Circles-R-Us in Los Angeles
Spent an eventful couple days in Los Angeles area last weekend ... few notes in chronological order, to keep folks in the loop -- and as a reminder of the "do nothing" weaving that we all keep doing.
--Met with Tim Keirn, who heads a department at CSU Long Beach; he's super keen to do a kindness day on campus in February, with pre and post events. Also met with Tara at Cal Poly Pomona, who holds an engaging non-violence conference every year (with some prolific speakers from around the globe) ... she wants to gift us an entire panel this year. That's the emerging trend these days -- people want the ecosystem. :)
--Received a Peace Award at Golden West College; couple hundred sincere folks, a great line-up of speakers from youth change agents, to inspiring folks like Azim, to local folks like Brent eloquently presenting slow food and money. Nimo and I tag-teamed; he went first (with Dan for the first time) and I followed. Everyone was gifted a copy of his CD (beautifully designed by Meghna), which launched at this event.
--That night, Smit and Devanshi hosted an Awakin Circle. I met them at another small circle last year, when they candidly shared: "We left everything we had, and went to rural India to lead a life of service. But the conditions were just too harsh, so we couldn't do it." I was very touched by their humility, and they said they'd love to host a circle on my next trip. So we did. And 70 folks showed up. :) My box of thousand Smile Cards was gone, and locals are hoping to continue hosting once a month. And six people offered to host new circles around LA on my next trip -- which incidentally happens soon. :)
--On a previous trip, a bulky 32-year-old with a shaved head listened intently. I never really chatted with him, but he later sent SSp a small monetary offering -- simply out of gratitude. On this trip, he invited me to crash at his house. After a full day, I arrived at his "bachelor pad" at midnight. :) Bit before 2AM, it was time to sleep :) -- and he just insisted I crash in his room (and I'm not even sure where he slept). Very touching, to receive such acts of generosity from seeming strangers. Although we never talked about Awakin Circle per se, he is hosting the next Awakin Circle in Irvine. :)
--Next morning, met with an Iranian visionary named Babak. He's one of the early pioneers of Bluetooth, did well in business, runs a venture fund now; but he's also vegan, made a movie with Joaquin Phoenix, to support animals and upcoming one on Unity, and is on a spiritual pursuit. Amazing how common that story is -- of turning to spirituality and oneness.
--At lunch, another circle. :) A while back, a cardiac surgeon named Ravi excitedly sent my UPenn talk to his high-school buddy, who happened to be Pavi's uncle. :) He came to all the events in the weekend, and invited me for lunch -- and as he met other inspiring folks, he invited them too and we had another circle of 20 friends -- from Peggy of Free The Slaves, to Thao (SSp intern from 2 summers ago), to local friends and family. To close, we all decided to pick-up a card from the Smile Deck and do that act as a way of paying forward our gratitude to the world. Amidst the goodbye hugs, I embraced Ravi's jolly, 80+ year old father -- it was one of those happy hugs. :) On the side, Parvathi saw us hug like that and started tearing up; she later wrote how that was the highlight of her weekend. And seeing her illuminated like that was a highlight of mine. Isn't the world grand, when we can be each other's highlights? :)
--For me, I take these travels as mini pilgrimages. For instance, not having a car meant I had to rely on others for rides -- which was a great opportunity to connect. Popat picked me up from the airport; Colleen took me to the Peace Conference; Dhiren took me from the conference to coffee shop; Nirmal dropped me to Smit's home; Deven drove me to Aman's apartment; Aman got me to Ravi's place; Thao and Armando shuttled me to the Burbank airport.
Lots of reasons to smile along the way, :)