Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Missing Peace Project

Last night we went down to Palo Alto for a meeting with Darlene Markovich and Tenzin Tethong, among others. These folks are Chairman and Exec. Director of the Committee of 100. Their job is to call attention to the struggle in Tibet in a peaceful way (their members include Pierce Brosnan, Arun Gandhi, Coretta Scott King, Richard Gere, Desmond Tutu and Robert Thurman).

While there, we learned about the Missing Peace Project and were treated to a presentation by the only art therapist in the Federal Prison system. The Missing Peace Project was created to call attention to the core values espoused by the Dalai Lama using art. It resulted in an award-winning art exhibition that is currently touring the country (and drawing tens of thousands). Here's a couple of the art pieces:




If that wasn't awesome enough, the presentation was spectacular. We heard about the only prison that involves art therapy inside its walls. I can't share specifics, but the presentation showed slides of art created by the inmates and how they changed and embraced peace through the process. It was truly amazing, especially considering that every art piece came from the part of the prison for the mentally ill/criminally insane. Makes you think why this isn't incorporated in more places, jails as well as corporate America! Art builds community.

We're going to do an article on her on DailyGood pretty soon, so if you're not on there, get on there (it goes out to hundreds of thousands of folks)!!! One of the things she needs is pieces of fabric (as her budget doesn't allow for much latitude), and we'll call attention to how you can help with that if you wish. Also, if you're interested in related stories of prison reform, check out this film about mindfulness meditation being incorporated in jails, with stunning success. That's all for now...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Gift of Gratitude and Concentrated Experience

I'm writing this on a saturday night and trying to figure out how to coherently write about what happened just from wednesday until now.  every day here contains about a month worth of experience.  perhaps it could be called a spiritual mba, i don't know, but i feel like i have to get it down so i don't forget it.  apologies for the long post.


there are people here doing amazing things in the space that i'm interested in: the confluence of business, technology, and spirituality. 


alright, wish i could write a beautiful and touching narrative but will have to stick with brute force hard nosed chronology:



weekly wednesday meditation night.  I meet a gentleman at the end of the night that's amazing.  He is a serial entrepreneur currently the CEO of a tech company.  Pretty young guy (maybe 5 years older than me), and he's just quit his job.  he turned down millions of dollars.  instead, he bought a ticket to thailand and will be meditating in some off the grid monastery for the forseeable future.  hearing this guys story was inspiring, especially considering he didn't even quit because he hated what he did or he only did it for the money.  he loves what he does, but he'd rather devote his precious time to introspection and service.  amazing.



this was a long day!  into the early afternoon I had a charityfocus meeting with a friend in London.  we're planning to build something really cool here in the near future and started working on plans for it.


after this a few friends headed to visit Professor Shariq at Stanford.  This meeting was unbelievable.  Professor Shariq is amazing, the guy has basically accomplished every form of material goal you could have, and now he's a program director for Stanford in a social entrepreneurship program that can only be described as spiritual (in my minds eye).  He has discovered that the best way to create an effective leader (especially one that is socially conscious) is to make sure that the persons actions, words, and thoughts are aligned.  of course, this is hard, each one of us lives a life of contradiction in many respects.  so he patented an intense technique to allow the person in the hotseat to recognize that which they stand for deep in themselves.  He calls it Real Time Venture Design Laboratory (ReVel).  it is intensive.  10 hours of sitting in a room with experts who are there with nothing on their mind but service.  however, i'm doing a horrible job of explaining it, so i may just leave it at that.  however, i will say that what is happening here is the incubation of a practice that is going to change leadership, and i want to be more involved in it.


from there we head to another building at Stanford to see a talk given by Reverend Heng Sure.  Gotta say, of all the 'monk and nun homies' that Nipun has introduced me to, i feel most connected to Heng Sure.  He sang some songs about Buddha with his guitar and answered some very deep questions, including why celibacy is included as part of the buddhist path (as one continues along in the path, not at the start!)  The question was asked by the director of religious studies at Stanford, and we had an interesting conversation after about the nature of desire.  cool stuff.


Next we head to another room at Stanford where a class is hosting Nipun to come speak to them, as it is the anniversary of Gandhi's assassination.  Nipun proceeds to deliver a one hour lecture with no preparation, and it is the most moving talk i have ever heard.  he talks about the value of selfless service and how it can be implemented in our daily lives from the smallest level.  He is bar none the best speaker I have ever seen.  people were leaving with tears in their eyes and talking about how they needed to rethink their lives.  Every day with this guy is a blessing...


From there we take a trip back to Berkeley with friend Hitesh.  He shared with us his social entrepreneurship plan to help the downtrodden in developing worlds be able to compete (can't share much more than that), and we discuss ways to be of service.


that was one day.  lol



After lounging around in the morning, I spend the afternoon moving into my new apt in Berkeley.


The evening is spent in a dinner meeting with a veritable who's who of service all-stars, pretty much every one of them sub 30 years old.  we talked about synergies between what we were doing and perhaps how we could serve together.  the roster of accomplishments for these people was awesome:

-prof. srikumar rao, who runs a personal mastery course in various top schools all over the world and has been featured in Time magazine, NY Times, and Wall Street Journal.

-a stanford phd student who is using technology to help farmers in developing countries

-a berkeley phd student that is using wireless videoconferencing technology to bring medical attention to villages in developing nations

-a columbia mba that is running an online video website owned by a major media company

-a former dot-com entrepreneur

-a stanford mba student who had national acclaim starting a non-profit to help Argentina and also lived as a homeless person to get a feel of what it was like

-another berkely phd student using persuasive technology to get developing nations to adopt basic medical standards

and then there was Nipun, Guri, and I.  what a trip this night was...



Had a long afternoon meeting about Karma Kitchen.  We're hoping to get it up and running again shortly, and I plan to play a role in it while i'm here.  It should be awesome!

Ended the evening by heading downtown with my friend Mita for a birthday party.  SF is very hilly =)


I've been asked a few times 'why do this?'  i mean, i just go around meeting people and learning about what they do and see if i can be of service in any way.  you'd think that it'd be hard to get a real deep experience going this route.  traditionally you'd be correct.  however, when the connection you bring to the table is a spiritual one, something that is based on a shared experience of introspection, the amount you get out of every meeting is .... just more.  This is why i'm so thankful to Nipun, who has been arranging a lot of this as part of CharityFocus.  I just get to ride the high of this job.  its nice being an intern/executive committee member of CharityFocus :P


to add to that, the broadening of perspective i've been lucky to experience as a result of this is worth its weight in gold.  i mean, a lot of this stuff i didn't even know that people did at all prior to coming here.  turns out not only do people do it, but they need help, and will take yours, especially if you offer it freely.  i'm trying to think more and more about how to incorporate this element of life into my future consulting life.  it would be nice to connect McKinsey to some of these people doing such great things and use the business sense to discover ways to get more people access to the solutions.  still a ways off to do that though ;)


One thing I didn't mention is that through everything i've been doing here, we've been meditating 1 hour every day.  its not much, but maintaining that has really been useful.


alright, time to sleep so i can get ready for another week of 'retirement' life! =)