One Man’s Fence is Another Man’s Clothes Line

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“You see the yellow rope all around the area;
you see the garden bed by my feet, that has been specifically prepared and which stands out like Denzel Washington at a Ku Klux Klan meeting …
but you still walk under the rope and trample on the beds that have rice seeds I planted only yesterday?!!!”

This is the stuff we deal with out here.

There’s only David and myself, looking after about 2500 square meters of farm land;
we’re clearing tropical thicket, digging, landscaping, preparing beds, mulching, composting, planting, protecting, pollinating, watering, weeding etc. etc. etc.
6 hours a day.
And then we have neighbouring farmer’s cows and water buffalo and dogs to deal with …
and we’re only still learning to understand the climate and pests of this sub tropical area in Kerala India …
And if this is not enough, today I found builders trampling my new rice patch to shit!
And when I questioned them, their answer was pure innocence.

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What About The Water …?

I gave you some water …
Did you return it?
Did you feel in debt to me?
Did you make a mental note, saying “I must repay this.”

Water. Without it, we die. In a matter of days. To receive water is – literally … no exaggeration – a gift of life.

I gave you some water … did you return it?
No?
What about that money I gave you …?
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She gave me a smile.
He gave me a word of encouragement.
She gave me forgiveness.
He gave me tolerance.
She gave me a home cooked meal.
He gave me an apple…

But we choose to remember the money.

Our thoughts control our words, drive our actions … and leave a legacy for our children … and their children … and their’s …
What legacy are we leaving?

Food for thought.
Bon appetit …

No Ordinary Guru

Born into a poor fishing village community, at the age of 9 – due to her mother’s illness – Amma left school. Read her words, get a tiny glimpse of her contribution to the world … and try figure out how.

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Dr. Jane Goodall presents Amma with the 2002 Ghandi-King Award for Non-violence

[Read The Full Article and Amma’s Acceptance Speech Here]
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Amma delivers the keynote address at United Nations Academic Impact conference

Serving in her role as Chancellor of Amrita University, Amma addressed researchers representing 93 leading international universities at a conference co-hosted by Amrita University and the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI). Mr. Ramu Damodaran, Chief, United Nations Academic Impact introduced Amma to the audience.


“I offer my humble salutations to all the dignitaries gathered here today. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to the United Nations Academic Impact for organizing this event, and to the principles of unity that the United Nations represents.

Some of you may wonder, “Does a spiritual person like Amma have a place here?” It is my faith in the validity of spiritual knowledge that has brought me here in front of you today. I often reflect deeply on the future of the Earth, the preservation of nature, and the disappearing harmony between humanity and nature. This contemplation has led me to the conviction that science, technology, and spirituality must unite in order to ensure a sustainable and balanced existence of our world. The present age and the world around us demand this transformation.”


[CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ADDRESS]

Although it is impossible to recount even a fraction of Amma’s contribution, I will leave you with one more link to follow. Embracing The World is an international vehicle of collaborative organisations under Amma’s guidance and in service to her. If you follow the above link, you should be well inspired to glimpse a piece of the incredible Love and Compassion that is alive and present in our world.
Here’s a teeny tiny breakdown:
* 46 000 scholarships for children in poverty
* 100 000 women empowered to start their own business
* 3 million patients treated free, since 1998
* 1 in 3 children from Amma’s orphanage earns a college degree
* Lifetime Financial Aid for 69 000 widows and people with disabilities

… and the list goes on … and on … and on …

There is true beauty and immeasurable Love in this world. May your eyes be blessed to see; and your heart, blessed to experience.

The Hand in the Cookie Jar

I think we’re all familiar with the Monkey and the Cookie Jar story, right? Or it could be the Kid and the Cookie Jar … but the story is more fun for me with the monkey, so I’ll re-tell this version.
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A monkey sneaks into a house and into the kitchen. There’s a cookie jar on the table and he figures out how to open it. Woohoo … happy days! He sticks his hand in and grabs a fistful of cookies. But as he tries to take them out, he can’t. His hand is full and can’t fit through the opening. He struggles and struggles because he wants the cookies, but, try as hard as he can, he can’t get his hand and the cookies out. Just then, the woman of the house walks in. Oh oh … trouble. The woman shouts for her husband, who comes in with a net and rope. The monkey has two choices …
Either he leaves the cookies and escapes to freedom … or he keeps the cookies and gets captured.

I’m the monkey … and Life (as it continually does) has shifted the playing field and the goalposts, so now my hand is in the cookie jar and I have a decision to make … It’s been two years since I handed over the Zandspruit projects; two years of searching for the next community initiative that my heart calls me to commit to. And now, I am here …

The ‘Let’s Grow Seeds’ Organic Seed Saving Project that I have been serving and growing in over the past two months – though it is one of Amma’s projects – is not a division of Amrita SeRVe. Amrita Serve, being slightly more established, while Let’s Grow Seeds is a 5 month old startup. So, I am forced to face and be honest with myself …

Do I move back to the permaculture farm, so I can receive the free accommodation that Amrita SeRVe can afford … but where my heart is not?
Or do I follow my heart, commit to the Let’s Grow Seeds project for its startup year, and trust that I will find a way to sustain myself?

Going back to the monkey … do I hold on, or let go?

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The Beauty in ‘Poverty’

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It’s taken a while, but I’ve eventually opened up enough to find my way into the villages, where none of us speak each other’s language … but somehow we connect like siblings.

Surendran is one of our neighbours at the farm. I was with my little brother – Baby Krishnan (he’ll murder me for publicly calling him this) – at the farm, when Surendran came round. Me and Krishnan had been out for about 5hrs; my back was aching, Krishnan had put in a massive amount of physical labour and we were both tired and were winding down in prayer, before planning to head back to the ashram.

Surendran and his brother-in-law came strolling past; disturbed us, mid-prayer, trampled on a vegetable bed with seedlings and told us that we shouldn’t worry about it; and then talked about seemingly arbitrary things for about 10 minutes. Krishnan was in the conversation, while I just looked on, with a child’s smile of ignorance, since I could not understand one word.
Eventually, he walked on, explaining where his house was, and invited us to come for chai. In that moment, though we were both tired and slightly annoyed by him – thinking more about getting back to the ashram – I felt an old and familiar nudge in my heart. We finished praying and I told Krishnan that we should go for chai.

We were welcomed like family into a simple home and fed like princes, until we could eat no more. Now I’m making an assumption based on past experiences in villages – in both Africa and India: It is common practice that one meal is cooked for lunch and supper at the same time, earlier in the day. So when Krishnan and I showed up at 5pm and were immediately fed a full plate of cassava, fried fish, fish curry and moru (a spicy yoghurt, traditional to Kerala) … it is most likely that Surendran and his wife gave up a large portion of their supper, to feed us.
It is this experience that I have been privileged to share on so many occasions amongst the ‘poor’, that reminds me of who God and what Love, truly is.
And this is why I never refuse and always eat until I’m stuffed, praising each mouthful as I do. Now some of my western friends question me. They feel that – because I am ‘rich’ and the villagers are ‘poor’ – that I should refuse their generous love offering. Those of you who know me, know that I live according to a different set of values, however.

The ‘poor’ – from my experience – always seem ashamed of their financial poverty, whenever westerners interact with them. There’s a sense that they are worth less, simply because they ‘possess’ less. I choose to live against the grain of the system that perpetuates this feeling of worthlessness, based on money. And because of this, I remain mindful to gratefully receive what is given to me, because – to me – it is worth more than possessions. And, every time I’ve sacrificed a meal, an item of clothing, a seat on the train etc., to offer as a gift, I have been more overjoyed with Compassion than when I’ve received. So I try to not refuse, just because of a money mindset.

I am always given food, because that’s the best ‘possession’ that is available. It is a gift from the heart. And it is in this spellbinding humility and generosity, that I experience a beauty that I find less and less of, in modern ‘wealthy’ society. It is this beauty that inspires selfless love within me.

If I can be served in such a way, by the poorest, then what excuse do I have, to withhold love and generosity to others?

After some tea and cumin water, Surendran and his wife’s only child, arrives … with cricket bat in hand. I can’t resist. Without thinking, I get up and head outside with the boy, to play a bit of bat ‘n ball.
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By the time we bid farewell, I am hugged more times than I can count; adopted as a family member; and invited to visit anytime, any day, for a meal. And I know that if I ever wish, there is a bed available for me too.
Though I am an ‘old hand’ at this way of life and adventure, I could not have managed this particular moment, which has opened up a village to me, without my little bro, Krishnan. So, BIG LOVE goes out to him.

What a day!
Moments like these are real reminders – to me – of what life is truly about.
Time will come for me to visit again, and when I do, I will waltz in, as if I am visiting an aunty – either with a pot of food I prepare at the farmhouse kitchen, or with some fish I pick up from the market – for such is the way of community that my heart aches for.
Happy to be here … though I don’t know where the story goes …

Thank you for being here with me.