go to the nearby temple where they serve food in sometime. There wasn’t any laziness or resistance but we didn’t get up. We kept sitting. In the middle of all this a granny invited us to her home for a cup of black tea. And both of us just started walking with her. She was coughing badly as she was leading the way.

She said I will call my friends to meet you. All of us did parikrama few years back and they will be very happy to meet you. One by one the grannies started coming and they referred each other as “Sakhi” which means friend. There was joy and deep respect they had for each other which was so subtle.

At one point while we were sharing, I looked at one of them who was listening with her complete presence. I could feel that. The stillness and her presence made me feel so alive and quiet as if you are in a forest or in front of a mountain. We rested there for sometime and when I woke up, I felt I was in the company of these extraordinary angels.

One of the grannies sat with us for sometime and then she gently asked us if she could go to her farm for sometime. She promised she will come back soon. We hugged her and waived good bye. Later in the afternoon she brought us fresh carrots from her farm :)

Some of the distinct qualities that they shared was respect for each other, deep listening and sharing of good things that anyone encountered. All of them were farmers which means hard work each day round the year.

In just s few hours we got to see a little glimpse to their way of life, the quality of their presence and the universal love from a mothers heart. A gang of eight women came with us for half a kilometre just to say good bye. When we were walking with them we could sense courage, strength and oneness beaming from each soul. We kept telling them to return as few of them were not wearing their chappals (shoes) but they continued walking. While we hugged and asked for blessings they kept holding back their tears and shared words and blessings giving us courage and strength for our journey ahead. It was an immense gift to receive these subtle gifts in multiple forms.

Nishkam Seva (Selfless Service)

As we were getting closer to Amarkanthak a bunch of us got an invitation for black tea. It was an unexpected yet a pleasant invitation as the man who was serving us tea had his shelter almost in the middle of a forest with hardly any people living around.

He asked us to follow the orange sign boards as we walk further into the forest. He showed us a sample sign board we were meant to follow. We got curious as we had seen these boards in some of the remotest places.

We had all these questions -Was it a group of people? Or the nearby villagers? Who puts up these little markers?

We asked him if he knew who made them. He said for eight months I serve all the pilgrims here with tea, food and shelter and the other four months when they are not walking due to rains I paint these boards, take some nails, select an area, cycle and put them up. He has been doing this for 12 years. What an invisible act of kindness!!! We bowed to him to share our gratitude and even shared how every time we would see the board part of us said thank you and part of us thought that whoever has done this must be crazy:) It was such a joyous moment for us to finally meet one of the faces of the one who has put so much effort just so that thousands of pilgrims who are walking do not loose their way. He has placed sign boards in the forests, hills, near river beds and few roads.

Like wise we spotted this earthen pot filled with water under a shady tree. The water must be quenching thirst of so many like us. When I looked around there were only farms which meant someone had put an effort to bring water from a distance. Yet there was no one whom we could thank in person. We just closed our eyes, shared our gratitude and walked with the seed thought of Nishkam Seva (Selfless Service.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Muddy roads and wild flowers

I feel as we transit from a four lane highway to double lane to the mud road passing by from a village we see the connection between people also transitioning. The more efficient the road, lesser is the probability of connection.

After finishing our morning part of the walk, we were sitting outside a mud house to rest for sometime and were reflecting on a few things. We noticed a few women looking at us with inquisitive eyes. While children were busy eating oranges and dates that we shared with them the adults were still holding that inquiry from a distance.

One woman sat a few feet away and kept looking at us. I could feel a constant gaze which was making me a little uncomfortable. We took a pause in our conversation and thought about connecting with her. We shared some fruits and waited for her to ask us something. But instead she just kept looking at us. So, we continued our conversation. We again asked her if she needed anything and she nodded in silence, indicating she did not want anything.

I felt so conscious that I could not eat or continue the conversation. I started creating a mental wall as I felt there was intrusion into the so called “my space”. I asked Swara if this kind of behaviour was intruding or say not courteous. She gave me a very different perspective to this. She said it’s not intrusion it’s their way to connect to strangers walking by from their village. It’s their way to care by just sitting and sharing their presence. Despite of not wanting anything they are giving their time and attention capital.

My understanding to this perspective deepened when we were walking on a four lane highway taking us to a big city. From my past experience of the last four months I knew finding shelter in a bigger place was always difficult. We thought of approaching a few homes before the city began. We were asked a few questions about our whereabouts. Even in villages we come across these questions, but in a city we feel there is a certain sense of mistrust and so we continued to walk further.

As we were walking towards the city Swara on a lighter note asked a few teenagers who were walking by our side if we could stay at their place to which they very genuinely shared that we cannot as the elders in their family consume alcohol and it won’t be safe for us. Interestingly they suggested that we could go to the railway station and sleep on the platform. They thought that would be a rather safe place for us:)

That day we must have crossed over fifty people but we hardly made an eye contact. We were hardly noticed in the big town, which was contrary to a small village. Despite of so many people being around, I felt lost. I felt vulnerable as we were struggling to find the right place to spend the night. It took me back to my urban upbringing where I would have missed so many opportunities to connect.

Both of us checked in with each other how were we feeling and interestingly while part of me was feeling vulnerable, part of me was even surrendering to the higher design. I told Swara that the mother has kept a place for all the pilgrims. We need to keep walking till we reach where we are meant to reach. And I could sense that the trust in the higher design shifted something in me. I think that something is the sense of certainty, the knowing. But pilgrimage is all about emergence:)

As we kept walking we finally found that place via a gentleman who showed us the way to the nearby temple. He came with us just to make sure we end up at the right place meanwhile we spotted a Gurudwara. We asked if we could stay there and that was our night shelter. This place felt like an oasis in the middle of the city. We soaking in the peace and pious environment of the space. While we were sitting on this side of the gate that side felt a little scary despite of being part of it for years.

Few questions that I am holding for now is have I made a distinction between these two worlds? What do I change inside me to merge both the worlds together? How do I keep alive the oasis inside me to nourish my surroundings?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Invitation of healing in disguise

Last week while we were walking one afternoon, I noticed a red car passing by and I felt that they might stop and talk to us. While I took a break under the shade of a tree Swara came to me and handed me a packet of biscuits and roasted chickpeas. She said two monks stopped by in a red car and gave it to her. She added, that they saw me and felt that I wasn’t okay so they went a few kilometres just to bring some food for us to eat. 

It’s interesting how we connect. Like there were many cars moving on the road but somehow I noticed the red car and connected to the people sitting inside. One of the monks said that we would be passing by his ashram in a few days and if we wish we can stop by.    

The monk spots us again after three days while we were having fruit break. We shared smiles, bananas and gratitude for their kind gesture on that sunny afternoon. He warmly invited us to stay for a day with him and his sister who had just finished her third parikrama. And for the first few minutes we kept convincing him of how we had to walk 25 km that day and we had just just begun the walk. Finally we set a deal of having tea together after which we would leave. He partially agreed to it and took our bags in his car just so that we could walk without the weight of bags for a few kilometres.

His ashram was next to Narmada river at Sahastradhara. Green, clean and silent. Lalita di welcomed us with her warmest smile and she exchanged her experiences from her recent parikrama over tea. And they now convince us with more love to stay with them to which we couldn’t deny. Our minds took time to accept the “change” in the plan and that’s what pilgrimages are about. One has to let go and surrender to emergence which is difficult at times. 

Interestingly when my body knew that today we were no more walking it went into a repair mode. I started running fever and had some body ache and I knew it was time to just rest. Rest of the day while partly observing the sensations I realised how amazing our bodies are. Till the time I was on the road my body was all set to walk. As soon as I had a space to rest, it started repairing itself just so that I continue my journey in a wholesome way. 

In the evening while sitting with our host family tears of gratitude flowed for their invitation, space and uninterrupted presence that gave our bodies and mind the time to rest and heal. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Learning to look beyond

I saw two roads ahead of me but I avoided taking the shorter one, I spotted a butcher shop there. In the evening when both of us sat for our prayers Swara gave me a 10 rupee coin. She said a butcher after bowing gave it to her.

I realised it was the same place I had avoided going for two reasons. First, I was a little uncomfortable looking at the flesh and the caged birds and second a part of me was guilty of being a non-vegetarian some years ago. Between these two I missed the opportunity to connect to his goodness. 

He might not be earning much yet he thought of serving us on our pilgrimage. He was a non-hindu and this pilgrimage is mostly done by Hindus and yet he steeped into his generosity and went beyond the lines of religion. His act of serving helped me reflect on the judgement that I was holding and gave me that 'jai shree krishna' window. 

After placing the coin near the lamp, unknowingly, both of us silently prayed for him to someday move to the right kind of livelihood. During Vipassana course the teacher talks about Samyak Ajivika (Right Livelihood), where he says that any act that we perform should not harm any being directly or indirectly. I was even reminded of a conversation with Arun dada, where he said "rotli nani hase to chalse, kadi na hovi joiye" (let your bread be small but let it not be black).

The heart is the true kabba:)

Before we started our walk we went to  Brahma Vidhya mandir , Pavnar to seek blessings from the elders some of whom have walked thousands o...