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Being The Change, Changes The Being

--Deven P-Shah, on Apr 7, 2015

Last week our Awakin Call moderator Nicole Huguenin started conversation with our guest speaker Bradley Stoll with quote that she had spotted on Bradley’s T-shirt when they had met earlier in the week…

“Being the change, changes the being.”

The quote felt like a young, disarmingly charming toddler throwing a small pebble in calm waters of a lake surrounded by ice covered mountain peaks… the reflection dancing on the ripples of the water soaking spirit of everything and everyone in the vicinity with feeling that is soothing, nurturing, healing, and growing …

Transparency, candor, honest true to heart responses, and openness from Bradley brought to me moments of stillness. Awakin calls are all about collectively holding the space, sharing stories and thoughts and planting/nurturing seeds of compassion. Last week’s Awakin call truly embodied the spirit for me.

So what is the change?

I have picked up six nuggets, six stories that Bradley shared during the call. These are six moments that left me with a lasting imprint… six ripples that are still resonating in my heart … Here they are…

One: Q from Nicole, "How did it all start?"

I had a cousin living in Portland. I didn’t know she was homeless till I saw her picture in a newspaper with a lady that had given my cousin a newly purchased coat. About eight years ago, my cousin got killed. It hurt me. I could have done something about her. I wanted to experience life as a homeless by living on the street. I mentioned it to my family and that didn’t go so well. Compromise we reached was we went out and gave sandwiches to homeless people. It felt good. We thought we could have brought more. I did that more times.

Around Thanksgiving time of the year, I would become moody. Comes Christmas time, I used to feel guilt for the privileges I had. I wanted to give to less fortunate.

I got truly inspired, when I went to Awakin Circle in Santa Clara about a couple of years ago. I was introduced to it by one of my students Vishesh. Vishesh wasn’t there on that day, I went in not knowing what to expect. The honesty and openness in the circle touched me deeply. It was a moving experience.

I listened to Nipun’s speech at the Karma Kitchen. I decided to start doing acts of kindness, then.

Two: Helping a Homeless

While I was dropping my girl to a practice in San Jose, I spotted a homeless man. I thought of giving him money. I stepped outside the car. I offered to take him to my home. He agreed right away… less you have, more trusting you are. We went home. I offered him to take a shower. I gave him food after that. I had to go pick up my daughter again, so I gave him ride as well to go back to where he was from. During the ride, he went to sleep. It was beautiful. He was sleeping so peacefully.

When we reached San Jose, it broke my heart to let him go… he didn’t have anywhere to go. I would have let him stay in the car, but it was a very hot day.

It took me a while before I could mention that to my wife. She talked to a few friends about it, and there reaction was …”he did what?” :-)

Trust your instincts – things are going to be, they are going to happen.

"How do we get to trust, respect and kindness instead of fear and distrust?"

Three: Case for the Compassion

My daughter saw a spider in the bathroom. She asked me to take care of it. I took him outside, no need to kill him. A few days later, my wife Carol spotted a spider. She asked me to take care of it. She saw me pick it up upside down and drop it outside… “Oh, so you don’t kill spiders anymore.”

Bradley, “There is no need to kill him.”

A few days later, she found a mosquito. She swatted it and removed it from the house. She asked, “If there is a mosquito in our home, would you not kill it also?”

Bradley, “I would try to remove it first. Only if I have to, I will kill it.”

“It could impact health of family.”

“I know, I don’t want it to stay inside home either. If I need to, I will kill it to remove from home.”

I like to see all living being in the same way, just like I see myself.

We eat chicken, but not our dog. We draw lines in different ways. I want to go away from it. Everyone deserves kindness. Who am I to decide who will receive my kindness?

There are 7 billion people on the earth. Trillions have walked on this earth probably over time. Every one of them is capable of kindness whether you choose to do so or not. Maybe, what I am doing is just a band aid. Only person that I can change with my acts of kindness is me. If it changes others, so be it. If doesn’t change anyone else, so be it.

Some of the greatest men and women… no one ever finds out about them.

Four: How do you "weather the storm?"

Nicole saw a pattern that Bradley would make conscious choice for acts of kindness; she asked Bradley about it … “How do you make that conscious choice? One of our callers asked, “How do you keep the positive mindset when people around you are selfish?”

I try to make positive choice. I haven’t always succeeded though.

I try to stay away from the negativity. I avoid Yahoo news for example, or other news sources that are spreading bad news.

I share my stories of kindness on the KindSpring. That helps me. I can stay anonymous there.

Nimo keeps me going. I love his music.

I get into an act of kindness, and that gets me back on the track.

To be a better teacher, to be a better father, to be a better person I needed this, I needed to have kindness.

Five: Is it all sailing smooth waters?

Towards end of conversation with Nicole, Bradley shared a story about his fear…

Once, I saw a homeless man. I gave him my coat. He was grateful to receive it, and we had a very meaningful exchange. It was beautiful.

However, right after that I saw another young man yelling at me, as if I did something wrong to him. I didn’t understand why. Maybe, he was trying to tell me something, I didn’t hear it and he thought that I ignored him. He was very upset and angry.

I started walking away from him. I was trying to go away from him quickly. I had fear. Later on I reflected on it, and realized maybe I shouldn’t have run away from him. Maybe, he needed help. I shouldn’t have let my fear take better of me in that moment.

How would Pancho react in that situation? I don’t think I have reached Pancho’s level yet.

As you see in this case, I have my fears, too. It isn’t perfect.

Six: Being the Change, Changes the Being

I asked Brandley, what is the impact, what is the change or shift in him from his journey of kindness that he has embarked on for over a couple of years now? His answer…

I am calmer now. I used to get angry faster. I have that inner peace that things are going to be okay, we are where we are supposed to be, I am where I am supposed to be. I am not as afraid. Not that I want to die any time soon, but I am not scared of death now. I am letting go of a lot things that I was attached to, I don’t have wants for material goods and that is so freeing.

Trust, kindness and respect are so closely tied together. :)

Deven's Note:

While compiling my thoughts on this, I feel like I am a leaf floating in the ripples of the waters, the waters calmed by stillness, mindfulness and genuine connections that unify our hearts at Awakin calls.

Bradley’s reflection on the impact and shift acts of kindness are making on him, reminded me of Birju’s comments on the Kindness Challenge call… that the acts of kindness have a very positive impact on our emotional brain – the amygdale. It is wired to react to fear. Acts of compassion, kindness, synergy of relationships rewires it; they channel our emotions in a very powerful, healing, empowering, constructive way.

The call left me with this one thought … do an act of kindness today, and enjoy its ripples... and its positive change on me... :-)