It has been a month since I returned from Global CHYK Camp (GCC) 2022, and I have been repeatedly asked some common questions: ‘Why do you all go from all parts of the world for this camp?’, ‘What could possibly be important enough that we “sacrifice” our holidays and new year parties for a camp?’
The truth is, I could hardly explain even if I tried. Some experiences are extremely hard to express in words. The Global CHYK Camp is one such phenomenon.
In that one week, we got to sing and dance, eat the best food, make friends from every corner of the world, direct and act in performances on a day’s notice, immerse ourselves in the Ramayana, go on incredible yatras, celebrate festivals, spend time with teachers like Swami Swaroopananda and so much more. What’s more, this year’s theme was ‘Ramayana: Craft Your Character’ and it truly lived up to its title.
With each activity, each lecture, each discussion, each interaction with the acharyas, with each performance, each casual encounter, each nature walk, I was gifted the opportunity to connect. Usually, between periods of so-called ‘normalcy,’ we have rare moments of belonging. At GCC, it’s the opposite.
In that space, where we feel safe and accepted, the mind starts to dissolve. The schedule is demanding, it takes every ounce of our mental strength to stay awake sometimes, yet we do. The activities are challenging and force us to test our limits, somehow we push through. The lectures are insightful and often urge us to unearth buried aspects of ourselves; willingly we face them. As we start to uncover, we start to see the truth and then we start to drop every other pretence.
When asked to swallow a ball of fire on Day 3, my first thought was, ‘Don’t let anyone else see how absolutely frightened you are!’ My response was then to volunteer to do the thing I was afraid of. Naturally, the misplaced courage backfired. I chickened out while holding the fireball in my hand. It was a comedy of errors at first. Finally I thought, ‘My hand is going to burn,’ and in a state of panic I swallowed that ball as a reflex. It was momentary, but I realised how much of a learning it was only in the days to come.
Last week, almost a month after the camp had concluded, I was asked to move countries for work. It was quite abrupt. My first thought again was, ‘Don’t let them see your discomfort!’ Next came the need to rise up to the challenge. Followed by an understanding and surprising sense of acceptance. ‘I’ll be fine if I swallow the fire, so why panic?’
The true beauty of a CHYK camp lies in what I couldn’t see at the time–the little nuggets of love and understanding I brought home with me that changed the way I show up for the world around me. Every aspect of the camp is designed for us to see our potential, and just how much love we are capable of giving. Actions become effortless when we do something we love.
Sharing my deepest insecurities during discussion becomes easier because I know my experience might give someone else strength or perspective. Holding an ice cube for two minutes becomes possible because my entire team is doing it with me. Performing on stage in front of an audience becomes exhilarating because I love sharing the glories of Sri Rama. And when all these numerous experiences come home with me, anything becomes possible because I bring the love with me, and with it all its wisdom, its courage, its global army of support and its strength.
Attending a Global CHYK Camp is like marinating in love–a force so powerful it naturally flows through us to the world around us.