Strands We Weave For the Commons of Humanity
Apr 27, 2015
On Wednesday afternoon, I skyped into Chaz's class at UPenn to speak on laddership. I typically shy away from Skype but we ended up with a really invigorating Q&A: "Weren't you afraid to go on your pilgrimage?" and "I recently went to a vigil and felt no empathy. What should I do?"
On Wednesday evening, we had our weekly Awakin Circle with our capacity crowd of 63 people. I must've told Guri about half a dozen times how much I love these Wednesdays. You can listen to the audio, but high-bandwidth experience is amazing. During the "saying yes" circle, people shared great stories; one girl said, "I'm saying yes to", and looking down, she paused for about eight seconds, and finished, "to grief." Then she passed. After the circle, we got a brief moment to hug and I voiced what I sensed she was feeling: "Doesn't the circle just hold all of us so unconditionally?" With a big smile, she replied, "Yeah. Although I don't know anybody, I feel like everyone shared my pain and I was able to share some of their joy."
On Thursday evening, I had dinner with a very affluent businessman. At one point, he asks, "I'm good at giving, but not so good at receiving. What would you suggest?" Summary of my response was: "I learned receiving by practicing giving to a point where I saw clearly that receiving is embedded even in the most minute acts of generosity. So my tip: give more." When it was time to pay the bill, we fought for the tab. "Hey, I'm practicing giving so I can learn to receive, so let me get this," he joked. After a fun fight, he decided to pay forward for another table. Amazing experience. Right as we left, he opened up a piece of paper and showed me how he was invited to a dinner with Richard Branson, President of Costa Rica and couple others. He thought of cancelling on our dinner, but then decided not to. With the smile that can only come after a paying-forward some else's meal, "I made the right decision." :)
On Friday, like on all days, my inbox is filled with ripples from around the world. I got an email from Ani in London, who shared about their Awakin Circle and Kindness flash mob with Audrey. Right then, I got an email from Swara in India about how she addressed a batch of 70 students in Baroda, India. School administration was hoping that everyone doesn't just aim for a corporate internship, so they asked Swara to share service stories. Lo and behold, couple of them went together, engaged students with hands-on kindness acts, and by the end, 35 of them are signed up to do a "ServiceSpace summer internship" in couple weeks! Compassion is contagious. :)
Later that afternoon, Birju and I met with Tapan to brainstorm Laddership Circles. We already have more nominees than capacity, as Audrey and Preeta are set to anchor June 23rd circle. Our ideas spanned self-paced courses to distributed circles. "What do you think is the bottleneck?" Tapan thought out loud. "People who can hold space, in the ServiceSpace way," was what we landed at. It requires a kind of inner transformation -- which is certainly void of financial interest, but also holds a weakening wish for external impact, personal ambition and cultural scale. It's not the kind of thing one can rush. :)
On Saturday morning, Mia was the guest on our Awakin Call (that Bela called one of her favorite all-time calls) with a global community. As Kozo, the call host, noted: "No matter what the question, Mia's answer was love. So inspiring." What's beautiful about Awakin Calls is that it's ultimately about everyday heroes. While doing a bio for an upcoming guest, as she diligently does for every guest, Preeta wrote sent an email with the subject: "really really touched". Lot of our guests hardly have any inner transformation driven material on the web, but the 38-person Awakin Call team routinely puts this out in our commons.
In the afternoon, I gave the closing keynote at a conference of 400 IT professionals in the Silicon Valley. The gentleman who spoke before me (and who had started 30 companies in his remarkable career!) shared how Silicon Valley had the highest companies per capita, highest millionaires per capita, and highest millionaires per capita in the entire planet. I, then, followed suit about stepping up our spirit of service. :) "When donating money, we are giving a part of ourselves. When volunteering time, we are giving more of ourselves. However, it is only when we offer ourselves, that we start to forget about the karmic arithmetic and start dancing."
In the evening, Ricardo had organized a beautiful dinner with some local folks. Sandwiched between Guri and I was Jacob Needleman, who I consider to be a close friend now but whom I first encountered as a teenager when I read J. Krishnamurti's Awakening of Intelligence. He has unmpteen accomplishments to his name, but he comes off genuinely humble. His main interest, whether 1-on-1 or with his classrooms or with his many books, is dialogue. Even when we spoke for radio, there were couple others who explicitly joined in silence to hold space. It's an art form, that I hope more of the ServiceSpace ecosystem gets to learn from him. Another person in the circle was Americ Azevedo; his life changed when he took a course with "Professor Needlman" back in 1975 and this was the first time in 40 years that he was meeting him! "Back then, it was very rare but he was the only professor who genuinely dialogued with his students -- it changed our lives," he remarked candidly.
Similarly, on Sunday morning, Karma Kitchen served another 93 guests. Min and Alam got married and sweetly asked wedding participants to contribute to their favorite nonprofit -- ServiceSpace. :) Tom, Richard, Tapan, Rahul and others convened for a symposium around technology and values in San Francisco. In parallel, close to 4 thousand people from 98 countries are taking the 21-Day Mindful Tech challenge.
Day in and day out, such a beat goes on -- from an offline circle to another online space to a in-person meeting to a Skype conversation to a keynote to silence on the meditation cushion. And this is just from my limited lens. Imagine an entire ecosystem where 2 emails are being sent out every second, nonstop, combined with the millions of people landing on our websites every year, and many coordinators like me holding space in a myriad different ways. Ripples organically weave from one to another, compound from third to fourth, and regenerate the commons of humanity in immeasurable ways.
This month, ServiceSpace completed sixteen years. April 1999 is when we started. It doesn't really matter, though, because it could forever and we'd still keep doing the same thing. What a privilege.