Sunday, May 31, 2009

The hidden costs of 'Consumption Philanthropy'



An amazing article from the Stanford Center for Social Innovation.  Small excerpt:


"I do my main charity work once a week—at the grocery store. Like some of you, this week I bought organic yogurt that not only is healthier for my family and the Earth, but also supports nonprofit environmental and educational organizations. I also picked up snack bars that promote peace (no kidding!) and salad dressing that funds various (unnamed) charities across the country. For all of this hard work, I rewarded myself with some Endangered Species Chocolate, which helps “support species, habitat, and humanity,” according to the company’s Web site. Delicious.


Consuming more will not solve today’s social and environmental problems. Indeed, consumption may very well create more of the kinds of problems that we had hoped philanthropy would fix. Relying on individual consumer choices, consumption philanthropy is unsuited to the scale or complexity of the problems it seeks to fix. Couched in market transactions, it neither acknowledges the voice of the transactions’ beneficiaries nor gives philanthropists the satisfaction of mindful virtuous action. And caught in the mechanisms of the market, it obscures the fact that the market caused many of the problems that philanthropy seeks to redress."


To some extent, this is why I love the idea of going to Central Park and handing out cookies / lemonade.  The point is not to actually give people anything material, but to enhance the feeling of connection and build a space in which to cultivate mindful selfless action.  We are all just random people, yet we are all clearly not.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I meditated with my team at work today

A Chinese parable: an old man set out to change the world. He found that he wasn’t making much progress, so he tried to change his country. This was also too difficult, so he tried to change his neighborhood. When he didn’t have success there, he tried to change his family. Even that was easier said than done, so he tried to change himself. Then an interesting thing happened. When he had changed himself, his family changed. And when his family changed, his neighborhood changed. When his neighborhood changed, his country changed. And when his country changed, the world changed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

CharityFocus retreat

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Last weekend was our yearly CharityFocus coordinators retreat.  The people you see in the picture above are amazing teachers, I am blessed to be able to learn from them.


Wanted to share one element of the weekend that really resonated with me.  We started the weekend going around in a circle sharing a moment of gratitude for the service of others in our lives.  Everyone went around and gave beautiful anecdotes of how kind people had been to them in their life.  If only all our weeks could start in such a way...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Listening to the Dalai Lama


Today, Shephali and I were treated to an impromptu audience with the Dalai Lama (along with about 50 other folks) thanks to our wonderful friend Tashi.

His talk seemed totally extemporaneous and was about his gratitude to India for being such a wonderful host to his people over the past 50 years. A few of the interesting tidbits below.

He considers his mission in life two-fold: 1) espouse the values of compassionate, non-violent existence, and 2) advocate religious harmony through mutual respect. In both regards, he feels heavily influenced by values from Indian traditions (specifically, the concept of ahimsa, which he spoke on at length). In fact, he repeated referred to India as his 'guru' and and himself as a 'messenger.'

Towards the end he implored the group to actively engage in service work as a major key to help him on his mission. He ended with an interesting anecdote about the religious reciprocity between India and Tibet. Just as Buddha was from India, Lord Shiva (from the Hindu tradition) makes his home in Mount Kailash, which is located in Tibet. The two religions are quite interlinked.

The whole meeting was less than an hour long and seemed to fly by. It was awesome to hear him speak so lovingly of India.