I'm joining Service Space because ... I want to practice being the change
A good day to me is when ... I have done an act of kindness.
My hero in life is ...Gandhi.
My favorite book is ...Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
One thing I'm grateful for is ... opportunity to serve.
May 14, 2019, 11 comments, 38 smiles When I got the invitation to support a conference in Colombia, I just had a cursory understanding of the country and its history. Coffee, Shakira, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I didn't know that the state of Antioquia had its roots in a matriarchical culture. Or that the country was home to 1849 bird species, most diverse in the world. And exotic fruits! Not having watched Narcos, or the more realistic, non-Americanized version El Patron, I was also unaware of the history-altering extent of Pablo Escobar's drug cartel influence. Nor did I realize that the city of Medellin, where I stayed, is starting a radical U-turn from being the "murder capital of the world" to becoming the most innovative city in Latin America. What I did remember, however, was a recent story that mirrored the Colombian culture's propensity towards generosity. In 2016, Colombian and Brazil football (soccer) teams were slated to play in the ... Read Full Story
Nov 13, 2018, 13 comments, 42 smiles My flight from Vienna had just landed. I changed clothes in a public restroom, and arrived at a café in downtown Warsaw for a public talk. Four volunteers were setting up coffee and herbal tea, partly nervous about how many will turn up, from the few hundred on Facebook who were “interested”. While I entertain thoughts of holding off jet-lag, a volunteer translator quizzes me about keywords that I’m going to repeat. At one point that evening, I look at the crowd of mostly-non-English speakers and feel this moment of genuine awe. “How in the world did this happen? How did I get here, talking compassion with my brothers and sisters in Poland?” Maybe that awe was building up. Over the previous twenty days, I had zig-zagged through a couple of continents, numerous cities, more than a dozen circles, and thousands of people. No agenda, no staff, hardly any financial currency used. ... Read Full Story
Oct 30, 2018, 8 comments, 27 smiles [Sister Lucy Kurien founded Maher in 1997, in one small home in a village outside of Pune, India. This humble beginning has blossomed into over 46 homes around the country, now touching tens of thousands of women, men and children in hundreds of communities. Maher means mother's home in Marathi, and Sister Lucy has created the warmth and love of a mother's home for the abused and traumatized women, children, and men. Her work has attracted countless awards, her events often include the likes of President of India, and wisdom keepers from across the world consider her a kin. Through her journey, Sister Lucy's most fundamental prayer is simply that the fire of love ignite in more people's hearts and inspire them to serve. Below are edited excerpts from Sister Lucy's various talks during the October 2018 visit to Northern California. ] What inspired you to become a nun? It's really ... Read Full Story
Oct 28, 2018, 4 comments, 19 smiles [Last Thursday, Michelle Long convened a morning session at SOCAP conference, with venture capitalist Bo Shao, researcher Dacher Keltner and myself. Bo shared his personal story, and then Dacher and I engaged in a dialogue. Below is a summary of my reflections on Michelle's thoughtful questions.] Is our fundamental nature cooperation or competition? We have a lot of science now that tells us that our fundamental nature is cooperative. Even ancient bones tell the story of compassion. Some Australian archeologists found 4 thousand-year-old relics in Vietnam and noticed that hunters and gatherers carried a paralyzed man with them. Competition is driven by a sense of fear, and cooperation is driven by a sense of love. Another way to frame it is this: if we had all the freedom in the world, would we be lazy or innovative? Would we maximize self-interest or serve? We have both instincts in us, but, on balance, ... Read Full Story
Jul 12, 2018, 21 comments, 53 smiles Dada Vaswani passed away today, just a few days before his 100th birthday. A monk for 80 years, he had a Sufi background but lived a truly interfaith life. For his millions of followers, he is their link to God. From the Pope to Mother Teresa to Dalai Lama, he was known to practically all of the world's great leaders of his time -- and everyone had a very common refrain about him: this man emanates love. Love. There's really no other way to describe him. A few years ago, I remember a dialogue he held with the ServiceSpace community in Pune, India. Audrey happened to be in the crowd and later told us, "Right as he walked in, I had tears in my eyes. I don't know why. And they continued for the whole hour, until he left." That's just what it's like to be around him. Whether you cry or not, ... Read Full Story
May 27, 2018, 18 comments, 31 smiles I've just returned from a few amazing days in Vietnam. Those stories, however, would be incomplete without the context of two remarkable women: Giang Dang and Hang Mai. First, about Giang. While I stood in immigration lines at the Ho Chi Minh International airport, Giang was waiting outside for a fairly long while. When I saw her, the first thing she said was, "I sent love to everyone who walked in before you." That's the kind of person Giang is. Many moons ago, she used to work at a multi-national aid agency; she left and started her own organization, Action for the City. At one point, they had 17 staff. Seeing herself drown in the superficiality of financial capital, she expanded to "multiple forms of capital" -- part of the staff salary came in vegetables that they grew together. Down that path, she downsized to just a few paid staff and "lot more ... Read Full Story
May 19, 2018, 20 comments, 34 smiles I'm about to depart the Philippines shortly. And my trip here has been a remarkable ripple of meeting Ana and Anjo at the Gandhi 3.0 retreat. On the surface, I came as a speaker for Assumption College commencement -- which, of course, was a remarkable experience. It's an all-women school with about 3000 kids, from K through college, and whose alumni have included 2 Philippines presidents, numerous business leaders and even more nuns! Somewhere behind a podium in the photo below, I'm speaking about embracing grace. :) Underneath the hood, though, I had the great joy of witnessing Ana's magic. (For those who don't know Ana, she was Julliard's "100 Most Outstanding Alumni in 100 Years" among other things.) First off, extreme hospitality from Anjo, Erwin, Wylette and the entire compassion army -- I mean, having been here multiple days, I still don't know my way around, because there were always volunteers ... Read Full Story
Oct 04, 2017, 13 comments, 30 smiles Many months ago, Jin Wei, a Buddhist monk, set the intention of starting a Karma Kitchen in the country of his birth -- Poland! Particularly with a four-pack posse of ServiceSpace veterans coming together for a delegation with Rev. Heng Sure, he asked around for restaurants who might be willing to give a try. Didn't get a lot of traction. Then, somehow, he ended up on a phone call with Ela. They didn't know each other, and she didn't know about Karma Kitchen, but within a minute of their conversation, she says, "Let's do it at my restaurant." "Really? Are you sure?" Jin Wei thought in his mind. Before he could say anything, Ela followed up with her response: "Yes, I'm sure. Let's do it." And so it was. Oct 1st, 11AM to 4PM. Krakow, Poland. Karma Kitchen is on. Another monastic, Jin He, designed a brilliant poster that hung on ... Read Full Story
Aug 22, 2017, 6 comments, 24 smiles [Post Charlottesville events, a friend emailed me various existential questions around his social service work on inclusion. Below was my response. The images are paintings by a famous Indian painter named Raza who only draws traingles and circles. :)] We can fundamentally organize our solutions as triangles, circles, or mobius. Triangles are hierarchies that are optimized for efficiency, via transactions. They are very narrow in focus and hence brittle. Circles are optimized for many-to-many possibilities through relationships. Yet, as they mature, they create exclusion with an in-circle and out-circle. In ServiceSpace, we speak of a third option, a "mobius strip", as a more suitable metaphor -- where the outside is in at times and inside is out at times, like the conveyor belt at an airport. How, then, do we create a mobius strip? In any context, that's a very pertinent design question. ServiceSpace approach has been to be leverage technology for efficiency, leverage ... Read Full Story
Jun 09, 2017, 5 comments, 19 smiles "If you had a billion dollars to give, what would you do?" It's a great question that we often ask our interns. In this week's NY Times, best-selling author David Brooks articulated his response after being inspired by the recent letters of Giving Pledge signers. And it seemed like a page straight out of the ServiceSpace handbook. "Only loving relationships transform lives, and such relationships can be formed only in small groups. I’d seed 25-person collectives, a group of people who met once a week to share." Just like Awakin Circles. He spoke about local retreats, quite in the vein of Moved by Love. In fact, he even explicitly referenced the Hands, Head, Heart framework, as the "pressure points required for personal transformation." Brooks further added how "each collective would have a curriculum, a set of biographical and reflective readings, to help members come up with their own life philosophies, to help them master the intellectual [foundation of] virtues." Sounds ... Read Full Story