Grassroots Community work in the Heart of the Bay Our guests this week were Prakash and Shruti - who have left no stone ... Read more
My gratitude to many beautiful souls who came together in visible and invisible ways to make May - Karma Kitchen a vegan, nature friendly in every way possible. The planning started a few weeks back shopping for organic ingredients, looking for a commercial baking place and staying committed to values that we all hold very dear that is to make Karma Kitchen a healthy place for all.

A day earlier to Karma Kitchen last weekend Sandy, Prakash, Ann and Markus all came together to bake the vegan banana-walnut muffin with was showered with their love, mindfulness and joy to feed the guests.

Karma Kitchen  was bustling with people by 2pm, engaging in  beautiful mindful discussions around nature, composting, planting, community building, honeybees, pets and kids. When asked what would you like to drink, a 3 year old kid who was really mindful of the gift of fruits specially oranges said, he does not need anything to drink looking at the offered fruits he said "these oranges are full of juices" :-), talk about mindfulness :-), this little one taught us all about it in just one sentence.

Others said they totally felt home and felt they were visiting friends and family. One liked the muffins so much that she decided to gift it forward to some more friends who were visiting her in the evening. We were also blessed to have a 3-legged visitor dog Tigger (yes, tigger has just 3-legs, lost one leg and few toes on only remaining back leg when he was a puppy when a truck ran over him, is a rescue dog, still lives a full playful life) and it felt like circle of life is perfect as it is.

We had visitors from our own community; Sunnyvale, Fremont, Foster city and we specially thank each and everyone of you to come out on a beautiful afternoon to support Karma Kitchen. More in pictures below..

Thought of you all when I read this piece earlier - to our dear friend Subru Bhat for connecting us to this resource, he even stepped it up by writing a news-paper article in a poupular local daily (dedicated to serving farmers) all the way across oceans in India. Wow! -- what a ripple.Enjoy the read.Smiles :-).

Photo courtesy: Launafarm.

Reflections from Sandy -

3 May 2012 a.m.

I've been afraid to get rid of things that make my life appear full, or things that I wish to reminisce about or return to, things that I would find useful when needed and I have on hand, things to entertain or engage me when I am alone, things that mark passage of time and the usual rituals and semblance of family.

I've been afraid of an empty home reflecting an empty life and loneliness.

By clearing the space, it is opening to others as I wish to do with my life. My home mirrors my life and my intentions.

To follow the example of what Prakash and Shruti did to open their home. To create a welcoming place for others as well as myself. To open to fill the heart as well as the home.

From the practice to know what has real meaning for me, and to clear away everything else.

Master Bell is the Chi Kung master. I am witness to what he experiences. He creates a space of stillness and energy. When I mirror that space of stillness, there is a connection. This is what I've learned. He is the example of self discipline and routine bringing ease of living. Everything is taken care of. The mind becomes clear.

Prakash is the example of yoga as worship, steadfastness and courage in practice, challenge and humility. Gratitude for small great gifts and the richness of life even with strife and hardship.

I am so blessed to have these teachers. 

Thanks to the teachers, and the sage Patanjali who has given us the gift of yoga. Aum shanti, shanti, shanti.

Thank you Sandy, we bow down to you for being who you are and your service to Mother Nature.

"You can not love, unless you understand. You can not be compassionate and accept the other person unless you understand him, her or them.

But understanding what? Understanding their suffering, their difficulties, their obstacles, their despair. Once you understand, your heart opens. The nectar of compassion springs up. And you don't suffer any more because compassion has been born in your heart."
  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo courtesy of ॐ Thich Nhat Hanh Quote Collective ॐ
This is the story of one of our neighborhood tree. It's a beautiful lone tree in one corner of a otherwise everyday life city road. Like every season, this season too it has been giving gifts to all in abundance. Don't even know how much it has given to how many -- the fruits are naturally falling and becoming compost food for the micro-organisms at its and other plants roots, seeds birthing new seedlings, birds and squirrels are feasting on them, fruits have reached countless homes in the neighborhood, reached far & wide to Wednesday meditations, community yoga, urban gardens, temples,  monasteries, churches, karma kitchens, janitors & security in business offices, anonymously into the bags of homeless people, hands of playing children in the parks, hands of many hard working urban farmers in local community gardens, lunch bags my co-workers, tagged along with other gifts at a local author event in the library, creative healthy recipes for the season, food for new compost pile, as a gift to a new born's mother, several smile card moments....and the list goes on...unending...

What a beautiful lesson this tree is teaching me just by standing still, holding ground, giving unconditionally.

Thank you TREE & all your family in the world -- may your clown THRIVE :-)

Photo courtesy of DailyGood
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Courtesy: The Food Revolution Summit
Continuing from a recent post from our Community Yoga, we are so blessed to witness the flow of more and more ripples around. A few sampling that spontaneously opened up as I started to write them, sharing the joy :-)
  • Our community celebrated the Earth day with a dedication of Community Yoga practice at sun-rise with a theme of "Health & Healing" for all the beings and the Mother Nature.
  • Following the practice, a band of us head to Hayward Community Garden, while working there, unbelievable connections and serendipity started to flourish -- my wife & I got to know that we have been gifted this priceless piece of land to cultivate the soil (in the process our souls), how beautiful of this gifter to give us this opportunity to experiment with our green thumb along side some 200+ other farming families in an area of around 5.5 acres of land.
  • As we started planting some new seedling on this new plot, all other neighbor farmers (our new friends) welcomed us with their open hands & hearts -- some gifted us bounty of beets, some lent their tools, seedlings, expert advices, fresh tasting samples of newly harvested crops, their labor of love to plant the seedlings, help with removing litter and the list goes on & on...the day was so rich in experiences of seamless exchange of giving & receiving. Just a few days back, another young man, a regular participant in our community Yoga tagged us by tilling the whole plot and readied it for the new season of sowing. Deeply moving and humbling feeling to witness all these ripples to unfold from one small, simple act of opening our home & hearts unconditionally to the community. As Dr V would say -- "it's ourselves we are serving, it's ourselves we are healing".
  • This morning as we were finishing up the practice and sharing each other's offering of fresh&healthy breakfast goodies, the grandson of a local beekeeper opens this big box saying -- "I have something for you all" -- that was a huge piece of just harvested honey-comb staring from their honey-hive that this family has been a loving care-givers for many many years. This gift from the local honeybees, loving offered by this beekeeper family touched our taste buds & created a deep sense of contentment in our hearts -- everyone beaming with bright smile :-) thanked this young man for his special gift to the circle of sharing.
  • Community is organically stepping up collectively to support local library staff to "Stop staff loss". The space is seeding this new effort, will share what emerges from this new effort as it unfolds with a new blog sharing soon. Please join us with this effort, our beloved community need it the most at this time. Thank You :-)

                                              A Very Happy Earth Day

"Waste not even a single grain, single drop of water; for it amounts to waste of our own and someone else's love, labor & life. Everything is a gift of God" --LiveWell

We have been often asked about our journey and share our practices around minimizing waste especially around food, water, materials, transportation & living space. In a nutshell, it's our experience that once we live with minimal waste, one begins to see uncluttered, cleaner, brighter and welcoming space to live, to live well & thrive.

There were challenges that we had to consciously work through and change our old habits and patterns that had become a part of our daily life! It was not a easy path for us, but we stayed with the changes and now it's a very natural process for us. We cannot imagine our life with old dangerous habits and patterns that destroys everything precious on this planet Earth, home to billion of humans now. We have been living minimal waste life for the past few years, we feel grateful that we are able to do it and we hope our journey will help others to embark on this journey because we know it's possible to do it and do it now!

Lets first start with kitchen where there is a possibility of generating a lot of waste each day. It was the first place we decided to look into when we decided to make changes to reduce our waste.

Important steps to reduce the waste:

  • We always have a bucket in the kitchen to collect the water after we  wash our vegetables, rice, lentils.
  • We also have a vessel in the sink to collect the water when we wash our hands, other vessels, vegetables, rice and lentils.
  • We use a Eco-friendly hand and dish wash liquid so that we can collect the water and use it for our plants and compost.
  • We collect all the vegetable waste to compost at home, we like to do it at home than sending it away in a large truck to be turned into a soil in a far off place, by doing it at home we are able to reduce the impact far more. In fact composting is one of our favorite work to do around the home.
  • Once you have collected the vegetable waste in the kitchen, add them to the big compost bins along with dry leaves, a little water and mix it up to allow proper amount air to flow through it to make a rich, fertile, healthy soil in a matter of 3-4 months.
  • We never use paper towels at home, always use a cloth napkin to clean counter tops and appliances and definitely to wipe hands.
  • We have taken a pledge not to use paper/plastic plates, spoons or cups in this life, so no using them at home or at any events.
  • We have a limited set of plastic & cloth bags that we re-use for their full life, always keeping some of them available handy in the car. We use the emptied rice bags, bulk lentil bags as re-usable bags & use them for their full life & eventually recycle them.
  • Waste not even a single grain, make an effort to pick up any few grains of rice, mustard etc spills. Once you practice this in one area it would apply to all aspects and you will soon see that you do not throw away even a tiny pencil, small piece of paper or a shipping package. I was deeply inspired from this Sri Ramana story.

  • We never allow the water to run while brushing our teeth or just rubbing soap while washing our hands.
  • We always collect the cold water in milk gallons before taking shower so that we do not waste the cold water. We use the same water to flush the toilet through out the day.
  • We also stop the water when we apply shampoo or soap during the shower so that we can save some more water.
  • We use Eco-friendly Dr. Bronner's soap and shampoo for hand wash and bath.
  • We use natural oils like almond oil as moisturizer rather than using a regular moisturizer which normally has a lot of harsh chemicals.
  • We do not use perfumes,  regular face wash, no nail polish instead we make our own face wash with lentil powder, sandal wood powder and almond meal. 
  • We take bath in warm water rather than hot water, it is not only good to environment, it's very good for our skin.  
Living Space
  • We sit down to eat, have minimal furniture in the living room. All done by choice to de-clutter our space. Space feels open and inviting and becomes available for our community Yoga and such wellness practices several times each week.
  • Have a very limited absolutely necessary electronic gadgets, promptly powered off after use. All un-used electric sockets sealed off with baby proof closures to avoid energy dissipation.
  • Maximize the use of natural sun light for all our activities, rise before sun rise so the morning activities can be done by the sun rises, sleep early (avoids using lights etc late at nights). Harvest rain water -- a simple trash cans with open lids during heavy rain is a easy way to get started, starting is the key, it becomes a new pattern and high chance of keeping up the practice continuously improving along the way.
  • We repair kitchen stuffs, electronics stuffs, stitch torn cloths -- great way to learn new skills and understand the value of everything in life. Instead of throwing away & getting new stuffs, a conscious shift to choose the options mindfully.
  • Limited set of cloths (we are still working on reducing on this front), very limited set of shoes -- very basic ones for walk, hike, sports & work.
  • We love our home decors as live plants (except in place of sleep) instead of artificial plastic/fiber/wood/cotton made decors. Connecting with indoor plants inspired us to start growing our own food and connect deeply with the plants outside. It's really true that "it all starts at home", applies to this one as well nicely.
We are always attending different events, we made sure we do it a nature friendly way and keeping this in mind we started making an extra effort to carry our own bowl, spoon and water bottle. Now after many events, it's the most natural thing we do :-)) It feels the right thing in life.
Few more ways we reduce the waste:
  • We always have cloth shopping bags with us, it's stylish too.
  • We drive a Prius and we always make extra effort to drive less and less and walk more and more, plus carpool where ever there is a possibility. It's fun because we  have always end up meeting strangers who are our dear friends now :-)) we are a big fan of public transport as well.
  •  We shop from local farmers market, it's been years that we have gone to all those big-marts!
  •  We always carry our own containers if we are shopping for grocery at Rainbow, Sprouts or Berkeley Bowl
  • We always turn off our computer and TV and unplug it when we we are not using them.
  • We dry our clothes outside in the Sun, it not only helps to reduce our energy usage and costs, it has an additional benefit of natural immunity from Sun rays that embeds in our clothes.
We have few more ideas outlined in our previous blog. These are some of the things that are really simple and easy to do, I am glad that we changed our old habits and patterns and now cannot imagine our life with out these practices. It's Earth Day in a few days and we wish many of us would look into our habits and patterns and make conscious choices that would help the Mother Earth to heal and feel healthy again! 
Beautiful experiences, stories, ripples & community connections from the launch day of KK in Hayward, a glimpse of these from the eyes of the volunteers, sending it out to the universe with love & respect to all  :-)

Finally, couple of months of planing made way to our first Karma Kitchen in the heart of the bay - Hayward. It was a beautiful Sunday, a sunny day after a long week of stormy weather with lightning and thunder, I feel it was natures way of expressing it's joy for launching  Karma Kitchen in Hayward in collaboration with  Snappy's cafe a small warm cozy place, located in the downtown Hayward.  

Thank you KK-Berkeley for unconditional support, guidance and everything else :-) to make this happen in this part of the world. Everyone who came in the doors yesterday were filled with positive energy, it almost felt like a marriage hall in India, where everyone was excited about the new beginning, making everyone feel at home even though we were at the cafe! We all met in the cafe rolled up our sleeves and got to work as soon we entered the cafe, rearranging the tables, setting up gift table with many beautiful gifts for our guests, writing the menu out on the white board.

Afternoon started with a circle of sharing our intention for being at the Karma Kitchen, the words that were heard were Trust, Intention, Support, Community , Abundance, Family, Courage, Impact and Gratitude to the cafe for having the open mind to experiment with some thing as crazy as Karma Kitchen concept. We also had our first guest join in our circle, It was truly special for all of us.

A long time well-wisher while reflecting on her experiences being in the space co-created by core volunteers who are all connected through community projects (such as Yoga for all, Healthy Cooking etc) expressed a poignant note. She said - "the other day I was having conversation with a co-worker, and happen to discuss the community events in Hayward,  the co-worker immediately responded that Hayward isn't a desirable neighborhood at all for people like us for it's issues with litter, homelessness, gang violence, poverty etc." Our well-wisher steps up by showing her presence, after witnessing the "Be the change" events such as KK launch, Infinite Vision, Community Garden & Community Yoga projects encouraged us to keep walking this path patiently & persistently with absolute courage & conviction. This community needs it the most.

We had a very natural flow of mostly local people in the cafe, some of the reflections from our guests and volunteers:

A teacher  was so thrilled that she would love all her students to be part of the Karma Kitchen, she was celebrating the beautiful day at Karma Kitchen with her mom and aunt, they were blown away with the generosity that they experienced and they now want to be part of it every month.

A student of language was so delighted that he now wants to visit all the other Karma Kitchen and be part of it.

This was absolutely necessary in Hayward as this town does not have a good image as other places in east bay, and it is only known as a place not to go to.

One said it felt like a historical event and they just couldn't miss this one! & loves be part of it in future.

There are people who really want to serve others and Karma Kitchen really facilitates that and so it's absolutely necessary that Karma Kitchen grows and they would help to keep it sustainable.

The gift table just blew them away and they were so touched by the anonymous gifts that they were being tagged with, and also promised to spread it around.

A DailyGood moment: Co-ordinator in our local library (who was instrumental in organizing the Infinite-Vision Documentary screening, book reading in a group and Author (Pavi) Live event) was kind to honor our invite & joined KK launch. She walked in as DailyGood co-ordinators were leaving Snappy's, tags Pavi with a copy of book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. Authored by another brilliant local bay area author who will also be hosted live in our community soon as part of California Reads literacy program. The conversation that followed the tag has opened to the possibility of a DailyGood article soon on this author & her work .Beautiful to see all these interconnected ripples emerging from this space.

Initially employees were little hesitant to join the begining circle but  we could clearly see the transformation that had already happened by the end of the afternoon, as we see them come by and sit with us in the closing circle and share their smiles and gratitude with  us.

It was such a beautiful feeling that we all walked out with. No words will make justice to that feeling!

And the photo to add more to the fun :-)

Smiles :-)

Image courtesy : Karma