We started day two with a multi faith prayer. A multi faith prayer is just that. It's a way to practice one of Ghandi's teachings. A group of individuals gather at 10:00 am in Manav Sadhna. You remove your shoes and sit Indian style in front of a small flower arrangement and candle - (ah! I know! That phrase is so stereotypical! But that's what we call it in America...?) The Hindu song begins. Then another religious song. And another. And another. They play several, including Thy Kingdom Come. They then read a scripture in English and another in Hindi. People are asked to share moving stories of light and love from the previous day. People share in English and in Gujarati. Some of the Gujarati people sharing stories get so filled with emotion you can almost understand what they are saying. It's a very unique experience to witness a community of volunteers and workers come together to acknowledge a higher power, and respect a difference of way of life to reach that higher power.
The Gujarati community is Hindu, vegetarian, and sober. They are also a community of Muslims. This is an area where Ghandi's life teaching were striving to get these two religions to live together in peace. To my awareness, alcohol is not sold or drank in Ahmedabad and the surrounding Gujarati community. We got a more detailed tour of Ghandi's Ashram by Ajaibhai, a man who has been serving the Ashram for twenty years. His passion for Ghandi pours out of his eyes and smile when he speaks. We walked through Ghandi's actual living space. We sat where he meditated daily. We saw its actual literature. Ahmedabad has an actual toilet museum. It's so important to the history of India. So much of India's disease and poverty comes from the lack of proper bathrooms and hygienic knowledge. It's a luxury/necessity taken for granted in western culture. But a toilet is something thousands of people in these slums don't have access to.
We got a tour of the first slum that a community center was built in. It's very very sad to see. But for some reason it wasn't as difficult for me as passing by the slums in the Philippines. Perhaps it's because I've become more comfortable with walking amidst this sort of poverty at three months into our trip. Perhaps it's because I am being escorted by a member of Manav Sadhna, and a man highly respected by the individuals living in these slums. Perhaps it's because I'm here with the intent to in someway and somehow - give back to this community, and that overpowers any feeling of discomfort for walking through this slum. Perhaps it's a combination of all three.
This evening we joined Awakening. It is a meditation session that has been going on for twenty years. It started with three men in California. They all sat in a circle and meditated for an hour. Then they read a scripture, a verse, a paragraph - what have you, and reflected on it for an hour. They then ate dinner in silence for an hour. This three hour affair has spread worldwide and is quite a challenging mental, moral, physical, and spiritual stimulation. I have not sat Indian style (omg I know. I know how stereotypical that phrase is 😑)... I have not sat Indian style for so long since I was in second grade. I have sat in that position for at least four hours of my day today. My hips will be hurting tomorrow.
Meditating is really challenging. I came to a point where I almost started laughing because my ENTIRE legs were completely numb. My mind kept drifting to the pain, then the pain the didn't exist... back to the pain.... and the feet that don't exist... back to the pain. Uh. 😖
But I think it finally clicked with me today. Even though I had probably the worst physical meditation I've ever experienced. I think I finally understand the purpose. I'm not sure why the purpose of meditation took me so long to grasp. The purpose is to practice controlling your thoughts so frequently, to practice and actively strengthen your mind and CONTROL of your mind, that it becomes second nature. You sit and intentionally control your thoughts, directing them into a certain course. Maybe that course is into nothingness. But you direct your thoughts so much during your mediation, that when you aren't meditating, your direction of your thoughts is second nature. It is like a reflex. Calmness and stillness remains in the most needed of times, outside of meditation.
Here is a quote I heard from our reflection group that has sat with me heavily. Until tomorrow...
"When you die, the person you die as will meet the person you were meant to become.