Around the world you probably would have seen, heard about, read about or even taken part in an activity known as a “shibir”. This has become a very common and successful event for Swaminarayan Temples worldwide and is no different for Willesden. The temple held its first camp in the summer of 2001. Very different to what you see now; yet it had all the same hallmarks and was attended by over 50 youths. It was a success and the yearly tradition followed and that was that.
However, there was a genuine buzz created from the camp and many within the youth academy. The temple felt that it was important to keep promoting satsang. Through the aagna and blessings from the saints of Bhuj Temple, Willesden Temple held its first shibir in 2003. Just like camp, but spread over a weekend in Easter. But why? What’s the point?
Well during camp, technically speaking you probably don’t “learn” in the traditional sense but you do develop your satsang and embrace the experience. Momentum in satsang as well as in anything you do is vastly important. Revising all week for exams; you power through module after module. How about a break? You’re at the gym. You’ve worked hard for 3 months in losing weight or gaining some muscle strength. Perhaps now would be a good time to stop? Or maybe you’re losing 1-0 in a football match and you steal a goal in the last 5 minutes. You could go on and get the winner or perhaps shut up shop and settle for the point?
Momentum is integral to sustaining your development and achieving your goal. All the enjoyment and memories we get from camp should not be confined to 7 of 365 days. This is why shibirs are crucial. They also present an opportunity to deliver teachings in a more intimate manner. Willesden Temple has been holding these shibirs for over a decade now. They started as residential events where youths would stay for a couple of nights; take part in classes, activities and sports. The last day would usually be reserved for an outing where elders and parent would also be encouraged to attend too. Gradually, as with anything, shibir evolved with the times. It no longer became residential and instead became more seminar and workshop based. It was in 2011 however that it would break new ground and hold its first overseas shibir. During the Easter of 2011, shibir was held in Paris. The satsang, the food, the teachings all remained true to our core principles. It is a much cherished memory for all who attended. To this day, many boys, girls and adults recall the many wonderful events we were lucky to be part of.
Shibir continues to evolve and seek new ways to keep the satsang pendulum moving within the temple. It has broadened its scope to include many varied discussions. Seminars on Vachnamrut are followed by those on academic and career progression. A quick five-a-side football match is preceded by a workshop on improving different skill sets. It encourages seva and taking responsibility in temple; with the youth sometimes taking over and conducting the evening sabhas in both Gujarati and English. There is genuinely something for everyone. Be sure to keep your momentum going.