Wednesday, January 4, 2012

An open heart can sometimes feel like a broken heart

Happy New Year to you all! Thank you so much for your individual emails recently and sorry I have not been able to respond individually. I just left Anandawan a few days ago and took an 8 hour train ride followed by a 6 hour shared taxi with 5 other friends from the Sangha Seva retreat to make it all the way South to Tiruvannamalai for my 30 day meditation retreat with Open Dharma. A beautiful Sangha of people from all over the world that come together mostly in India and Europe to practice meditation and individualized spiritual practice. My 30 day silent retreat starts tomorrow so I was hoping to send a quick update and a few photos prior to starting that. I still feel like I don't quite have the words to describe my time at Anadawan, but I can say that my heart felt cracked open by the beautiful people that reside and work there as well as the volunteers that I was working with. The end concluded in a dramatic farewell with me saying my good byes to Jyoti, the young woman with severe limitations from her crippling arthritis and the elders in her room, in which I burst in to tears and started a domino effect of whaling elders who were then embracing me with grandmotherly tight gripping hugs and drying my tears with their saris.

What lead me to this moment had little to do with verbal communication, because most people spoke no English at all and I have about 3 phrases in Hindi that work good enough for me to greet someone and then get into trouble as they ramble on continued statements and I stare blankly back into their faces until we resign to the fact with a smile and funny head bob that we don't really know what the other is saying at all. And I have no Marathi which is the primary language at Anadawan. The connections came from smiles, sharing stories (that we ended up interpreting as we wished) in our own languages with theatrical body language and facial expressions, exchanging massages (because at some point, some of the elders that we were giving massages to would start to grab our arms and shoulders and start to massage us back...., to wheelchair walks/rides to the founder of Anadawan, Baba Amte's, grave site, to taking Neesha to a playground and holding her as we swang on a swing or playing endless games of tic tac toe with Sandeep. It is actually really hard to explain in words how I became deeply impacted and connected to this beautiful community in 3 weeks time. And I can only hope that I will be able to return some time soon to reconnect.

I have now tried 2 separate times to download about 30 photos for you to see some of the faces that I have fallen in love with... only to have them disappear... (~2 hours worth of WORK! Ugh, I do not like this blogging Sam I am!) so I will try one last time and hope that I can send a few out.

Sandeep is 16 years old. He was brought to Anandawan with a very advanced stage of leprosy. For this reason he has has lost several of his digits and has had to have an amputation. He is an amazing kid and has been a spiritual teacher to all of us here and he loves art work!

A strange way of showing love! But it works! 
Really, It does!
Lovely Jyoti in bed (her legs are permanently fused in this position) with equally beautiful Gaby who helped discover Jyoti's love for painting.

strangely distorted again.... Really people! Is it me? Or is it blogspot?
Surrounded by love, with her sister visiting to the left.
Sweet Neesha going for a walk with Dave.

The older girls from the deaf school really took to Neesha and agreed to visit her in the hospital while we are gone.
Some of the amazing elders. This is Laxmi who is a witch. People come to her for amulets.

Another Laxmi who at first appeared to have an endless pit of needs and desire for anything you were supplying, for example massage or massage or hair oil, without any appearance of satisfaction, who in the end grabbed my face in her hands and said, "beautiful girl" which, was the only bit of English I had heard her express the entire time we were there.
I can't remember her name... but she is about a head shorter then me and comes up to you with a big smile and loves to show you her one arm that has been amputated, as if to say, "Can you believe it?" Or at least that is my interpretation!

Oogie Moogie. I kid you not! I may have the spelling incorrect, but that is her name and she is pure love!
Baby with one of the facilitators of our retreat The Goddess... Zohar!

Mousy, the wound "Nurse." Folks are not necessarily formally trained for their positions in a school. She has had leprosy as well and has hand deformities, but none the less performs endless hours of wound care daily.
Some of the boys, who I unfortunately did not get to know as well.

This guy is hysterical. Every time he would see any of us he would do a little jiggy with his arms up in the air.

Nicknamed, "Popeye"

Working in the wood shop
This man is blind and does an amazing job at building furniture.
Some of the children

 Well, I really could go on and on forever. We had many adventures in the local town. One of which we were looking for 2 little girls that became our guides on one of the first days we were here. We went into her school thinking maybe we could find her by knowing her first name and age. When the head master said to my friend Dave, "Sir, we have 3,000 students in this school." We knew we had met defeat. But he walked us around the school rousing the interests of students and teachers none the less. What we didn't know was that as we were fixing to leave, the recess bell rang and ~2,000 of those students came literally stampeding out, some falling down and getting trampled on all to get a look at and meet the white foreigners.... they were asking us to autograph their notebooks and body parts!!! The principal and head master had to pull us back into the office and threaten some of the kids with a cricket bat! Such a strange phenomenon!!

Or I could tell you about our wonderful invitation to a local village to meet with elders and discuss Buddhism and have a delicious meal served... which lead to meeting more amazing people, a roof top dance party and flying by the seat of our pants to discuss our practice of Buddhism as compared to theirs at their local temple.
Durga and Rani... Our personal guides for the day.

David and Chloe, new friends, busting a move

But it was this little one, who really knew what she was doing!
Well, that should do it for now! I think I may actually be ready to enter 30 days of silence after this post!!!! Believe it or not, after I finish this retreat, I leave the very next day on a 2 day train trip to the North to start another 10 day retreat (not in silence).... So once again, I will be in touch as soon as possible. Much love and many blessings for a health filled, love filled, adventure filled new year!