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Live A Life Of Grace

Recently, someone had asked me what advice I would give to my younger self ... here is what I had written:

You are taught to work hard, to drive your destiny, to make something of your precious life. That's true, but remind yourself that underneath the waves of your effort lie the undefinable laws of the ocean. Listen carefully because these laws won't be as loud as the commercials on TV; they will instead whisper with the poetry of serendipity. All our lives start with an act of serendipity that we can't explain -- our parents. It defines so much of what we are able to do in life, and yet we had no control over it. As we grow older, we tend to identify ourselves with the wave and forget about the ocean. Resist that temptation. Don't ignore that five dollar bill you find on the streets, simply because you haven't earned it. If you hold acts of serendipity with reverence, you will mature into grace. Grace isn't deserved or undeserved, understandable or mysterious, pain or pleasure. It is simply grace -- and it is aligned with the laws of the ocean. Live a life of grace. 

Posted Apr 18, 2017 | permalink

The Love Bomb In Dubai :)

I'm not quite sure how Natasha and I originally connected, but two years ago, she came to the Gandhi Ashram for one our Startup Service gatherings. Her parents, Viresh and Faye, joined too. They were quite deeply "moved by love" and were keen to help in whatever ways emerged. Originally from Oman, and now in Dubai, they are students of Dayananda Saraswati (Value of Values is one of his great books) -- and Gandhi. :)

They lovingly hosted me in their home and in the evening, they held a lavish event with musicians, multi course meals and much more. Originally, we intended a small circle -- but apparently, word spread and they had stop at about 100 folks, as everyone puzzled over what exactly could be drawing people. Mama Faye felt it was Natasha's to-the-point Whatsapp invite, which linked to Can You Create Social Change Without Money? "In Dubai, it's all about money so no one can believe this." :)

Everything about the evening was very thoughtful. As you entered, your nametag said: "Name" and "Love is ...". I wrote "Love is a crack in the ego that can contain the whole universe." Then people sipped on coconut water or pomegranate juice while informally chatting with others. Soon after, you were invited to enter into a silent sanctuary and write an intention on a heart-shaped piece of paper that you will hang up on a tree. Natasha introduced me, I spoke, did some Q&A, and we broke out into small groups, before concluding with some closing reflections and a giant group hug with Nimo's Grateful playing in the background.

It felt like a love bomb had exploded. One young woman looked at the menu and jumped with joy. "Oh my god!" It was a Singaporean soup that she was craving just earlier in the day, and isn't available anywhere in Dubai. Another random fellow overheard that and said, "Hey, I commute to Singapore. I'm going to bring you one package of this soup every month!" Everyone was just in that space.

Many people noted, "Most of us have never experienced a circle like this in Dubai. This doesn't happen here." The room featured many entrepreneurs, celebrities, and global personalities -- most of whom were dancing to the beat of compassion. About 10 volunteers took over the waiters role, and served with *unstoppable* enthusiasm. By the end of the night, everyone was hugging everyone. "Fierce generosity is what I want to practice," two people separately told Natasha. Several people invited me to their events, many people spoke about starting their own circles, many brainstormed local ideas with each other. Few people have already started planing for a Dubai retreat later in the year.

Another highlight for me was reconnecting with my cousin, Aditya, after 12 years! It felt like we hadn't skipped a beat. He was also swept up by the energy of the space and signed up to join the Awakin Circle next week and other kindness events. Long live love! :)


Posted Apr 9, 2017 | permalink

The Goodwill Tribe Of Dubai

Chandni and Sonia have started The Goodwill Tribe in Dubai, that hosts all kinds of local events to "inspire human connection and kindness". Both of them very sweetly share with everyone, "There would be no Goodwill Tribe without ServiceSpace. They made us." It made me reflect on the joy of decentralization.

Today, they hosted a "kindness retreat" with about 20 change-makers. After a circle of sharing, we held a question around vulnerable generosity -- how can you push your bounds of kindness? After splitting into smaller groups, we came back to hold another question -- what can we do together that we can't do alone?

All of us in the circle felt stronger for having been with each other. It was lovely to share space with such a diverse group -- and enjoy 'gulab jamuns' after dinner. :)


Posted Apr 8, 2017 | permalink

Ken's Pen

Every moment can be a moment of connection. My cab driver for the event was a fellow named Masood. Earlier in the day, a big Sheikh had come to this conference via a helicopter and Masood was supposed to escort him; so I was teasing him how he was then downgraded to take care of me. :) We had a good time together.

The next time I was in his car, he even treated me to coffee!  It was great to learn about his life, his understanding of Dubai, and the edges life forces him to traverse.  At one point, my pen drive (with my presentation) slipped out of my pocket and he remembered it was mine and brought it back to me.

As I was departing the conference, we gave our final hugs and I wanted to offer him something -- so I quickly looked through my bag, and what did I find? A pen that Ken Honda had given me. I told him how this was a from a big-hearted author in Japan who has written 120 books. He sent along his love, with this smile below ...


Posted Apr 8, 2017 | permalink

Meeting Faisal From Uganda

I spoke at a big ICAI event today, of chartered accountants in Dubai. The King's Uncle helicoptered in for the opening remarks. Many inspired speakers, like Major D. P. Singh, took the stage over the span of two days.

Many were curious how a message of generosity would resonate with this money-oriented crowd, but it ended up being the only standing ovation. Lots of small stories of micro transformations, like one inspired fellow who decided to carry water in his car so he can offer it to thirsty strangers everyday!

I was particularly touched by my interaction with a young man named Faisal.

Faisal was the security guard at the event. When I first walked in, he stopped me and asked me for my badge; I didn't have one, so he wouldn't let me in. :) After my talk, I had stepped out and when I went back in, he stopped me again. "Hey, remember me from before?" "No, no, Sir. I actually wanted to ask if I could get a link to your YouTube channel?" I looked at him a bit perplexed. So he explained, "I had to be outside so I couldn't hear everything, but I was really touched by what I heard. I also want to grow in service."

He gave me his email, and I promised to write him that night.

But the thing is that he actually followed up. "I'm from Uganda, and I find a lot of commonness in the work of ServiceSpace and Paul Freire (of whom I'm a student). For a year now, I am working here in Dubai as a security guard but I can do more than this. With my bachelors degree in education, my passion lies in working with communities to bring about change."

He's now signed up to do other local volunteering, and even applied for the upcoming Laddership Circle!  One just never knows what emergence has in store for us, so we have to assume value everywhere.

Posted Apr 8, 2017 | permalink

My First Day In Dubai -- At An Awakin Circle! :)

Today was my first day in Dubai. Ever. It is a land of superlatives -- biggest mall, tallest building, largest library. Home to Formula One races, Masters PGA events, and Corporate conventions. Just 500 thousand residents, and rest of the 4.5 million are on a kind of work visa. If you opened up the Uber app, you'd have an option for "Uber Chopper".

In this context, lots of inspired people as well. It is home to various Awakin Circles, most recently at Sunita's home. Loads of local kindness events. Many Karma Kitchens.

Tonight, Sunita and her family hosted an Awakin Circle. After a reading, we all shared and I closed it out with some stories. Post-dinner, the story session continued. What struck me about the circle was how many "slow stories" it took to create that circle. Three sets of parents (Neha, Prahladd, Nandita) who were brought into the fold by their kids in different parts of the world. Bunch of youngsters, who were inspired by local events. Sunita and her husband were originally moved by Sheetal and Khushmita's love in India. When a circle has such deep roots, the vibe can go even deeper. That's exactly what happened, particularly in the informal time after dinner.  

Here's more from Sunita.

At the end, I passed out Kit Kats from Japan. :)  After Maki's circle, where I had shared the trashed pencil story, a gentleman came up to me with some Kit Kats and shared a beautiful letter in his broken English that said, "It's a small gift, but wrapped in a lot of gratitude. Please pay it forward."  And now, the inner-net connected him to brothers and sisters in Dubai.  The slow-but-strong stories ripple on.   

Posted Apr 7, 2017 | permalink

Meeting Shin Again

Almost twenty five years ago, our family of four met a Japanese mystic on a plane. We called him Shin. It ended up being a formative 8 hours together in my and Viral's teenage lives. Decades later, I would remarkably run into him again (on my last trip to Japan). And today, life brought us together for breakfast.

A glorious space emerged at our table of 3, at a random coffee shop in downtown Tokyo. I learned that he knew Fukuoka, who he said had a very pure mind.  His assistant, Ikumi, was in tears at various points and called it a "Miracle Meeting". Japanese culture is not known for its hugs, but we couldn't help ourselves:

Last night, two nuns had offered me some bread. Another woman had offered me a small envelope with some money, with a beautiful inscription in Japanese. I paid that forward to Shin. He read that inscription: "An Offering From the Heart." Perfect.  

Posted Apr 6, 2017 | permalink

Maki's Latest: 7 Million Prayers

Maki is one of the gentlest innovators one might encounter.  With a keen intellect, she's a doctor by trade; with a unbelievably sensitive heart, her favorite activity is praying for others; and with a happy spirit, she's always found smiling and in service.  You notice in the little things, like this story at the Subway Station.

Her latest innovation has been doing "7 Million Prayers" circle. I asked her, "Why 7 million?  You mean 7 billion?"  With a big smile, she says, "I wanted to think small." :)

People come together for a little bit of silence and a brief circle of sharing. Then there's a talk by someone from another part of the world to share a bit of their country, with the idea that the country's spirit comes alive with that personal relationship to the speaker. To conclude the circle, everyone shares a sentence of where they'd like to channel their prayers, and the whole group recites that sentence again. After all the prayers of goodwill, there's some silence to soak it all in.

I spoke about India today. With so many prayers in the room, a sense of sacred was clearly palpable. My translator, Skip, shared a beautiful sentiment after the talk: "I felt like I had to create space in my head to actually hold some of the ideas you were talking about. I feel bigger right now."

Lots of small ripples like this young woman who said she's going to start doing gift-economy massage at her beauty salon once a week (and that I have to visit her next time, LOL):


Posted Apr 6, 2017 | permalink

Author Of 120 Books In Japanese!

A while back, Gary Zukav had introduced me to Ken Honda. This morning, we met for breakfast with his daughter Hanah and secretary Sarah (who is from Texas, but fluent in Japanese!).

Ken is very popular among the Japanese youth. In his twenties, he was very successful in the finance world, but at the age of 29, life took him down a different path. He became a father, quit his job, and published a small (free) booklet that went viral. Now, he has written over 120 books in Japanese (that have sold over 11 million copies) -- and cranks out another one every couple months. Kind of amazing. And he can't believe I'm not writing books. :) After our conversation, he's keen to do a book on generosity in Japan, and we also cooked up a few other ideas. :)

His daughter Hana was also very sweet. She's never taken a test in her life. When she explored college, everyone told her that ultimately college is about relationships. So instead of college, she decided to start a website called "Life is my college". After our breakfast, she wrote a super sweet note that speaks her open heart: "I watched your TED talks before we met and resonated so much with it so I was actually a bit nervous to meet you in person. But meeting you changed everything. Right form the moment you got in the car, I became your number one fan. Feeling your warm welcoming presence, I felt like I was in a bubble of love." Hanah is a big fan of YouTuber Superwoman, :) and is excited to come to India later this year, for a Moved by Love retreat.


Posted Apr 5, 2017 | permalink

Beloved Sisters In Japan

I arrived in Japan, and had all kinds of wonderful excuses to be with my wonderful Saionji sisters. Two days of endless laughs, deep conversations, and happy brainstorming. We had a circle with systems thinkers, a beautiful prayer event with the larger community, and various meetings in between.

The sisters are truly called to laddership, a kind of leadership that relies on awareness of the interconnections with an ecology. At the moment, Yuka is busy laddering her second child in the third tri-mester of her pregnancy while Rika is getting ready to start Awakin Circles with their community. Maki, who has hosted 16 Karma Kitchens in Tokyo, recently spoke at a "dream event" with 1000 people and her dream of building a hospice was selected by the audience as the most inspirational. Many ServiceSpace friends from around the globe will be joining them for Symphony of Peace Prayers this year.

Masami treated us to a glorious 8-course vegetarian meal (best Japanese -- and umami -- food I've ever had!), trumped only by her radiant energy and metaphysical visions about the future of ServiceSpace. :) Hiro and I also had lunch, talking about Yuval Harari's books and personal practice of sitting 60 days in meditation each year.

Before we left, I offered Meghna's beautiful art work -- and as they posed for a photo, I joked that it looked like prison mug shots. That explains Rika's smile. :)


Posted Apr 5, 2017 | permalink

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"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

"Real privilege lies in knowing that you have enough."