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We're all just walking each other home. --Ram Dass

An Unexpected Friend at Our Awakin Circle

--by Neeti S W, syndicated from servicespace.org, Oct 13, 2017
It was yet another Tuesday. My favorite day of the week, since its Awakin Day for our local community on the outskirts of Pune.

As is my regular practice, I finish up cooking in the first half of the day, then tidy up the kitchen, and close with the rest of the daily chores. On this day, 10 people had RSVP'd and everything was planned accordingly.

Then, at 4PM, I got a call from an attendee saying that seven extra visitors from Chandigarh would be coming! I was flustered by the news -- what would I do now? It was already past 4PM and I wasn't sure how to cook for seven more people. I tried to still my mind, and just then my neighbor Chumiki (also a regular at Awakin) called me and said, "Can I make pulav (a rice dish) for the evening?" It was as if the universe was listening in. I tell her, "Yes of course!" And gave her the new head count.

Our circle begins with an hour of silence. At the end of the hour as we open our eyes, the room is filled with the many unfamiliar (yet familiar) faces of the people who have silently tip toed in throughout the evening. We read the passage, Enlightenment is Intimacy with All Things, in English and Hindi and our sharing starts. As the talking stick passes, each one shares for a little bit. Until the stick arrives at the hands of first-time guest, who seems to be about 25 years old.

He slowly takes a deep breath and looks at each one of us intensely and starts his sharing, "I am new here, and I don’t really know how I reached here. But today, after sitting in silence for an hour, I feel like I've entered a safe space. I want to share some things that have been bottled up inside me for many years. I'd never shared this with anybody before."

With a lot of sincerity, he continued. "I lost my mother when I was 4 hours old, right after I was born. I don't have a father either. He's alive but he was an assassin, so I've erased him from my memory. I dropped out of school, became a womanizer, and a drug addict. You name a drug and I've done it. Sometimes I've even eaten food out of trash cans that a dog would eat from. When I look at my life, I see that I have done all kinds of unwholesome and terrible things."

After sharing some more details, he adds, "I wonder what makes you all trust a person like me at this gathering, how can you trust and open doors for someone who is carrying the burden of his past garbage?"

The room listened to him in stunned silence. As the host, I felt like I had to do something, but wasn't sure what. I quietly prayed to my inspirations, asking to be guided to do the right thing. Suddenly, I heard myself saying, "Let's hold a minute of silence while holding each other’s hands."

It felt like a very long minute. I could hear a silent chorus emanating from every heart in the circle, "Loka samastha sukhino bhavantu." (May all creation abide in deep peace.)

Unstoppable tears flowed from this young man's eyes for the rest of the session.

As soon as the sharing ended and just before the circle broke for dinner, everyone lined up to give him an individual hug. For the rest of the evening, his cup overflowing with gratitude for each one.

I'm reminded of a quote Sheetal, (one of our community lights) often shares, "We're all just walking each other home."  

Neeti Walavalkar is a ServiceSpace volunteer and host of an Awakin Circle in Pune, India. Awakin circles started when three friends got together in 1996 to sit in silence, every Wednesday, in an ordinary living room in Silicon Valley. Instead of closing the door, they left it open ... to all. The rest, as they say, is history


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