Nagpur --> Ahmedabad
Heart Lessons from the Camino de Santiago: "I is We"
It was after receiving Satish Kumar’s book, You Are, Therefore I Am, after having the unexpected opportunity to meet him, I was taken back to the moments padding along the dirt paths for almost two months. It reminded me of the values we try to hold close to ourselves throughout our lives, the same values that embody who we are and all the work that we strive to do throughout our lives. Most of all, it reminded me of the lessons we give ourselves, simply just by giving ourselves time to be silent, be, and acknowledge the life inside of us.
In just my first week here I stayed in an Ashram created by Vinoba Bhave, a freedom fighter who devoted his life to continuing Mahatma Gandhi’s work. He started the famous Bhoodan Movement, a land reform movement that sought to give land to the landless. I spent almost a week there, working with my hands on the farm, practicing noble silence, and hearing the stories of many of these women who are now in their 80s. Some of the women I spoke with walked across India with Vinobaji, some even for a decade. They walked, spreading the message of women’s power, nonviolence, and self sufficiency.
Two months walking deeply impacted my life, imagine 10 years! They were walking for a cause through the depths of Indian villages, in the heat, and even during the intense monsoon rain. These women were some of the only educated in society those days, and they decided to give their lives to this work. I was deeply touched and moved by hearing their stories. One such woman, Pravina Tai, sat with me daily to teach me lessons. She is 80 years old and moving as if she is 25 years old. I remember in one of our last lessons, she said to me “you are a bird! A free bird! Fly! Fly! Fly!”. It reminded me of what my dad said to me before I left the US last- “spread your wings and fly!”
All of our lessons were simple, but profound. She taught me the basic values of life, and on my bus ride back from Pawnar to Nagpur, I reflected on these basic values. I grew up listening to these teachings from my father, and I’ve continuously have come back to the roots and values of these teachings. When Pravina Tai told me to fly like a bird, I thought about how, as humans, we forget about the parallels we have with the rest of the earth and the universe. We tend to use our ability to think and comprehend certain things as a method of exploiting other living organisms in our ecosystem. Worse, we exploit ourselves.
While we have kept animals locked away in cages, we have also kept our souls in cages, limiting us to reach our fullest capacities. We spent too much time paying attention to the parts, and now, more than ever, we need to look at every moving piece, not just parts of the whole. As Satish Kumar writes in his book You Are Therefore, I Am, and as the Gita explains, we need a convergence of a science and spirituality. To look at how we can merge nature, economics, and spirituality to create self sustaining systems that consider all parts of the whole and that we are apart of Gaia, a whole breathing organism.
Back then, they understood the need for a holistic approach to well being of not just humanity, but of the entire earth community. They lived their lives in complete existence of all, practicing nonviolence in all ways. This is something we’ve forgotten, especially us youth who are the leaders of the coming generations.
As I bump along this road towards Nagpur to catch my flight to Ahmedabad, we pass shrub that has been burned by fire, but also find an abundance of farms, fruit trees, cows grazing under trees, and small villages with playing children. I wonder now how it is that our generation of youth can use a holistic approach towards a livelihood and education for ourselves and children. How can we awaken from “mine” to “ours” or in other words, “I” to “We”?
Life is a precious gift and so is everything that has come with it. If someone handed us a precious gift, we would treat it with the care that it deserves. Imagine if we treated life and everything that comes with it like that?