My Joy Is Yours

In my first first week of getting to know India, I felt as if she has been reaching over with sweeping arms to put a finger to my lips. Shhhhhh, she would hush, stand beside me and watch as I show you who I really am.

It was our second evening in Ahmedabad when we sat together under the heat-glazed sunset at ESI, the Environmental Sanitation Institute. At ESI there is a heart shaped bench under a green canopy of trees. We call this space the meditation grove. On that heart shaped bench we sat next to each other and other things as well. We sat next to the call of the peacocks, the occasional blow of the wind, our orange journals still full of anxious blank pages waiting to be filled. We sat next to jet lag, fatigue, our anticipation, and our curiosity. We sat down next to a shared love that was only beginning to blossom.

Soon, a man appeared at the front of our circle. This man was dressed in all white. He crossed his feet at the ankles. Without introducing himself, it was clear that he was the man of the hour. His name was Jayesh Patel, one of the co-founders of Manav Sadhna. In front of us was a man of wisdom, a man of service and love. A tray of fresh lime soda was served around our circle, the mint leaves and lime tickling our tongues with the coolness we desperately needed. My limbs were squirming with heat; no one had told me it was going to be this hot!

As Jayesh Patel began his conversation with us, a translator filled us in with the parts he spoke Hindi. At first, the evening carried on as slow as honey, the result of an unstoppable collaboration between jet lag and the sweltering heat. My mind walked in and out of the meditation grove, embracing his words at one moment and then sauntering out into the trees the next.

There was something beautiful about how he spoke his words in English, how the foreign language pushed him to speak only what was at the core of his message. No frills, no lace. Just the essentials. From him I experienced the power in the simplicity of language. 

The next moment could have been considered that cheesy epiphany moment, the one where the main character of a movie finally figures out what he or she must do to save their loved one and ride off into a happy ending. In that moment I locked eyes with Jayesh Patel and when he spoke he poured his words right into me. My mind could not longer leave the meditation grove because it latched right onto his eyes. His eyes that demanded focus. It was like a splash of cold water across my face. Finally, I began to live in the moment. Finally, my mind was able to leaf through the many colors and meanings of Jayesh Patel’s thoughts.

One of the first ideas he mentioned was the joy of togetherness. As the glaze of heat slipped off the sky and darkness took its place, that idea is exactly what we embodied. Each heartbeat was beating under the same love and same energy. Every ear was cocked his way; every pen movement was fueled by his words. By sharing this spirit we became one.

At the end of the talk Jayesh Patel said, “There is no giving, no receiving. There is only sharing.” This is the line that stuck with me the most. By saying this he showed me the importance of a shared perspective, of erasing the line between self and others. There should be no separation. There should be a together. My joy is yours. And what is yours is mine.  

Writing this, it was hard to pick out just a single touch of what Jayesh Patel had to share with us that night. It would take a blog post much longer than this to capture each and every drop of his wisdom. So I’ll leave you with this. Here my last quote I have to offer. “Just contribute. Just do it. Just do it now. And listen to your heart.”

To the man who has inspired me deeply and who has given countless underprivileged children a home as well as the opportunity of an education and beyond—thank you for sharing with us.