Laddership Retreat

Posted by Trishna Shah on Jul 8, 2012
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Dear ServiceSpace Ladders,

Its time again! We're coming together for a ServiceSpace leadership retreat to connect with each other, brainstorm vision of our projects, and see what emergence has in store as we cross-pollinate ideas. This retreat is particularly special since we'll have coordinators all the way from Japan, India, Canada, UK and all across the US. :)
Our gathering this year will be around a thoughtful theme: “laddership”.  As some may recognize, it’s based on a quote by Jayesh Patel, “Be a ladder, not a leader.”
The year 2012 has been a surprising culmination of sorts.  After launching four website revamps last year, we formally changed our name, and launched a new back-end infrastructure.  That, combined with unexpected media coverage and unprecedented viral content around ServiceSpace, has been a quantum leap for us.  And it feels like this is just the beginning.
There is no script for what we’re doing. Thought leaders have spoken about gift economies, social capital, and innovative technologies – but very few organizations bring it together in practice like this.   As we continue to push the bounds in giftivism, we have to ask radical questions that we might’ve never imagined before.  
So we are all coming together with a few intentions: to connect with each other, to collectively observe our work for patterns of positive deviance, and to consciously cultivate an ethic of servant leadership.
A rather extra-ordinary set of individuals are attending this retreat.  No one knows exactly what will emerge, but whatever happens, we’ll be ready to ride the waves.
If the past is any precedent, these retreats are incredibly energizing.  (Sep 2010 Tigers, Feb 2010 Jam, May 2009 Dolphins)  All kinds of unexpected beauty starts manifesting.  Even for this one, we rented a house (that fits 40!) by literally misreading the rent; but the owner was in tears learning about our work and ended up giving us a great deal; over the span of two weeks of getting to know us, he ultimately gave us an invoice that read "$0 -- Karma Kitchen style." :)
Thank you for sharing your presence in this most joyous unfolding.
[The day after the retreat ...]
What a gift to have spent last four days together!
An auspicious gift from Rob opened up an exquisite setting for our retreat, and Rob now not only considers himself a ServiceSpace volunteer but has already committed to hosting Wednesdays in his hometown of Vancouver!  On Thursday evening, John's opening ceremony honored our ancestors in all seven directions and set the tone for a profound circle of sharing; on Friday, a series of thoughtful presentations from many teams revealed the breadth and depth of our various efforts and sparked an important broader conversation around our responsibilities in the face of unsettling cultural trends powered by technology.  That night, we dedicated a three steps and a bow walk to Rev Heng Sure – who in a breathtaking gesture of humility bowed to each of us in return, before stepping up the conversation with a talk centered on the Bodhisattva path. Saturday's presentations around vibrant local hubs around the world amped-up the energy even further, as witnessed in our “Very-good -very-good-YAY” photo session! :)  And Sunday morning was a charged conclusion – beginning with our barefoot walk of gratitude, followed by a poignant circle of sharing with closed eyes that released a stream of joyful, cleansing tears.

We laughed, we cried, and we hugged.  We embraced the spirit of humanity in each other, and our collective intelligence catapulted us into unimagined possibilities.  There is no telling where the beautiful ripples of this time will lead -- but we know that powerful seeds of have been planted. Thank you all for your part in the unfolding.
Before the  gathering, Sheetal sent us this moving quote by Rumi ...
But where is this gathering?
- I don't know, my little angel
But do the others know?
- No, they don't know either
How can you go to a gathering without
knowing where it is?
- It suffices to walk, just walk.
Those who are invited will find the way
Thank you for finding your way into the heart of ServiceSpace.

[A week or two later ....]

As all of you know, Rob was rather generous in offering us a home for our Laddership retreat last month.  Not only that, he stayed with us at the retreat, enlisted himself as a ServiceSpace volunteer and is actively supporting the birth of Awakin Wednesdays in Phoenix and Vancouver.  And he's even a guest on Saturday's Forest Call!
We recently sent him a surprise monetary offering (with this supremely gorgeous page-1page-2 card), so as to keep the generosity rippling beyond us -- and today, we got an email titled "speechless".  In his touching response, he said: "What can be said of such a gesture? Words cannot really define some acts.  You all hold the bar of service and compassion so high. I am inspired and renewed. My only wish is that you all lived closer as I miss all of you very much."   He also shared:  "Attached is a painting I did some years ago that reminds me of Service space. We all need each other and in so many ways that are beyond speech, rely on each other's support to stay balanced."  
Lots of emerged since our time together.  Folks have also posted their content online for greater sharing -- John's Four Directions invocation, Nipun's ecosystem slides, Trishna and Guri's ServiceSpace slides, Pavi and Viral's DG slides, Yoo-mi's KT slides, Arathi and Geoff's HO slides, Sateen, Bhoutik and Neil's Social Media slides, and Yuka's KK-Tokyo video.  And Mia's notes, Bela's recap of local spaces, Rahul's recap on corporate culture that spread quite far, Sateen's well-researched insights on spread(ingmore) love, and Audrey's recap of a reflective Forest Call with Birju, Ashish and Arathi.  And then of course, there were the many open-hearted shares on the Forest Feed.
As we look at our photos, its easy to remember the collective vibration of goodness that reached new heights as our time together continued.  We're also reminded of Audrey's touching note, that echoed what many of us felt ...
"In reflecting on the retreat last week, one of the most powerful moments that came to mind was the closing circle. Everything everyone said just resonated so much with me, and was so honest and sincere that it triggered this steady stream of tears. And it became so overwhelming that I was completely unable to speak when the microphone came to me. But what really pushed me over the edge is that when I opened my eyes to speak, I looked down and someone had placed tissues on my knee. It was just a small, simple act-- but it was an echo of the many small, subtle acts of compassion that reveal the goodness of humanity--the power of kindness that continues to change me, from the inside-out. And I wanted to laugh. But it triggered something much deeper and I just couldn't speak. "CF Mom" and Pancho were right by my side, holding my hand and back, and giving me water. Jayesh-bhai got up and took my hand for a bit. And as all this was happening, I was noticing myself criticizing myself for taking up everyone's time and space -- but each negativity in my mind was met only with love. Only with this pure vibration of love. This steady stream of acceptance. And I realized how starkly it contrasted with my daily environment -- where there are many protective barriers against that pure love. It was so cleansing. I viscerally realized that love has the power to transform anything. What an enormous gift. I don't know what I did to deserve this, but I am so, so grateful."
With gratefuleness ... for your friendship in service.

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Comments (1)

  • Tesa wrote ...

    Really enjoyed reading this, very inspiring!