A Beautifully Organized Week 4 Call

Posted by Melissa Stephens on Mar 26, 2016
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On Sunday's wonderful International Day of Happiness, Pranidhi got us organized by designing a happy moment of silence. From there, we began “popping” with our own kernels of joy on the check in.

Matt got things rolling with his share about his second circle in Lima. While his first was just his beautiful wife, Bedroxy and him, this second circle brought in a few more transformed people wishing to break down the glass-embedded walls of fear and build a community of love. One neighbor who came had completed the MIT course for a sustainable world inspired Matt to look further into this creative form of education. To return the favor, Matt made sure to gift her with smile cards and a vow that next year he would be on the side of the road on this day with his own smile and happiness sign.

Mihir was up next and reminded us of his share about being a listener for his married friends in conflict. He had resonated with Nikita’s question about whether or not we seek conflict out. Upon reflection, Mihir came to the conclusion that if there is attachment to the outcome, then we are most likely seeking. So he detached, simply listened and discovered that holding space is actually joyful.

From there, Pranidhi delivered a story of newborn connection with the sales representative for brand of payment software for her yoga shala. This rep had recently had a baby, so Pranidhi asked about this bundle of happiness before getting into technical questions about the software pricing. By leading with a thoughtful inquiry, she was able align her personal values of human connection over robotic numbers. This softness also allowed her to look at the way she has been viewing her insomnia. She has been describing it in aggressive terms such as “attacking it” and “the battle,” and she is now approaching it in a calmer, more peaceful way. Hopefully soon she’ll be sleeping like a baby!

Spike popped in next by enlightening us through the darkness he experienced with this week’s extreme power outage in his area. He spent most of his time 10 feet below ground in a manhole, gaining new perspective from that viewpoint. He discovered that, while the grass may not be greener on the under side, it certainly is an incredible teacher of stillness and quiet. Through this challenging position, Spike and his fellow “comrades of calm” prioritized their values and put each other’s safety at the forefront.

Varinder came next with a poignant story about flexing her connection muscles at the gym. Normally she is all business: eyes on her phone, taking a towel with a small hello. This week she reached out and engaged in conversation, which led to the employees offering a new towel process for making her gym going easier. Varinder was also finally able to gift her coffee to the guards at the parking lot who helped her with her car alarm last week. At first, the guards were reluctant to accept the cup of kindness. But with a little insistence and authentic gratitude from Varinder, they finally accepted. Cheers to that!

Our next “pop” star was Audrey who took notes from John Kralik’s thank you card experiment. She wrote several of her own this week then hustled to the post office to mail them off. This shift of focus was just the thing to put a stamp of perspective on her week.

Birju shared that his focus this week was on the idea of “first giftism, then activism.” He questioned how he could think about inviting a practice without adding on more. This paradox was especially meaningful as a company he works with began downsizing this week. It led us to wonder: is it true that what goes up must come down, or can it be the opposite as well?

Lydia welcomed us into her heart’s home with a reflection on how the last 4 years have gotten progressively worse financially, to the point that grocery shopping at her beloved Glut food co-op has even gotten challenging. Additionally, she has come to the difficult decision that she must sell the home she has been renting to a man who has become like family to her. This has not been without its challenges, and Lydia has worked hard to bag up her anger and practice holding space. In this reflection, she discovered that sometimes it can be more difficult to be compassionate with those closest to you. (Here is a beautiful video about connection.)

Finally, Nikita rounded out our check in by once again blowing our minds with his simple yet deeply reflective questioning. This week that came from Tahoe where he suggested one minute of silence as a break from the drinking and hot-tubbing that his vacation mates were indulging in. Turns out that was the best minute of his trip. But was it because it truly was a wonderful minute or was it simply because it had been his suggestion? This left us all scratching our collective heads as Nikita just smiled his peaceful, sometimes Cheshire-cat smile.

Once the check-ins were complete, Audrey called us to talk about this week’s theme of organization. She challenged us to consider the two trains of thought on this: Vinoba Bhave’s idea that organizing is a form of violence and Gandhi’s methods as a testament of organization. She spoke of Margaret Wheatley’s research that in disaster situations where there is no formal organization, people come together and make things happen. However, once the Red Cross arrives, often times productivity plummets. Therefore, new leadership is taking an approach of not predicting and controlling but rather sensing and responding.

Birju added to this again restating the paradox of organizing and not organizing at the same time. Can these be vehicles to practice our values? In his work journey, Birju has found that some moments became pressure cookers because the organizations he worked for would suddenly not align with his values. So he would leave and find an organization that was “more right.” Until they, too, became wrong. So he is experimenting with staying to fight the good fight rather than resort to flight by letting the pressure cooker build around him. Pranidhi built on that by wondering how responsible we are for our organizations, be it work, family, etc. How much is acceptable? And how much can we rationalize our values? Her example came in the form of a magazine whose cover images don’t align with Pranidhi’s values but the inside pages could truly help the shala if it were advertised. This resonated with Spike as he, too, wonders how much values can be compromised in an effort to gain something desired. He has decided that values cannot be compromised but we must also recognize that we are fallible. If and when we fail, we must go through repenting and renewing, with a key emphasis on renewing. Just like we cannot become stuck in the downward facing dog position, we must also not get stuck in keeping ourselves down. Renewal is key.

Lydia shared that at age 25 she began a non-profit, Women Empowered Against Violence, Inc. (WEAVE), which she ran from the heart with like-minded employees. But she let her head begin to guide her in feeling that the organization needed more business-minded people to run it. However, once those people were in place, all the heart-centered employees left, and the organization failed. So perhaps it is better to work “heart” rather than ”smart” at times. Matt connected that idea with his participation in our breakout call with nonprofit, World in Conversation, from Friday. His takeaways were 1: he feels he hasn’t volunteered with ServiceSpace enough and plans to do more and 2: As he is being asked by the Peruvian charity he is working with to give more of his business expertise, how does he align this with his desire to simply help the children? This brought Birju to our now famous “crack in the door” idea of how do we either find or create a crack in the door and then slip through? Varinder has felt her reflection in situations that pushed her comfort zone to be the crack while Spike has stopped looking for people whose values align with his and has started aligning with people who at least can support each other through disagreement. Melissa skipped the door altogether and just throws spaghetti on the wall until something sticks, and Mihir’s glass is half full and half empty at the same time, as our values are always changing. Nikita, who had been silently absorbing for most of the call, decided we weren’t already confused enough in trying to find answers and offered that if we had never been born, we would never be missed. Therefore, are we contributing our own problems to the world as we try to contribute good? The head-scratching commenced once again.

Finally, Pranidhi closed with a beautiful story about her husband’s employee who through his own medical emergency brought out the true, caring nature of his organization. So perhaps if we start all design in the heart, the organization has no choice but to operate from love. A beautiful moment of silence followed, and we are off to Week 5!

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Comments (6)

  • Audrey Lin wrote ...

    Thank you for all the heart and thought and care you poured into this, Melissa!! You really managed to pen down some rocking notes! :-) And super sweet to see such a peaceful group photo in conclusion.

  • Melissa Stephens wrote ...

    I feel so honored to have this responsibility and I love everyone so much. I want to make sure all the gems are shared to the world :) xoxoxo

  • Pranidhi Varshney wrote ...

    Wow! I so enjoyed reading this Melissa! And I know how much effort and care it takes. Hands together in gratitude for you! Smiling :)

  • Melissa Stephens wrote ...

    Thank you, beautiful Pranidhi!

  • Lynn Lawrence wrote ...


  • Melissa Stephens wrote ...

    It was so nice to meet you on the Friday call, Lynn!!