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Love and Light

Region 3 - Ladies Retreat: Milton Keynes

Saturday 6th July is a day that will remain etched in the memories of all those who attended the Region 3 Ladies Retreat – graciously hosted by Milton Keynes Sai Centre at a nearby Buddhist Temple. Set in its glorious natural surroundings – this turned out to be the perfect venue for a day filled with love, laughter and spiritual sustenance and has since been described as one of those days - occasionally gifted to us by Swami - motivating us to do His work with more love and greater enthusiasm.

The day started with an invigorating two hour yoga and pranayama session led by Sister Swati from Mill Hill and Sister Niruben (Patanjali Yoga Trust UK), on the green hills surrounding the venue while the sun shone up above. After a light breakfast, participants then retreated into the cool, peaceful shelter of the temple itself, with its imposing altar, dark wooden floors and a beautiful picture of our Beloved Swami which had been joyfully adorned with flowers and incense by our Buddhist brethren who help maintain the venue.

The first study circle then commenced, skilfully facilitated by Sister Nirasha from Milton Keynes who handed out copies of Swami’s Ladies Day discourse (2002) entitled RESPONSIBILITIES OF WOMEN: CHARACTER BUILDING. The ladies broke up into small groups to discuss different aspects of Swami’s advice to women and how, by following the BE, DO, TELL principle – this could be implemented in everyday life. In the discourse, Swami was reminding all women of their primary duty to their families, with instances from the lives of great and virtuous examples such as Savitri and Chandramathi. He also reminded us of how the tongue should be used for giving solace and support to others, rather than indulging in idle gossip. The participants thoroughly enjoyed finding time to reflect on this advice and discussing how they could overcome obstacles to put this advice into practice more effectively in their everyday lives.

This lively session was followed by a delicious lunch served outside in the warm sunshine, allowing everyone to walk around and soak up the beautiful atmosphere. After lunch, everyone gathered back into the temple for the afternoon session which was kicked off by a short video entitled GIVING WITH LOVE, highlighting details of this service project and how Region 3 ladies had successfully worked with the local community to hand-make clothes and gifts for those less privileged – both in UK and overseas. This was followed by a short talk from guest speaker Maria Barry from Richard House Children’s Hospice in Beckton who spoke about the support the hospice had received from the GIVING WITH LOVE project – and encouraging others to join in and volunteer in a variety of ways. Maria graciously invited ladies to come and visit the hospice to see the good work carried out in supporting children with terminally ill conditions, along with their families – often helping them make that final journey from life to death - which moved everyone deeply.

The next session was another study circle…this time to remind ourselves of Swami’s sterling instructions on the subject of Service and how this should be carried out. Sister Nirasha once again facilitated a short session looking at the divine discourse: SERVICE WITHOUT DISTINCTIONS (1984) and asked ladies what obstacles prevented them from engaging in more seva?. It was a wonderful opportunity to really examine how we manage our time and prioritise our activities each day - and whether or not our choice of priorities would be Swami’s choice for us!

The final session for the day was a beautiful bhajan workshop, led very humbly by trained music teacher and long-time devotee of Swami, Sister Cookie from Milton Keynes who talked about Swami’s guidance on bhajan singing – covering the three aspects of shruti (tune), thalam (beat) and bhava (feeling). The workshop skilfully met the needs of its varied audience as Sister Cookie ably provided examples of common pitfalls in bhajan singing – as well as providing constructive advice on how to overcome these pitfalls through choice of bhajan and practice, thereby showing each of us how we could make a more worthwhile contribution to bhajan sessions on an individual level, whether leading or following.

After a final tea break, the mood amongst the participants was jubilant as a few, final bhajans were offered to Swami, followed by aarti and a Vote of Thanks – to the Milton Keynes Sai Centre for their warm and loving hospitality, all the participants for giving up their time and effort to attend the event – and most significantly – our Beloved Bhagavan Sri Satya Sai Baba – without whom the day could not have been possible…a day that would certainly not be forgotten for many years to come.

JAI SAI RAM

Sutopa Sen
Region 3 Ladies Coordinator