“Belonging to life and to each other is a choice.”

We can have a sense of belonging, no matter what we are doing, or where we are in the world. And yet, it is easy to create a myth – a sense of separation from family members, from neighbours and from people who come from other cultures. They may have different customs and yet still share common needs, goals and desires in life. We create a wall of fear, afraid to move towards the other, to see our commonality.

It is also easy to change that belief system through linking with people through teaching, socializing, cooking, sewing, dancing and so forth. During our recent group trip to Kannur, Kerala, Southern India, our host, Mr. Haris, at Seashell Haris Beach Home, was using this approach with guests in a positive, loving and playful way. It made our experience real, grounding yet uplifting while on a ‘yoga retreat’ doing ‘panchakarma’ (Ayurvedic cleanse of the body) in a beautiful place far, far from Canada, almost the lower tip of India.

We shared activities with the local people planned by: Mr. Haris, his son and other staff, our spiritual teacher, Berdhanya Swami Tierra and our Ayurvedic doctors – Dr. Shamna and Dr. Prajith. It was a formula of success with everyone in our group experiencing India in a fresh, authentic way and not as tourists. We were able to do seva (gardening, milking a cow, etc.) dance, sing, share food, laughter and stories while learning about each other’s culture.

The children and adults of all ages were very curious to meet Canadians and the children often could speak more English than their parents. They asked questions, shared their talents or just smiled and giggled, like all children do. We learned the simplicity of the local people who were enthusiastic to share their knowledge, ideas and creativity e.g. showing us how to plant small banana trees on the farm of Mr. Haris. We had a natural connection with gestures, smiles and laughter while doing the planting together.

The local women also came to Seashell on their one day off for a health talk by Berdhanya and Dr. Shamna and in turn invited us back to their village for a communal celebration dinner. The air was full of laughter, fun and good-will. And as usual, the strong beat of the Indian drum band was invigorating and uplifting, served as an announcement of belonging and connected everyone to the sacredness of the land and people.

Belonging to life and to each other is a choice. And life continually gives us signals to be connected with oneself and others. One local excursion sprouted from an idea to visit children in a school to a full afternoon event. It took some preparation time, learning songs for a music presentation (kirtan) to exceptional children and adults at ‘Ashraya School’ for Children with Developmental Disabilities. They were very colorful, energetic in performing several small musical skits for us, their parents and other friends attending this afternoon event. The music melted the initial shyness of the students as we bowed to each other in dance and song. And there was time to mingle together for photos and hugs after the event.

This event came together effortlessly and was an opportunity to plant seeds of love, friendliness, kindness and acceptance whether Indian or Canadian. Life is rich and full when we go with the flow. And this harmonious coming together for one afternoon was uplifting and transformative. Everyone was laughing and smiling as they started off home and we were all happy with our ‘choice’.

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