‘So, how are you finding your time at Asia Plateau?’, came the question from across the breakfast table. Though the question came from a dear friend, I couldn’t help but be slightly annoyed. I had arrived in Panchgani only three days prior and was struggling to balance the jet-lag, work deadlines at home, and the work related to the programme, Lead for Change, of which I had made the trip to India for.
Looking into his cheerful face I quickly forgot my annoyance at being asked this question for the tenth time in three days. ‘Honestly,’ I said, ‘I’m already wondering how I take Asia Plateau home with me.’ He looked at me, knowing that this was my second visit to the Initiatives of Change/MRA (IofC) Centre in India, the first of which was in January this year. ‘I love this place,’ I said to him ‘and I love being here – yet, I wonder how many participants associate the “special” with only the physical place.’ When I was at Asia Plateau in January, running around with the Communications team, I barely had time for myself. I listened to stories from IofC members across the globe who shared the transformative moments that had taken place at Asia Plateau. When I left it was like leaving Indian Disneyland. I was certainly charmed by the peaceful ‘bubble’ that encompasses Asia Plateau as a place.
This time was different, though. Lead for Change was diverse and fresh. These participants were exclusively Indian and new to IofC, so they did not have any stories of ‘turning points’. Yet, they were all burning with a need to do more and bring their change into their lives. This was my chance to deeply reflect! However, the conversation from earlier resurfaced repeatedly in my mind. ‘Shut up, I’m trying to listen for my inner voice!’ I would think to myself, shooing aside the earlier conversation. I worried I would not be able to really ‘experience’ Asia Plateau like that of other IofC members. However, a guided mediation caused me to break free of those expectations.
I was resistant to this concept of being told what to do. Yet, I wanted to be open minded; literally and figuratively. We each laid out on the floor with a cushion as we were given instruction to explore our feelings. After lying in the floor of the foyer for a few minutes, clutching a cushion to my chest, I heard a voice speak: ‘It’s the space, not the place.’
‘Look here, “inner voice”, what the hell are you trying to tell me? It’s the space? What space? I’M IN A SPACE! Oh, wait,’ I thought. Suddenly, everything was clear. Think of Disneyland: Disneyland is a place where ‘magic’ happens, but that magic is a result of the intangible. Disneyland is a place of imagination, stories, and serendipity. None of those are objects that we can touch, feel, see. However, because these experiences do occur in a place, our limited minds correlate the experiences with the places.
The environment, the space, is what I can take with me. Ultimately, I alone am responsible for creating space, sacred space, in my life. I can’t keep thinking that it is the place that creates the transformation within.
THAT is what I have taken of Asia Plateau back with me. That was a powerful moment that allowed me to act because I listened. It was curated by those whom I’ve met as a part of IofC. They understand space because they have walked this path before. They invite you to a place to allow you to discover your space within. Namaste, friends.
Now I think more about how many of us hear and don’t listen. This is something I notice with my generation. There is a distrust in the intangible; we’ve been placed in the confines of religion without understanding faith. We see what’s done in the name of religion and we want no part. So, we believe only what we see, not knowing how to trust what we don’t, and the result has been a disconnect to the guidance within. My lesson learned? Educate others on ‘the space, not the place.’
Photos by Armaan Dua
Tracie Mooneyham spent the first part of her career working in the business sector for various retail establishments while attending Randolph-Macon college. She is presently employed by a family foundation as their Program and Grants Manager. When not maintaining the digital world of grant making, she enjoys volunteering with Initiatives of Change International, American Association of University Women, and the Interfaith Community of Greater Richmond. In her downtime she enjoys kayaking, gardening, and taking pictures for Instagram.
NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.