In order to mark the International Day of the Elderly on 1-Oct and to address the growing epidemic of loneliness, the Charter for Compassion, Women and Girls, India,launched its first Happiness Circle for elderly women in our community in Mumbai on 4-Oct, 2018.

Seven delightful women were our first attendees with ages ranging from 62 to 79 years!

Contact was made with each participant prior to the session and their unique needs and conditions understood by out lead organiser Sharda Mangal.

Greetings were exchanged as participants entered before they all settled down at Nnaumrata’s home. We started off by sharing a brief introduction about the Charter for Compassion and the intention behind starting this group. The idea was seeded in March by one of the members and brought to life by Sharda Mangal, in the form of a Happiness Circle, named ‘Happy Ho’ (meaning Be Happy in Hindi).

We started with a two-minute Lotus of Gratitude meditation aided with a background music to align the group’s energy and shift towards positivity.

Next, each of them was asked to share three things with the group:

  • Name, their tenure of stay in the condominium and any personal stories or circumstances
  • What brings them happiness
  • What they would like to see happen and get out of these sessions

Lots of interesting things were shared by all women….avid bridge players made connections, voracious book readers were among the group and decided to exchange books just 10 minutes into the session!

It was interesting to hear the story of one of the ladies who had lived in this area since the time it was a jungle and in habitated only by the indigenous people.

A Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) session for 15 minutes was then led by a group of young volunteers invited specially for the occasion. DMT, they explained is about moving the body in a way that helps connect with the soul. The movements were simple and fun for everybody as they followed the energetic facilitator.

All then, sat in silence with their eyes closed to listen to their heartbeat and to experience the change in how they felt. All briefly shared their thoughts in one word, summarising their experience as peaceful, calm and relaxed.

The session ended with a beautiful song about nature and our connect with it which was sung by another volunteer who is training in vocal music.

We had a brief discussion about the healing power of nature and all members were urged to make time to spend with nature daily. One of the participants had recently lost her husband and she felt better and more connected with others who had faced a similar situation a few years ago.

A brief discussion with participants followed asking them about their preferred time / day / frequency of the sessions and all voted for weekly sessions, restricting the group size to 10.

We then ended the session by explaining the difference between pity (daya) and compassion. Pity is when we just feel for somebody but compassion, Nnaumrata explained is going one step beyond …it is doing something about it. She brought our attention to the fact that majority of the population in the world has to survive on less than Rs. 150/- per day according to world statistics and shared how fortunate we all were to have so much more, reiterating the importance of developing a feeling of gratitude in our hearts. The best way to develop an attitude is to practice it daily!

All participants were assigned work and requested to start with two daily practices:

  • Start their morning with a Lotus of Gratitude. Every morning, before getting out of bed, hold fingers together making the shape of a lotus. Open one finger at a time while mentally saying the ten things you are grateful for, till all 10 fingers are open.
  • Maintain a diary and write every night, three good things that happened that day.

Everybody left with hugs and smiles on their face! It was like they had found a treasure. It was however, all of us, the organisers, who felt we had found our treasure.

Our next session has been planned and we intend to invite theatre artists for playback theatre. Cannot wait to report our next experience!