Hello, from Ketchum, Idaho
Hello from Ketchum, Idaho. Population: 2689. :)
Sometime last year, one of our volunteers invited me to share some ServiceSpace stories at the Wellness Festival ... and so I arrived yesterday for a 2-day trip to this small Ski town, with big skies, ultra conservative politics, not much diversity, and an amusingly small airport. :)
One of the speakers of this Sun Valley Wellness Festival was Eben Alexander, author of NYT best-seller Proof of Heaven. Another was former head of CIA, James Woolsey. Amidst Heaven and CIA, :) I was to speak about rebuilding a gift culture. Scott Carlin introduced me as the “kindest person I know”, which reflected more his kindness than mine, :) and urged everyone to visit our various portals including KarmaTube “which is YouTube for the soul.”
The talk stirred up some great questions; earlier, Mr. Woolsey spoke about mistrust (in the context of electricity grids), and ironically, he attended my talk to listen to the other end of the spectrum. :)
Smile Cards were a big hit, as several thousand are now on the loose! At one point, I tell folks: “I just met a filmmaker outside who is doing a documentary on wonder; so I was telling him about a book, and serendipitously, that was the one book I happened to have in my carry-on bag. I’d love for a volunteer to tag this person.” That unleashed a wave of creativity in the room, particularly from one super-excited gentleman. Another teacher took a thousand Smile Cards for a school of 400 students; they plan to give everyone a Smile Card and then reflect on it – and then, gift a Smile Deck to those who follow through for deeper engagement. A woman named Synthia, wrote me an email after the talk: “I turn 60 in January. My first 60 Smile cards will be given as a two-fold honor, first, of your work in the world, second honoring my 60 years on earth.”
In the front row, there's a radiant artist who told me before the talk that she is unexplainably attracted towards alms bowls -- and has made 108 of them to give away. In the back of the room were Smile Cards and Decks that were arranged in a smiley face formation, :) and a volunteer came up to me at the end and handed over a wad of bills. “People let this on the table, as a gift.” Completely unsolicited. Without looking at how much it was, I handed it to the woman standing next to me -- who interestingly happened to be the alms-bowl artist. I joked, "What comes from Idaho should stay in Idaho. :) Would you kindly pay it forward?" From one invisible alms-bowl to another, she was thrilled to do so.
I also had fun with a local TV interview. The host, Chantal, had spent 13 years on Good Morning America, interviewing the likes of Dalai Lama to Pavarotti, but she’s now doing labor of love work in this small town. She wanted to get a flavor of what I was doing, but very quickly, I started interviewing her as she spoke about her incredible, and anonymous work of rescuing hundreds of local dogs. And yes, she's keen to be on the Forest Call. :)
After an evening reception, about dozen speakers and such went out to dinner. Woman on my left was Petra, from Mauii, was a food activist. We had a fascinating conversation about activism versus giftivism and it just reinforced the idea that ServiceSpace thinking doesn't occur to people, but once they get it, its super intuitive. On my right was Eric -- a charismatic speaker, former Junior Olympics wrestler, and a filmmaker whose movie had inspired me many years ago; only sustainable modality he knew was business, but after our conversation, he also started to think from contribution-first lens (and wants to release 'The Journey' on KarmaTube). On the other side of the table was Kate, who runs a local Waldorf school; she made a fascinating point while describing Hinduism: "There are three states -- ignorance, happiness and transcendence. Happiness is the most dangerous, because you start indulging without realize that suffering is on its way." I also told a fair bit of not commonly heard ServiceSpace stories, of how this work requires precisely the same elements that Gandhi needed for his satyagraha movement. The ambiance was quite powerful.
Then, the waiteress come in and says, "Hey guys, the owner of the building was on the table next to yours and he overheard what you guys were talking about -- and he just 'Karma Kitchened' your tab. Please pay it forward." Everyone just started cheering with a sense of both awe and joy. By now, I know I shouldn't amazed with things like this, but I'm always stunned!
Another longtime ServiceSpace ambassador, Duane Elgin, also spoke, attended my talk, and was at the dinner. He has done some remarkable work in the world, and is about to head from Idaho to meet staff of Ban-Ki-Moon at the UN. :) We had some great conversations, as always; one in particular was how he feels that if we just be with our breath for 7 hours straight (which he thinks is quite easy), then there's a kind of tipping point. "You see, the frame-rate of our awareness is very slow, so we're missing lot of reality. We can't see reality as it unfolds, so we make many mistakes and suffer. But as we focus and pay attention, we can increase the framerate of our awareness and at some point, we hit the speed of light and we can actually see what Buddha called 'co-dependent arising'." I crack up, still thinking about 7 hours without a single thought. :) "You know this from experience, right?" "Well, yes." Some of his parapsychology feats have even been documented by Stanford Research Institute back in the 70s. In the hotel lobby, that night, Duane and I had an hour-long heart to heart conversation. Ultimately, he says, "How can I serve ServiceSpace? I genuinely want to learn from what's unfolding through ServiceSpace." Wow. What a blessing from this 70-year-old farmer (originally from Idaho) and a long-time love-warrior.
As I slept last night, it just made me realize what a gift it is that we get to be in the flow of something so sacred. With or without ServiceSpace, this sacredness has to flow -- but because of all joyous effort we put in when no one is looking and when everyone is looking and all moments in between, we get to be instruments for it. What a gift it is!