Nobel Peace Prize Nominee (and KarmaTube Video Star!)
Posted by Jenny Douglas on Apr 21, 2008
Last June I returned from a two-week trip to India with a small but clear-eyed dream: to begin opening up my Brooklyn home to anyone interested in arriving on my doorstep exactly as they were, wherever life happened to find them in the moment.
I've lived in New York City for twenty-two years and adore the pulse, the energy, the creativity and spark of this place. But all too often the very things that give this bustling metropolis its sizzle can--if left unchecked--lead to a feeling of chaos, overcommitment, weariness and general disconnect.
It can be easy to lose one's compass here. To find oneself separated from what I can only call one's Quiet Sense of Knowing.
So ever since last July, once a month beginning at 7 p.m., I unlock the front door of my family's Prospect Heights brownstone. And whoever's around and game to simply breathe for an hour, to share--from out of this extended silence--stories and observations connected to a wide manner of reflections, and to be fed a vegetarian dinner is welcome to walk through the door and have a seat in my living room. (Though different in some regards, these Brooklyn meditations are modeled in spirit and intent on the long-standing Wednesdays gatherings of my cherished California-based Charity Focus friends.)
Dr. Ariyaratne with the KarmaTube's east coast coordinators (left to right): Birju Pandya, Jenny Douglas, Adam Mastrelli, Shephali Patel, Dr. Ari, Silas Hagerty
Each meeting holds its own texture, its special delights and surprises. And last Thursday evening offered these and more as some 35 attendees had the honor of being guided in meditation by Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee informally known as "the Gandhi of Sri Lanka." Dr. Ariyaratne is the founder of the Sarvodaya Foundation , a long-standing NGO that's worked with 15,000 Sri Lankan villages and directly impacted millions. He's the subject of a not-long-ago KarmaTube Video of the Week which to date has generated 2273 hits. And he's the custodian (because Dr. Ariyaratne would say we own nothing, including our own bodies!) of quite possibly the kindest face I've ever seen. He entered the house and hugged those to whom he was introduced as if they were a long-lost brother or sister. Threw out a high-pitched giggle in response to whatever struck him as funny. Never hesitated to take another's hand in his.
Once we were seated as a group, Dr. Ariyaratne started off by sharing a bit about his work and his beliefs. He spoke about clarity of mind as essential for any mass movement to succeed. (Sarvodaya has become one of Sri Lanka's most powerful and respected groups for its advocacy of a peaceful solution to the country's 25-year civil war.) About our need to recognize each moment as distinct from those coming before or following after, and the misery we bring to ourselves by insisting this not be so. About selfless service and meditation, and the inextricable connection between the two.
In due course we were invited, gently and with a sure hand, to sit up straight, close our eyes, and breathe...
Who came? A reporter for a Japanese television network who did a story on Dr. Ari many years ago and never forgot him. Mothers and fathers. Some who write books and some who like to read them. My husband, Curtis. A 60 Minutes correspondent. A gardener. KarmaTube's east coast coordinators. Madeleine and Delilah, my 12 and 9-year old daughters. A student. A teacher.
Many had never meditated before. All were open to receiving.
Afterward, we crowded into the kitchen and conversed between bites of roasted vegetable lasagne. When it was time, each attendee by turn danced away into the night, perhaps altered just a wee bit--if for the moment.