Could I Be A Killer?

Families & People

Killer Anime Girl

I’ve given this question plenty of thought over the years. I used to work as a legal assistant at the Missouri Capital Punishment Resource Center back in the early 90’s, and we defended inmates on death row in their appeals processes. I spoke to those men on the telephone and read their poetry. I visited some of them at Potosi penitentiary, and I watched some of them go to meet their death by lethal injection. I believe some of those men were innocent and thus unjustly and wrongly imprisoned and murdered by the State. I also believe that capital punishment is barbaric. But how would I feel if the murderer was someone who murdered my child?

Families & People

Mother Polar Bear and Cubs

I also saw more clearly the full meaning of murder and death in looking closely at the forensic evidence. It was not pretty. Once I became pregnant with child while working there, I was surprisingly faced with a deep inner conflict between life and death. I chose life and quit that work for good in order to reconcile the conflict and to live with more integrity to my non-adversarial, cooperative values.

In retrospect, I have become a practitioner of nonviolence and that work began on the heels of quitting that job. I am a practicing Buddhist and have lived within intentional communities that have made nonviolence a part of their spiritual covenants, like The Farm in Tennessee. I practice nonviolent communication (Marshall Rosenberg), am a certified mediator who works with others to resolve their conflicts, and I do my best not to inflict harm on other living beings. I do not believe I have it within me to be a killer in cold-blooded, premeditated murder. I would look for (and probably find) a peaceful way, with a little help from my friends.

Families & People

All that said, I am a passionate person carrying plenty of unresolved rage at the injustices in this world, as well as a deeply-loving human animal and protective, like a mother bear, toward that which I love. If someone(s) were to attack me, my child, or a person or a community I love, with the intent to do serious physical harm, I believe I am capable of murder as a result of passion and defense. A serious rage would be unleashed, and I could transform into an outraged, angry killer and lose self-control. The instinct to preserve life is strong within me. This edge is uncomfortable to look at and to feel lurking under the calm surface of my being. For this, I see I need more time in meditation and inner work.  *smile* A work in progress….

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Sustainable Is Possible: Creating Low Carbon, High Quality Lives Together

MaikweI’m pleased to announce that Ma’ikwe Ludwig of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage will be presenting public talks and workshops in the Bay Area early in March as part of her national speaking tour! You’re invited to please join us at any or all of these events. All donations will go directly to support Dancing Rabbit’s nonprofit.

passionasbigasaplanetMa’ikwe is a pioneering sustainability educator, who, in addition to her work as Dancing Rabbit Inc.’s Executive Director, is head of Ecovillage Education US, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Fellowship for Intentional Community. Her work integrates ecological, economic, social, political and personal approaches, leading to a strongly holistic view of what it takes to truly be sustainable. Ma’ikwe is the author of Passion as Big as a Planet: Evolving Eco-Activism in America.



Mon March 2 @ 7 pm @ Sebastopol Grange, 6000 Sebastopol Rd (Hwy 12), SEBASTOPOL and

Wed March 4 @ 7 pm @ East Bay Media Center, 1939 Addison St., BERKELEY

An evening with Ma’ikwe Ludwig, presenting “Sustainable is Possible: Creating Low Carbon, High Quality Lives Together”

The presentation focuses on how we can achieve the goal of living on 10% of the resources of the average American while living a high quality life. This number is critical because it matches current estimates from the scientific community for the goals we need to achieve to live sustainably and head off the worst effects of climate disruption. Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is achieving that goal, and thus is a timely, relevant and needed model as our society struggles to figure out what a livable, low-carbon future might look like. Q and A will follow the talk.

$10 suggested donation

Sat March 7: Starting a Sustainable Community Workshop @ The Finnish Hall, 1970 Chestnut Street, BERKELEY

Cooperation is a key element of sustainability, and a sense of community is critical for our well-being as humans. Many people feel drawn to a particular version of community: the residential intentional community. This workshop draws on years of knowledge from community founders, and Ma’ikwe’s own 18 years of cooperative living, including three community start-ups, to lay out the most important considerations for making a new community a success.

Blending practical advice with opportunities for self-reflection, this workshop can help you set your feet on the right path for your group to thrive. Topics will include:

– creating a good vision statement
– what successful founders have in common
– the relationship between decision-making, conflict resolution and membership process
– 15 spectrums that help define what kind of a community you are creating
– social dynamics you need to know about
– economic choices and their implication for sustainability and group cohesion
– what you should and shouldn’t freak out about
– key questions for making your community a sustainable one

This workshop is a full-day format starting at 9am and ending at 5pm.



Sun March 8: Encountering Climate Change Workshop @ PLACE for Sustainable Living, 1121 64th St, OAKLAND

Climate Disruption is the most urgent challenge of our time, and yet many of us are struggling with overwhelm, paralysis and a deep desire to simply check out in the face of it all. How do we even respond to something so big and fundamental, and with such huge unknowns? How do we work through the fear, anger, sadness and even guilt that come up for many of us when we try to think about the coming changes?

This full-day workshop features the following exercises and explorations:

– Joanna Macy-inspired witnessing and moving through emotional blockages
– Resting in compassion for the world and self
– Reconnecting with nature and understanding what is at stake
– Acting on behalf of what we love, and listening for what needs to happen
– Personal choices in the face of climate change
– How we relate to political and economic actions
– Holding space for others

This workshop is a full-day format starting at 9am and ending at 5pm.


Want a taste of Ma’ikwe now? Check out her 21013 TedX Talk …

More info about the tour:

These events co-produced by Femme Fire Productions  with assistance from East Bay Cohousing.


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The Influence of Environment on the Making of an Artist-Activist

I’ve returned to college to study and make art. I couldn’t be happier about this choice. I’m already learning a lot, and I love it! Now I have writing assignments, like this one for a modern art history class with Professor Sean Levon Nash of Indiosarts:

Animals & Wildlife

Cute Green Turtle x16

I am of Irish, Mohawk, and Sioux descent. Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, there were many destabilizing events, major geographical moves and transitions. This had a huge impact upon my sense of place, rootedness, identity and belonging. Like many children, there is a dark brokenness in my biological family that caused trauma, wounding, fragmentation, and also engendered a quest for home, wholeness and simplicity. I was an introverted, quiet, shy child who found solace in solitude, imagination and the natural world. I became a wanderer — one who was homeless and took flight rather than fight adversities. My mother’s dominant voice and the voices I heard in our various neighborhoods in Kansas, France, Florida and Missouri affected my speech patterns and also silenced my voice. I was a sensitive, empathetic listener with big ears, always hungry for grown-up talk, and older than my years.

Higher education, creative expression, art and spirituality were not valued during my formative years within my angry, working class mother’s single-parent, impoverished household. The message I internalized from her behaviors and my environment was that you can PLAY around with being an artist, but it’s not really a serious endeavor because you need to figure out something much more practical to take care of yourself in the world. I was secretly drawn to the more mysterious life of the artist, the poet, the philosopher, the dancer and spiritual seeker… until I forgot this truth and calling for a long time while I focused on a practical career, then motherhood and activism.

Landscapes & NatureThere was a seminal moment in 1969 while watching television footage of the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land their Lunar Module and walk on the Moon. Suddenly it seemed like anything could be possible with clear vision, courage and determination. The political climate and cultural unrest of the 1960s and 70s mirrored the turmoil and restlessness I felt as a young woman in my family’s house. I found a way out early and was weaned on the west coast in liberation movements.

From surroundings of abuse and hatred,
     lies, broken promises, political subterfuge,
             socioeconomic injustice,
                   war and violence,
                          oppression and subjugation,
                                 consumerism, the degradation of  Earth home,
capitalists forever scheming
how to fill their pockets in this brave new corporatocracy,
there arises and grows a deep longing for
      truth and truth-tellers,
          integrity and authenticity,
              social justice, harmony and transparency,
the gift, gratitude, kindness,
beauty to heal broken places, nourish a return to wholeness.
Landscapes & Nature

Oakland Bay Bridge, Fog, San Francisco, California, United States | America\’s photos

The high level of diversity, liberal, progressive politics, and the arts community in the very urban SF Bay Area provides an environment where I feel safe enough to be who I am and courageously choose to follow the inner spiritual calling and creative dreams. I found my home in East Oakland in the labor of facing my demons and grief. It’s in my heart. Like a turtle, I take it with me wherever I go. The feeling of belonging is hard won, drops in slowly and quietly, often while riding the bus or BART train. Undoing internalized oppression and conditioning, healing and recovery are ongoing work in progress. Art-making and wordsmithery, the cultivation of vision and voice have become primary modes of action to effect any significant positive change in our ravaged, yet wondrously beautiful and complex world. May this serve the awakening of my heart.


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East Bay Tiny House Village, Napoleon Complex & B.A. Norrgaard’s Reveal

Tiny House in Portland, OR

Tiny House in Portland, OR, By Tammy (Weekend with Dee)

I’ve intentionally chosen simple living in community and small personal space habitation while sharing collective resources for most of my adult life. Since moving to the urban Bay Area with my daughter Emma (with its very expensive real estate), we have lived in small spaces; and tiny living is a fact of life for many. As our world population continues to expand concurrently with dwindling natural resources, economic decline and cultural disparities, tiny homes make sustainable sense! Thus, more and more people are drawn to the idea.

I also personally find that with less *stuff* on the material plane to concern myself with, I have more energy and time for the activities and pursuits that truly matter to me and bring my life meaning and satisfaction.

When I heard about Jay Shafer and his Tiny House years ago, I was captivated and have followed the movement since; all the while learning to live happily in smaller and smaller tiny spaces, including many stints of simple living while traveling on the road and without a physical home base. I’m happy to see Jay Shafer’s expansion into Four Light Houses and the fast growth of the Tiny House Movement. The Small House Book and The DIY Book are available on his new website.

Jay is now working to build a tiny house village in Sonoma County, California named Napoleon Complex: Cohousing for the Antisocial. Napoleon Complex is proposed to open in 2015, and it states on their new website, “Any or all of these ideas might change if we think of something even better.”

The village will be zoned as an RV Park with a density of 16 to 22 homes per acre for a total of 40 to 70 houses. It will have an 800-1600 square foot common house, private gardens, storage units, walkways, parking spaces, and shared outdoor space.

Photo Credit: Four Lights Tiny Houses

Photo Credit: Four Lights Tiny Houses

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting B.A. Norrgaard on her way to meet Jay Shafer in Sebastopol for upcoming workshops. A local Meetup group of tiny house enthusiasts organized a Reveal of her Four Lights Tiny House. I loved it! B.A. built her house with the help of girls at M.A.G.I.C. Camp (Mentor A Girl In Construction Camp). She’s now traveling around the country sharing about her life and her tiny house. Here’s a cool video:

I also had the pleasure of meeting and sharing lunch with Steven Dorst, who is one of the organizers of a brand new group of people working together to co-create the first East Bay Tiny House Village. I’ve officially joined the group with the intention of supporting this important community-building project by offering my facilitation and other skills and am excited about meeting other new members in the working group soon.

East Bay Tiny House Village’s vision and mission are still in formative stages. The tentative plan is to make the village of tiny houses an educational demonstration project, with a warehouse facility and tools (either onsite or nearby) that people could rent to build their homes. The village would include shared common areas, like a large kitchen & dining facility, a bath house, hot tub, gardens, bike storage, and to locate the village located near public transit.

It’s an exciting project! I’m hopeful that the individual personalities in the group work well together and that the support needed will materialize to manifest it into reality. And that this will also hold true for Napoleon Complex Tiny House Village in Sonoma County. Maybe eventually we’ll have a network of tiny house villages linked into the broader intentional communities movement.

If all goes well and the vision comes to fruition, I’ll build my own tiny house and live in a tiny house village. Now that would be a grand kind of tiny! I’ll keep you posted on developments.


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Dharma Butter Kisses: Monastics on Monastics

I heard a beautiful, new song today in a video from the Plum Village Winter Retreat 2014-15. It accurately reflects my present state of blissful body being in love and wonder. I’m cultivating extreme joy and well being in these first weeks of the new year and wish to share the vibrations with you. Happy 2015!

Monastics on Monastics

My Buddha knows I’m Great
I’ve got Insight in the Present
From the Dharma that I Take
I love my Brothers and my Sisters
I love my Brothers and my Sisters (Verse)
Sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree
Focusing, Inter-Being
Truly and Deeply Seeing
Mindful of my Perceptions
Clearing Away Deceptions
If I Go any Deeper
I will be a Bodhisattva
Light Up your Inner Buddha
The Truth Just Runs Right Through Ya
Your epiphany of Right View has moved you into the sutra
The Dharma is Raining on Three
Let’s hear the good news from Kai Li
Contemplations of Three Jewels give us equanimity
And Noble Eight-Folds, Precept Trainings,
Knowing I love my Brothers
Offer Incense to the Buddha just to clear the Sangha’s Hunger
We will not get any younger
Other shore may have some thunder
Thay taught us to sit still
For Peace, we are the Hunters

Thanks to Cocoa Butter Kisses for their gift of love. You’re invited to join us in reaching inside yourself through mindfulness practices to source and cultivate your inner love and then share it far and wide.



Posted in Buddhism, Community, Gift Economy, Gratitude, Health & Well Being, Intentional Community, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Poetry, Radical Self Care, Self Love, Social Evolution, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Works In Progress: An Open Mic for Women Artists

Carolyn Stuhl (left) & Linda Zeiser (right), Co-Creators of Works In Progress Open Mic for Women

Carolyn Stuhl (left) & Linda Zeiser (right), Co-Creators of Works In Progress: An Open Mic for Women Artists

When I first landed in the Bay Area about eight years ago, I began looking for an open mic venue to hear local women’s poetry and other spoken word in a woman-only space. While I also enjoy mixed-gender community and identify as bisexual, there is something very special about the safety, visibility, and empowerment available to women in a woman-only context, particularly for feminist women with alternative sexual and gender orientations like myself. I cherish this rare gift!

Fortuitously, I heard about Works in Progress: An Open Mic for Women produced by Linda Zeiser and Carolyn Stuhl. I set an intention to check them out! I discovered that they beautifully co-create a sacred and safe space where women may share their artistic expressions and where they may be seen, heard, loved, honored and celebrated by women peers in woman-centered community. Very powerful indeed! I am moved by love!

Happy 10th Anniversary!

Happy 10th Anniversary!

Eventually they changed WIP’s location to the Fireside Room, Plymouth United Church of Christ at 424 Monte Vista in Oakland. I began regularly attending. Recently, we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Works In Progress, along with Linda & Carolyn’s wedding!

The evening begins with a delicious potluck and schmoozing from 6:30-7:30, followed by riveting performances until 10:30. The evening’s fabulous entertainment line-up opens with talented Bay Area musicians, such as Suzanne Cimone, Rita Lackey & Friends, and Anna Maria Flechero. The evening typically ends with a jam session and sing-along. Delightfully sandwiched in between the musical expressions, an interlude of amazing writers, poets and artists thrill us with their work. Linda & Carolyn also hold a raffle gifting fun bling.

Zeiser Artist Award: A Legacy

In August, Linda & Carolyn announced their creation of an additional, wonderful legacy to women’s arts in the form of a Zeiser Artist Award. Our featured artists and award recipients include:

Julia Vinograd

Julia Vinograd

Julia Vinograd, Poet Laureate of Berkeley and fondly known as “The Bubblelady.”

Debbie Vinograd, Julia’s sister and fine artist.

Jan Steckel, The Horizontal Poet and a very sweet and caring friend.

Anna Maria Flechero, a song stylist and jazz vocalist known for her texturally stunning and harmonically rich arrangements, heightened by the soul and sophistication of her voice.

Marjorie Lynne Wagner, poet, visual artist and environmental activist who loves wild horses.

December 13th Show

Our December 13th Works In Progress features MK Chavez, the haunting, provocative author of Virgin Eyes, Visitation and Pinnacle. She will read from her Dear Animal, a collection of poetry from an exploration of how the world responds to women and also from The Unanswered Volcano, a semi-autobiographical body of work. This evening MK will be receiving a Zeiser Artist Award.

Anna Maria Flechero will reappear for a holiday encore. Other artists include Clea “Poet Noise” King, Regina Wells, and Monet Brooks.

I’ll be showing a few pieces of my ceramic work and also reading a few short excerpts from my book in progress about women and radical self-care (previously self-published as Love & Marry Yourself Forever in an e-course format and received as a gift by over 1200 women). I’m pleased to announce that I’ll also be honored as a Zeiser Artist Award recipient in December. Yay! I feel hugely grateful for the validation of my artistic work and support from Linda and Carolyn, as well as the women colleagues who attend and share.

To reserve your open mic slot, contact Linda Zeiser at  (510) 701-1022 and/or Admission is $7 – $10 and includes a raffle ticket. Works In Progress is a creative space for women’s art: Poets, Musicians, Comediennes, and Performance Artists. WIP is for adult women only and is a scent-free and wheelchair accessible event. There is off-street parking.

Here’s a sample of the fabulous musical vibrations we are gifted with at Works In Progress — Rita Lackey & Friends:


Posted in Artivism, Collaboration, Community, Poetry, Self Love, Uncategorized, Women's Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Future First: Tomorrow Is In Our Hands

As the United States continues to move closer to becoming a corporate police state ruled by greedy capitalists (like the Koch Brothers) and their corporations / stockholders hungry to capitalize on precious resources and subjugate our peoples (thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010)), I wonder and ask …


Who will care for the welfare of future generations?

Who will stand up for the survival of all our relations in the animal and plant realms?

What will become of those less fortunate? Or to our First World relations, who are most feeling the initial effects of climate change?

The rapid extinction of species matters. According to a recent report by the London Zoological Society in its new Living Planet Index, the global loss of species is worse than previously thought and suggests that populations have halved in the past 40 years (i.e, in our lifetimes!).

Flowers & Trees

Yellow Flowers Bee

If we lose our  precious pollinators, what will become of our food supply?

Two thirds of the crops humans use for food production and the majority of wild plant species depend on pollination by insects such as bees and hover-flies. This ecosystem service, however, provided by nature to humans for free, is increasingly failing. ~Science Daily

Can we end our addiction to fossil fuels and materialism before it’s too late?

These are urgent concerns. Our world is in crisis. Most of us feel this. It can be overwhelming to look at and integrate the pain. Yet, in looking, facing and integrating the truth of what is happening to our world and our pain, we are then able to empower ourselves to move forward and work on behalf of what we love.

This is where a community of people who share your concerns, listen and hear your voice, see and support your efforts to make positive growth and change is crucial. We all need community. These days we need to be intentional about creating and nurturing connection, community and a sense of belonging in our lives in order to mitigate the isolation, alienation, depression and suicide so prevalent in our culture now.


Perhaps this is the most important question to ask ourselves.

What actions can I take, even if they are very small actions, to honor life?

How can I change my life to reflect a greater integrity with my value of cherishing and valuing all of life and to work for its preservation?

What will it take for me to become a positive force for change and to support the empowerment of other change-makers?


It’s up to us to take personal responsibility and make the changes demanded of us by our consciences. It is a moral imperative. It’s up to you and me to take a stand on behalf of our beautiful planet, all of our relations, and future generations.

Future First: The Women’s Congress for Future Generations cares deeply about these concerns and questions. On November 6-9, 2014, women leaders, scholars, activists, writers, artists, mothers, musicians, daughters, grandmothers — sisters from many different backgrounds — are converging in Minneapolis for the second Women’s Congress. They intend to continue the important, collective work of crafting the Declaration of Rights Held by Future Generations. They will speak to these questions and crucial issues of collective liberation, social justice, climate change and climate justice, the preservation of species and more.

Who should attend? Everyone yearning to make a difference! Your voice is needed. You can register here. All are welcome.

Together, we can work to create and sustain a world in which we and generations to come can thrive. It’s going to take every one of us!

Unless something unexpected happens to help me get there, I will not be able to attend the Congress because I do not have the resources. However, I will definitely be there in spirit and doing all I can to support this important work. I urge all of you who can attend to make it so.

Or look for other ways that you can make a contribution to this important work.


Need inspiration to move forward?

Listen, watch and dance to Coco Love Alcorn’s fabulous song “Revolution” here …


Neil Young shared with Democracy Now! an acoustic solo recording of his new song, “Who’s Gonna Stand Up” (previously unreleased), a Climate Anthem for our times.
Listen here.

Who’s Gonna Stand Up

Protect the wild, tomorrow’s child
Protect the land from the greed of man
Take down the dams, stand up to oil
Protect the plants, and renew the soil

Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
This all starts with you and me

Damn the dams, save the rivers
Starve the takers and feed the givers
Build a dream, save the world
We’re the people known as earth

Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
This all starts with you and me

Ban fossil fuel, draw the line
Before we build, one more pipeline
Ban fracking now, save the waters
And build a life, for our sons and daughters

Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
This all starts with you and me

Who’s gonna stand up
Who’s gonna stand up
Who’s gonna stand up
Who’s gonna stand up
Who’s gonna stand up


Posted in Communication, Community, Gift Economy, Health & Well Being, The Great Turning, Uncategorized, Women's Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Completions, Wonder & Emergence

Flowers & Trees

And forget not that the earth

delights to feel your bare feet

and the winds long to play

with your hair.

~Khalil Gibran

Our lives in seasonal flow embrace this autumnal time as one of wind, change, letting go, and sometimes new beginnings. It is a time of contemplation, as I slowly turn pages to end important chapters of my life in preparation for dynamic change, emergence, and fresh movements, following a long chapter of mourning and coming to terms with significant losses.

The past several months have been focused on inner healing and clearing the decks, freeing up my time and energy for what is wanting to emerge. There is a sense of release into a spacious interior room swept clean by storms and strong gusts of wind. This room is in my heart and resonates with connection … to Spirit … to beloved kin … to the pulsations, draws and pulls from Gaia’s cosmic web of life.


In the midst of this internal decluttering process, Coach Helene Van Manen invited me to do a recorded interview for her Conversations with Wise Women series about my years living at The Farm Community in Tennessee (2000-06). She also wrote a lovely blog post — “How The Farm in Tennessee Changed Lives.”

This conversation helped me to see my years at The Farm with a clearer perspective and also to finally find closure to that chapter of my life. Those experiences, work and lessons in right livelihood and good love are cherished, and someday I will go back to The Farm to visit friends and touch base again. The Farm Chapter is complete with this letting go.

I’m moving on from the past into mindful living in the present in Oakland, California with greater energetic aliveness. I have work that I am called to do here now. In releasing what was before and making a peaceful closure within, this better enables me to:

  • come more present to experience each precious moment now with a greater degree of wild aliveness,
  • see more clearly what needs to be done without an agenda or attachment to a particular outcome,
  • hear the voice of Source within guiding me to the next action steps, and
  • be open, allowing, compassionate and responsive.

Onward into October and emergence! I wonder. What will arise, become and expand? I intuit big changes on the horizon. Feels awesome to experience release of blockages and stuck places, step back into creative flow, and to be writing and sharing in my blog again.


Posted in Coaching, Community, Gratitude, Health & Well Being, Higher Consciousness, Mindfulness, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seven Emergent Questions in Giftivism

nipun_meditatingNipun Mehta, a friend and colleague in ServiceSpace community circles, recently returned from a four-month journey through India sharing Giftivism. He wrote an inspiring blog post sharing his travel stories about seven emergent questions that came up during his visit, and I’m sharing those questions and nuggets of wisdom here, together with an awesome, recent interview with Nipun about his trip (and life) at the end. Enjoy!

Where do we find Gandhi today?

“What rises up like a fountain, will return in the form of many distributed drops,” Vinoba used to say.  That’s what we’re seeing today.  We call it “Gandhi 3.0,” where Gandhi stands for the age-old principle of leading with inner transformation and 3.0 represents the many-to-many networks that are popularized by the modern-day Internet.  It’s a bridge from the Internet to the Inner-Net.

Slowly they are building a new world, leading with the heart, but also engaging hands and head. They move to a different beat, with the common understanding that being the change, changes the being. This is the transformative force that can move worlds. The work is slow and meticulous, like the formation of mountains. That’s a good thing, because while we build the road, the road builds us.

How do we build a social network of “noble friendships”?

“Noble friendships isn’t half of the path, it is the entire path,” Buddha said.  Living in a fast-paced world where “defriend” is a dictionary word, there’s a growing need for deeper ties.  Our Facebook friends are loose ties, our movie buddies are deep ties, but it is our service kin who can be noble friends.  Without sensitivity towards our inner resources, technology is blindly pushing us towards external, loose ties but many are now working to shift the center of gravity along that spectrum.

… [This network is] a field of gratitude and connection.  It’s a foundation on which we can build.  Post Hurricane Katrina, all man-made structures were annihilated but centuries old oak trees survived — because of their intricate network of inter-connected roots, sometimes for a hundred miles. That takes time and it’s slow.  But it endures.

What does it mean to “lead with inner transformation”?

The crux of the matter is how sensitized we are to the connection between our internal transformation and external impact.  That becomes clear through practices.​ Those practices often become a way of life.

The intersection of personal and collective practices is also an open exploration.  Doing a prayer circle to start off a retreat or doing a group hug to close a circle is a collective practice.  In January, for instance, almost two dozen of us went together for a 10-day meditation retreat.  For many, even for those who had sat such courses before, the practice was significantly deeper because there was a sense of implicit encouragement from kin.

Similarly, volunteering together seems to have a multiplier effect on one’s inner transformation, too.

Conscious practices, in their thousand different varieties, help deepen one’s awareness and sensitize us to the profound connection between our inner and outer change.​

What does transformation-led impact look like?

Such impact is emergent, not predictive.  …  It depends on the context.  …  The point, though, is not to grasp the outcome but to trust in the values embedded in the process.  That subtle shift changes everything.

Once we get past the mild discomfort in not knowing the outcome, we arrive at the immense comfort in knowing that something is definitely emerging.  Hermann Hesse wrote, “Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”

Wholesome values are generative. And like the seed, so the fruit.​

Leading with transformation, particularly in a “Gandhi 3.0” era, requires many shifts from leadership to laddership, from center to edges, from big to decentralized.  And from fast to slow, from shallow to deep, from efficiency to resiliency.  It’s a significantly different path, but you still arrive at impact.

What does it take for everyone to be a change-maker?

Each of our five fingers are different, but together they create an incredibly useful hand.  Many dream of a world where we can engage everyone’s diverse strengths and treat each as a change-maker.  Alas, holding such a vision within the construct of hierarchical organizing is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.  It requires an ecosystem, which takes time.

… [S]ervice doesn’t start when you have something to give, but rather when you have nothing left to take.   …  While traditional hierarchies are biased to externalize costs, ecosystems require ladders who externalize benefit.  Then, we have a field that can host everyone as a change-maker.

What is the shift from sympathy to empathy?

For many people, it’s unsettling to know Karma Kitchen isn’t set up to feed the hungry. We know that, as humanity, we produce enough food to ensure that no one goes hungry – but thousands still go hungry. Governments still dump grain in the ocean to protect the prices of their farmers.

The problem isn’t the food. It’s that we’ve become numb to the pain of others. That ever-widening gap between us and the others is the core of the issue. Sympathy is a noble feeling, but hasn’t been enough to solve the problems of our world. Where sympathy says, “I see your pain,” empathy says, “Your pain is my pain.”  It is a much deeper response, and we need spaces to cultivate that empathy.

We cannot afford to create a world where financial incentives are our primary motivation.  This goes for rich guys, poor guys and everyone in between.  Boxing the rich as funders can handicap their capacity as givers and limit other ripples from blooming.

Empathy is not just about sharing pain.  We also get to benefit from the merits of others, just as we share our smiles, joy, and compassion.

What is today’s “Charkha”?

Gandhi had the spinning wheel, the charkha, which symbolized so much of his thinking.  In a distributed and decentralized “Gandhi 3.0″ model, is there a spinning wheel?  Those are the kind of questions that Jayeshbhai and I ponder, in those rare moments of quiet that life grants us. :)  “I think today’s charkha is maitri.  What do you think?” he asked while sitting under a banyan tree once.  I agreed.  Maitri (or metta in Pali) is an internal vibration of love, that creates a field of deep connections, which then builds a matrix of inter connections where everyone’s offerings can flourish in a many-to-many gift ecology.  It is the plumbing for Gandhi 3.0. :)

As we genuinely do small acts of selflessness, it begets “maitri.” People express gratitude and offer their blessings.  Hundreds of times, people must have come to me in the last four months and thanked me for how “something ServiceSpace” served them in a meaningful way.  When an offering is made without any strings attached, it begets blessings, which then allows you to pay it forward with even greater vigor.  It creates a virtuous cycle.

All those little, and not so little, thank-you’s and many other silent ones which are only felt by the heart, is ultimately what sustains the movement.

That “maitri” creates the foundation for noble friendships. Falling into that field of security, detachment comes naturally. We then trust emergence. It’s that simple.  Dr. V called it “village intelligence.”

Noble friendships connected in good deeds: that was the essence of the whole trip.

Nipun Mehta is the founder of ServiceSpace (formerly CharityFocus).  In 2001, at the age of 25, Nipun quit his job to become a “full time volunteer.” Since then, his work has reached millions, he has received many prestigious awards, and has tirelessly addressed hundreds of gatherings in person. In 2005, Nipun and Guri, his wife of six months, embarked on a walking pilgrimage in India to “use our hands to do acts of kindness, use our heads to profile inspiring people, and use our hearts to cultivate truth.”  The 1000 kilometer walk radically deepened their commitment to service, and also was the subject of Nipun’s address at UPenn’s commencement in 2012.  Nipun’s mission statement in life reads: “Bring smiles in the world and stillness in my heart.”

Listen to Conversation:  On this wonderful Awakin Call, Nipun shares stories from his four month journey to India and his life. He also reflects upon the emergent theme of “Gandhi 3.0.”

lotusfieldGreat gratitude to brother love warrior Nipun for sharing his stories and wisdom.

May we pay the gift forward.


Posted in Abundance & Prosperity, Collaboration, Gift Economy, Gratitude, Higher Consciousness, Love, Meditation, Service, The Great Turning, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hummingbird Day

looking down the palm tree driveway toward entrance by greenkozi

looking down the palm tree driveway toward entrance by greenkozi

This afternoon I walked with my companion dogs Jimmy and Alice to one of our favorite destinations in the neighborhood just a long block away — Central Reservoir Park, a sweet diamond in the rough. It’s a public park without a sign or any real indication that it’s there, other than a chain-link fence with a gate. Yet, it’s an urban sanctuary with a small and beautiful redwood grove, large baseball field, and a long path lined with majestic palm trees.

No one was there, as is typically true. Being with the green grass and trees freshened from the rains, this special place is a quiet oasis in which to reconnect with elemental nature and to practice walking meditation. The dogs love it because they enjoy some off-leash time.

Hummingbird the Green
Danny Perez Photography / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

On the way home not far from the park, we found a green hummingbird with a red throat and white belly (like the one in this picture) lying on the sidewalk. At first glance, it looked dead; but I knelt down and looked closer and saw it appeared to be stunned. I picked it up, and it’s little heart was beating fast and still very much alive. I had just passed a house where a grandfather was out in the yard with his two granddaughters. They had waved and said “hello” so I took it to show them. Instinctively, I knew that the old man would know what to do. He cupped it gently in his hands and smiled into my eyes reassuringly. He said he thought the little hummingbird felt too cold, so they would put it on a little blanket and warm it. It was a special gift to rescue and hold this tiny creature in my hands today. Tonight I say a little prayer to the Universe that it lives to fly and pollinate tomorrow.

Summer Story

When the hummingbird
sinks its face
into the trumpet vine,
into the funnels

of the blossoms
and the tongue
leaps out
and throbs,

I am scorched
to realize once again
how many small, available things
are in this world

that aren’t
pieces of gold
or power——-
that nobody owns

or could but even
for a hillside of money—–
that just float
in the world,

or drift over the fields,
or into the gardens,
and into the tents of the vines,
and now here I am

spending my time,
as the saying goes,
watching until the watching turns into feeling,
so that I feel I am myself

a small bird with a terrible hunger,
with a thin beak probing and dipping
and a heart that races so fast

it is only a heart beat ahead of breaking——
and I am the hunger and the assuagement,
and also I am the leaves and the blossoms,
and, like them, I am full of delight, and shaking.

Mary Oliver

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