Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Living in Berkeley

Since I got back from my time in heavy meditation, I've been in Berkeley hanging out with Adam and Shephali from new york (who have since gone back to the city - and i miss them a lot) and the entity that is CharityFocus.  I'll be here working most heavily with them throughout this period and so I've found an apartment here in Berkeley where the founder and my good friend Nipun Mehta lives with his wonderful wife Guri.

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Last Wednesday I was again a part of the long-running CharityFocus Wednesday.  There was a gathering of 40+ people who had come to meditate together, share wisdom, and eat in silence.  The 'Thought-of-the-Week' from which we shared posed the question 'Why do you meditate?'  What a great opportunity for me to hear so many varying reasons from people who had started meditating a week ago all the way to actual monks.  And I haven't even yet mentioned the food!  Totally amazing tasting and given from the heart.  All of this is provided by the hosts in a 'gift-economy' fashion.  No money/business cards/etc has ever exchanged hands in over the decade that this has been run, and it has been attended by monks, nuns, world leaders and some of the most financially wealthy people in the world.  The hosts provide with no expectations of receiving (even though they are not independently wealthy by any means).  I am blessed every time I get to attend one of these gatherings.


The next day, we met with the co-founders of Zicasso, an online travel planning website.  Brian and Yuchun (alumni of MIT Sloan and Wharton, respectively) started the company wanting to make it easier to plan international trips while going through local trip providers, thus making is simultaneously cheaper and boosting the local economy.  Their network of relationships takes the guesswork and fear out of the process.  The worldwide release will occur shortly, but take a look now for a sneak peek!


That same evening, we met with Jean Yao, a wonderful woman, graphic designer of many things in CharityFocus, and who has spent 30 minutes in private audience with the Dalai Lama!  I peppered her with questions as to what that experience was like and what was learned from it.  It was awesome.


The next day we (Adam, Shephali, and I) had lunch with a college professor of education and consciousness (Mali) and my friend Megan, who is a former Buddhist nun and currently is one of the leaders in bringing meditation to schools (here's an article about the effort from the NY Times).


After this we headed to meet Emmanuel Lee, the founder of GlobalOnenessProject.  There was a bunch of brainstorming and wild performances by Adam, but can't go in to much more depth here.  Keep an eye out for these guys though, their video content is some of the best and most uplifting in the world.


For the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, we first went to the Buddhist Monestary and met with the Abbott monk Rev. Heng Sure.  This is a man that did not lie down for 25 years and maintained a vow of silence for 6 years.  His bowing pilgrimage is the stuff of legend.  Just happy to be in the same room ;)


The rest of the evening was spent at a dinner with guests who were involved in various yogic activities, including one gentleman, Jonathan, who had spent 35 days in zen meditation and had done a 4 day 'vision quest' (no food, constant meditation, enclosed in small circle in open space) in the middle of death valley.  crazy!


Saturday we go straight to visit and learn from Prasad Kaipa.  He is an IIT ph.d. physicist turned Apple Computer fellow turned college professor turned CEO coach.  We spent the afternoon together and he told us about how to 'ignite the genius within' ;)

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Since then I've hung out with great friends Pavi (the link is to the best poem i've ever read), Viral, and Ragu before coming back here to Berkeley, and have also been working on some top secret CharityFocus stuff.  Will keep that under wraps until the time is right ;)

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