Little Did I Know How Grace Works

Posted by Pancho Ramos Stierle on Jun 12, 2018
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Over the last 5 years or so --since Rahul's landmark speech--, laddered and lead by sister Anne Veh, the Kindness Team has developed a beautiful relationship with the San Francisco Waldorf High School community. We come at the beginning of the school year for a Kindness Circle where senior students get exposed to the broad spectrum of kindness. A part of it takes the form of kindness for themselves as they write their intentions for the following months. Then we come back at the end of the school year for a Gratitude Circle.

This year, one of the teachers, sister Joan --who has been since the beginning the main love instigator for all these encounters to happen-- was able to document the students reflections after the Gratitude Circle. At the PS are some of the touching reflections that show the deep love growing out of these circles and why it was that this generation chose an undocumented and unafraid person to be their commencement speaker at their graduation ceremony ;-) [Here's the link to the speech]

Been so familiar with the school and have biked there close to a dozen times, it never occurred to me to ask where was the graduation going to be and i assumed that was going to be there. Little did I know about the graceful connections were about to manifest! :-)

So i BARTed to the Balboa Park station and then biked for 20 minutes against a fierce head-on wind to arrive to the school on top of the West Portal neighborhood, only to realize, at 10:50am --the graduation was supposed to start at 11am-- that the graduation wasn't going to happen there at the high school! Wooohaa! It was 25 minutes away _in car_ from the real ceremony.

So the sweet team organizing the graduation sent me a Lyft who took me through an spectacular route scenery crossing the Twin Peaks and a look over at the glorious San Francisco Bay. Magnificent! It was as if a tremendous love force was warming me up for what ever needed to happen.

The driver, Laura an immigrant, was from the part of the Planet we call Mexico --of course! She was born at the same place where my paternal grandma was born and Laura was the name of my maternal grandma... what are the odds to combine the Divine Feminine at its full force?! At this point am mostly surrendered by the grace of been taken care by all these amazing women, from the one who sent me an email as i was biking and who called me later to figure out a plan, to the one who texted me, to the one who sent the Lyft, to the one driving, to the one waiting for my arrival at the corner of the church.

During the 25 minute ride, Laura and i engaged in a beautiful conversation. She told me that she has been living in the Bay Area for the last 30 years. Laura told me that one of the most life changing experiences she had, was when she went to pick up a passenger but couldn't find her on the spot she was supposed to be. "I'm right here, where are you?" Laura asked, "I'm here too behind the gray car" answered the potential passenger. Then Laura advanced a little bit more and here there was this person with no legs waiting for Laura on the ground. Laura opened the door "do you need some help?" she asked. And with a smile she replied "Oh no, no i can do it myself, many thanks though. That is very kind of you" she said as she hoped into the car.

Laura said it was one of the most alivening conversations she had in a long time --sadly, most of Laura's rides are with people who choose to not engage in a conversation whatsoever, they plug their headphones and/or (dis)connect to their cellphones. With this passenger was a completely different story. "She had this glow of happiness all over her face, and i don't remember the details of our conversation but I remember her wholeness as a human being" she told me. "Here she is", Laura continued, "this differently abled human being with no legs but completely happy, at least during the ride, and here we are, many of us with all our bodies complete but disconnected and complaining about everything. Sometimes I wonder if it is as if some of us have lost the legs of our hearts and spirit." Laura concluded, "Since that day, i see the world in a very different way and i try to be a more grateful and happier person."

Then she told me that another passenger told her that we all were getting addicted to screens, and that an antidote --to that level of disconnection to reality-- was to walk barefoot on the dirt. This passenger told her something like: "If you do it [walk barefoot] as soon as you wake up, you will notice how your day will unfold in a very different manner. You will start to feel and see meaning everywhere you go." When i heard this, it sparked in me the recent story of one of the first ServiceSpace interns, brother Dylan, and his new habit and deep insights. He recently came for an Awakin Circle at the Kindness Temple where he shared that instead of waking up and looking at his cellphone to read texts, emails and start getting stressed with all the things he has to do for the day, now he sleeps by a glass of water and drinks it as soon as he wakes up. And Laura's story of walking barefoot reminded me of what I was about to share during the graduation and that it was one of the first things i did when I heard about the physical passing away of my mother.

I gave sister Laura a big hug and gifted her a little Earth flag as a tribute for her insightful citizen of the world sharings. Of course we also talked about the movement of proudly undocumented and unafraid immigrants in this part of the Planet and now she is aware of Movimiento Cosecha!

As soon as i got of the car, sisters Joan and Corey were at the corner of the church waiting for me with a pair of huge smiles, warm hugs and a sweet beautiful fresh fragrant pink rose she pinned right above my heart, as you would if you were to offer something sacred to the altar of the Heart. What a great offering for anything that has to do with heartmindfulness! I was gently escorted by sister Joan and then, i was seated with the faculty by the side of the sweet comforting energy of what later I came to know was sister Jessica.

I remember sharing some version of all this at the very beginning of the commencement speech. For sure, the happy complete passenger without legs, and real connections as an antidote for our screen addictions.

I read the looong speech --yeah! next time, if it ever happens, will keep it to no more than 4,000 words!-- with as much eye contact with the graduates as i could. And when i got to the part of "That was the last time i saw my mother alive", a deep huge silence came through the big church with spectacular stain glasses and somehow my eyes where flooded with tears and i had a lump in my throat. I could barely said the most emotive part of the speech: "Her last embodied teaching was how to skillfully and lovingly cradle the world's suffering."

Later, during the hugs and post-diploma celebration, many mothers and grandmothers came to me to thank me for honoring my mom in that way. I feelthink they were referring mostly, not to the speech but to my tribute to her in the form of tears and those of some people in the audience.

When the ceremony was over, the chair of the San Francisco Waldorf High School, sister Jessica --the same person who emailed me when I was biking and told me about the alternative plan-- approached me and shared that in the morning she was a bit nervous to be the MC of the ceremony --and you had to see her! She is such a gracious-confident-loving-assertive-on-top-of-everything-kind-of woman! Who knew?! So she decided to do her morning meditation, and right after, she felt the warm rising sun on her back saying something similar as: "I got your back". Of course, I gifted her the organic and local sun-grapefruit before even knowing this part of her morning story!

And even later, when the kind sister Joan took me back to pick up my iron horse at the school, she told me that every day, the teachers read Rudolf Steiner's Calendar of the Soul! This week's verses around our star and all the grace and unexplainable synchronicity of sorts, can only be felt through the luminosity of our hearts and the forever presence --at human scales -- of Mother Earth and our beloved Grandma Sun. Yes i was trained by the Greatgrandma Milky Way!

What a way to be reminded of the power of grace! As Nipun put is in his last commencement address:
With each act of giving, we create a silent affinity with those who receive our offerings. Over time, those individual strands form an intricate web of interconnections. As we learn to trust the intelligence of that field of blessings, grace grows.

The beauty of grace is that it comes unannounced, in the most unsuspecting ways.
indeed! As Dwarkoji would say: life is an arrangement!

PS: Here are some excerpts from the student reflections on the Gratitude Circle, written May 11, 2018:
  • Coming back to the Kindness Circle was a good return. The calm, communal, and loving energy it brings was much needed for both me and the senior class. For example, the importance of meditation was revitalized for me. Our guests effortlessly showed us the simple yet amazing concept of our coming together, they showed gratitude and unending love for what looks to be the little things, like the morning weather, friends, family, food, and community.
  • …there was an ethereal spiritualism, just one I can’t name.
  • Pancho is a person to live like. He has reached a point in human kindness that I have seen in no other person. If I could get to that level in life, I feel I could live life to its fullest potential.
  • When some of the class read short paragraphs from the book that “Allegiance to Gratitude” came from, it really opened my eyes to look around and appreciate nature. When we planted the apple tree, it had me make a new connection to our lives because the apple tree is small and starting to grow. I connected that to us. As our high school careers are quickly coming to an end, whatever we do after graduation is our rebirth, our next step in life. Planting the apple tree in the ground is also a new beginning and over time, it will grow into a big, strong tree.
  • When the kindness team came to join us yesterday, it gave me a sort of “circle closing” feeling…Their presence and the vibe they brought was so peaceful and generous. It made me really listen to every word that people said, think about how big the world is and how nice it would be if everyone could feel the way that the kindness team makes you feel. I love hearing about Pancho’s life and his stories because he seems so pure and good. It gives me hope for the world.
  • Spending so much time around teenagers, it was all sorts of wonderful to be around earnest people. There’s a severe drought of people who are unabashedly and kindly happy about things. The people of the kindness circle were. They didn’t mask emotions behind sarcasm, self-deprecation, or the billions of other methods we use to hide sincerity.
  • The beginning where we meditated for ten minutes really set the tone for the rest of the day. It helped me calm down and get focused for the rest of the day and other classes. I enjoyed hearing the little snippets from that book and really appreciated when Mischa said that he was grateful for the fact that one day hopes to learn what it means that all our minds are one, and it got me thinking that I would like to learn the same thing.
  • We sat in silence for what he said was ten minutes, but it didn’t feel long enough. He told us to remember every time we’ve been loved. I worked backwards through my life, remembering time spent with family and friends. Moments of early childhood resurfaced, all the way back to my earliest memory of my mother putting me to sleep under the starlight.
  • It was a pleasant surprise seeing Pancho and his team enter the room yesterday. I immediately knew it would be a calming morning. We went around the circle and each said what we were grateful for. Many people said that they were grateful to be with the class and how much we all mean to each other. I really liked that part because I never would have known what other people were thinking. It was especially powerful at this point in the year because we realize how soon we will be leaving.
  • The energy and mood that the kindness circle bring to the group moves me. I see how everyone appreciates nature and the time we spend together. The large circle that we sit in enables me to see everyone’s face; I feel safe in the circle and comfortable to share my thoughts.
  • I really enjoyed hearing what everyone had to say because I heard a lot of people’s voices that I don’t get to hear every day. While people were speaking, I realized that there are so many things in my life to be thankful for. Most the things that peoples were giving gratitude for were very simple, things that we sometimes take for granted. Thinking about all of these things made me happy, so I am going to try harder to appreciate the smaller things because even they can bring joy if you give them enough meaning.
  • Though not my own, one reflection or shared thought really struck me: “I am grateful that we have so much to look forward to.” What would life be if we had nothing to look forward to?
  • When the people from the kindness circle come into the room, they bring a light and warmth with them. They acknowledge each person and hold them with respect and admiration. It is impossible to not be struck by how clear-headed and at peace with themselves these humans are. Their state of mind makes it possible for them to love every living soul and treat the people, plants, and animals, earth, water, and sky around them with the utmost respect. What amazed me most about yesterday was watching how Nida interacted with plants and observing her knowledge of the natural world. The sage in her garden bloomed more abundantly than most and I could really understand why after watching how she treated the tobacco plant with such care Her dedication to putting so much love into things that grow and enhance our planet, whether it be plants, her children, or fostering kindness in others, is truly inspiring to me and I hope to be able to carry that on in some way or another.
  • I appreciate Pancho, Anne, and the others who came to talk to us because they are genuinely some of the kindest people I have ever met. It is nice to leave a sort of legacy in the garden and hopefully I’ll be able to see the plants thriving if I visit in a couple of years. I wish the class could have had a more open discussion with Pancho and his friends about what it means to make a positive impact in the world, instead of spending so much time reading from the book and listening to them speak. That being said, I think Pancho had some very interesting things to say and I’m glad he is speaking at our graduation
  • The way they carry themselves is so poignant. They taught us so much about being without ever saying too much. I think it is because they have a deep confidence in what they believe. They are open to new thoughts, but the groundwork of thankfulness they have built keeps them present.
  • It was fascinating for me to see how others reacted to the reading. I quite enjoyed the message behind the reading and I believe that we would all benefit from being more thankful. The tree planting and the tobacco were so symbolic, and we can all take so much meaning from those activities.
  • It was good to see them again after almost a year. The smiling faces were gazing at us again across the circle with the familiarly uncomfortable eye contact that they have mastered. This celebration had a different tone than the first meeting because we are all in a phase of transition. We acknowledged the joys and fears of leaving behind the comforts of childhood to break into our adult forms. All of these changes come with sadness and joy. Through our reading we discovered that these changes are made smoother by welcoming them with open arms of gratitude.
  • I felt very invigorated after yesterday’s session. It was so soothing to sit together as one and share time to hear us give thanks to something we are grateful for. We are all so, so blessed.
  • I particularly enjoyed reading the card I made for myself in August. We were asked to write down a couple of wishes/intentions for the upcoming months. I very refreshed and reassured after reading my card because I needed to hear some of those desires and aspirations for confidence going into the future. My whole experience yesterday really brightened up my day and made me happy.

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