(from July 26th-Aug 6th, I had the honor of being on the facilitation team for AYP’s seva safari. This 12-day service trip brought 22 participants, 16 AYP teachers, 5 facilitators, 1-Massai village, and several communities in Nairobi together for seva/service. My time in Kenya continues to astound me every single day, yet this trip in particular moved me in a way I hadn’t yet experienced. I would love to talk with anyone who wonders what it’s like to spend 12-days fully in service to become a part of the next seva safari trip. If you are wondering if you are ready for a commitment like this, the answer is yes. You are ready now. The following blog captures a few of my awakenings from this trip…)
I couldnt take my eyes away. I looked intently for the answers. For the ease. For the colors that I only ever see in the hours between the set and the fall, when it’s nighttime, when I’m dreaming.
I looked around believing that everyone would want to see too, but they had moved on, to the other side of the bus where a baby elephant had come to sway it’s tail. And in my locked gaze I knew there would be other elephants but that this orange-red-sky would never come again. I gazed back once more, hoping that someone would want to share, and that familiar sense of heavy, of my own implied burden of having to explain something after it had passed….
But as I watched, in that glance, I saw complete joy of the group as they tapped the window and the click click click of capturing that moment, I gave up being right.
How many sunsets have I justified?
I watched the side of the mountain breathe in what was left of the sunset, that final second, that last delicious, savory bite that I always meet with a sigh and a smile. There is something about the slow water-color movement of a sunset, the fast fireworks of red and orange as they announce the sunrise…the beginning and end again of it all. Ive been both late and early to things to witness both.
In that moment, giving up people needing to see what I see, to confirm to me “yes, this is the most beautiful thing I have seen” liberated me to stop trying so damn hard. And this soothing poem made it’s way across my mind as it stilled:
“even after all this time. the sun never says to the earth. ‘you owe me’ look what happens with a love like that. it lights up the whole sky.”
It’s actually “lights up the sky” not the “whole” sky but I’m taking ad-lib rights here. I’d never heard this poem until a dear friend tore it from her well-worn book and handed it to me before I left for this trip. And if there are words so far to sum up this trip: it’s them.
Not always, but often, I’m understanding now that my love given has fallen into a ‘if this, then that’ equation. And that equations are no way to live my life.
What’s helping me see this here in Kenya, when what I want to give, or want to recieve is not in balance. That factors of material goods, language barriers, the wanting to give more than I have, the wanting to recieve something that is not mine, the desire for this to make sense. The anger, guilt, and sadness, when it does not.
What’s got me telling the truth about all this now, is that my 2-months here I have been witness to so many pure gestures of generosity. Nothing owed. No expectations of gain. Just a pure moment of 2-dozen Massai women dancing and singing, while their children clap to the song of their mothers. And these women, they take from themselves a necklace they have perhaps worn for moments or years, it’s not for me to know, and place them over our bowed heads. A gift.
I watched the woman remove her necklace as she walked over to me, gracefully weaving her hands across the clasp, and in the space of one breathe and one exchange of looking into each others eyes, I was now wearing her necklace.
I couldnt pick that woman out from a crowd, I couldnt tell you what she was wearing, I dont know her name. Yet I can remember the sweet sound of her song, and the way her rough yet gentle hands grazed the back of my neck. But most of all I will remember this as the purest gesture of generosity I have ever been a part of. Tears rolled steady down my face, and I felt joy in a way I dont believe I ever have.
I did not give that woman a necklace back. I didnt have one to give. What I gave instead was several days prior of hard work with my hands, with 30-others. 60-hands building a school. As we learned to build stone walls, and desks, and roofs, as we stood in the hot sun, laughing, connected, covered in dirt and sweat and alive…as we loved the best way we knew how, the best way I knew how…as love.
I gave with no expectation that anything would come back at all. I gave with no insistance that my sunrise was more important than your view of baby elephants. I recall now the beautiful exchange of her hands offering, and am not met with the need to find her, to tell her what she meant to me, to prove it. What I am opening up to is generosity cannot be proven.
What I commit to, is to stop keeping score. To breathe in and out of the knowing that everything is perfect as is. That the people I am meeting on this path, they’ve been expecting me, and I, I’ve been expecting them. And I commit, to the best I can, to let these be my only expectations. I’ve spent so many years knowing the score, knowing when I was up, or behind, and adjusting accordingly. I’m tired. This is a tiresome way to live.
I commit to being in the questions that move me.
That move us.
I want you to ask me what the score is, and I want to have absolutley no idea.
No idea at all.
I want to spend late nights and early mornings connected in our discovery’s…and these final few sentences of one of my favorite poems given to me by my first ever yoga teacher Susan, Mary Oliver’s ‘The Summer Day’’
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?