In 2013 I was invited to Giftival, a gathering of 40 people from around the world engaging in gift culture or gift economy or giftivism as it is often called. This was in Istanbul and my LO was not yet 2 years old.
I had only recently heard of gift culture at the Learning Societies UnConference at United Mahindra World College in Pune and something about it just took hold of me. I cannot say what or why, but it was some kind of tug. I didn’t however feel worthy of being in the company of people who had been practicing gift culture as a way of life for years. It didn’t seem fair to others. What could I have to contribute I thought, besides sharing and facilitating world folk dances which are such a beautiful energy sharing experience. Yet I trusted there was something in this call that was beyond me and made the trip.
Giftival opened with a story told by the deeply talented Judith Liberman, with the accompaniment of the most magical sounding musical instrument I’ve heard.
The story of two identical tables laden with food of the most delightful and desirable kind. Around it were hungry people. However they all had no elbows, and at the end of their stick like arms were spoons. In one place there was anger and frustration and resentment, because they could not eat. By the other table, there was joy and delight. The reason was simple, the people on the happy table were feeding each other.
The impact of this story on me will last a lifetime. It would not have been the same had there been an announcement of what gift culture is and what important work we have gathered to do etc etc etc… This story and meeting Judith also started me on my journey as a storyteller. It was so seamless actually, just like meeting my husband. No fuss, just a smooth flow of feeling at home.
There were lots of books and discussions and experiments and experiences of people and i just soaked them in, thinking, absorbing, processing. We discussed gift as both being able to give and being able to receive and many of us realized while we are comfortable with giving, we aren’t comfortable with receiving. We discussed the creation of money, the purpose, our relationship with it, whether it was something the world could do away with. There was an american anthropologist who had been studying gift culture in ancient cultures. She spoke of motherhood as a gift, in fact parent-hood as a gift and how patriarchy had robbed men of their instinct to nurture, focussing only as providing as their gift. There were 2 of us who were mums with our babies around.
As someone who had lost all contact with my pre-motherhood world, no moonlight group meditations, no salsa dancing with kids not welcome in most social settings, this was really a gift. The other lady was from Tamera in Portugal, where they were a conscious community working with healing water and other amazing inner growth stuff. We were both nursing mothers and nursed our babies on demand through the 6 hour a day unconference. It felt so good to just be accepted for whatever your role is in that moment.
There was Munir Fasheh from Palestine who spoke of the word gift in Arabic and its many meanings and contexts. There was Shammi Nanda who spoke of Non-Violent Communication and gift from that perspective. There were people building eco-friendly homes and offering to be paid in gift and living like that. It was really tough, but they had the courage to do this. There was Manish Jain from Swaraj University, where you could study even if you couldn’t give fees. There was Charles Eisenstein who wrote Sacred Economics. There was Aysegul who had set up Zumbara, a time bank. These were amazing people and many times in the day I wondered why I was there, but I was also very grateful I was there.
One day we had people from the local community come visit and interact. It was rather crowded and Sivaanaa was a bit overwhelmed I took her into a little room where she napped and when she woke, we joined the discussions. She climbed a chair and leaned back. I had the inclination that she might fall, but I wanted her to learn to take risks and find a space of trust in herself, so I watched carefully but didn’t give her any warnings. Suddenly the chair toppled over and she fell down. She hurt her head and began to cry. I walked to her and carried her in my arms, hugged her tight and just held her. It seems this sparked a big discussion in Turkish. I couldn’t understand what was being said, but I knew it was about us. I took Sivaanaa to the other room and hugged and chanted her to serenity. Later I found out the discussion was about how a Turkish mum (and their culture is so similar to ours) would have panicked and said said a lot of words. They were suddenly discussing motherhood as a gift it seems. They were amazed at what they saw. For me it was obvious. The child is hurt. Its ok to cry. I just need to witness her emotion and let her know I’m there for her. Really simple acknowledgement.
I hadn’t seen motherhood as a gift, till now, but I realized in the end, so much of who we are is because of how we were raised. It shapes our relationship with ourself and others and so how we raise our kids is really a big gift to them, to ourselves and the world. As Swami Vishnu, the founder of the Sivananda tradition says, all we need for peace in the world is to find peace within ourselves.
At the end, I just felt gift was not something to strive towards. It was to be who you are. Some flowers are fragrant, some are beautiful, some are creepers, theres a gift in their existence because they are who they are….true to what they are.
I moved on to London and later to Mumbai. Giftival had been beautiful but it wasn’t life altering like yoga or vipassana. There was still that feeling that it was a preparation for something. I let it be.
Back in India, many months later, after having time to ponder this gift stuff, I decided to offer a yoga class in the spirit of gift. This was at a beautiful studio of a beautiful fellow yogi Sheetal and his wife Khushi, who had converted their home into an Urban Ashram, a space that was always hosting wonderful facilitators and learning experiences. So I offered a 2 hour workshop on Surya Namaskaar, covering the alignment, the breathing, the philosophical aspect and the surya mantras. At the end there was a box where people could put their gift offerings.
When I sat to meditate before facilitating the yoga class, as I always do, so I can empty myself and be a channel for the higher energies, I found myself wondering about money.How much would we charge for this workshop were it a paid one, given my experience etc etc. I wondered how much people would contribute and how that total would feel to me. I thought of my friends at giftival who travelled and created eco-friendly homes for people, thats hard manual work and not knowing what they would receive as remuneration (and this was out of choice.) I realized somewhere I was pegging my self worth to money. I decided I didn’t want to contaminate my giving experience. I would not keep the money. Futhermore, I didn’t want to know how much money there was in the box at the end of the class. I just wanted to give and thats what i would do.
The class was full of gurus grace. I must write another post on the beauty of the Sivananda practice and how it changed me from sceptic left brained to flowing in grace. I gave the money to my friends to use for any cause and it felt amazing. This class was offered in gift, not as social work, not as charity…..and there is much to ponder in these words and acts.
There is something sacred about gift and the journey had only just begun.
There was a raging storm inside of me. So many thoughts, so many possibilities, so many questions, so much churning. It seemed that my home, my temple, my sanctuary was blasted with gusts of outbursts and drama. I was battling enough my confusion, the fog that the physical location of my life brought to the project through which i felt most need to manifest my life purpose of facilitating joy and love. I felt spent having talked about, debated, sought advice and meditated and then my vain attempts at surrender.
Having just returned from India, having a house guest, missing my space, the joy of seeing the ocean and missing the happy buzz of Halla Gulla, setting up home again, getting back to routine it was all a bit too overwhelming and disorienting.Then everyday watching messages and e-mails of opportunities we couldn’t take up because I wasn’t in Mumbai. After a while my heart grew heavy. I missed the joy of giving that comes to me from live interaction.
The day after Christmas, I woke up feeling the desire to be quiet. It was just natural, not planned. If I could have planned I would have gone to the Sivananda Ashram in the nearby Bahamas, but I could not, and I really didn’t feel up to traveling after a hectic India trip, so I just sent my husband at text explaining I wished to be in silence for a few days and could he support me please. He said yes and things flowed.
Our daughter is 5 and very expressive and with a strong need for communication and she couldn’t quite get it. I saw that it was challenging for her, yet I felt strongly to honor the call of my soul. So i communicated in sign language. I was still accessing e-mails and whats app in a disciplined manner. Our LO did ok, meditating with me and us sharing lots of intimate hugs and eye gazing that ended in smiles or giggles. Inside I continued to be a witness to my thoughts, watching them without the colors of anyones opinion or advice.
Still it was intense for the LO.I hadn’t decided how long I was gng to remain silent, I was just going with the flow of my souls need. I arranged playdates for her via text with friends who would understand my silence.
Addressing a meltdown in silence One day however, her swimming teacher didn’t come. S loves her swimming class and her swimming teacher, who is the most positive encouraging person. The two of them share a lovely bond and greet each other and thank each other in Swahili and Hindi respectively. I love watching them and give thanks for the gift of such a lovely teacher. S burst into tears. With all this silence she was looking forward to the swimming to have fun and let go and so she just let the floodgate of tears open. I hugged her and kissed her and acknowledged her feelings with my eyes and sign language? It was not enough.
I wondered if i should speak. But what point. My mind raced…and I knew nature would solve this for us. So I managed to get her into the car. Taking a packet of bread along we drove to a pond nearby. She was crying inconsolably. I carried her from the car to the pond and took a piece of bread and threw it in the water. Soon there was life . The hickatees (like turtles) came in , few first then a whole bunch of them. She suddenly got excited about who was going to get the bread and forgot to cry. Then there were the baby tadpole like fish that create designs as they reach for crumbs and make the water jump sometimes. there are the carps and there are the red beaked ducks who glide past indifferent to the buzz the bread has created and leave a V shaped wake of water behind. She fed the tickets, shooed the roosters and hens away and was enraptured by nature. We stayed there for 20 minutes or so in silence, each of us watching what most appealed in any given moment. There were large flying stalk like birds that came and went and reflections in the water and the sun changing position. Suddenly there was a drizzle of rain, refreshing and beautiful. We smiled, hugged and went home.
Hickatees popping their heads up for food[/caption]
Hickatees Close up
Nature and play to heal myself and my child While I was honoring my own need for silence and clarity, I also wanted to honor S need for play and togetherness. I had recently chanced upon the most beautiful swing in the world. A tree that dies, gives life after death. The picture will say all there is to say! So I took S to this beautiful swing by the sea and I my husband came along too. Me in silence, them chatting. She was thrilled with the swing. Her heart needed more and after a while, she was not happy with swinging alone. She craved intimate play. So we gathered some beachy treasures and created a world. Its amazing communicating in silence, understanding what the other is saying, where they want to place an object and how we communicate our creative vision. Kind of clues you in on a deeper level. But she wanted play, like physically play..so I looked on the wet sand and began to make different types of footprints. Walking like a penguin, a duck, walking zig jag, jumping, drew a line with a stick and jumping on either side. This was so much fun for her. She made some of those up and I followed along. It was really the most creative time on the beach. We began to notice doggie paw prints on the sand and bird claw prints ….just a world out there! Jumping facing one way and then another footprints[/caption]
Criss cross, zig zag walk footprints
Heel walk footprints
How I procured a wooden crate in a liquor store without talking Some asked how I went about the business of the day without talking. I went to buy S a wetsuit at the diving store. I smiled, pointed, indicated her age with my fingers and communicated entirely in sign language. Its amazing how nice people are and even more when they think you have a disability. The saleswoman was just so helpful. Another day I went to a liquor store to ask for a wooden wine crate I wanted to repurpose into a Kabaad Se Jugaad bookshelf. I typed on my phone. I walked in with a big smile and showed the cashier my request. the whole store came to help. They didn’t have one, but one guy said his mother worked at another store and she would arrange it. He wrote a note for me to give his mother. I went to her store and got the crate. All along it was beautiful…..really deeply beautiful in a way you don’t experience in the normal world. This beauty you can’t experience in a retreat, a vipassana, an ashram, because there you know most who come re coming to seek, are positive. here in the real world, experiencing the welcome giving of a liquor store salesperson is just such a gift. the Divine Intelligence shines through all levels of consciousness. Truly! I rust that one day I can keep this in sight through my interactions with the one or two people that challenge me!
“Mamma, I miss hearing your voice” One day S said to me , “Mamma, I miss hearing your voice”…so from that day on, every night when we give thanks to the universe, I would give thanks aloud. I also told her I’d read her a story everyday with no conversation before or after. And did I mention a moonlight walk on the beach with my husband where I wasn’t talking. Must have been bliss for him! lol!
Mindfulness walk to bring in the new year I’ve been hosting a stone soup gathering once a month in my home. For the 1st of January i sent out a mail inviting people to a darkness into sunrise mindfulness walk at 7 mile Beach, which is such a beautiful beach. We went at 6 a.m when it was dark and walked in silence until 7 when the sun rose. We had 2 kids among us, who found their own silent communication and play. The dark water turned to its beautiful blue as the sun rose and it felt like time to speak again. I came to, feeling rejuvenated and with such amazement at the gifts that a silent retreat while living in the heart of life can bring.
I didn’t find the answers to the questions i had, but in silence, I found the most unexpected beautiful gifts and such deep connection with my LO.
Is this something you would do with your child? I’d love to know.
Part 1 guzz guzz gruzz goes the anxious buzz. This is the background score that plays relentlessly and restlessly on the instrument of my body in its many nuances. It pulls at my fascia(the connective tissue that is really is our second skin) here and there, tugging and drawing on my bones, sinuses, adrenal glands and physically raging a ceaseless war with an unknown, unnamed, unsought enemy.
War is not my thing, yet war ravaged my inner landscape for 33 years. To understand what this meant for me, I invite you to come and experience my life here, come inhabit myself, come journey as me.
I am playing; I must be about 5 years old. I use the upturned boxes of my father’s visiting card boxes, with the tiny finger holes in them to make a stove. I place upon them my kitchen vessels and as I am cutting out rotis from leaves with a discarded metal soda topI am unable to be absorbed and completely immersed in what I am playing. I am five, I am curious, I want to be absorbed and immersed by my play of making rotis but I don’t understand the guzz guzz gruzz anxious buzz. It feels like a restlessness, like this is what I want to be doing, but it’s not what my body wants, and there’s no peace and stillness inside. It is a very live wire, electric shock kind of experience that I can feel in my body. I cannot be still and must keep doing and planning for the next do-ing when one thing was nearing completion. Although I don’t know what this anxious buzz is, my little self knows it must be vanquished
As I am growing, I try role playing, I make different kinds of friends, I seek out new experiences……anything to get rid of the guzz guzz gruzz anxious buzz. Perchance, I dance, I discover the freedom and catharsis and pure fluid relief that movement can bring…..somewhere in that experience, the buzz gets a little faint, sometimes, if I’m lucky, it is so faint, it is almost gone. I realize I have a possible solution, I feel elation even in the buzz that still scourges on.
Whenever I am angry or upset, the buzz pulls my whole body taut, like a stretched violin bow. The sound that I hear and feel inside is like the highest pitch on the violin. I feel the tautness more than I hear the high pitched sound. When someone is yelling at me or a friend is saying unfriendly things to me like she doesn’t want to me my friend, the sound inside me is louder and more dominant than the yelling or the unfriendly tone of my friend itself.
I also discovered that slamming the door shocks the buzz into a state of freeze. It is like the buzz is still there, but doesn’t move. It is frozen. Then I discover when I lock myself in a room with music, drape my dupattas just so, and stare into the long mirror on my dad’s Godrej almirah, I can transform into another character and I dance and I spin……and boy! can I spin…… In the dancing and in the spinning somewhere in an uncertain space….there is a moment, sometimes longer of bliss. The buzz is gone, oh so momentarily, such a will o the wisp, almost like that special moment when your child did something unique or funny and then it was gone.
I am in the 9th grade. I am fiercely competitive. I love learning and still do, but I also vociferously want to always stand first. I put myself through all this self-imposed expectation and then there are all those fat ICSE textbooks that need to be studied. And I remind myself that I must not lose my rank because my Hindi is not good enough. Exams stress me out and I have these horrible migraines. It’s like my head will explode and burst. I am short tempered, the smallest thing will annoy me and I am drinking coffee and studying at night. Coffee helps intoxicate the buzz, so it doesn’t grab attention over the books.
I am in college. Someone I know throws a toffee wrapper on the ground, just because they know I will pick it up, and I do. I am called Captain Planet and it’s not funny. When someone is sarcastic as some people just are, my entire body goes into clamp down mode. It’s like in Prison Break, when there’s a security breach and the alarms are buzzing and red lights are flashing the order is lost and all the heavy iron bars and doors are racing with the siren to clamp down and shut down. It’s all inside my body; my mind is completely aware and able to make sense and to just ignore the comments. I cannot emphasize enough that this is what I feel entirely in my physical body alone.
The anxious buzz made an over achiever out of me, not allowing me to be, just do do and do….it’s not entirely a bad thing to be charged up for achieving, but oh those moments of silent bliss, where there is no background score, just a feeling of lightness and quietness and a silence could give me the feeling of being ‘rested’.
At some point I realized the entire quest of my life had been to get rid or quieten the guzz guzz gruzz anxious buzz.. I had dancing highs, Vipassana highs, yoga highs and love highs.)These highs were the silent symphony and it was becoming more frequent. I sought it …….always. I remember sitting in psychology class and hearing about self-actualization and wondering if that was what those moments of silent symphony were.
I never spoke to anyone about this anxious buzz in my body; I just assumed everyone must have it in their body. I want to say here, that origin of the buzz was in my body and its effect on the mind was completely an escalation of the physical experience of it. Though like everyone I have challenges in my personal and professional life, the buzz was only further escalated at these times….but it always existed.
It would also feel an excruciating overwhelm physically to be in the presence of many people… The anxious buzz would feed on other people’s vibrations. If someone is angry, even a random women fighting for a seat on a crowded local train, the buzz in me would go befriend her energy. So the buzz was gathering unto itself all energies it came in contact with.
Travelling in Mumbai was a hellish experience anyway and add the buzz to it; it would feel like I am gathering energies of random people that tend to be restless, hasty, quick to anger and racing. Being in local trains was so excruciating, with the energies of women that had woken up too early to cook and pack tiffin’s and catch the right bus to catch the right train and get a seat so they could chant or chat before they went on in exactly 18.55 minutes into the next necessity. I invested in a Walkman and listened to the best of Gypsy Kings or Madonna hanging on that central pole of the train by the door, alighting at every stop, safeguarding that final step before the train left for my feet to find, space, my hands to find space, my ears were plugged in, listening to Madonna….. “Just like a prayer I’m going to take you there.”
I experience many moments of sometimes extended silent symphony as my yoga practice gets stronger. I have experienced that with Latin American dance, which really calls to me with its unsurpassed joie de vivre, the silent symphony is shorter and further between. A month in the Himalayas studying yoga begins healing a terrible L5 slip disc that doctors said was only degenerative because of my congenital scoliosis (irregular curvature of the spine to one side, also a midline defect) and brings me experiences of silent symphony that I only later read about in books from great masters.
A few years later my time spent in Bermuda, quite deeply immersed in my yoga practice in the lap of nature, and in dance too bring home to me a discovery of personal truth. Not as flies to wanton boys are we to the Gods, but rather, as butterflies, sheltered in a cocoon of grace as we go through intense and necessary periods of metamorphosis, because fly we must, it is our very nature to do a fluttering dance, that comes from the stillness within our bodies and beings, dancing in rhythm to change that is inevitable.
guzz guzz gruzz goes the anxious buzz….it is not gone yet…will it ever?
Mandalas are geometrical patterns that are contained within a circle and bring great balance and harmony.They exist everywhere in nature, in the trunk of a tree, in starfish in the sea, in snowflakes and in cells.
Colouring mandalas with your child or having your child color mandalas are great motor exercise that bring deep harmony and an inner sense of accomplishment and contentment.
I don’t believe in forcing a child to colour. However, there is a time when kids are obsessed with coloring. It is what they call in Montessori education, a “sensitive period”, a time when learning of that topic will be most welcome as interest is at peak and persistent. At such a time, having mandalas available with easy access to the child can be helpful. I’m not too sure about boys, but my little girl cannot but help be attracted by the designs.
We have a community silent hour every month, where people of all ages sit together, doing whatever they want in silence. Some read, some nap, some colour, some journal. Being only 4 and having attended these gatherings since she was 2, the little one likes to busy herself coloring. Little hands must do and this is something she loves.
Though I have worked with children in the space of dance education and storytelling for over 12 years, I’m no expert on education, but I am a keen observer. These are a few things I noticed about mandala coloring:
Coloring from inside to out or outside to in, whichever way the child chooses, brings a sense of focus and inwardness.
There is a natural silence that this harbors, the symmetry and balance bring peace and the face looks focussed yet serene.
Since coloring is a precursor for developing the fine motor skills needed to write, coloring mandalas, with their intricate patterning helps develop this in a very organic way. Whoever enjoyed drawing straight, slanting and curved lines on blue and red lined paper anyway!
My daughter and I more often than not chant while coloring. We often colour together, on the same mandala maneuvering space and her indicating the colors she wishes me to use silently. Its such a great experience. Often after long periods of togetherness, we get on each others nerves. At times like this, we are both glad to quietly colour mandalas and avoid saying impulsive and possibly hurtful things to each other.
As an extension, we observe mandalas in nature, someday we will make mandalas with leaves and flowers and kolam/rangoli and when she is old enough and interested, we will learn to draw yantras.
For now, we enjoy our mandala meditations. Do try it and share your experience in the comments.
“Hail water, ye bring health and bliss, ye help us to energy, that we may look on great delight!”
-Sama Veda 9:2:10
Water is the only element that has the power to store, receive and transmit energy. Yet, it is one of the resources we most take for granted. Our bodies are 75% water, the earth is 75% water, the energy in water is very potent. My post is just to touch upon and create awareness on this elixir of life.
Most of us are unaware of the kind of water we drink. What is its composition? What is its source? What is its composition? How is the water stored and transported? What are the methods used to purify or rather make water potable or drinkable? What do different kinds of water purifiers do? The list of questions can be quite endless.
Many years ago, when I was doing my yoga teacher training at the Sivananda Ashram in Uttarkashi, india, I heard about the experiments of Dr. Masaru Emoto with water. Swami Govindananda Saraswati, our guru, was citing this experiment as a modern validation of why mantras are chanted over water and given to people, specially children to drink. Also why there is the presence of water to anoint and holy water in churches.
What Dr. Emoto did was figure a way to freeze water and observe the crystals it formed. What he found was that water from taps, bottles, and rivers and lakes near big cities did not produce beautiful crystals. However water from sources in the midst of nature and quite untouched by human contamination produced beautiful crystals. He also studied the effect of words on water crystals. He found that water that had been exposed to mantras and words such as love, gratitude and other kind words produced beautiful crystals and water that had been labelled with words such as hate produced crystals that were distorted. This free book version for children, is a fabulous read.
This information facilitated a big shift in me. I have little or no control over the source of the water i consume, but i do have control over how I can activate it. So what i do is label my water source and try to keep water storage as plastic free as i can.
My parenting guru Effath Yasmin took this experiment a step ahead. In her daughter’s class, where some children seemed to be bullying and/or ignoring others, she took three identical closed containers partially filled with cooked rice. She labelled one Love, the second Hate and the third was unlabelled and ignored. Children watched on and off and after a month, it was noticed that the rice in the container that said love looked almost unspoilt. The one that said hate looked pinkish and the one that was ignored was full of fungus and blackness. Infering from this, one could see that a person, composed mostly of water treated with love would thrive. Conversely a person ignored or alone or lonely, would experience the worst state of be-ing and a person hated would experience negative effects of hate, but still be better off engaged with an energy than being ignored. Now think about what our relationships with the multiple people in our lives and our physical environment can do to the water in our bodies.
I also charge water with sun rays….part of surya chikitsa in India and Ho’ pono pono in Hawaian culture and part of several other traditional cultures worldwide. This has the effect of adding praana or life force to water that is otherwise dull and “life-less”. For this I use glass bottles in blue and green. Other colors of the rainbow spectrum may also be used.
A few weeks ago, our family went on a bioluminiscence tour with CaymanKayaks and the experince was one of the most incredible of our life. Our 4 year old says it is the best thing she saw in her life. The bioluminiscent organisms absorb sunlight in the day and glow in the night. Words are utterly useless to try and describe this phenomenon. Interestingly, most marine bioluminescene is blue and green in colour.
I have also been pondering on the effect of salt and salt water. Living near the ocean is making me think about this often. I know that salt is used to absorb negative energies. It is used in the process of removing “nazar” in many cultures. Every time I live in a new home and there have been many, I use sea salt to clear the energy. Even in the west bath salts are used for relaxing. Himalayan salt lamps are a craze to remove negative ions from the air. Isn’t it amazing that the most water on the earth is salty and also that we feel so super energized after a dip in the salty ocean water. It feels so different from a dip in chlorine water from a pool isn’t it.
The function of water in the cells and muscles has been studied extensively by Dr. Pollack. His findings are an interesting read. A book that made a big impact on me with regards to water and cells is Cellular Awakening by Barbara Wren. I bought this book in a spiritual book store in Bermuda and refer to it several times, when i need to re-orient myself to health when i’ve gone off the path. This is one book you must read!
Now for some great music to do with water. One of the most beautiful songs for healing i have heard in modern times is Magnificence by Deva Premal. Its a great song to listen to on repeat, to cry to and let go to. Really captures the healing of water.
I woke up this morning, feeling very blessed and grateful….last evening was truly magical, more than I could ever have imagined it to be. Such power in intention and non expectation. I walked into the living room, and looked upon the beautiful gift circle that was handmade by my dear neighbour Nitya and embellished with little dots and squiggles by 5 enthusiastic kids ranging from age 2 to 12. I couldn’t help but smile.
A beautiful gathering of like hearted people we had. Each story was so powerful.
A mother who had miscarriages offered the jeans her precious little daughter wore the first time she said ta-ta (bye bye).
A new mother shared a stuffed rabbit that had been gifted to her on impulse by a lttile boy she met while working in London. The boy had said to her ” Take this rabbit and when you have a little boy you must give it to him.” She shared that she had no intention of even having a child at the time she received the gift. Now she has a little son and he had really played with it a lot and she had washed it and even blow dried it to bring it to heritage swap.
A friend brought her wedding jewellery to let go of the attachment. It was picked up by a 7 year old who promptly wore it and beamed smiles all around the room.
A guy brought a keychain he had got for his no ex-girlfriend on a trip abroad. When they broke up, she returned it. It hung in his cupboard till it came to the swap, a reminder each morning of a love lost. It was hard to let go, but when it was done, it was so transforming.
Another beautiful soul brought a set of hand painted coasters with the seasons(ritu) in the Indian tradition. They had been given to her by her mothers friend and her mentor, who had passed on last year. This was what she was holding on to. She said they were hand painted and so beautiful that she never had the heart to put a wet glass on them and so she was holding the memory of the hand painted coasters and passing them on to someone who would really use them.
A 12 year old brought a truck eraser that her favourite teacher had given her when she moved from Delhi to Mumbai. She shared that she had been struggling to find a gift for the swap. Since her teacher has given her 3 erasers, she held on to 2 and put this one into the heritage swap circle. Her sister put in her favourite bedtime book that her mother had read her every night when she was 2.
The stories are so many, this post could go on forever.
What was poignant and unexpected for me is that more than the swap, it was the intention of finding something truly meaningful to share and the letting-go that all of us experienced. Truly its easier to let go of money than something with heart-value. It also came home to me, that when you struggle to let go of money, its usually because of being in a space of fear of scarcity. When you struggle to let go of something with heart value, its because of the abundance of trust and love that you want to hold on to forever.
This was also my experiment with having kids in the same space as adults. I have always been a social person, curious about things and wanting to share and experience. After becoming a mother, I felt sort of ostracised. No one wants people with kids at their events except other mums ofcourse. This did not feel cool.
I struggled many a time with the thought of putting Sivaanaa in daycare so I could go for something, but I didn’t. My mentor on the parenting journey, Yasmin understood my lament and she said to me, that children weren’t meant to not be part of society. In the good old days, mothers would take their kids to work on the fields, slinging them and singing to them while they worked. This stayed with me, and as I resumed working, I picked projects that had to do with children Sivaanaa’s age. I sling-ed her and took her to work with me. When it was meetings with adults, she served chai from her toy set that she carried with her. People sensed that we were comfortable being the mother-baby package and were very accommodating of us.
In 2013, we took Sivaanaa to a gathering on gift culture in Istanbul. That was the first time, she was accepted and cherished in a purely adult setting. There was one other baby, an 18 month old from Tamera, an intentional community in Portugal. This was a dream space. Babies played and quietly so in the space that was held for them by the group. Babies nursed and slept while we brainstormed and heart-warmed on how we could shift gradually from a culture of money to a culture of gift. I sat there wondering how I could facilitate gift culture in my own small way while still keeping house and beng present for baby. At the end of the 3 day all day long gathering, I was of the feeling that being a mother and trying to be a conscious one (though I know theres miles to go) is the gift for me.
And yes the idea of heritage swap, was gifted to me by my little one. I have many friends who have older kids and share the toys, clothes and books their children have outgrown with so much love. Often there is a story of how much their child loved a particular book or the memory of something to do with the object. My little one always asks me who gave her something and what its story is. That has taught me that when there is love and a story attached to an object, it flips from a perception of hand-me-down to heritage. Infact the other day, S was wearing a new dress gifted to her when she was one and that just fits her. I metioned who had given it to her and she asked ” Mumma when D’s mum was little was this her dress”. I just smiled at the joy this little kid experiences in these things. Its priceless!
Its amazing what this was like for the kids. I was both excited and nervous about having them. I packed away all the breakable stuff. I shut the toyroom— I didn’t want kids fighting over a toy/s while we were sharing stories. I bought 1 kg of shelled green peas for them to clean while we were sharing. (the kids were mostly 3-7 years old and they are in the age of industry and doing….no chance they were gng to sit through a whole hour of sharing) And then I surrenedered to the universe. They shelled green peas and listened, some coming into the circle when their mum shared about their toys that they were swapping. Everyone understood that the attractive things being placed into the circle could not be touched until everyone was done sharing.
The peas were shelled faster than you can imagine and we did have to invite them into the playroom eventually….but it was ok…quite manageable.
They enjoyed swapping stuff…. it was a treat for them to pick what they wanted.
To me the integration of motherhood and life was completed. Mothers, kids, men, college students were all complete in the circle of life.
The funny thing is, S picked up a pair of pretty pink sneakers that squeak at the swap last night. They just about fit her. After a while, she asked to take them off. I said ” These seem a little tight for you…… ” She knew what was coming, so she promptly said ” no, I want to take them out so the squakey battery doesn’t die”….. ha ha. I take off the shoes and she goes off to play. In less than a minute she is back. She says ” Mumma, when I become 7 years na, these shoes wont fit me na….then can I swap them again!”