New Beginnings / by Chandler Rosenberg

It was World Environment Day June 5th. It was another positive experience to go rag picking with the Paryavaran Mitra (PM) project and other local volunteers from companies and from Swagyan at Gandhi Ashram. We picked up recycled waste on one of the main streets in Ahmedabad on Ashram Road at 5 am. These group of women are some of the most enduring and resilient people I know. In morning, PM organized the walk with our rag-picking sisters where participants did actual rag-picking witnessing the tremendous efforts these amazing souls put in everyday ensuring cleanliness our city. Every single participant was filled with loads of emotions and resolutions after this enriching experience. This simple act encouraged us to rethink our lifestyles from the a waste management perspective.

I did a two-day training on the Reading A-Z phonics program for three teachers from Manav Mitra, Manav Jatan, and Manav Seva in the comfort of my own home. I presented the basics knowledge, the reasons, and the vocabulary terms of phonics. They worked hard and asked numerous questions to seek to understand this teaching style better. They had fun learning and playing the games. It amazes me that these teachers are willing to not only learn English along with the concepts of Phonics but also to teach and learn a new teaching method. These teachers inspire me every day! Such a privilege to do this.

I did my first day of sitting in silence, meditating for a few hours, reading, reflecting, fasting all day, and participating in iftar at Manav Sadhna with the families from one of the centers in the slums to break my fast. Such a lovely way to spend my day. I read and reflected on one of my new books, "The Forty Rules of Love." There are countless profound passages from Shams Tabriz about how God isn't just found in temples, churches, synagogues, or in mosques but He is in everything and in everyone. Shams was one of Rumi's (a famous Sufism poet) closest confidants. I strongly resonated with Shams belief in that God is all about love and compassion. “The Path to the Truth is a labor of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind…Knowing your self will lead you to the knowledge of God.” Wow! This speaks to my heart and my love for my God. Just because I left an organized religion doesn’t mean I stopped believing in God. As Shams eloquently states, “To each his own way and his own prayer. God does not take us at our word. He looks deep into our hearts. It is not the ceremonies or rituals that make a difference, but whether our hearts are sufficiently pure or not.” I truly believe this. Shams was said this to the judge of Baghdad in 1242 A.D. because of his skepticism of Sufism. He was trying to find and connect with Rumi. But I will say that being in India has helped me light that fire of beliefs and reaffirms my relationship with God more. I'm really learning a lot about my breath, using body scanning in my meditation to release the tension and relax while sitting. I'm figuring out how to calm myself down by understanding that everything is temporary by saying "this too shall pass."

Walked to the Hanuman Temple on a military base camp. It was so much fun to hang out and get to know the students from Earn N’ Learn program. Incredible kids, they work by making cute greeting cards, crafty photo albums, and pictures frames, etc. to help provide for their families. They work and also get tutored, and taught English all after they attend school in the mornings. Then they help at home to take care of siblings, chores, and do homework after a long day of school and work.

Eid Mubarak festival: celebration to end Ramadan of the month long fast and Hanuman: Hindu festival. Manav Gulzar has the Hindu temple and the mosque next to each other in the center. A celebration of putting in the Hanuman (monkey statue) and Lord Shiva statues in their temple. I danced, served food to about 2,000 people, and then ate the delicious food. Such an extraordinary experience.

June 18th was the first day of Manav Mitra (new name instead of Kiran Center) opening back up after 2 months of kids going to their villages for summer break. I was so excited to see them again! They were so cute in their paper hats. I learned 2 Indian dances and dressed up. I wore my blueish green sari and learned 2 Indian children dances. It was so good to see my kids at the center I began my first 4 months. This center is still under major construction and won't be done until July 8thish. Kids are still attending while this is going on. We will use this time to build connections and fun with them while all this is going on. Renovation will look so nice.