Planting Seeds: London Welcomes Karma Kitchen!
Posted by Trishna Shah on Mar 22, 2016
Karma Kitchen is one of those beautiful spaces where the lines between giving and receiving get blurred, until it becomes difficult to decipher who is giving and who is receiving, so ultimately, as Nipun would say, we all just dance! :) And that really sums up how Karma Kitchen unfolded last Sunday at the Museum of Happiness on the International Day of Happiness! Here are some photos to capture just a tiny bit of the day :)
Like most ServiceSpace gatherings, our day was off to a beautiful start with a deeply reflective circle of sharing, where we honoured our intentions and ways we hoped to share our presence from within. After we wrapped up the opening circle at a local coffee shop and made our way over to the Canvas Cafe, it was so beautiful to watch the day magically unfold as everyone came together to transform the room in the basement at the cafe Karma Kitchen style over the next 25 minutes. :) From candles, to inspiring table name signs with quotes on the back, to dried roses and even a flower rangoli, the room was looking so warm and inviting, filled with the positive energy of the entire volunteer team who had planted seeds in that room to "grow in generosity" over the next couple of hours! Just before we opened the doors, there was a palpable sense of love and service in our final team huddle, with everyone's faces radiating joy, which was such a perfect energy to pay forward to our guests :)
As we welcomed guests with warm hugs and smiles, each person found a seat next to a perfect stranger (in most cases) and had a lovely reflective conversation, courtesy of the theme of the day, "How can we create a happier world together?" Many guests mentioned that they had never been gifted a meal and then offered the opportunity to pay it forward so it was something that invited them to reflect on this experience of abundance, trust, community and generosity.
The dynamic duo in the kitchen, Hemant and Anil, found their groove and figured out the best way to serve food with love, while the server team of Nisha, Liam and Esteban connected with each guest, offering their smiles and sharing their authentic presence in every interaction. Ani, the maitre-d for our first sitting, gave an inspiring talk about what Karma Kitchen is all about, the spirit of this experiment, the values that underpin it and how the guests can be a part of it, by paying it forward. I listened in on a few dinner table conversations where guests were doing circles of sharing based on their written reflections on the day's theme, and the shares were really powerful. From one diner who talked about the importance of sharing our presence in the most authentic way possible, to another who spoke about the role of generosity in making her happier in her own life, each person really took the time to think about what we can do to create a happier world together. Ani made her way around with the kindness tray offering pay it forward gifts with love and people couldn't believe they were being offered such inspiring and beautiful gifts unconditionally. As dessert trays were circulated and guests were spoiled with lots of sweet treats to end their hearty meals, it was hard to believe the first sitting was already coming to a close. Servers got busy tagging guests with handwritten cards and notes, flowers, pins, anonymous love letters, wisdom scrolls, flower garlands and more! As we said goodbye to our first group, the Karma Kitchen team was glowing from all the love and joy that filled the air, which was the perfect way to gear up for sitting number 2! :)
This time it was Liam and Nisha who took notes from the first kitchen team on how to plate up and prepare meals, while Anil, Hemant and Esteban took on the role of serving our guests with love. Ani was our saviour/floater, doing whatever needed to be done from the kitchen to the cafe while I was maitre-d for our second group. Liam mentioned how as he and Nisha got settled in the back, they realised what a high-energy role the server role was from the first sitting and they felt a sense of calm as they got into a different groove in the kitchen. Meanwhile Anil and Hemant stepped up their energy levels as they went from kitchen-mode to service mode and showered our guests with their warmth and love. From watching Hemant convince a few people who weren't planning to eat to enjoy a bit of dessert to seeing Anil take the time to individually speak to each person at the table, to seeing Esteban reach out to guests who looked like they didn't have someone to talk to in that moment, the server team was in full-on Karma Kitchen mode of serving up love :) Liam was busy tagging even when he moved into the kitchen for part 2 as he decided to tag all of the cooks to show our gratitude to them! They were really blown away by this gesture mentioned how nice it was to have Karma Kitchen volunteers sharing the kitchen with them for a few hours :) And once again, the time flew by all too quickly and before we realised, it was time to clear up and hand over the space for the next workshop on Gratitude!
As we transitioned out of the Museum of Happiness and into our closing circle at another restaurant next door, we felt like a family sitting down to have a meal together :) Many people shared how beautifully orchestrated the chaos of the day was, and how someone would step in and do exactly what needed to be done at exactly the right time without being assigned such specific tasks and how it all flowed so effortlessly in many ways because we were all coming from the same space of abundance and generosity in our own hearts. Volunteers mentioned how sharing their authentic presence throughout the afternoon really enabled them to dig deep and open their hearts up while connecting with each guest. As I had mentioned in the beginning of the day, I felt moved to go ahead with the Karma Kitchen pop-up with literally 10 days notice simply because I knew we had an A-team of volunteers in the mix, all regular attendees of Awakin Circles who are so grounded in their own practice of service, stillness and generosity -- I just knew magic would unfold with this team behind the experiment :)
Grateful to the entire volunteer team for sharing your whole-hearted presence, kindness and love with the Karma Kitchen guests, Canvas Cafe staff and members of the Museum of Happiness community. And really grateful to Shamash (co-founder of the Museum of Happiness) who planted the seeds for this Karma Kitchen pop-up. While introducing me to Ruth, who owns Canvas Cafe, he mentioned that he was planning to host a Museum of Happiness there and thought it would be awesome if there was a way to include Karma Kitchen in the mix -- the rest, as they say, is now history :) The whole team from Museum of Happiness got involved from ordering Karma Kitchen aprons for us to helping set-up on the day -- the whole day became a wonderful collaboration of like-hearted friends :)
And of course deep bows to all the invisible hands and hearts in the ServiceSpace ecosystem who have been tilling the soil of the Karma Kitchen project over the years. These countless hours of work are what enabled us to offer this experiment to Londoners with literally 10 days notice and to create the beautiful ripples that are now in motion :) Thank you, thank you, thank you. It was a beautiful day, which has planted abundant seeds for future Karma Kitchen experiments around London.