Two Saturdays ago, nearly forty people came together in Princeton, NJ, for the quarterly east coast Awakin Super Soul Saturday to meditate, reflect, and be with each other, in mindfulness and joy. This time, we were blessed with Nipun’s presence, and he became our special guest for the evening session.
The theme for the retreat was ‘Cultivating a Mindset of Abundance’, where we explored the multi-dimensional aspects around the fears and feelings associated with abundance. How can cultivating a mindset of abundance change the way we view our lives? In what ways are we challenged to do this, and how can we address those challenges? What does cultivation of this shift offer to the rest of the world? Why is it beneficial to consider this thought process as we live our lives?
Welcome and circle of sharing
The day began with hugs and laughter – almost like a ‘welcome home’ celebration. After we sat down in a circle, we settled into an hour of meditation. The circle was opened by Amit, who shared a passage, A Fine Day, by our very own Guri Mehta, on her journey of finding what that perfect day would look like. It led to some reflections around how each of us find inspiration (or face challenges) in our day, on our quest to living abundantly.
Charlie reflected on how told of a story of a small act of kindness led to a ripple effect of something greater – a charity that he supports provided seeds to those in need. He later found out that this story reached an employee at a seed company, who mobilized his company’s leadership to make seed distribution to the poor a part of their mission. Mani told a story of how he had been provided an umbrella by a stranger on the street when it began raining, as he was heading to a yoga class; his take-away was to always carry extra umbrellas for those who get caught in the rain. In an interesting twist, Danny reminded us (through wisdom from his Irish heritage) that we are never alone in this magical world – that there are other beings who are always there with us, and that the synchronicities remind us that we can manifest anything. Kavita reminded us of how being in nature, she is reminded of abundance. Ashish provided a story about his young daughter, Kiki, who was given money for food at school, but selflessly shared it with her friend at school, without telling her parents until she was asked. It made me reflect on how much better the world would be, if we all had the child-like mindset of fearlessness and generosity.
Group reflection –the ‘fishbowl’ experiment
Chris shared that Danny, Alyssa, Chi, and Ashish made up the inner fishbowl, blessing us with their truth-telling. The outer circle held space, reciprocating with active attention. The word *enough* emerged as a key word, with the questions following the arc of “how do you know when you have enough?” to “how do you stay open and maintain a mindset of service to the degree you want to in moments when you might feel there isn’t actually enough?” to finally, “do you feel you are enough?” That last one inspired by a Carl Rogers mantra he created for himself: “What I am is enough, if only I can be it openly.” Once again, the inner fishbowl shared openly and from their hearts: abundantly you might say (including an “abundance of tears” :)), and the outer circle resonated like tuning forks afterwards. At one point, Danny shared a fitting excerpt from D.H. Lawrence:
When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego,
and when we escape
like squirrels in the cage of our personality
and get into the forest again, we shall shiver
with cold and fright.
But things will happen to us
so that we don’t know ourselves.
Walking meditation – experiencing abundance in nature
Anne Marie reflected on our walk outside on the Princeton ‘Camino’ :). When it came time for our walking meditation, Mother Nature couldn’t have given us better conditions. The sky was blue, the sun shining on our face, the ground drying up from the massive downpour of rain only a day or two before, and the grass and leaves could not have been more green. We started by coming together in a circle, opening with the short poem below, titled: “Lost” by David Wagoner.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it ﬁnd you.
Shail and Sarika then asked us to be aware of Mother Nature’s gifts and how we can truly find abundance in nature, that she will always nurture/heal our beings and provide for us, so long we treat her well and are we are kind her. Thereafter, before we began our walk we were asked to pay full attention to our steps. To be mindful of our breath. We were to walk slowly so that we could establish ourselves mindfully with in each step, and find peace and balance. Our intention could be for example to bring our focus to each breath or even say words such as “I am here” or “thank you” as we walked.
For many, it was indeed a way to connect mind with body, to appreciate the beauty around us. Many of us even walked barefoot in the grass as to connect with the ground underneath our feet. For Chi, there was a special moment noticing how even the light branches of a tree will bend and hold the birds that come to take a moments rest on it. To some people, what could have been seen as just “weeds”, in Charlie’s eyes became a beautiful small bouquet of flowers. At the end of the day, that same bouquet became our “talking stick” that got passed around for our final circle of sharing. It was another sign that nature truly does provide wonderful gifts in so many blessed ways, so long we take a moment and are aware enough to notice.
By the end of the walk, we once again came back to our sacred circle outside on the front lawn, underneath a majestic big tree. We were led in a song, started off by Sarika, and then huddled together thereafter for a warm and cozy group hug and photo! If only every day one had the chance to walk mindfully with such beautiful individuals!!! J
Writing exercise – exploring the power gratitude
When we came back from our walk, Joel led a fun and interesting writing exercise. We reflected deeply on such questions as, “What is the smallest gift you have ever received?”; after thinking about that for a while , we switched gears. “Now, what is the largest gift you received?” The writing exercise continued to unfold, as the group began to write and reflect on how certain gifts have changed their lives; and how we can offer small tokens of love to others, leading to a beautiful, subtle, ripple effect. The next part of the exercise, which flowed naturally, was one on gratitude, and the power of that vibration in manifesting abundance in our life. Anne Marie shared a story on how, when she was feeling sad and depressed for a period of time, she was gifted a kitten by her friends. While taking care of the little furry being, she was reminded her of the magical life force inside of her and the unending possibilities of joy in the small things in life.
Closing remarks, setting intentions and final thoughts
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~ T.S. Eliot
Each of our journeys for the day began in silence, and we explored abundance and scarcity together. In the opening share, Chi, described how when she entered the retreat, she was disinfected with love through all the warm hugs. After the day of meditations, loving food, mindful walks and vulnerable shares and reflections, we were all disinfected with love.
In our final shares, it seemed like we each were shining light vulnerably on our journeys throughout the day. Chi recollected seeing a mother bird and her chicks land on a thin branch during the walking meditation. The thin branch kept bending and bending, but the children flocked to the branch and allowed the tree to hold them up. The branch was thin, but the birds trusted that if they landed, that they would be supported. There was an abundance of faith. Gita shared about her feelings of gratitude for the many things that brought her to the retreat. Charlie shared about allowing the conditions for grace to manifest. And, William shared about countering aggression and delusion in the world with intense love. Kirit reminded us that the concept of scarcity is something embedded in our mind-set; that we can shift this way of thinking. Surabhi’s breakthrough from the day was on vulnerability of the heart – and how it leads to deeper connections and beautiful possibilities to emerge.
Someone described the feeling in the room best, “even though you can’t see the wind, you can feel it.” In the smiling faces, the warm hugs, and the energy in the room — we could see and feel: abundance.
Evening session – A dialogue with Nipun Mehta
Birju shares: After the ‘formal’ activities for the day were complete (and we were all treated to a fantastic dinner!), we had the rare opportunity to have an informal group dialogue with ServiceSpace’s founder, Nipun Mehta. I say rare because the format was around Q&A and Nipun was gracious enough to speak to questions in a group setting, which seldom happens!
A few themes emerged from the conversation – the concept of ‘high bandwidth’ service and the strength that comes from letting go.
On the former side, the idea of serving towards building awareness or maximizing impact was juxtaposed to serving to facilitate the inner transformation of all parties involved. In this case, when I say ‘inner transformation’, I’m referring to a shift in worldview and personal narrative going from me-centered to we-centered. Of course, the best of all worlds is to address all three elements simultaneously, but the point was made that transformation is sometimes left out of that equation (and it’s a very key component). From that perspective, offering of oneself in order to create the conditions for transformation can be seen as a very ‘high bandwidth’ form of service as the effects are all encompassing across multiple dimensions.
On Nipun’s latter point of ‘letting go’ – There were a few stories shared of people who have made open-ended commitments to serving others and the thinking is that there is strength in that process of committing to service forever. Beyond this, the concept of slowly letting go started to come through as Nipun mentioned his recent intention to let go of desserts for the year! The idea isn’t to force oneself to let go, but to use the action (no sweets in this case) as a driver to look inward and remind oneself of the strength that comes from keeping the mind stilled rather than chasing sweet things 🙂
Photographs: For more photographs by our lovely photographer, Krishan Patel, please go here.