Archive for July, 2009

July 31, 2009

Sitting in an internet cafe in the town of Bir, Himachal Pradesh and wondering what I can blog about in 5 minutes before heading back to the monastery for dinner. We are in our last few days of InSPIRE and I am in utter disbelief. These 5 weeks have gone by so fast yet so slow – I guess that’s what happens when you wake up before 7am every morning.  I’ll write more about the whole experience when I get home but let me tell you a little bit about what we have been doing here. We came here to take part in a workshop called “Jeevan Vidya” – it’s basically an approach to life and existence. It was honestly really difficult to going from 4 whirlwind weeks to 7 days of mostly sitting and listening. I had a hard time getting into the subject matter because it was so vague and so dense but I think in retrospect I did learn from it. It made me question what I consider “reality” and really made me think about my own assumptions and pre-conditioning as a result of society, status, family, etc. So we did that for about 7 days and now we are doing some closing and reflection activities.

I can’t stop talking about how incredibly beautiful this place is. We are in the foothills of the Himalayas – about 5000 ft. up and the weather is perfect (even when it rains unexpectedly). One morning a few of us woke up at 4:30am to hike up to these nearby waterfalls. It was such an adventure – 2 dogs from the town followed us and basically served as our guides, we hiked through a leech infested area (but not before de-briefing about them first) and ended up with harmless but digusting bites all over us, we bathed in a freezing cold stream with no regard for “decency” (….well….there was nobody around so that made it easier), we experienced a slice of the twilight zone when we stuck our heads into a tiny waterfall and were able to open our eyes and see through the tunnel that was created, and we hiked back home in the POURING rain and waded through the newly flooded path that we had come on. It was, in one word, AMAZING. If you haven’t realized yet, that is my favorite descriptive word and I am in dire need of synonoms. 🙂

We have also been doing some general reflection, program overview, and planning for our closing ceremonies in Delhi.

I am feeling and thinking so much and I’m really excited about coming home and implementing some changes in my life. Small changes, yes. But important ones. I’ve finally realized that change really does start with you and me. I threw that phrase around before thinking that I believed it but I guess I didn’t believe it 100%. It is sometimes really discouraging to stand up for something you believe in and feel like it’s futile because you are only one person and what does that really mean in the grand scheme of things? But really, it’s basic math. 🙂 ONE > ZERO. And that makes it wothwhile.

Enough for now. Time to walk back up to the monastery for dinner (the food there is delicious so I’m eager to go 🙂 )

Love to all.

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July 22, 2009

I never want to stop learning

So I’m sitting in an internet cafe in Delhi trying to think of a way to sum up the past 3 weeks in a blog post but I can’t. I don’t even know how to explain it to myself. We have a bit of free time today and then we will be on an overnight bus to the Deer Park Institute in Bir, Himachal Pradesh.

I don’t want to just list off the things I’ve done, post a few pictures and have it end at that. I want to express what I have learned and I want you to challenge me and question me.

– In Ahemdabad I learned that those who we dismiss as “impoverished”  have a name, a face, and a beautiful spirit. I learned this from going rag picking with Kankuben, wakling into rich people’s houses with Champaben to clean their floors, cuddling up at night with Poonam a beautiful girl who lives in the slums of Abad and telling bedtime stories. In the village of  Sarsavadi I learned the true meaning of hspitality and community.  And I learned that village dogs are the scariest dogs I have ever encountered in my life.

– In Adharshila Learning Center, an alternative school for Adivasi (tribal) children in Madhya Pradesh I learned about the struggles of the Adivasi in Inidia, the merits of alternative education systems, and about true passion and committment from Amitbhaiya and Jayshreedidi who run the place.

– In Kakrana, MP I questioned my own notion of “development” when we saw the stagnant water created by the Narmada Dam Project. What was once a flowing river is now a reservoir….but at what cost? The farmer we spoke to says his land will be submerged soon by expansion of the dam….land that him and his family have lived on for hundreds of years. We are not only destroying land but culture as well. But isn’t development necessary? Doesn’t a dam provide electricty and water to people who need it? Is this a short term loss that we need to incur to benefit us in the long run?

– At Futane farm near Nagpur I learned about more than just organic farming practices. I thoguht deeply about where my food comes from and where it goes.  I learned about tubers, rice, mangos, bamboo, and the weeds that plague them. I learned about love and committment from the Futane family who run the farm. And sometimes…I just played with Paniti….the cutest baby in the entire world.

-At Vinoba Bhave’s ashram I learned strength from the women who live there as part of the Brahma Vidhya Mandhir. I left in awe of their spirit and a yearning to experience Ashram life….but I didn’t leave with the strength to actually do it.

– In Delhi I have learned so much in just 2 days that I don’t think I’m ready to process it. We went on a night wakl with Jamghat an organization that works with street kids. We went on an early morning wakl to witness the destruction that is being done to the Yamuna River…by us. By me…every time I flush a toilet.

– Every day I gain new appreciation for the power of music ion my life. Yesterday we had a jam sesssion with kids from Manzil and it honestly felt like one of those momenst of blissful happiness.

– I have learned to love each and every single person I am traveling with. There are 20 of us now (6 coordinators, 12 participants, and 2 new additions from Australia) and I could not imagine this trip without them.

I never want to stop learning. However…I do have to stop writing. Time is up in this Internet cafe. I’ll be home no August 13th and would love to see all of you. Karma Kitchen on Sunday anyone?

Please excuse my spelling mistakes.No time for spell checking in a stream of consciousness. And this keyboard is sticking. 🙂