Speak your mind out – Chennai

Mental health as a concept is being given emphasis and voice over the last few years. Of course, the stigma is present but things are gradually turning around. When it comes to mental health we often come to witness or hear ‘this person’ or ‘that person’ who struggled with mental health issues put out their thoughts, but how about coming out in the open about your own individual mental health struggles and journey. This, in particular was the most unique aspect of The Goodwill Tribes meeting at Senmozhi Poonga on the 3rd of December called ‘Speak your mind out’!

9 people came together to talk about their individual journeys with mental health and wellbeing. What ensued was an hour of intense, emotional, and very personal conversation. Everything shared was so relatable by everyone else who was listening, which is amazing and let’s face it in some ways most of our journeys are the same .

The session started with an intense and raw poem by Dharini on how she perceived and felt about her mental health issuest. That part of her which felt she was in a world she did not belong to, where isolation was as horrifying as connection. Her journey through depression and reaching out for help was delivered with such poignance and power.

Swathi shared a note on how mental illness instrinsically being a highly emotional experience, can further push you to the edge when your experience is not being met with empathy and understanding. It makes you feel alone in your journey, and that could be much more crippling than the depression itself. Travel – her love for new places, people and settings, helped her discover herself and reignited hope that there was space for beauty in this world. It reinforced that this one life is worth fighting for.

Ms Aparna shared her experience of having an eating disorder and working towards recovery. We usually feel comfortable sharing about something when it is over and done with. But to be able to open up when you’re in the midst of something, takes courage and tonnes of perspective. She shared that lack of knowledge about how crippling an eating disorder can be, even among the medical and psychiatric settings, can drive clients to hopelessness and despair.

The session “speak your mind out” did not look at solutions because primarily everyone’s journey is unique. It aimed at providing people the strength to come out and find acceptance in who they are, just as they are. The fact that few people spoke and others listened, gave others the validation that it was okay for them to open up as well. They would not be judged or shunned for their struggles. And primarily it conveyed the message that- “it’s okay to not be okay”.

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One could sense a feeling of release at the end of the session, a feeling of belongingness and support, which is very crucial to navigate or work through any mental health issue.

‘Speak your mind out’ created a beautiful experience on a cloudy Sunday evening, reminding us that to be human is to connect with one another, to be sensitive and kind, to yourself and to others.

Big shout out to Swathi and Neeta for making this happen through The Goodwill Tribe Chennai chapter!

Strangers in Colour – Bangalore

There is an inexplicable joy and fullness in feeling deeply connected to the people around you, and that feeling was apparent at Strangers in Colour. It’s an experiment in human connection, where people were blindfolded, paired with a stranger and invited to connect with them, heart to heart, without judgement. They were then separated, blindfolds removed and asked to create a work of art to represent how they ‘saw’ each other…It turned out beautifully!

We were amazed by the 16 participants who’d showed up in trust, ready to step into an experience that would take them out of their comfort zone. When everyone was blindfolded, we volunteers had to gently walk them around the café (Dialogues) to their seats at the conversation tables. That in itself was a humbling experience – taking their hands in ours, feeling their vulnerability as they depended on us to help them move around. They were given around 30 minutes to connect with their partners. We watched, absolutely amazed, as all 8 pairs of people were deeply engaged in conversation. They seemed so engrossed in the experience, everyone leaning in to truly listen to this new person they were getting to ‘see’, without seeing. It was so difficult for us volunteers to interrupt their conversation when time was up!

The second half of the experience was about creating a piece of art to represent this person they had connected to. It really wasn’t about expressing artistic mastery, but instead about taking the time to reflect and express what they had experienced in this person. The atmosphere shifted into a quiet and peaceful one, as participants focussed on their creations.

Finally after this, we introduced each person to their partner. There was such excitement and joy in the room as people now met each other without the blindfolds! The pairs then found spots in the café to continue their conversation, sharing what they had experienced and the thoughts behind their works of art.

 

All along, we were soothed by the beautiful voice of Jainy, a musician who had volunteered to play and sing for us. Her music was the perfect sound between the pauses, creating a space that made everyone feel comfortable, and at peace.

 

We wrapped up the experience with a circle of sharing where everyone was invited to share something that had stood out for them, or something they learnt. Some of the themes that came up were –  our shared humanity, empathy and trust for strangers. Vasavi shared that the experience had been a reminder of how we are so much the same on the inside, in spite of our uniqueness and differences. Arpitha who had connected to a girl much younger than her, had seen herself in this girl, realising that we all walk such similar paths. Hamsa shared that the experience was encouragement to trust strangers a little more. Reuben was a little nervous at the prospect of having to talk to a stranger for 30 mins. Being someone who keeps conversation just to the point, it was a new experience to converse for the intention of connection versus just information exchange. We were amazed and humbled by the reflections that came up, and trust that in some way this experience will ripple into many more moments of human connection 🙂

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Behind the scenes, our team of volunteers – Lakshmi, Priyanka, Akshay and Shruti were absolutely amazing, invisibly holding fort for all of these experiences to transpire 🙂

Also, here’s a special shout out to Keya, our very young volunteer photographer!

 

 

Strangers in Colour – an experiment in human connection

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Don’t tell us what you do for a living, tell us what makes you come alive,
Don’t tell us what or where you studied, share instead how you’re going to thrive,
Don’t tell us how old you are, tell us the stories that lit up your years,
Tell us about your greatest joy, tell us who you are when you have no fears.

What is your wildest dream? What does your heart crave?
What is the centre of your sorrow? Have you witnessed yourself be brave?
Tell us about any failures, any times it’s all been a mess,
Tell us if you can still stand by the edge of the sea, and shout to the sky, ‘Yes!’

Tell us how you sit with pain without hiding it or fixing it,
And joy, without being afraid, that it might only last for a short bit,
Tell us what sustains you when all else falls away,
What keeps you centred in your truth, safe and not swept astray.

Tell us how you see your own beauty, even when it’s not pretty, every day,
Tell us how you face heart break, when you have no words left to say,
Tell us how you get up with courage, after a night of grief and despair,
We want to know your story, believe us, we truly care.

– The Goodwill Tribe

We at The Goodwill Tribe are inspired by the power of human connection. We believe and have witnessed that moments of connection, give rise to more empathy and compassion. If we all felt connected to each other, perhaps we’d all treat each other with love and compassion and this world would look very different.

Strangers in Colour is an experiment in human connection.

Imagine this:

You are blindfolded
Partnered with a stranger
You have a *goosebumpy* conversation
And then you are separated
You create a piece of art to represent this amazing new person
And then you finally ‘see’ them (without the blindfolds this time)

If this resonates with you and you would like to attend, you can register here. If you would like to volunteer to help put this experience together, you can register here.

 

Sprinkles of self-love – Dubai

It was a lovely Saturday evening where 11 of us gathered at the beautiful XVA Art Hotel over coffees, drinks, cakes and salads while digging our selves deep into self-love. It is truly said by Buddha that, ‘You yourself, deserve your own love and affection’.

Usually at our Letter Earthlings events, we get together to write letters of support and encouragement to strangers going through a tough time. At this event in Dubai however, we decided to write letters of self-love to ourselves.  It was so lovely to have people from all age groups with us! From school goers, to architects, to first-time solo travellers, to do-gooders, to son-mom duos!

 

 

We began the circle with asking everyone their names and one thing they loved about themselves, Karen shared that she appreciates her quality of keeping in touch with people, Neha appreciates being a warm person, Kiran shared that believed in being happy in any situation and that is her gift, Siddharth loves that he is non-judgemental, Dr. Anita shared that she loves her ability to see humor in any situation and takes things lightly and Kunal went on to share the he loves how he ensures that people around him are always happy 🙂

We then invited everyone present to write two letters – one expressing appreciation to themselves for the person that they are and another to their future selves that we will post to them in 6 months. Kiran mentioned that she was putting pen to paper after ages! 🙂

Our closing circle was lovely. We went around in another circle to reflect on everyone’s experience of spending time writing letters of ‘self-love’. Karen honestly shared that she was having a tough day where she was being extremely hard on herself and this was exactly what she needed to practice, some loving self care and reflection. She was excited to receive the letter to her future self as she holds an intention to ‘declutter’ through 2018. Shazia shared her plans of embarking on her first-ever solo travel and how spending time on herself just boosted her excitement to do so! Ananya joked about how others were doing such inspiring things while she was simply trying to pass a Math exam 🙂 and then went on to share that she could feel extremely positive (while smiling wide), Neha expressed how it was good take a step back to do this amidst exams. Kiran shared how she would like to attend more such events focused on goodness and how she has set her intentions on sky-diving (woohoo!) next year, and to let go of stress and harsh thoughts. Siddharth mentioned us how it was good to take time to appreciate himself in a normally stressful life and Dr. Anita shared how she has realised that it is not important to win all battles, but more important to win people’s heart and love and Kunal opened up to share that this was the first time in 6 months that he took time to spend on his own self and how it helped him set some goals for himself.

Karen, brought some magic to the event with her colourful heart pins on the occasion of her birthday! 🙂

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As always the evening left us feeling good and connected to each other. We’re glad to get to share these experience with community!If you feel like you’d like to encourage a friend or family member write to their future self, Here’s a fun tool that will help them do just that!

 

Love letters to the self

‘Love is all we need’

Lines that we know so well. When you read them, did you think of another person? That’s natural, it is our concept of love. But there is another kind of love, a love that exists only between you and yourself. It is self-love and perhaps the most important kind of love there is. For if we do not love and embrace ourselves wholly, how can we give that kind of love to anyone else?

Usually at our Letter Earthlings events, we get together to write letters of support and encouragement to strangers going through a tough time. At this event in Pune however, we decided to write letters of self-love to ourselves. Everyone present was invited to write two letters – one expressing appreciation to themselves for the person that they are and another to their future selves that we will post to them in 6 months. It was so lovely to have people from all age groups with us! From 10 year old Reet, to her grand mother Geeta.

Pournima, the lovely lady behind our Pune chapter, brought some magic to the event with her colourful fortune cookies. Each (handmade) cookie, had within it a self love related affirmation. We went around a circle, sharing the fortune we had received. They read lines like, ‘I am at peace with all that has happened, is happening and will happen because I know that everything is towards my highest good’, ‘I am full of joy and vitality – I am unstoppable’ etc. Most people shared that the message they received was exactly what they needed to hear 🙂

As always the evening left us with peaceful vibes. We’re glad to get to share these experience with community!

If you feel like you’d like to write a letter to your future self. Here’s a fun tool that will help you do just that!

Picture credits : Shutterbug Clickzzz

 

Stories from September

In Jaipur, our tribe put together a new event designed to bring strangers together called K(no)w Unknowns – Connect with Strangers – where people were connected to a stranger with the intention to get to know their story over a couple of weeks. And then everyone was invited to an event where they all came together share their experience and enjoy the company of a new found community. The gathering was joyous with shared stories and music too!

Last month, our cosy GWT tribes* in Sydney, London, Chennai & Kochi, reminded us of the beautiful power of small. And left us in awe of our chapter heads in these 4 cities who are resilient, determined, brave and rebellious**. We have always maintained that it doesn’t matter the number of people 1 or 100, every letter and every small act of kindness has the possibility of creating a ripple effect that we will never fully be able to measure 🙂

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Our girls in Kuwait who often describe their events as peaceful had yet another Letter Earthlings gathering. Meryl messaged to say, “when people come together to connect to share it really feels so relaxing, its a huge break from the rush through life. The Goodwill Tribe events can be huge stress buster to our heart and soul”

Hey, have you ever tried writing a letter to yourself? This is exactly what our Delhi tribe did. They brought people together to write a letter to appreciate themselves and a second one that will be mailed to their future selves 6 months later. How amazing is that? They also introduced an icebreaking activity where strangers complimented each other. Yes, strangers who had just met each for the first time pointed out beautiful things that they see in the other person. Inspired by this beautiful event, our Pune tribe has decided to do the same in November.

Here’s are 2 testimonials from that day:

“The letter earthlings event was amazing.This was the first time ever that I wrote a letter to myself. I found this a great idea to spend time on yourself. I could see how excited everyone was to write a letters to themselves. Activities like gathering adjectives for ourselves was a wonderful and a positive experience. I could see how everyone just beamed up on getting the “You are awesome” card!”

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Take away cards from the event

“Personally, I am an introvert and through the activities I did at LE, made me overcome the hiccups I face talking and socialising with unknown people. I made new friends and discovered a new side of me. But most of all, I finally found time to invest in myself. I introspected and made a commitment to myself. I finally have a path in front of me that I decided. Let’s see how it goes!”

We often receive some beautiful reactions from LE recipients…here’s a few of them 🙂 It’s a sweet reminder of the small acts of kindness. They really, really matter.


We are in awe of the efficiency of our team in Goa – they are legit #goals. Talking about Goa, did you see what magic they spread around Goa last time?

Our pilot chapters, Nagpur and Bhopal received a mind-blowing response!

Mandar and his team of passionate volunteers pulled off an extraordinary pilot session of Letter Earthlings targeted towards people who have had a chapter of cancer in their lives. We absolutely cannot do justice to the stories we heard after, we were left speechless, deeply moved and smiling from ear to ear. We are just going to let you read this blog article for all the stories that unfolded that day.

Khushbu, who hosted her pilot event at her cosy little studio over cups of chai in Bhopal, saw a wide diversity in age and mentioned the tonne of blessings that the tribe has received and interest in the work we do.

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The event gathered folks from 6 years old to 50 years old!

Oh, and if you haven’t seen already, we have also launched LE Online and the response has been great! Spread the word for friends and families that are in faraway places 🙂

We sent out our traditional gift boxes to all our new tribes and what a joy it was watching everyone receive em! There’s something amazing about putting gifts together for people you love =)

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Priceless gifts and little ways to practice kindness

A deep moment of service a few weeks ago inspired this mandala. The quote“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” resonates with so many of us here.

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In interesting news, post the Charlottesville incident, Obama’s tweet set the record for the most liked tweet ever. It was a beautiful quote by Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Something to think about…

The media seemed to really like us the past month – we are always grateful for journalists who tell our story (and lots of incorrect information LOL!) – who choose to cover content of goodness

The awesome Arunesh is our guest blogger covering topics of kindness in various cultural traditions. Read them yet?

*refers to tribes that often attract smaller number of crowd, yet the ones that have the most homely, cosy vibes with intimate one on one conversations

** in the world we live in, it’s almost rebellious to be kind 🙂

Kindness in Culture – Ubuntu

There is an increasing amount of research revealing that human beings are inherently kind and compassionate. And there are many examples of cultures and communities that live in alignment with these values. Arunesh our volunteer blogger is exploring this theme to uncover inspiring stories of ‘kindness in culture’, from around the world.

So let me begin with a little story. An anthropologist was on a tour to Africa studying the habits and culture of a remote tribe. On the day when he was about to leave, he decided to put together a basket filled with delicious eatables. Placing the same under a tree, he gathered the children from a nearby village. Instructing them further, the kids were told to run towards the tree to fetch the basket. The one reaching first would have a chance to savor those delicacies.

To the man’s surprise, the little kids ran together, hand-in-hand. Eventually, everyone was crowned the winner since all of them finished at the same time. Therefore, each little soul beneath the tree could enjoy the fruits in unison. Mind-boggled by this instance which unfolded before his own eyes, he questioned a young girl about the same. With a smile she replied, “How can one of us be happy when the others are sad?”

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This ideology forms the core or say, an underlying feature of ‘Ubuntu’ which basically means ‘I am because we are.’ Isn’t it amazing? A renowned South African activist, Mr. Desmond Tutu, has explained the philosophy very well. He says, “Africans have a thing called ubuntu. We believe that a person is a person through other persons. That my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanize you, I dehumanize myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. Therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in community, in belonging.”

Not much remains to be said after this crisp definition of what Ubuntu is all about. Sighting a simple example, why am I writing this? It’s because you (are) and many other people would be reading it. The fundamental act of writing has the power to bridge the gap between an author and a reader. They are intricately linked through a piece of text, however the content maybe. Indeed, this is a broad consideration and varies from true essence of Ubuntu. But the concept of kindling that sense of oneness is a mutual feature between the two. We at The Goodwill Tribe believe the same when it comes to embracing human connections. Kindness and compassion is all you need to make a difference in the lives of people. For the South Africans, it’s a way of life!

Travel, strangers, stories and a little bit of kindness

If you’re following this blog, you’ve probably read about our experiments taking kindness on road-trips. In a very few words, it has been amazing! And so we decided to step things up and partner with the awesome folks at The Big Bang Trip to make connection and kindness activities a feature of the road-trips. They bring a group of strangers (trippers) together on unforgettable road-trips.

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The next road-trip is from 23rd September to 30th September and we’re going to Uttrakhand. We will be visiting Landour, Mussoorie, Lansdowne, and Kousani; places that remain unexplored and have a magical charm about them.

When you travel, it feels like you are stepping out of your life completely, and you have a chance to just absorb the wonder of new places, people, practices and perspectives. What’s even better is getting to travel with complete strangers – which is the way all these road-trips work. So you will be sharing stories, meals, rooms, laughter, conversations and new experiences with strangers, who might even turn into dear friends. The trips are a lot about all the storytelling that happens among people meeting each for the first time, and just really having a blast together. It’s an amazing experience of sameness – where we realise that for all that makes us different, there is so much that makes us the same.

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When people are travelling, their minds and hearts are open to the beauty of kindness and the power of connection. And so we design a few custom experiences for the trippers to connect more deeply to themselves, others and to have fun and spread smiles through some random acts of kindness.

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If this sounds like an experience you would like to be a part of, register now to join us on this trip of a lifetime!

Letters of love, taking on cancer – Nagpur

“We are all just a car crash, a diagnosis, an unexpected phone call, a newfound love, or a broken heart away from becoming a completely different person. How beautifully fragile are we that so many things can take but a moment to alter who we are for forever?”

-Samuel Decker Thompson

Isn’t it amazing how simply yet beautifully Thompson talks about the unpredictability of our lives? We never know how an event will impact our life and change it forever. Cancer is one such experience that can alter a person’s personality and make her/him a completely different person.

In the Nagpur edition of Letter Earthlings, we thought why not take cancer and try to change the way people look at it. We wrote letters to cancer survivors, cancer patients and to the families who have lost their loved ones to cancer. ‘Why not use our positive and kind words to heal and soothe a cancer survivor’ was our main idea behind organizing this event.

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We live in a world that is divided by race, class, gender, but in this divided world, kindness and hope hold us together. Cancer is a disease that has confused the entire world, and the world is fighting cancer together. The one common element we found in every cancer survivor’s story was their strength and their will power to beat the disease and come out of it stronger. We wanted to write letters to cancer survivors to salute their ‘never say die’ spirit.

Chemotherapy and radiation are treatments that take a toll on a patient not only physically, but also psychologically; in such a critical time, it means a world to have someone by your side, someone who will make you believe in your inner strength. Constant support and a few positive words can make a huge difference to someone who is going through so much pain.

We often hear people saying one must always follow her/his dreams, come what may, but not many of us actually have the guts to do it. One of the survivor stories we read went on to prove that if you are really passionate about something, nothing can stop you. This middle aged woman is battling breast cancer, her daughter, who had requested a letter, wrote, how her mother’s love for music helped her cope up with her chemo and radiation. Today her mother is a stage performer!

Another instance that was heartwarming, was watching a tiny 12 year old patiently writing as many letters as she could. The care, love and compassion with which she was penning down each letter and personalizing it, was really touching!

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The event that was a huge success, gave all of us a new perspective to look at this negative disease. Reading the stories of cancer patients and survivors made us realize that optimism, love and will power can move mountains! The positive outlook of these cancer patients made us reflect on how we unnecessarily crib about little things and blow them out of proportion.

In a world that is so self-centred, it was overwhelming to see so many people join us selflessly for a good cause. If there is one thing I’m sure everyone took home with them, it was a wider world vision. In this age of selfies, this event taught us to look beyond ourselves.

Blissed out – Kuwait

“Just as the stars shine bright in the dark so does any act of kindness” – GWT Kuwait

Blissed Out is an event organised by The Goodwill Tribe Kuwait, with the intention of creating an atmosphere of living in solace with oneself and being in a state of pure happiness, despite our busy lives.

This time The Goodwill Tribe Kuwait joined forces with the Stargazing Group Kuwait to experience the power of silence, music and calmness of nature’s presence.

The reason we chose to stargaze, was to remind ourselves that we are so lost in our own life’s issues and worries, we fail to embrace the blessings of the small things we have in life. Just as Draya Mooney said, “Look at the stars. See their beauty. And in that beauty, see yourself.”

Apart from stargazing we decided to have an encore of Silent Sound, where we invite musicians whether pros or bathroom singers, (totally agree that the acoustics are great in the restroom :)) to perform in a space where they can be themselves.

Together with music, we had a session of Bonfire Tales a.k.a One Kind, in which we shared about what kindness means to each one of us and what makes us truly happy.
We also spoke about the power of silence and the importance of time in solitude.

Meditating was so peaceful in the desert, and there’s nothing like being at rest with oneself, regardless of whatever is happening around us..the stars reminded us that we have so many options left even if some didn’t work out..

Be kind , stay humble ..