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.

When Love Comes To Town …

I could not have scripted a better story for my life. Truly. Check this out …

If you’ve been tracking with me for a while, then you know about my dream of community, organic vegetable gardening, cooking and serving children. (if you’re new, then you can catch up by starting HERE)
So things have been working out really well and I truly feel like I’ve been showered with Grace.
But there has been one vital piece of my puzzle that’s been lacking … cooking.

With this minimalist [Less is More] lifestyle I’m experimenting with, I don’t have the cash to set up a kitchen in my dorm, like I did last year; or buy daily produce from the market to cook. And there’s no cooking opportunity at the ashram that I feel drawn to get involved with. So I’ve been feeling like I’m missing something.
But then today, out on the farm, David reminds me that we have an unused farmhouse. In fact, we have 2; there’s the one that David and I use, to store our few tools and other stuff … which has a roof in the shade of some coconut trees, that would be awesome for a siesta.
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But, he tells me, the one that is on Jagannath’s portion, is in better condition. So I go exploring … and look what I discover …

Continue reading

Dear Jesus …

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We’ve had a pretty messed up relationship. Since we met, with me as a child, my heart has gravitated to you. But once childhood passed and school began, I’ve been faking it. My self esteem issues have really plagued me and, honestly, I was more concerned about being the good christian boy than being a true disciple. And I don’t use a capital ‘C’ for christianity, because I see very little of you in that religion. In fact, I see a lot of what you specifically came to free us from.
Anyway, I was there, keeping up appearances to win favour amongst people;
to feel accepted and worth something.

Then, first chance I got after school, I ran away from the religion and from you.
I just wanted to be real and felt I could only do that away from all the religious masks I had acquired.
But 12yrs on, when hardship hit with the car accident, coma and brain injuries … there you were to pick me up.
I’m grateful for that;
grateful for the second chance to build our relationship from scratch.
But you know how it went.
What started well and honest and in the spirit of surrender, became religious piety again.
Vomit.
And then came the divorce and that really messed us up.
I’ve been pretty (profanity removed) unhappy with you.
But you know that.
I guess now is that time when I want to say sorry and thank you.
Sorry that I strung you on the cross to take the blame for the consequences of my own decisions;
thank you for Grace …

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Organic Seeds of Love

“When humanity serves Nature, Nature serves humanity. When we serve animals and plants, they too serve us in return.” – Amma
Organic Pumpkin
In recent times, many varieties of fresh produce are dwindling towards extinction, as profit motivated farming becomes the status quo. Cash crops are taking priority and sustainable crops that have fed humanity for generations, are being ignored as ‘poor people’s food’. Organic and heirloom seeds are being pushed out the market by hybrid and genetically modified seeds, which is good for chemical fertiliser and pesticide business, but is hurting our health, the land and the animals.
So we’re in the midst of a real challenge.

“We have not inherited the land from our ancestors,” Amma reminds us, “we are borrowing it from our children.”

With this in mind, through Amrita Serve and Embracing The World, we are committed to playing our part in returning the land to our children, in a state of good health.

Okay, that’s the preamble.
So currently, on the farm, we’ve got crops of Brinjal (Eggplant), Okra (Lady’s Finger), Cassava, Madumbi (Yam), Pumpkin, Lettuce, Rocket, Chilli, Basil, Ameranthus, Drumstick (Indian veg), Sunflower, Jack fruit, Star fruit, Gourd, Sweetcorn, Papaya, Banana, Ginger (50 of them I planted yesterday), Flax and Elephant Foot.

This Keralan climate is a challenge to us all though, and we’re not sure how our crops will do through a whole season. Will we get thousands of organic seeds that we can store in a seed bank, distribute to Amma’s 101 villages to help them become self reliant, and make available to the world … or will we lose crops to pests, monsoons, high water tables, very sandy soil and our neighbour’s free roaming cows? Because finding organic seed in India is a needle-in-the-haystack game, which is why we have quite a bit of seed that David has brought from Europe. We hope to carefully acclimatise this to the subtropics, but it is risky. All we can do is wait, watch and learn from Nature.
But there is something on my heart … Continue reading

Reflections of a Sojourner

image As a writer (who has been working on his second book since about April 2014), I’ve been quite stuck. Since feeling that Inner Tapping and responding to it, I’ve followed the only way I know how, which is the way I went with my first book.
And it’s been like running on a treadmill.
I’ve had no trouble penning down my ideas; observing, interpreting and communicating; there has been no lack of adventure, emotion, spirituality, romance, comedy or tragedy … no shortage at all. But I have been absolutely bamboozled about how to pull it all together into a book. A single story for you to read.
And then came Boetie.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you should be familiar with him. Him and I have been siblings for a few lifetimes.
Anyway, Boetie – in his way – listens to what’s going on and then throws out the question that perhaps Book Two is a collection of short stories …
As soon as I hear it, I just know that this is it.

So, I’ve started a new blog category called Reflections of a Sojourner, where I will be posting bits and pieces of these short stories, poems, anecdotes etc., as I explore this new territory I am being led into. It’s a space of raw creativity, where I imagine that many different voices will speak. So please be aware if this. This is certainly not an area of well polished craft.

My hope is for this to be a collaborative work, and I invite you into the process, welcoming all your thoughts and comments, as contributions to the final publication.

Ps. I will not always share updates via Facebook and Twitter, so it’s a good idea to fill out the subscription form (in the sidebar or at the bottom of the page) if you’d like to be a part of this journey. Thank you.