Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
–Poem by Franciscan Brother Richard Hendrick on the Coronavirus Lockdown (in his own voice).
Dearest BeMe Family, beloved Earth Family,
We celebrate in this Spring Equinox the opportunity to share with you all some of the thoughts and feelings that have been flowing through us these days.
As many of you know, last March 10th, ten children of the Bangalore-based BeMe school community, together with three teachers and a couple of people from the Gandhi/Sabarmati Ashram, started walking from Ahmedabad to Dandi (~386 km). This was offered as a way to retrace and experience the places, routes and people touched by the march that changed the course of humanity, a historic march that provided a tool to address conflict and oppression rooted in courage, dignity, strength, love and compassion: the Salt/Dandi March of 1930.
These children and teachers of our school (BeMe) were not satisfied by only reading books and surfing the web to study the kick-off of one of the most successful satyagraha (nonviolent civil disobedience) campaigns –if not the most successful one– the world has ever seen in her history, we wanted also to stress the inspiration, courage and urgency to understand, practice and embody the values that lead to, and were part of, the Salt March orchestrated by Mahatma Gandhi. And when children are calling us to live up to our values –as Greta Thunberg has done– we honor their request by holding space with humility.
Little did we know that in this 90th anniversary of the Salt March, the outbreak of the infamous coronavirus (covid-19) was going to challenge and change all of us in different ways, inviting us to collectively reflect on a daily basis if we should stop or continue this walk.
We are deeply grateful for the continuous support and generosity of all sorts that we have received from all the community: from cozy places to stay, to delicious meals, to words of encouragement, to blessings and prayers, to selfless guides, to emergency supplies, to places to shower and wash our clothes, to the on-going care and updates about the evolution of covid-19 all over the Earth, to the companions physical and otherwise who have walked with us in different parts of the route, to the innumerable offers to drink water and rest in the shade — particularly when we are walking through the villages and their central banyan trees.
While some of us have long conversations prior to the start of the walk, none of us predicted that we were going to be today having an impromptu rest day at Derol (~210 km out of ~386 km) due to the suggested and voluntary lockdown all over the part of the Planet we call India.
A couple of days ago, the parents of 4 of the 10 kids expressed their desire to bring their children back home to Bangalore as the pandemic of covid-19 is reaching new heights in this part of the World. We miss their presence but we cherish every step we took together and all the insights that came collectively during our daily reflection circles. Now we enjoy our occasional calls with them and we are looking forward to sharing some more learning experiences together once we are physically back.
These last days, we are constantly questioned by many of our dear friends, family and people we meet during our walk to Dandi, if we are not being socially responsible by not practicing “social distancing”. And what we would like you to know in this letter is that we have never being more in solidarity with the planetary community than now, as we –the Earth Family– already caught more deadly viruses: the virus of apathy, the virus of eroding and forgetting the values that Gandhi and so many others die for –even in their own land!–, the virus of indifference, the virus of greed and hatred… all these deadly viruses that are eating up our collective essence, devastating our beautiful biosphere as we experience the current climate crisis and live through the 6th Mass Extinction in Earth’s history –dozens of species are dying every single day.
We feelthink that specially now, in this planetary crisis, more than ever, we must revive, adapt and embody to the best of our ability the values of ahimsa and satyagraha in our lives. To find out what is the Salt March of our existence. And what a place to be right now: literally and physically following the steps of Gandhiji and all led, mostly, by children.
Today, we are passing the Spring Equinox where there’s a balance between the day and the night, light and darkness. In the midst of hopelessness, fear, scarcity, disease, isolation and disconexion, we would like to be on the side of –and we have the moral responsibility to choose– active hope, love, abundance, harmony, community and connection. We are not naïve or walking out of recklessness, nor we are walking against anybody. The other way around, it is our intention to find the balance between the inspiration, curiosity and courage of these children with the risk and the opportunity to be more fearless through our presence and love. We are walking for all the millions of migrant/refugee children and families worldwide who don’t have a home to safely quarantine in, to let them know that we all are one Earth Family; we are walking for all the people who are locked down in fear, to let them know that this crisis eventually will pass but that love never left; we are walking for all the people growing, cooking or delivering food and the nurses and doctors who are not able to stop working or don’t have the privilege to work from home and have to use public transportation or walk, to let them know we see them and appreciate their resilience to stay safe and stay serving; we are planting in every step the intention for this march to move humanity towards freedom with the humble steps of an 8 year old, 9 year olds, 10 year olds, an 11 year old, 12 year olds and a 16 year old… we even have walking with us a courageous and energetic 61 year old teacher/grandma –Gandhi started the Salt March when he was 61, too– who is by far the fastest walker of all of us and who is constantly finding ways to feed us as she effortlessly connects with people.
While so far we are not breaking any law-of-men as Gandhi, the 78 and many more hundreds of thousands did 90 years ago, we do share with all of them the Jai Jagat statement, the sentiment and intention to alleviate our planetary family through living simply and in community, through small but great acts of compassion that are imprinted in our collective consciousness. The villagers have been tremendous teachers welcoming us. And what if this hospitality, and food security, they constantly offer to us could be replicated, as fractals do, at the planetary level? Can we look at our planetary neighbors, ourselves and Nature in a new way? Can we wake up conscious of the importance of supporting local organic farmers, eating seasonal food, stopping the flow of fertilizers, GMOs, pesticides and the erosion of topsoil? Can we wake up conscious of this interconnected and interbeing reality that sages, saints, poets and scientists of all ages have been telling us about all along?
I can see in the shining eyes of these children a touch of divinity, how little by little we are aligning and being coherent with the realization of the underlying unity evoked in the last questions, to then act accordingly to our uniqueness and serve the emerging paradigm: to be in service to the sacred, to be in service to the whole web of life.
It is not our intention to put at risk our children, ourselves and society in general, but the opposite: we feel ourselves as part of a planetary pandemic of compassion, a sort of Karuna Virus (karuna is a Sanskrit word for compassion), that is sweeping the entire Earth now, too. Our messages are sent through our lives. This is the emerging paradigm we all ought to serve.
As pilgrims do, we are adjusting to the context day by day and we keep nourishing the spirit of love, courage and compassion with every step, with every interaction we have with all sentient beings who cross our path. This pandemic merely unveils the radical uncertainty of life that is already there, and puts it into far sharper focus. And yes, we are available and ready to serve our planetary heart with the dynamic generosity of the spirit.
It is a real blessing to be witnessing –some sort of a blisscipline 😉 — how wisdom blossoms through these young people as they approach the Spring of their lives and experience a personal revelation of Truth. Take these three examples that highlight the living field of possibility we all humans are capable of:
II. A 16 year old remembered having a conversation with her mother about the intelligence of the bodies and how every single part of our body has information to share with the ways we think and speak. “The question is”, she pauses, “are we aware of this? How do we become more aware of our subconscious?” Then she finished up her insight by saying: “Yes, I’d like to put the intention during this walk to connect with ourselves through different practices. Yes, be connected with ourselves.”
III. And then the youngest of our crew, an 8 year old, after a long and hot day –perhaps a 20 km walk– shares: “You know Pancho, I am very tired and then I was looking at all these people in the street painting their faces with colors, or the other people driving and honking, and going to work or school, and I thought how all of them cannot be part of this Dandi Walk because their attention is somewhere else. Then I felt so lucky to be able to do it. What a great experience! I cannot afford to waste a single part of this luck, then I felt less tired. So now, moment by moment I must enjoy this luck and not miss a single moment of joy!” 🙂
Spiritual seekers spent their entire lives to come up with these kinds of insights, yet these young people have come to them effortlessly on this path.
It is an honor to be with these children who are so awakened and who are sending a strong message on the urgency to be the change, an urgency to spiritualize the intellect. Furthermore, by walking the Dandi/Salt March now we are sending a message not only to the BeMe family, but also to the entire Earth Family to embrace what Gandhi called “the most powerful weapon at the disposal of humanity”: ahimsa/satyagraha, a way to connect simultaneously with ourselves, with each other and with Nature.
As we said, we continue to be deeply grateful for all the trust, love and generosity poured into us by dozens –if not hundreds– of people who give us strength and believe in us to keep planting seeds of love, courage, compassion, inspiration and wisdom, one step at a time, one heart at a time.
May we all find the balance of wisdom between action and inaction, between light and darkness, between walking and being in stillness.
May we do and be everything within our reach to leave a more beautiful, loving, playful and more compassionate Earth.
May we all become compassionate, courageous and wise.
March 21st, 2020, Derol, Gujarat, Earth
PS: A kid left a trace with this drawing and infogram in a notebook and the cellphone i use… 🙂
UPDATE: [March 24th and March 25th, 2020]
The pandemic curve of covid-19 keeps increasing worldwide. Major cities all over the part of the Planet we call India, are now in official lockdown. And more cases of people infected with the virus are appearing in Gujarat, including Surat –part of the Dandi March.
Last silent Monday during our daily circle of reflections in the evening, the team decided that to finish up the walk to Dandi and not be able to go afterwards with their respective families due to the lockdown of state borders, was not a situation we wanted to put ourselves as a group. While the support in the villages has been tremendous and we trusted we could have reached Dandi by avoiding the bigger cities –as Surat–, the overwhelming feeling to deal with the potential multiple police checkpoints, and the increasing external pressure was starting to feel as a big stretch for many of us.
So, reluctantly and with a heavy heart, and taking the last window of spacetime before the states’ borders lockdown to use airports, flight tickets to Bangalore for Tuesday morning were bought for all youth and teachers.
We didn’t have the speciousness to have a discussion around the people growing, cooking or delivering our food and the frontline health workers who are not able to stop working or don’t have the privilege to work from home and have to use public transportation or walk. But the questions to walk towards a more compassionate Earth Family and come back into kinship with all life still remain: Who works and under what conditions? How do we restore our common sense and reclaim the human scale? What needs to be done at our human scale? As Naomi Klein says in one of her latest interviews:
“We might think we’ll be safe if we have good health care, but if the person making our food, or delivering our food, or packing our boxes doesn’t have health care and can’t afford to get tested—let alone stay home from work because they don’t have paid sick leave—we won’t be safe. If we don’t take care of each other, none of us is cared for. We are enmeshed.”
Inspiration seems to be coming from all corners of the Earth. The amazing HEAL initiative doctors and Doctor–Poet Sri keep reminding us “whose suffering matters less and why?” and invite us to tap into the movement of global solidarity they have embodied for so many years. In their last week’s newsletter, HEAL & COVID-19, Dr. Poet Sri says:
“We know the vulnerable among us are always hardest hit — the poor, the black, the brown, the undocumented, the marginally housed. We also know that in times of great stress, we have the opportunity to respond with great courage, deep commitment, and service.”
These bold doctors without borders know how little control we all have over our own lives and how the opportunity to serve this emergent paradigm hit us by surprise. Our children also experienced something similar during this Dandi/Salt March, and moreover, now we both groups are aware of our joy, commitment, playfulness, love and compassion, dancing at all times –especially now– with our grief and the uncertainty of it all.
The roads are empty and quiet. The birds and non-human animals are happy. We feel the birds song falling as rain, and then actual rain, clean rain, falls as well. Am in-love with the rain, when she kisses the ground, plants her fragrance in the heartmind.
It was a blisscipline to have witnessed this rain and that of the field created by these children, who wanted to learn more about Gandhiji to embody more and more the values he lived. For 13 days and ~250 km, they cultivated a living vibration field of what is possible. They gently prove incorrect the skeptics who doubt they, at their young age, could walk at that pace, for that long, with that heat. I was impressed by the palpable joy these little people radiated as they woke up each morning around 4 am, and sometimes their playfulness, joy and lightness were there, enlivening us, despite the mosquito attacks from the previous hot night. They were holding strongly the frequency and practice of joy. They received an invitation in their heart, and they responded accordingly, as citizens of the world do.
The kids were not trying to please anybody, or to appease anything, as I shared before, they were aligning and being coherent with the realization of the underlying unity and sacredness of all life, to then act accordingly to our uniqueness and serve this emerging paradigm that sings while effortlessly challenges separation and disconnection: let there be beauty, let there be joy, let there be love to be compelled into right action. Let us be connected, as Ved (the 8 year old reminded us), moment by moment to the wonder of how lucky we are to still be alive and be part of a lineage of joyful awareness. And let’s do it in commUNITY and in blisscipline.
wake to the scent of distant stars
long before they splatter
the roof of your heart
throw off the blankets of knowing now
and let the spirit run outside barefoot
into the unknowable fields of the Beloved bow
and before the mind’s skin could even feel the first drop
the wet reluctance of beauty
splashes your heartmind
with untiring lights
that never give up but bind
am in-love with the stars and their rain
when she kisses the eyes
plants her fragrance in the heartmind
what makes your heart wide
what makes your face shine
yes, looking down
there’s ground that separates us and makes us different
keep looking up
and see the sky that unites us and makes us the same
then the Earth her moist, radiance and vibration
emerges as our beloved home, smile and celebration
feel the unifying force
falling in-love with the source
keep witnessing in and out
and offer wild prayers, raw poems and love songs
to this unfathomable
luminous rain of the soul
and let it rain! rain! rain!
May we all become the compassionate rain the Earth Family needs here and now.
Jai Jagat blessings from some corner of our round borderless country… now it is the Environmental Sanitation Institute in Sughad.
March 24th, Mangrol, Gujarat, Earth
March 25th, Sughad, Gujarat, Earth