Day of service (MLK Jr. honor) -- I vow to step up the value I hold in my heart "to be of service" to Nature. Simple everyday acts -- 1) Use less water (save kitchen and cold water from shower for plants, do simple rainwater catchments in home & gardens), 2) Sun energy use -- read/work using natural light, use night dark time to rest & meditate & 3) Keep the air & space clean -- walk, plant trees, contribute little/none to landfills & live with minimal things in life. Be one with all elements of Nature (Earth, Water, Fire, Air & Space).
Karma Kitchen Hayward indeed has become a place for all to deeply connect back to the earth in many ways. Many stories emerged from this months Karma Kitchen and we are very grateful that we got to experience these beautiful moments.

Ann, Sandy, Gauri, Prakash all made this happen with their dedication and passion to change our  community and to spread more generosity and abundance to all who walk into the gardens. Deeply grateful to have you all in my circle of life.  Whether it was picking yams and baking them, picking grape leaf to serve the food, and grapes to serve with yams, rasam and chutney,  every ones enthusiasm and energy was boundless :-))

All our guests who walked in felt at home as there were no strangers, they were  all  able to connect deeply to farmers and soil.  The couple walking through the gardens discovered the 88 year old father and son working away and were able to have a meaningful chat and receive the gift of the fresh produce from them, two complete strangers being connected by the thread of soil and soul!

Few more decided to join in and help in separating the beans from pods,  a little 2 year old also joined in this gifting party:-)) it was great to see great grand ma and little one volunteering together to spread smiles and health.

Everyone who walked in the gardens that day gifted us with their  smiles, hugs and generosity to pay forward the meals to more in the coming year and walked away feeling abundant, receiving the gift of nature from farmers and for sure the soil! 

More in pictures below:

We from Heart of the Bay were delighted to present the Karma Kitchen at the Lungs of the bay that is the community gardens located centrally in Hayward, close to downtown last Sunday for the first time.   It was such a nice feeling to see the idea of paying it forward restaurant being graciously accepted and loved by the Hayward community garden directors who wanted us to step in the gardens and do this for the first time ever, thank you all deeply from our heart.

We were not sure how the weather is going to be on a September day, but mother nature also seemed to like the idea of doing the Karma Kitchen at the gardens, who poured us with great sunshine with a mix of cool winds for all of us to enjoy what the Karma kitchen and Open house at the gardens offered to all who came in.

We were blessed to learn the necessary tools to start a garden, compost,  and work with worms to make this world a little better than we all came in to be.  We also had a chance to learn about the "Bees" who are the reason for the food that we consume to be on our tables every day and night.  We also learned some more beautiful projects in other parts of the world like Sudan, where a dear friend/ farmer is helping build school and cultivate the soil and soul to spread more peace and love!

Finally no gatherings are done with out serving the food to all our guests,  we were keen on keeping this nature friendly and we are happy to say we were able to do it exactly as we envisioned it to be. We served sandwiches made with fresh garden produce from the community gardens topped it with tomato chutney and green gram sprouts and the best part was served it all on grape leaves ready to be composted and goes back to the mother earth to make our soil more fertile and wholesome! The whole day was spent in having beautiful conversations, gifting each other with fresh produce so people can continue eating good food rest of the week as well.

We are grateful to each and every volunteer who cooked the food, sorted the gifting away vegetables from the garden and farmers , set up the tables, chairs, canopies and every guest to make this day a beautiful and memorable for all who were  present in the gardens! THANK YOU....

More in pictures below...

 Last night we were excited about the opportunity that opened up quite suddenly to meet our sister visiting on a professional work related assignment. We met, exchanged smiles, stories off the top of our heart and were growing in curiosity about more stories to be shared over the long conversation. Weather was very nice, not too hot, not too cold, just pleasant. We walked to a close by restaurant, instantly felt invited by everything -- the smiles of waiters, smells of spices, simple & elegant layout of dining place, clean & neat floors, in short everything we witnessed seemed just aligned right to offer us a beautiful experience. And it did offer that and offered more. Sister was sharing away stories after stories that covered her love for this kind of authentic south indian food and how her toddler baby is such a foodie that he happily gobbles up dosas (pancake) after idlis (rice cake) or idlis after idlis with absolutely no-fuss anytime. Clear that this kid has mother's love-for-food genes in abundance. On top of tagging us the dinner she made another special dish to-go. As we shared more smiles over good-byes with waiters and other guests, we began to walk back to the place she was staying that night. Many more stories and hearty laughter later, we exchanged many more gifts including the gifts-of-nature from our community garden fresh produces, mural art "heart-of-the-bay" card & some more special sharing. We hugged, had more laughter moments walking to the car. Finally, as we were about to leave the place, this time for real, I felt like using the restroom real quick, so I walk inside the lobby, look for the restrooms, open the door, walk in and suddenly see this pile of litter in otherwise quite clean room. Don't know why, but for sometime now, I have been drawn to express my thankfulness to janitors through some small conscious random act of clean-ups. In no time, cleaned up the litter, washed my hands, used the restroom, washed the hands again :-) and disappeared from there silently smiling about this beautiful moment to thank the janitors and cleaning crew all over the world deeply appreciating the value they all bring through their tireless work, the works that are so essential yet I feel under appreciated often. As a walk back to the car, it was clear my beaming big smile from this experience was already creating ripples in my heart and our sister and others around. Every moment of my life, may I live in constant awareness of the value that all bees like the janitors bring to our life. For all such bees, here's a big kudos & gratitude -- Thank you all :-). Reflecting on this experience, made me think of Jayesh-bhai's father Ishwar kaka through his work in the area of public sanitation projects in India. Thank you kaka.
How can we ever pay back Nature? Is it possible? Nature works hard and if we allow it to do it's part without interfering then it does exactly the right thing for us... We just need to leave it alone and not mess with it anymore.

We were blessed this year with the gift of this land at the local community garden, not only was the land cleared of weeds it was ready for us to sow seeds.  One early afternoon in March a bunch of us got together and made some seedlings using the coconut shells, to our surprise we had more than 70 seedlings when we were finally ready to start putting them into the ground in early May this year.

We have been fortunate to be working with soil, nurturing ourselves everyday with beautiful conversations and nourishing ourselves with freshly grown vegetables and fruits! The only thing added to soil is home made compost with vegetable and fruits peels.  More can be seen in the pictures below... We are very grateful to all our friends who have helped us learn and grow these vegetables and our inner journey by connecting to nature in a very profound  way!

You see Bruschetta made with all garden grown yellow squash, tomato and onion with a little salt and pepper!! The whole process was awesome!!          

Sometime last year had a good fortune to engage in deep conversation with this speaker and he was deeply moved and was so kind to join our community to witness our grassroots activities in our community around promoting positive Health & Wellness, Urban farming, Sustainable Living and such. He shared some of these insightful gems about what's true health and healthcare. Watch and be informed and share with those you care.

Part 1:
Part 2:

Our immune system is our internal doctor (internal healer).

In Health & Wellness,
A farmer and Gandhian from south Gujurat, Bhaskar Save, shares some of his wisdom of ~60 decades of natural farming on 14 acres of land. When Masanobu Fukuoka visited him, he called him: The Gandhi of Natural Farming.

Bhaskar's experience with farming dramatically shifted when we applied to his practice what he called: Gandhiji's 5 Principles:
1. Harmonious coexistence for mutual benefit: Do not use artificial means to kill microbes.
2. Nothing borne out of the Mother Earth is waste.
3. Farming is not human's business. It is his/her moral duty.
4. All is Nature's will. We are mere labourers. Our rights are limited. Extract only as per your needs.
5. Do not hurry. Nature herself does not. Land is a living being. Converse with the farm.  
  There is enough for everyone's needs but not enough for anyone's greed. :-)

Creating Caring, Compassionate Community - A new initiative: Part 1

Recently, at our city aptly named "Heart Of The Bay" here in San Francisco Bay in California invited a group of us from local community to share some insights from our humble work in the local community The day long event started with our city mayor sharing some stories of local heroes. One story in particular deeply moved me. It was about an elderly man volunteering for several years to walk the community as neighborhood safety team. Not only he walks few times a week with the team, everyday he walks around his neighborhood and cleanup the graffiti. He lives an area that's situated between two waring gangs. Recently, as he was cleaning up a graffiti, he was attacked by some people from one of the gang, he was knocked down, kicked and received serious bruises and had to be hospitalized. From his hospital bed where he's recuperating (which we were told he's getting well and can't wait to get back to his safety walks and graffiti cleanups) he sent in a personal letter to the event that had an answer he shared when someone asked him "what you do is so dangerous, why do you still put yourself again and again through these walks and community clean-ups?", his response was "i do this simply because I believe in leaving this place a little bit better than how I found it" -- wow! what a conviction and courage this man is showing by example!. Mayor also highlighted some challenges among the neighborhood safety team of volunteers in that how there are some who are "walkers" and some who are "talkers" and the friction that ensued among them which eventually was smoothed out as walkers took initiative to step up the inclusive work they are doing.Mayor ended his short sharing with a fitting quote - “Democracy is not a spectator sport. We are put on this earth to leave it in a better state than when we were put on it.” This I thought was a beautiful start for the event.

Next, we had an inspirational speaker share some subtle observations from her long experience of bringing communities to come together, work together for a common purpose. She spoke on the theme of "Being prepared for....anything". I loved the energy, enthusiasm she invited into the space, soon can see it ripple out all over inside and outside the large conference room. She invited everyone to actively participate, cracked some jokes and seem to have a blast in doing what she was doing at the moment. She shifted people's perspective on how to look at any situation with a fresh set of lenses to learn and grow from it. To highlight one, her reflection of her recent conversation with her grandson was really cute I thought. She said -"I was visiting my grandson recently & as any grandma overflowing with love for her little grand-kid, I wanted to take him to Disney-land", when he learnt about this, this little kid turns to grandma and says - "grandma, you know what, lately I have been going to Disney-land quite a bit, my parents also took me there several times, everyone wants to take me there for some reason, it's kind of becoming boring, is there something we can do about it?", she said she learnt a beautiful lesson from this little boy about expressing love, as in this case instead of throwing tantrums at Disney-land after unwillingly going there, this kid chooses to prepare for possibilities by opening to a honest conversation with his grandma. There's some feeling deeply connecting as this speaker shared about this experience and other real-life experiences.

Continuing on the being prepared theme, the local fire chief shared some incredible practical tools and tips on "Being prepared to emergencies in the face of disasters such as earth-quakes." Clearly he was speaking from his long years of hands-on experience seeing all kinds of emergencies (from tragic accidents to deadly fires to gun shootings to heart attacks to strokes he seem to have seen it all through thick and thin). Being prepared for one's own safety and safety of family, elderly and kids in the community he brought home the message so eloquently that everyone were paying focussed attention and making notes to share with the family -- to create a emergency preparation kit oneself (instead of wasting money on commercially available kits in the market) that includes most essential stuffs like clean water, food to survive for few days, blankets, non-battery torch lights & radio. And to make a kit to be kept one each at work, home and in the car(s).

Everyone were served simple nourishing meal. Post lunch session included an interactive panel discussion that included representatives from "Neighborhood Alert", "Elderly Care in Fairview Community" & "Urban Community Gardens". It was such a humbling to learn that the neighborhood alert group has several elderly in the community contributing their volunteer time since  several years. The enthusiastic lady from the fairview community shared this beautiful story (she called it as sweet card story) about how their community worked as one unit to bring a healthy food outlet to the local community. The story goes that this is one of our local neighborhood where a lot of elderly and low income families live. The only grocery there got closed a while back, it was a bitter sweet for the community, although it wasn't the best place for healthy options, it still served some basic needs of the families within a walking distance. So, closing of the only place caused a lot of stress on the community as a lot of elderly couldn't drive and had to depend on others for their needs. Community started getting their acts together to change this situation towards better. They learnt that a new store that offered smaller, healthier and fresh produce is interested to consider opening a store here. The community was overjoyed, however, the project never took off due to several bureaucratic reasons. In response, community decides to step up their reaction, many in the community started writing regular letters & cards (called "Sweet Cards", similar to "Smile Cards") and wrote personal stories with pictures of children, families and elderly walking into the future store, took personal pictures of people connecting and enhancing the community life with the store as the epicenter of lot of such activities, and sent them to CEO directly. Days rolled by, but the community kept up the hope and kept sending these sweet cards even more regulalry. They had fun writing these stories and sharing with everyone. The CEO was deeply moved and very soon the dream of the local store came to fruition ahead of their planned schedule for opening. At the opening ceremony, the CE O personally came by and in his address to the community said -- "Thank you, I am here, this store is here because of all of you, because of all these letters, cards and pictures all of you have been sending us, we we so belonged here. So, here's your store, we dedicate this in honor of this incredible community!." This was such a sweet story -- everyone in the audience had a big smile listening to this story. To be Part 2

Photo courtesy: Open web.
Perfect weather for another Karma Kitchen to happen last weekend and we were filled with surprises and many felt deep-ties to the concept and first-hand experience of giftivism by the time they left the cafe on Sunday!  Many experienced Karma Kitchen for the first time and they were happy gift economy model existed rather than a regular consumer economy model.We started the Karma Kitchen with a circle of sharing our intention for being there and a minute of silence, the intentions like being consistent & persistent, support, expansion of generosity and  service flowed beautifully and then volunteers were all ready to receive the guests.

We served south Indian snack idlis (rice cake), eggplant chutney, tamarind chutney and  cooling coconut water. Even though it's a coffee place we wanted people to experience coconut water that's so complimenting to the hot weather! 

People were little hesitant in receiving this snack as gift as it was first time for many of them to taste something very different like "idli" , once they tasted it everyone loved it specially the chutney and many loved the coconut water which was very refreshing to them.  We could see the minds and hearts opening up to new things which was slightly difficult earlier. It was a beautiful moment to witness and experience the joy in it!

We had people from various walks of life visit us -- a mom to a 4 year old, art students from Japan, parents with teenage daughter, expecting mom, but the real surprise was we had a local public radio reporter walk in with her children to experience karma kitchen and also to interview some of us to know our experiences and to spread far and wide the story of how KK manifested in this community.

In all, anyone who walked in as a skeptic to see how this works left with smiles and wanted to be part of it again in the future. It truly felt  life is beautiful as is and we just need an open mind and heart to truly see whatever manifests at Karma Kitchen.
See more in pictures below...

Recently, a co-worker I never met sent this broadcast mail to our company-wide email-list, it said -

"I have a family member who is diabetic and unfortunately needs to have his leg amputated. He is 51 years old. His spirits are low and ...he is losing hope. Do you have any recommendations for books to inspire and instill hope?

Thank you,"

My spontaneous response was as such --

"Dear Friend --

So sorry to hear that, wish your friend continued strength and hope, please have him watch some of these inspirational videos, I'm sure he will find solace and dig deep to discover courage within (see this inspiring one about an old lady who dug deep to not only survive, but to thrive and live well, there are several more like that here that will inspire your friend and sure to give him hope to win his suffering) --
This is what I do when I need to dig out of life's challenges, a lot of my friends share the same experiences. Hope this helps.

In addition, I'm sure your friend can deeply connect and relate to this story I had blogged about a while back (this was the stories from Dr. V's InfiniteVision event in our local community), here it is -

Sending Health & Healing Thoughts,
LiveWell :-)"

The co-worker writes back thanking profusely from heart and sends an update that the family is trying best to stay positive.

In another couple of days, I notice this in my in-box from that day's DailyGood, my response seeing it was to hit forward to share this with this new friend, and send it with this note - "Thorught of you when I started reading about these gems, hope they add more rays of hope -- 7 Essential Books on Optimism

Smiles :-)"