Ladder 2 Ladder: A Conversation W/ Neerad

Posted by Nicole Huguenin on Sep 16, 2017
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Few months back I reached out to fellow Laddership Circle alum Neerad for a face-to-face conversations around a few simple questions such as, "when was the last time your were laddered?". True to form, the conversation emerged into many stories touching on Laddership themes like holding space, paying-it-forward, and community. The video and transcript are below. I have a feeling many will be touched by this conversation as much as I was. Thank you to Neerad for the late night call and to Niki Flow for transcribing it.

Nicole: One of many reasons why I wanted to connect -- one of many -- is I was so inspired by the one-on-one calls we did as part of our Laddership Circles. Those one-on-one calls were originally your idea, and I was thinking that you could maybe talk a little bit about how that came about for you.

Neerad: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Nicole: Then I just want to hear just what's going on with you and what's the last time you were laddered or anything of that bunch.

Neerad. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah that's brilliant and to your first question on whether this idea of Laddership 1-on-1 Calls came to me, I think what has been happening is we have a very ServiceSpace-like community here in India, which we have been calling "Moved by Love."

Nicole: Right.

Neerad: And "Moved by Love" has been in existence from about 2010 onwards and we've been holding these monthly retreats. We've been holding these amazing circles. We've been doing a lot of practices and so on and so forth. And when the entire ServiceSpace global community kind of fused kind of with ours, there was so much wisdom that we saw in the practices that was already going on within ServiceSpace. And over the years as we did our retreats and we kept learning from ServiceSpace what I would call it "The Mother Ship" and getting a lot of practices that we started kind of taking it back into "Moved by Love," and some of the practices that were like holding these monthly retreats which is another part of it, like Laddership. We hold almost eight to ten retreats a year.

Nicole: Wow!

Neerad: And sometimes, other "ladders" :) visit for a few months, and in those three months, there are at least 15, 16 retreats alone.

Nicole: Right.

Neerad: Genius presence. But otherwise also we used to hold about 8-10 retreats. So I think, and then, we started with the Gandhi 3.0 retreat which became more of a more international kind. People from all over the globe traveled here for it.

Nicole: The whole crew!

Neerad: During the year all of us used to be together for such a long time, so almost a month together we've been spending. So when I was reflecting in terms of what is that one thing that would just add a lot of value and in turn bring in a lot of wisdom that is lying dormant, these one-on-one calls between kind of the intermingling ecosystem. I wouldn't call this ecosystems, but still I think it's like one and the same ecosystem, but yes there's a geography kind of fence that is the difference in terms of language, culture, all of that. And I think there was this inherent wisdom lying at both ends and somewhere I thought that would just be so beautiful to learn from each other on the journey. Because just learning itself is so empowering. I think just kind of being and knowing that there is somebody out there for you all of the time.

So it's in that high scheme of things when you look at the whole community and all of us are so interconnected -- friends -- and that bond of interconnectedness further strengthens, and it gives you the faith that you're not alone. You have the backing of the whole community behind you and the whole wisdom that comes from this part. We're all -- it's like one of the Rumi quote, "We are all walking each other home."

Nicole: Yeah I've heard that.

Neerad: We are walking each other home.

Nicole: It reminds me of another community I'm part of. We always kind of -- it's called "Walk 2 Connect" and we really are literally walking with people. And we have volunteers walking. And I was able to bring in some ServiceSpace kind of infrastructure or organizing principles and make it our own. And just in the past two years. And so as we've been holding some of that, the way that I view it, when I experience it there, is we're just weaving our steps like weaving fabric. Literally people are out there to walk, and everybody has a different reason to walk together. So they don't realize that it's happening, and then something will happen to someone. Somebody will have a baby or somebody will retire or somebody will get sick, and the fabric just kind of gets like a trampoline, it just catches people, and if it's a trampoline, they bounce right back up in whatever way it's supposed to be. It's not just this happy-go-lucky thing, but they're just there and they can (bounce back).

Neerad: It's also a process of cultivation over the years I think. You just cannot create a community by just wishes. I think you need to have really be kind of be a deep-rooted, long-time cultivation that it takes to really create that community. My example is like known to kind of everybody in the world when last year I was diagnosed with leukemia and I had to go through the bone marrow transplant. The whole community that stood behind, and I had to go through the bone-marrow transplant and the whole community that stood behind. And you just don't feel the community at a physical level, but you also feel the community at a metaphysical level.

I've had some very, very deep experiences with that and I was actually sharing in this year's Gandhi 3.0 retreat. A few of us were having a conversation around this whole idea of "being empty". I was telling Rev Heng Sure, at one point after my bone-marrow transplant -- after a few weeks down the line I just felt that I didn't want to live any more -- I was going through a complete downward spiral and I asked him, "You know, why do you feel like this is happening?"

And he had a very interesting story to share. He said "The bone-marrow transplants initially started in Taiwan about 25 years back, and in Taiwan what used to happen is after every successful bone-marrow transplant, a few weeks down the line, the patient would go through a downward spiral and they would just lose him for no reason, okay? So the doctors couldn't figure out at a physiological level, at the cellular level, what was going wrong because everything seemed to to be in order and then suddenly there is downward drain, and in one week everything collapses. So they took help from some monks and kind of a lot of people who happened to be there. There was this young Buddhist nun who was there diagnosed with cancer and she happened to go through this. And when she came out of this whole thing, she said that the whole process of a bone-marrow transplant is a process of re-birthing, and the process of re-birthing has to align of the heart-center and when that alignment happens, it is extremely important that you be surrounded by noble friends and you're held by that level at a very, very strong mental level, otherwise you just go into the downward spiral. So unless you have that community of noble friends, you will just fall down and not get up.

In my case, I remembered the night that I was really having a very deep experience. I was completely going down. And I knew I was kind of -- slowly, things were ending for me. Suddenly I see myself almost settling in the grave and saying, "Okay, it's time to bid goodbye." And, "Okay, let's do it in silence." It was the middle of the night. And from nowhere I just see a group of noble friends standing around me in a circle, and they just pulled me out. And from the next morning my blood tests changed, overnight. Overnight! It was unbelievable even at a metaphysical level that something you just talk about or you hear about -- you feel it very deeply.

And I think it is that interconnectedness that needs to develop. All that needs to happen. Such mediums are, I think, an exceptional opportunity to know each other better and to understand that there is a far deeper connection that what we think, even at a karmic level. You and I wouldn't be sitting here and actually talking and having this conversation. There has to be some deeper reasons for it. It's just that we don't know. And when we know, we will know, but it's okay. Even if we don't figure out ever, I still will have a great friend. And I still know that you will be in my prayers, I will be in your prayers and I think that's what matters at the end of the day. So honestly it's about surrendering yourself to the community and saying that, "Yes, we are all a fabric of the same. We are part of the same fabric."

Nicole: I love it.

Neerad: Just a new level of experiences that we've had. I think that was one of the reasons why I thought that it was important to have these one-on-one calls. Yeah, we keep having calls where we stand alone, Viral stands alone, John and Mia, Nipun, Guri, etc. So all these stand-alone calls where I think beyond that there is the much larger community of all of us. I think this interconnection needs to happen. Whether Guri is willing to travel to India, whether Viral is willing to travel to the US is a matter of time, destiny, fate, a lot of things happening, but at this time now there is just such a strong connection. So it just doesn't feel that I'm talking to you for the first time ever.

Nicole: No, it doesn't.

Neerad: I think maybe that's the beauty of the whole thing and that is the beauty of being a part of this community. You can never feel that you are separated.

Nicole: When was the last time you were laddered?

Neerad: So I think laddering keeps happening to us. I think it really depends on how attuned you are to that ladder that keeps happening. It could happen through a child, it could happen through these calls, it could happen through my mother, it could happen through anybody. How open are you to laddering is something that we always keep -- we're always open to it.

I'll give you an absolutely fresh experience from two days ago. So in the morning we were spending time with two young volunteers. One person was Binnit and the other was Biddi. And we were talking with Biddi and we knew we would be but we hadn't spent time with her so this was really the first time that we got to spend a lot of time with her. So we got to know who Biddi was as a person. But more importantly what Biddi shared was very interesting. She's a young girl, like barely 22, 23 and she's a psychologist. She has a full-time job, but beyond that she also counsels at a cancer institute. She also volunteers for Meals-on-Wheels. She also volunteers for Karma Kitchen. She anchors the heart circles in Mumbai and she just does this innumerable kind of work . And you're like, "Oh my God, at 22 I don't think I even had -- " You know? You just don't know what you were doing at 22 honestly. So I was like laughing in myself and I said --

Nicole: I don't know what I was doing at that age ... :)

Neerad: Exactly. From where does the wisdom flow for these guys?! They just keep telling us, "You are an inspiration." Look at me. I'm turning old you know? And these youngsters keep kind of laddering you. That's when you realize, because what we do is we have this habit of compartmentalization. Where we tend to compartment -- really structure and put everything in compartments. So if I'm working, okay I'm working. If I'm serving, okay I'm serving. If I'm doing this, okay I'm just doing this. But as these all these young energies somehow find that path so beautifully intermingling what they want to do, what is their heart's calling and how they want to serve. That, to me, is so inspiring because it gives you the freedom to kind of look at things differently and say, "Yeah, if at 22, 24, these guys have aligned their lives so beautifully, where they are doing a full-time job and also volunteering at different levels, why can't we? Why do we have to say, "Oh I'm just going to take a Saturday and I'm going to volunteer"? This could be any day.

Nicole: Right. Yeah.

Neerad: Why can't it be free-flow. Why does it have to be everything has to be compartmentalized, channel-ized, put it in certain days, practices... This just goes kind of so effortlessly in the whole process of serving and volunteering. They do it with such open hearts that it's so beautiful to watch.

Nicole: Yeah, with no -- it sounds like -- I wouldn't assume that there's no stress, but I see a lot of people here where, at some point it, it just becomes stress because it's a stress around time, but there seems to be some other type of shift or something different there in that space. Like there is a freedom that's going.

Neerad: So this is, possibly something we learn from these youngsters kind of how they are really just finding opportunities to serve. This call is just a classic example of what happens. When I was going through the bone-marrow transplant, a week down the line, about 20 days down the line after the bone-marrow transplant, I was hit with a virus. This virus was called "CME cytomegalovirus." All my counts kind of were at a complete low, so low to the extent that even the doctors were unsure of what would happen in the next 48 hours. So it was really that kind of stuff. And what we realized was there was one medicine that was available in the US and that medicine was the only medicine that really could help handle this particular virus. Instantly we had to rush and order it and get it for an expensive price, almost for $800 a vial and we had to get $1600. Luckily, I have my brother in the US who was able to immediately buy two and just send it across. So we got really lucky with that. But also we realized, what about the patients who really cannot afford this. So what we did was a few friends collected and we created a $1000 fund and what we used to do is that, very smartly, we had friends in the US who would check on the days in terms of the discounted prices of these medicines often. Whenever we find the medicines that are at a cheap price, we immediately buy it. Already in a year there are eight patients that have benefited from this at half the cost at which I had to buy my vials. Just by creating this fund. We don't have to do anything. We have friends in the US who will buy it and send it to us and the money keeps rolling. So there was a phone call, "You know we need a vial by tomorrow morning. Can you help?"

And we are like, "Absolutely."

So I think wherever you are, you can find opportunities to serve. So I think it's up to us and these youngsters constantly keep inspiring us that you don't need to really kind of actually create these compartments, but how can you interweave your life in a way where service becomes as effortless as going to work or doing every other day-to-day job. That's a big learning for us. You keep getting laddered every day. I think it's up to us.

Nicole: It doesn't stop. I was on one of our check-in calls and I got the same question asked, and I said, "I can't even pick a story because it keeps happening. And then the story that I did choose was of my niece. We were on Facetime, and she saw a butterfly and she goes to me, "Be still Coco!" And I go, "Kendall! I'm at the computer!" But it was perfect because it just reminded me to just kind of slow down. And then we both sat and watched the butterfly for about 20 minutes. So it was good.

Neerad: So we have a person who actually rears butterflies. So she creates her garden when she's creating, she has those kinds of lines where the lava gets really late and then she takes the butterfly in her hand and ensures that until the time the butterfly is alive and flies out of the finger, she will keep hope holding it -- if it's an hour, it's an hour; two hours, two hours; three hours, three hours -- whatever time it takes for the butterfly to fly on their own. So she's been doing that for years now. So she's been rearing butterflies.

Nicole: Wow. That's amazing.

Neerad: That's a kind of a service also at a very different level.

Nicole: One of the other questions I was going to ask was about "ripple effect" how it's flowing in your life, but I feel like you've shared that. Do you have any other one that comes in your mind. That was such a beautiful ripple that you just shared.

Neerad: No, I think a ripple effect -- I don't know how to share in terms of a ripple effect, but like just a very small example. I have my niece and nephew who live in Mumbai.

Nicole: And you're in Pune, right?

Neerad: Yeah I'm in a city called Pune which is about four hours away from Mumbai, so it's sort of far. So my niece and nephew have literally kind of really grown in front of our eyes. We've seen them grow, we've seen them nurtured over time. We've seen their values and stuff like that. And since the time the time that they've come into the Moved by Love community, there is just so much that they started offering. Initially what used to happen is that they used to learn from whatever the ecosystem was doing, what all of us were doing, my wife and I, my friends and all of that. So they used to see, observe, learn and then start their own practices. But within about two years of being in the process, they completely took off to such a different level where we feel laddered by them now, and we feel honored that we are learning something every day from them. Every single day. They seem to have created a ripple effect in like multiple ways from where they are, whether it's the Karma Kitchen format, or whether it's the HeArt Circles, or whether it's to serve in old-age homes, or whether it's to to make thanks during the retreats, or if it's to serve during the retreats. I think the whole process that whose ways have just been modeled is just phenomenal. Now, we are inspired and learning from them. So I don't whether to call it a ripple effect or a ripple-back effect, but it is so, so inspiring for us to just see them grown, and not only grow in terms of the acts of service but also to grow in wisdom and their sharing. I think that was a much kind of a larger engagement in terms or rather exists -- it just gives us joy. It just gives us joy. So I think these are some of the ripple effects that we are seeing.

This a very similar (story) to the hospital staff when we were in BMD, and my wife was just -- she's an amazing connector. I've seen very very few connectors like those who can truly serve from the heart enormous. She must have every night -- so she used to have night shifts unfortunately, because I was the most comfortable with her being around at nights. So even in the middle of the night she would go and give coffee to the nurses, or actually counsel them or just press their shoulders if they are very tired or just give them chocolate or bring some food from home. When mangoes were around, she would just go and give mangoes. She has -- like, to the extent that she's also counseled a few doctors you know who were really uncomfortable and they had just joined. The doctors had just joined and they had seen patients being lost left, right and center and just suddenly. So in front of our eyes at BMD we saw two people losing their lives, somebody couldn't make it. And for (the doctors) it just hit them suddenly that, "Oh. What is happening?" And they needed to talk to somebody. So it was just amazing in terms of how she held space for that. So and now, when we go back to the hospital again, we see that now that same space has been kind of almost decentralized. The nurses are holding spaces for other patients. Doctors are holding spaces for the younger doctors. We've seen a beautiful shift happening within the hospital itself, so it's amazing to see those small ripples really happening. In fact, we got a call from one of the doctors recently, and she had actually quit a whole six months back, and she went to a place Kalandovad and she happens to kind of start working there. So after six months she called suddenly, and she said "Stella I can't thank you enough for what you did for us." And I'm like "..." you know?

Nicole: Were you excited?

Neerad: I don't know why she is calling, but the fact that actually, genuinely my wife, Sheetal, was holding space for her, because that woman was just so sensitive, so new and just in front of her eyes she would see like a six-month baby getting chemotherapy or somebody losing their life or like young mothers not able to feed their babies because they have cancer and so on and so forth and so this young woman just couldn't take it. Somehow, she just kind of very, very kept holding space for her until the fact that she's saying, "I can't take this department any more. I need to move, which is okay. But at least the fact that somebody held space for her, and now she's again gone back to the same department in saying "No, I think I found my purpose, and now I want to serve only cancer patients."

Nicole: Wow!

Neerad: So I think these kind of very I think beautiful things when you see it happening, you know that there's immense value and just kind of constantly looking for opportunities to serve. You just don't want to miss any of them.

Nicole: On a very personal note, I just have to tell you that I it was very healing for me. I just had a very dear friend of mine almost instantly find out that they had cancer and almost instantly passed away just a month or two ago, and I'm imagining his sister was sitting in the room with him, and I can just kind of imagine it from the stories you are saying, and they were kind of doing the same thing, kind of holding space for others. So thank you. I think it's funny you. Hearing you talk, you kind of released some of that.

Neerad: In fact, in the evening, I was exactly doing that with one of the patients who was going through the same type that I went through. So her husband called me and said, "Can you come and talk to Ruthie. Ruthie is having these very bad...and her counts are extremely low. We don't know if she will be able to make it or not." We instantly went to the hospital and spoke to her. It was beautiful to just kind of stand there. I didn't do anything. I just held her hand and, over the head I was kind of moving my hand and I said, "Don't worry. You will be taken care of." And instantly she started crying and suddenly after half an hour she also started laughing and saying, "Wow I feel better now." But the fact that somebody took out the time to talk to her and somebody who has gone through the exact same things that she is going through now. So I think that connection is something that they really appreciate. So instead of coming from a space where you know, "Oh you are only advising, so all of you are advising, what do you guys know about chemo and stuff like that?" Many patients come from that kind of a mindset, but when they are talking to somebody who has gone through even worse situations I thinks suddenly they feel empowered. And I'm realizing that that maybe there is a deeper purpose behind these meetings. I'm still not able to figure that out honestly, but I think there is a deeper purpose.

Nicole: Yeah. One of the dreams I've been sitting with some people with is this woman who is running a "time bank." For me personally it's hard, because I find a lot of people need that tangible. They need to see the give-back. So if it's not money, then they get back their time, but in a city that is very poor, it actually has, I've seen it become very empowering. I've actually -- so much so that this time bank that the hospital, the Children's Hospital, this really big hospital here, not in Hawaii but in Denver, they noticed what was going on because most of their patients are the patients from this city and they had been going in and spending thousands and thousands of dollars to interview people, and asking "how can we prevent?" -- they were at least talking about prevention, but they couldn't -- any time they tried to, it just wasn't working. And then they noticed this one little woman that was getting all of her friends -- I mean, she was in her late 70's -- and she was just getting all of her friends to do time banking. And they were taking care of each other, and it just ended up instead of it being such a transaction, it really was just a means to take care of each other when you don't have a community like Moved by Love or ServiceSpace. So now this Children's Hospital, they moved their chaplain into a full-time position to explore how they can use the time bank for everybody from the doctors down to the patients down to the family members, and they're just starting these experiments and I'm going to share your story with them because that's really what they're trying to get at. Because I was really sitting with, "How do we do this when we don't have these communities there yet?" And it is on a one-to-one basis, like these phone calls, but there is a level of "Let's build community" at the same time, so I'm reminded of that. They're going to love your stories.

Neerad: Usually also even if one-on-one we create those connections, it's just so beautiful because now, when I walk into the hospital, there is nobody who is new to me. I just know, I will walk to a 17-year old who has come from Jordan and she can't speak Hindi, English or any language I can, and I can't understand Arabic, but all I can do is to look at her, smile, give her a thumbs up and give her a hug, in a small way, and she's happy. So all the nurses do high-five with me, and all the doctors are like, "How do you make this happen?" And I'm like, "No no, don't worry. We are old friends." So all the nurses, all the brothers, they all do high-fives with me and all the young doctors give me hugs. So it's just a very different environment when you walk into that space because somewhere I think you've created that space with so much love, and you've nurtured the whole thing, and not taking it as a personal journey of healing for oneself, but I think we are just taking a healing code different habit. I'm just saying "let all of us be healed." When you hold the intention of a sincere healing of everybody, it's like -- in there we have a saying called "Loka" when someone starts the chemo and "Loka" is "everybody." "Somasta" is "wherever they are." "Sukeno" is "let them be happy, at least in this moment." Make it happen. So when you hold that intention, "May all beings be happy. May peace prevail on our hearts," I think just holding that intention in that space wherever you are automatically translates into vibrations and that reaches out to whoever it needs to go to.

Nicole: I love that. I just want to keep talking and I'm getting the little notice that says, "Your time is going to run out."

Neerad: We all have very little time. Anyone in this world.

Nicole: Exactly.

Neerad: I was actually talking to Nipun about three years ago, and I didn't know any of these things would happen to me and all of that, but at that time I had this very very strong intuition that I don't have time. And I kept telling him, saying, "Why do I feel like I don't have time, Nipun? Somehow I feel very, very deep down that I don't have time."

He says, "If you are really feeling that way, then just do everything that you need to do, really to be so centered within yourself that when it actually occurs, you are fully aware and fully present."

That was an eye-opener. Then, when it actually happened, both of use were laughing saying, "Wow this has come true," so don't hold intentions like this ever. So both of us were laughing, "Let's not make agreements like this ever."

We've got to let people know that we don't have time, you know.? We don't have time for being centered within ourselves. We don't have time to look much deeper within. We don't have time to touch the essence. I think these are constant reminders that we have to keep giving ourselves. I think it's time to look far more deeply - wherever you are, whatever conversations you are having and look at the essence of those conversations, otherwise you are always on the edge of being on the frivolous side of things and kind of getting carried away and stuff.

I think there is immense value to just being present to whatever is happening. So I think it's a constant reminder of being centered within self and just letting go of all controls that are possibly ever-existing because you really have nothing under your control. And when you know the complete futility of mind, I think that is when you realize that there is a far deeper purpose that we still haven't even touched.

Then you start saying, "Oh my God! I'm already forty past now what am I doing? And then you say, "Oh! NOW I don't have time!" you know? And we keep getting these message far too late, kind of.
Nicole: You've given me a good answer for just even taking a month -- I don't even want to call it a month off, because I've not been off. I've actually been in a lot of service. It's just a different space that I've been in, but so many people say to me, "Oh I could never do that." But you can, and it's not a matter of money, because I think their brain just goes to money, and all this other stuff, because it's like, if you are really present, you will be able to do whatever you need to do for yourself.

Neerad: Absolutely. And we have so many examples of this. We had the good fortune of spending so much time time with Jayeshbhail and I think somebody that we just love and adore absolutely because even while he is walking, he's constantly looking for opportunities to serve. Constantly. He's never just walking. He's walking with a purpose to keep serving, wherever he is. So, yeah, I think we need to keep learning. There are so many examples in our own ecosystem like people like Gopal or people like Sirresh or -- just so many people in the ecosystem, Manosadnen and so on. Where they are constantly just kind of aware to whatever is emerging and accepting that emergence and going with the flow.

So, yeah it is beautiful.

Nicole: I wanted to kind of bring it back to laddership, I think especially to those folks who are kind of new to ecosystem. Is there any -- it's not advice. I think it's more kind of like "what would you..."

Neerad: What would you love to share with them?

Nicole: Yeah.

Neerad: I think the only thing I would like to share with anybody who is new to the ecosystem is just be very open to whatever is emerging. I think there are two important things not to give up on. One is, keep experimenting. The other is keep experiencing. Constantly keep experimenting with who you are, and constantly keep taking yourself to the next boundary or being able to serve or being able to hold space or being able to be a good listener or being able to understand all the different perspectives, and just constantly keep kind of opening your values and kind of expanding them and in the same process being open to whatever is arising in the moment and just look for opportunities to serve, however small. I think small or big, it just doesn't matter. Just looking for opportunities to serve, I think, just keeping your eyes open and kind of going all out with your open heart, and it will just be magical. Because the amount of what we think we are giving in the process but what we receive is just unbound, you know? There are no boundaries. It's absolutely limitless how much you receive in return. You think, Oh you've only started to give and how come you're receiving so much? But that is the law of nature. So you put one seed in the ground and you wield about 1000 fruits. So that is the law of nature. So I think constant work has to be of constantly sewing the seeds of trust and compassion, and keep experimenting with all different acts of service and then wherever your heart lands you, stay there, stay centered and just keep going.

Nicole: Thank you for that. I'm so glad we got to connect, face-to-face. Thank you so much.

Neerad: Thank you for giving the option for me to look deeply within. :)

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Comments (1)

  • Birju Pandya wrote ...

    my goodness, thank you for the recap of this!! :)