Moderator Rina Patel
Host: BIrju Pandya
Guest: Joserra Gonzalez
Birju: So as you mentioned the theme for this week is "Re-Love-ution in Spain" which as I understand is really about creating the conditions for social emergence. I have a friend and colleague in this broader space and she uses the phrase "To Hospice the Od and Midwife the New" which to me is a really beautiful process of even inquiring into what is the old and what is the new? And so since we have the pleasure of our remarkable moderator, Rina Patel, I thought that she might be able to start us off in that conversation. To give you a little bit of context Rina is a volunteer with Service Space. I know her through one of the service space programs that we were both involved in a couple years ago called Laddership, but aside from that she is involved with several non-profits, including starting her own. It's based in India, and is a recent graduate of Drexel University where she was also a student leader. Reena, please take over.
Rina: Thanks Birju. I think I first want to start this call off with a story, a story about Joserra and then go a little more into his introduction, and sort of jump right in into what the Re-Love-ution really is. So a couple of, about a year ago Joserra and another friend from Spain were travelling to you know fall-by train from Ahmedabad, India. We were in this I think fortyfive hour train journey and the first leg of it I think was about twenty hours or something. And I remember, it was me, Joserra, and my friend Nicky and everyone initially was only kind of looking at us, a little skeptical of us. You know who are these two tall men who kind of stand out of the crowd on this train and initially I remember that Joserra had recommended we do this informal awakin circle. And then sort of going to a dialogue with the other people who were kind of sitting around upon the train. It was so beautiful to see because by I think, by the end of a couple of hours, everyone in that compartment had become so close. We were playing games and there is a huge language barrier, but it didn't seem like that. I think that it really exemplifies who Joserra is as a person. He sort of brings his presence with him wherever he goes and whatever he does, he does from the heart and and he really brought that into the work, the social work that he's doing in Spain. And really whenever he travels all over the world, he was recently in Japan and he was telling me about his experiences. I'm sure that's also one of the places. And I'm sure that's also one of the places that he's really brought his presence.
So I want to jump right into thing with Joserra and ask him what a Re-Love-ution is? And what's his title and what is so important in the work that he is doing. So Roserra, I will hand it off to you.
Joserra: Thank you so much for that showing of love. Yes, I'm very excited on this call. You know, I'm a very dear friend of our Awakin Calls, Birju, and many of the people who possibly I don't know who will be there at the other end. I'll try and friend with many of you. So I'm glad we are together having this this conversation. I'm not used to to talk to a computer without a face. I am actually not in my room, I have tried to decorate my friend's room with some human staff, some pictures. The re-love-ution for me, one of the main things that was happening is that. I had an experience in India, two years of volunteer work, and I was touched by many many of the things I could see there. I can't say that I have not received so much love ever. I love my family, but even in my biological family you know, we don't have those unconditional experiences of love. In India, it really touched me deeply how people treated me, how everyone gave me everything without expectations, with patience. In the call I will go through a few of my experiences. But the re-love-ution comes, I'm glad you can pronounce the name Birju! But really I think it is about this, how can I bring the spirit of love to my spaces. My space is whatever small or big right. I think staying, we have the need of this, I think everywhere I mean and it's not even a need. We, our nature is this, so how can we spread this love in many different ways. This is the Re-love-ution, I think we have a lot of experience like we just had one three-day retreat, "Head, Heart, and Hand" retreat. People left the retreat, like we were talking about different kind of poverty and different kinds of wealth. People left the retreat feeling much richer in many ways. So I think that is the reason behind all what we do in Re-Love-ution.
Rina: Wow...and very fun. There are some very really beautiful things that you touched on in terms of people leaving feeling richer and also how you had a lot of experience with unconditional love when you're in the Gandhi Ashram. Can you tell us a little more about what you did in the Gandhi Ashram and what led you to spending two years there.
Joserra: I think I have to say thank you to my brother, Jesus who might be listening to this in Kenya. He was there, as an architect working for "Manav Sadhna" one of the most beautiful NGOs I know. They do amazing work supporting the journeys of under privileged people in this land. They work thousands of people every day and always with a smile, always with that sense of also not only service but how can I change myself in the process. I was lucky or not likely, I don't know to be connected with Jesus. We became really good friends in Amsterdam and he was doing this small practice. He has beautiful small practices, and one of those practices was to send emails to all his friends and family sharing emails, all of them were so touching, so touching. I could feel, I was working in an NGO here in Spain and I could feel that there was a lot of coherence in what he was working saying. Like these qualities that we are talking about, inner transformation and service. There has to be something else you know. For example, people who are don't have good manners with the volunteers and people were not smiling basically. But the stories that Jesus was sharing, I think we're all about how can we tell the world, how can we become better people. So he really called me to go there and I think, I don't know I think it might have led me to get all the beautiful experiences I had.
Rina: You mentioned there were so many people who showered this unconditional love on you. Who were some of those people who left a deep imprint on your heart.
Joserra: I think many. I have to say Jayesh bhai. Many of you know probably that he is one of the coordinators at the Gandhi Ashram and he is also leading other organizations that work for service. I remember I have been skeptical with the energy issues, things. But when I came, when I entered the Gandhi Ashram, I felt there was something different in that place. And I think I can say the same thing of Jayesh bhai.
Jayesh bhai, he is the first person I met, when I met him I I felt like there is something special about this person which is invisible. He just by being there you know expresses his motherly and fatherly love. I really felt embraced by him and I'll be always grateful. I felt there was a lot of space to be myself, to try to practice and experiment with things. One person is him and another is brother Nipun. I'm not going to talk about him because we know him, but he has been a lighthouse for me in many ways. He was there for four or five months when I was there. I remember him talking to everyone, he talked to everyone in the same way, he almost had like a queue waiting for him. He it was the same invention and attention to every moment, that mindfulness was very touching and very inspiring. Then of course, my brothers, Nimo, Sidharth, and Madhu and so many other people. I can say hundreds of names.
I think in the whole ashram you can feel the spirit is very much alive. I think the people who are living there are very responsible for that renaissance of Gandhian spirit not only in the ashram but also in the world. It's so beautiful how it is strange to so many of our us, so many organization, our movement. It is a lighthouse for so many people, I am so glad I fell into their lap and I love that.
Rina: Very beautiful and I think we had a lot of conversation before about bringing the value that you know, you felt, and experienced in India. And sort of bringing the East to the West, which has really kind of influenced your work and many of your experiences in India and in Gandhi Ashram have really solidified the intention of bringing the Eastern values to the West and to your communities in Spain. Can you tell me a little more about how how this shift happened? When you, when that period came where you felt you were ready to go back to Spain and start your experiments there.
Joserra: Yeah, I laughed a lot. I want to share a little story of the Ashram, is that ok?.
Rina: Completely fine.
Joserra: I will share because I think its a story to be told. I was working for, working on an experiment gardening in the slums. Actually, I remember, I was remembering how you and I were walking together visiting that garden. We started few gardens in the slums, the idea of how come the garden be on a stage for the community, for conversation, for harmony in these places which are also tough on the soul. We underwent some experiments, in many of them I received so much. So many things I remember we have a beautiful story talking about how lovely people are in India. We had been gardening, I think it was eight months after we started the garden where we harvesting the fruits and vegetables for the first time. And these families, they were lucky to get the food because they struggle with life every day. But you know we want to give it to you, we want to give it to the volunteers. So we were all in tears, like wow. You know where where this generosity came from. I think that, this just one example. I felt that culturally in these communities that they have the tremendous capacity to give love in so many ways. Just wanted to bring that from the ashram as well. And then to your question, I don't think, I don't know if I'm ready to be here. I feel sometimes that I feel that I am out of my mother's womb. In that sense, because.it's hard you know, we have a very strong machine which is consuming and polluting the environment. There is also a lack of empathy in many ways. So, there is is this big engine going in one direction.
Also in Spain, it's a challenge to be here sometimes. I felt that that I could do something. And this is my culture. Some people say we are born and we are born for a reason so I am working with that, with the condition we have. As we say in Service Space, it is about trying to amplify the good. Although we are poor in many ways, poor in Europe, we are all rich in different ways. So how can we amplify all that richness, we try to do that.
Rina: Yeah, I know you talked about amplifying the good through gifts and there is the paradigm shift from consumptions to contributions.... Can you tell us your experiences living on gifts, the feel to live that way in general.
Joserra: Yeah we try to do that.
Rina: And I know you talked about amplifying the good through gift, and this paradigm shift from consumption to contribution. So maybe if you can tell us about your experience of living on gift, and what drove you to live that way?
Joserra: Yeah. It’s an experiment. I’m experimenting and I try to follow what feels alive for me. When I had this experience with gardening in India and thought of offering everything as a gift, I could see the reaction of people and my own reaction - it brought up different dynamics. For example in another garden this family that had resources, we were working with slum families but also with families with material resources, and after the whole process of building the garden, they were so open to the volunteers, they were opening their home they were inviting us for dinner, and connecting us to other people who wanted to create gardens. They were telling us, “Oh you should connect with these government officials they are creating educational programs maybe you can fit some gardens into their.” This different dynamic with a lot of other capital that is usually hidden suddenly appeared. So we had a lot of that, and for me also my heart was happy when I offer things this way.
So it’s rejuvenating. I don’t know if I would be living as a volunteer for many more years, who knows, but for now it’s unlocking a lot of different possibilities. And I have so many stories...For example, recently there is a friend of ours who is undergoing the last part of a drug addiction program. We have a very good connection and he came to an Awakin Circle and ever since has been coming all the time. He told me one day I have this problem in my back, I can also give massages I’m a physical therapist by profession so I told him yeah come home and we'll have a conversation. He doesn’t have much money right now, so I knew that all this I do as a gift, physical therapy treatment as well. So I offered the treatment and he was very happy afterwards not just because of the massage but also the conversation, and he couldn’t believe it was offered as a gift. So many experiences like that I have.
Rina: And you mentioned opening up your home and I know you started to do this with Awakin Circles, and retreats are also being held in a village close by to where you currently live. I feel like I’ve had the opportunity to experience the level of transformation that you’ve created in terms of opening up your home and heart to another people. Can you tell us a little more about what has happened in your village home and your home in Burgos and how it’s created a shift in the community that you are living in?
Joserra: I have to talk about my parents because they have been such an example for many of us. A lot of friends from India and different places come, and they've always been super open with their home. People in the village always understood the home as a community home. And it’s because they had that clarity, we just have to keep the door open, which again is kind of counter-intuitive right now, but they said, “No everyone is welcome and we serve everyone.” So in my village they’ve always been super open and flexible. And I’ve learned a lot from people like Pancho, who lives in a dangerous place but still keeps the door open for everyone even if there are gunshots in the street. So I think people like them encourage me to try to practice that trust. How can we create trust in others? For example with my bicycle I have this experiment of not locking it, and it’s been a few years and I don’t have any problem with that, so in small ways I try to practice that.
Rina: I’m curious to hear other stories because there’s this theme emerging of isolation to community. Am curious to hear other stories that you might have whether it’s related to opening your home with Awakin, or your parents inviting others to your village home.
Joserra: I think one good example is Karma Kitchen, a gift economy restaurant. The idea there is that we work on that feeling going from yourself to sharing the values together with other people is very powerful. In Karma Kitchen it’s so beautiful because it brings so much diversity together from 15-year-old kids, my auntie who is 102 years old she comes to serve too, you have people working in banks, NGOs social movements people who meditate, who don’t meditate, you have a lot of meat there. And for example one thing we do is we have gathering in the beginning where everyone shares their name and then they share why they are there. And that simple fact that they are looking at each other and can open up it brings up a lot of change, because if you think about education for example, we see one face at the end and we see the backs of other students. So we for a lot of years, usually in education you spend seven hours a day that way. So you are in a kind of isolated space. So when you have these underlying values it’s very beautiful to see what happens and a lot of people feel more resilient after Karma Kitchen. A lot of people feel they are richer in connection, richer in friendship, richer in community, richer in many ways. So I feel that all these experiments have a component of “How can we show people that we are not alone on this journey?”
Rina: And I know with the work that you’re doing in the community it’s very important for you to stay rooted. What are some personal practices you have? I know you’re a meditator and you have some other practices, what keeps you rooted as you continue to work?
Joserra: I think friendship is very important, like being here and having this conversation with you it definitely supports. When you share from this space of opening your heart and learning together, I think friendship is not a practice but it’s something that’s very powerful for my journey personally. I think every moment is an opportunity to practice. I try to meditate two hours a day. It helps me - like before meditation and after meditation I remember this experience of going to our first 10-day course and we were going in a car, and we didn’t know each other very well, so the conversation was fine, we were not very open with each other but then after the 10-day meditation when we came back we were all like brothers and sisters. It was an amazing and very clear shift in energy and we were talking about deep stuff, our families and relationships just in that one ride. It made a huge difference. So I definitely feel it’s helping me to improve in many ways. I know you are a good meditator too Rina :)
Rina: Thank you! When I met you I had just learned that you’d spent 7 months at a Vipassana center and it wasn’t something you had meant to do. What made you stay for those 7 months? That’s a long time to spend at a center!
Joserra: I felt I had to do it. I went for the first course, and I didn’t know it was a possibility, that you could go and stay and do service for longer periods so I discovered after that course, my first service course actually, and I was like, “Oh this is what I have to do.” When I came back from India I felt I was not totally aligned with the values I wanted to work for, for example when we talk about kindness or generosity or mindfulness, I think we cannot really reach anything we cannot force change onto people, we can’t change anyone actually. But my experience is as I go deeper, or when I see other people who have gone deeper in that sense of changing themselves, I see how it really changes people in different ways. We cannot control how but it really helps those good qualities to emerge in others too. So I felt I had to do more of that inner work to really be able to share my experience from India here, and I am still in that process, I don’t think I am a great example of anything, but I am trying to build that up and support other people’s journeys. And the 7 months it was very tough for the first 2-3 months, because our mind is not used to so many hours of just sitting, just being there just watching your breath, so it was quite tough at the beginning, but then after a few months, it was a great investment. It was tough but a great investment. I can feel now that it helped me a lot in many ways.
Rina: And you mentioned there’s bringing a different type of energy or presence with you, and I know one of the experiments that you guys have been doing which allows this energy to come up is giving free hugs on the street. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Joserra: Yeah - yesterday we had an amazing experience. We went to this park in Madrid, and we saw Mickey Mouse - you know these people who are dressed up to make kids smile and give them some balloons and things like that. It was kind of hot, and he was sitting there, and I was there with David, and it emerged very spontaneously - we ended up talking to him, “Of you look tired, do you want a massage?” So we started giving him a massage, there were three of us, David and I started and then the other friend joined. And he didn’t have words he was just like,”Oh it’s so good!” I know he probably had a tough day, so many hours just there to get a few euros. So it’s not very common that you feel like all the people on the street are like your brothers and sisters -- I try to feel like that -- so how can we make them smile? This experience with Mickey was very powerful yesterday. Even if you don’t know someone how can you look at them as if you already know them? It can seem like a very superficial thing, but depending on how you do it it can be a very deep thing and you can connect with people just like that. So with the Free Hugs we have a lot of experiences like that. People connect and you touch people who have had a tough day. And you shift someone who might shift someone else who might shift many other people. I believe there is a joy to these things but also a depth which makes it even more joyful. You were doing that on the Camino actually! For everyone to know, Rina was doing the Camino de Santiago for one month and was hugging everyone in the street. People in Burgos know her as the kindest Indian lady I think :)
Rina: That is sort of what reminded me. We were on Burgos on the streets - me, Joserra and another friend and Joserra was picking out people, “Go hug this person, go hug that person.” It was a great experience. You segued into something I was thinking about -- how you live along the Camino -- it’s a beautiful pilgrimage route that goes from France from the Pyrenees to the Atlantic Ocean on the westernmost coast of Spain, and I know you and I have had a lot of conversations about the Camino, and how you grew up in Burgos where pilgrims are always coming in and out and in some ways it’s really influenced you as you became a pilgrim yourself. You were recently at Brazil in Giftaival you were recently in Japan. I’d love to hear your experiences of being a pilgrim.
Joserra: Yeah, I think Madhu says there is a difference when you are a traveler and when you’re a pilgrim. A traveler is someone who wants to get somewhere and a pilgrim is someone who wants to change himself and learn in the process. Sometimes I’m still a traveler but it has been beautiful to be with so many pilgrims around the world. For example this last week we were in Japan, there is this beautiful family the Saionji family who are promoting a culture of peace. After the second world war, a few awakened people decided to start a prayer movement, a prayer for peace movement. Which went beyond religion, beyond our differences and since then they have been doing so many events. They do one thing, it’s called Symphony of peace prayers where they gather Buddhist leaders, Muslim leaders, Christian leaders, all religious leaders, and also people from everywhere with local Japanese people who all gather to pray for peace; it's like 10,000 people together with that intention of sending good vibes to the world. And you are there for the whole day. We were there as their guests. It's very difficult to describe it in words, but it was a wonderful feeling of oneness. I think for many, many years, we have been waiting for these emergences to happen, for this emergence where all our diversity again comes together. They are just incredible people! All the amount of details that they had, all the little gifts, how they received us, so many things I could say about the 'Japan' experience...but yeah, I'm so glad that my beginning experience has brought me to this stage where I can learn so much, from so many people around the world. And it's nice to see that there are so many people who are coming and going in different directions. Hopefully we can be more and more. Rina: Yeah, and when we were speaking, you were also telling me about peace for mother earth and peace for water and I know that you are also an environmental activist with your own practises of not using plastic and really trying to promote peace, and your own love for earth. Can you maybe tell us a little more about some things that have created that love for mother earth and for nature in your life?
Joserra: I think in that sense I haven't done much. I have tried a few experiments of not buying plastic and trying to go by bicycle everywhere. I have sensitivity. I feel I can do much more - maybe a promise to myself; I think we can all do much more. We are failing in fighting climate change. Of course, all the problems we are having connected to nature are very much related to our culture; so we cannot dissociate the environmental issues with the social issues. And, hopefully, I can do more. I want to answer your question with this intention of trying to serve more to Mother Earth. I think we still don't know how beautiful nature is, there are a lot of things we don't understand totally because our understanding will be higher when it's collective. So when more and more people have this understanding, I think we will look at more of the gifts she has for us. Hopefully, I can raise more awareness on loving the earth. We are having this experiment, for example, that we call 'peace tree', in the same spirit as the Saionji family -- in December, we had our first 'peace tree'. The whole idea was to just gather around the tree and to wish peace for the world. We gathered for 20 min of silence and then we started to hang messages of peace in the tree with this beautiful origami paper, actually! I didn't know I was going to Japan, but we had origami paper for that activity. There were 40 - 50 of us; we didn't even reach-out that much but we ended up being 40 or 50. It was a wonderful feeling of being again under the tree, sharing stories, sharing good intentions; I think when we are able to connect environmental issues with environmental activism, we sometimes offer spirituality and connection, and our environmental movements will be much more empowered. I think we can do much more of what we are doing. We need that empathy with nature but we need to also have that spiritual ground, so we can be more efficient.
Rina: And that reminds me of the word, I don't know you had made it up before that you had told me, called "Vip"--meditation and action put together. It just reminded me of that. I had to few more questions, but I was also thinking about something that had come to mind too, how through all of these experiments and all the personal practices and sort of staying rooted in yourself, this community has emerged in Burgos and Madrid, and what do you feel are some next step or what do you think is emerging right now for you whether it's personally or in the work that you are doing? What do you feel it is coming to light?
Joserra: Yes, I think we keep having these at head, heart, and hands retreats. We are having one in June, one in August, one in September. We are having a few. And I can feel how it is creating this ecosystem. People are really seeing the support of creating those connections, because it is one of the main things that happens there, that people connect. One girl was reflecting. She was like: "Wow, you know I have all these friends for so many years like twenty years of friendship twenty five, but I came to this place I am in today I have a deeper connection to all of you."
I feel we will keep working with that--trying to create those of spaces where people can connect with themselves and others and with nature. We have an amazing team of translators at ServiceSpace, actually. People like Maria who is translating things from California or other friends. So we want to keep building up content in Spanish. Also, we are talking with Pavi to translate all the Daily Good material. So I feel connecting those worlds, so on the the offline project like Karma Kitchen and retreats, Awakin Circles and different spaces that will emerge with the online content is very powerful because people can really feel connected. They don't feel, "you go to a retreat, then what?" No, there is a sense of connection and interconnection, so we can create that feeling of an alive thing, an ecosystem where people can connect. So I think that's one of the things, but, of course, many, many other things that I don't know will emerge for sure.
Rina: As you have been in this process of community and with these experiments, were there any challenges that you ran into along the way?
Joserra: yeah I'm always with this question, "Should I go to the Himalayas?" Of course, when you treat with people, you have all kinds of challenges coming up because anger emerges or grief emerges or sadness emerges sometimes or doubt emerges. So in these spaces I think all of them are great challenges to oneself, because you are you are opening yourself in front of many people and you still you have to stay balanced and rooted. I think that the main challenge how can I, even if I'm active in the world and I am trying to reach out, how can I stay rooted and peaceful. Because I think, in the end, when we interact with people that's what stays. I think there a state of mind that's what stays with other people, so I think that that's my main challenge: how can I be my best self all the time, even in the midst of any situation?
Rina: Were there any last words that you would like to leave our callers in terms of any lessons that you learned through your own personal transformation or through the work that you've been doing these past couple of years?
Joserra: I don't know. Maybe, Birju, you have been listening so patiently. Maybe you want to share something, Birju?
Birju: Of course, I have a lot of questions on my side too, but I would love to hear your reflections on this, Joserra.
Joserra: I feel I have no lesson to give. Hopefully with with my life you know we can we can stay connected through my life, all the callers that are in this call and whoever it reaches. I feel like we are at the verge of many changes, and I think if we stay together in this journey, we can really face this big current which is taking us in a direction that we don't know. We all feel that we are holding hands in the journey for more peace in the world and more kindness and more generosity. Hopefully, with every thought and every action, we can add to that current of love and as they say in Japan, "may peace prevail on earth." May peace prevail on our hearts.
Rina: Thank you.
Joserra: Thank you, Rina-ji.
Rina: Thank you so much that was really beautiful.
Birju: I'd like to ask you a couple of questions if I may, Joserra.
Joserra: Yes, please, my friend.
Birju: Wonderful. So the original context in which I met you was in Ahmedabad where you were doing these organic garden options for the people who live in these slums. and I would love to know a bit more about your connection with the land. And how has your understanding of being in service to land grown and changed over time as you have learned more about what that even means?
Joserra: Yeah, I feel again, I am in kindergarten in that sense. I was deeply moved by West India and this last trip to India. I was for three months. I was there from January to March. Actually, when I was there in Auroville it it's a town whose mission is how can we realize human unity. I was so happy because they in the fifties or sixties they started the started to create this city. And it was a barren land. It was completely empty. And now it's all green. It is like a forest, amazing, so green. And it makes me make me feel that life. You know, when I am walking in a place where all is green, and I think all of us have that need of going to a park sometimes or going to the nature sometimes. So in that sense, I think we haven't been very smart on designing the cities. I think that is one problem I can see in the world today. That it's not designed for our realization and happiness, but I feel this part of nature should be more integrated, and I think out of this, for example, it's a great example in that sense. I can feel that. When I am near a big three, I can feel that connection. And with the farming again, when you eat organic food you can feel that is something different. So it is very alive in me. Yes.
Birju: So I'm curious about what that means in terms of how do you feel like serving nature is best done? So when you're with people in the slums there is only so much organic kind of things you could do, and so to what extent do you feel like you are limited when you may want to do natural farming or permaculture, but limited in the circumstances? So how do you determine what's the best way to connect the land to people given all these unique circumstances?
Joserra: Yeah I think, of course, you remember the story of Raghubhai who lost his legs. He had polio when he was a child. He lived in the slums and he wanted to do something. He said, "I want to do service even if I cannot move my legs, but I still want to serve." He said, "I'm going to go to everyone's home and I'm going to give tutsi plants." This is one of the projects he had, and, of course, a tutsi plant is very sacred in India. But he was moved to do that. And I think even if it's a small plant, it makes a difference in the slums. When you see that small bit of green, I think it awakens something. It is that feeling, that concept of, when there is beauty outside it helps your inner beauty. So I think the garden, even if it is one plant, it can help to bring about your own beauty.
Birju: Thank you for that additional context, and we have a question from Greg in Ahmedabad and he was curious about the term "relovusion." How old is it? When did you first connect with it?
Joserra: Yeah, thank you Greg. I love your brother. I heard I think in Ahmedabad actually. Through a friend, Andrea. She showed me a picture, I think it was on a wall. And there was like "RE" and they love in red and then fusion. It stayed with me, how beautiful that concept is. And I think it speaks a lot about what we are doing here which is trying to create bridges between the inner world and the outer world. But we need the revolution with love, so I love that I don't know if it fully understandable. [laughter]
Birju: We get to create new words.
Joserra: Yes, it is true, but we are into change.
Birju: I'm curious if you could share a bit more about your humanity, the other side of you. I am curious if you could share some fears or concerns that you have and when you walk this path of constant unconditional service. What comes up inside, what boundaries of your own limitations do you come across?
Joserra: Yes, I think one of the fears I have probably the biggest is "Am I doing my best?" I think many people who are in the service journey have this, and personally I have this sometimes. Because I had some spiritual experiences where I could see with clarity what I had to do next. Like OK, now you have to serve this way. But we are not always in that space. I am not always in that state where I can see clearly what I have to do next. So that's my biggest fear is that I spend time or I do things that, or yeah, that I am disconnected from my purpose. So I think that is where meditation is very helpful, because I feel the more I have my own practice, the more I can connect to my own true purpose. So, yeah, that's a little bit of a fear, Birju.
Birju: And I want to invite you into I'm going to call it the shadow. So what are the potential issues that you've seen that could come with leading with this edge of kindness and compassion? Where have you seen your own concerns come up in terms of missing something, in terms of going into your own dark night, in terms of going to places that that bring up real struggle inside of you or have you seen that with others?
Joserra: Yeah, I think one challenge is to find our own truth. I think maybe this is the challenge we have in the collective of spaces. That we might have the best of our intentions and best interests, but we are connecting with other people, so sometimes in those collective dynamics, we might, for example, create leaderships which are not useful for us. We might silence or not listen to our own voice and listening more to other people. So there is a balance, for example, that's an edge. How much in the collective, people think they have everything clear and how much do we listen to our own voice, own inner truth. How much do we follow our own intuition. I think that is an edge that we can see in many of the social movements we are involved with.
Birju: I appreciate that as context. I'd love to hear a bit more about what you're seeing happening in the whole world around this topic. You're this rare kind of person who is not only engaging with such deep love, but you've been globetrotting along the way. Whether that's doing this gathering in Japan, or I hear of this "giftable" movement where you've gone to their conference gatherings which is all about exploring this questioning of how to live in the space of gift. And so what are you seeing out there? Is this a wonderful thing that you are doing in combination with ServiceSpace and Moved By Love or is this happening elsewhere?
Joserra: I think we always talk about this. It's not so much about organizations or closed groups, but more about this feeling that we are working in the same direction. So I've been blessed to, for example, be invited to Giftival last year or to Japan this year. I can see that it is the same spirit. I think it is very rich for me to have seen the differences. How people hold circles or what is the main intention. In Giftival, for example, one of the most beautiful things I found was that there was this sense of celebration. They were saying it is a collective inquiry on gift, but with celebration. So we are reflecting. We are also contemplating. We have the space for contemplation, but also there is the space for celebration. Gandhi said without a sense of humor I long ago would have committed suicide. I think a lot of spiritual people can tell you that. Also the indigenous wisdom. They brought people from North America from the Lakota tradition. They brought people from the Amazon, people from Africa. So I think looking back to this beautiful indigenous wisdom. There was this lady from the Lakota tradition, she shared a prayer when all the protests were happening at Standing Rock. She shared a beautiful prayer where she included not only the people who were harmed, but also the people who were harming others. She was crying within that prayer because it was very deep for her. She was feeling compassion not only for the aggression, but also for the people who were aggravating other people.
Birju: It sounds like you are saying it is happening elsewhere in the world. And when you call out this question or this inquiry around humor, I wanted to go deeper into that because to me it is a little bit of a paradox. Part of the reason, as I understand it, that you are doing all of this work is because you see what may be considered as issues or things that you like to change in society. And so here you are looking at the social structure and saying, "Wow, there's profound disharmony that is out there." How can you find a space for humor though that? It is easy to find things funny when one is call it more ignorant. But if ignorance is lessened, and you're still finding things to be in a space of humor, how does that happen?
Joserra: I think that is another edge that you were talking about. So, of course, we need to be serious about many of these things, but also when we are, for example, with real situations that sense of humor is always like a tool. For me it has been very useful. Even if I'm grieving with people that are suffering all these conditions that are talking about, they are suffering and we can connect, of course, first with empathy. For example, the quality of listening. It's very helpful. And being in a space for people to express whatever is alive in them, all that suffering that they are having. But then always in the conversations like in the real situations, the sense of humor always jumps in somehow. You might have that first moment of I remember being the train, and we found this guy who was begging. He was so sad. He was begging and crying all the time. He was acting like that, but I think it was part of his being already. After sometime, he sat with us. We had a very nice conversation. We involved people on the train, and there was this listening that I was talking about and just being with him and creating space for him. But then after some time we jumped into smiles and we jumped into different kind of connections more based on enjoy. So I think it has been a very useful tool and it keeps coming. It is not that I force it. It keeps coming to the situation. And I think again you can say at the collective level or even at the systemic level, I think it is a great tool. Rina: I had a question around--it seems like you brought in a lot of the feeling of enough or an abundance of love or an abundance of care in just everything that you do. And how you're trying not to see or live in a scarce way. How are you unlocking different forms of capital in your own life in addition to what you shared? I know spiritual capital and emotional capital, but how are you really trying to unlock those different forms of capital and that love in everything that you do?
Joserra: Yeah I think it's it's happening. I think it's funny because we have so many so many things which are there and we don't use them. For example we have like four million houses or million homes which are empty or we throw away 7.7 million pounds of food every year and so many so many other resources that we just waste. Maybe one of the reasons is because we don't have enough connections to share those. This is one way to look at it so I I think where we create those connections all those capital which are are there then they appear. For example I'm living in a flat which was empty and my Aunty gifted this for me. She is one hundred year old Aunty who is super alive. I can talk the whole Awakin call about her. She is turning one hundred this July and we all love her. She said, “Of course I know I know what you're doing. I know you are doing this experiment so I want to offer you this flat”. So she hadn't been renting it for three or four years and then she said you have to use it and you don't have to give me any money. That's one example but I think if you look at there. You can feel like you know we throw away so much food, we throw away so many resources, So by helping, but by keeping the connection a lot of possibilities emerge.
Rina: What you are talking about is many many connections but I think that was the theme of Gandhi 3.0. Can you tell us a little more about that? How you had bought into discussion the theme of many to many connections and how is it also coming into your work and how you are also doing change moving forward?
Joserra: Yeah I think I mean that is all the wisdom of ServiceSpace which is beautiful. I feel we talk about this because of leadership where in the times of Gandhi he was one big leader and everyone was listening and a lot of things happened with that model. I'm not very dogmatic in the sense I think we need we need to speak out and we have a voice. We need to talk. We feel that we have to share something. Sometimes we need somebody in that leadership position and I think it is beautiful but at the same time we have seen models which are more based on the collective many-to-many. If one person is talking they do have those fifty connections but if fifty people are sharing and connections are created between each other there's a lot of more possibilities emerge after that event. I have seen that in Gandhi 3.0 in India. I thought I did a conference last year of our solidarity and social economy in Spain and that gallery was all about conferences. We had the chance to offer a sitcom. There were like maybe ten activities at the same time but almost fifty percent of the people came to our circle. Because they want to see each other's faces, share and I think that the collective intelligence which was to emerge. And everyone was so happy to share a few words about their weekend, what they were learning. So I think there are many to many and we can always do more together than just one person. So I really feel connected with that and I have a feeling we need to have if we feel like and so the answer is always inside.
Rina: You had talked about standing up and having a voice and I know you've been writing which is something we haven't touched on yet. So you write about your experiences share with your community that you're part of around the world and especially your communities in Spain. Is that one of the ways that you feel that you're giving a voice to this effort?
Joserra: Yeah I've been sharing and reflecting back is a part of the new paradigm of leadership which we call laddership. For example when you are at a retreat I think there are so many stories that come out and I feel it's very nice to share it with more people that couldn’t be there. And I think the whole story telling culture is more useful nowadays. I think in organizations like Manav Sadhna which I think one of the transitions that I could see there is from this control to draft. For example in many organizations all we do is based on control like you have a boss and he or she would control what you do. And in this Manav Sadhna context for example it was much more about drafting and this drafting was being taught because every day they would gather and they would share stories about their work or inspiration or whatever happened to them or whatever came to their heart because there it was very surprising the first time I was in India how I was thinking like what is the control here why did they manage it. And I could feel there was a lot of sense of trust and a lot of sense of we are going to focus on building the culture through stories. I think story telling and also online. So yeah I think that their writing online is part of that how can we be that culture. A culture that we want and very very useful too.
Birju: I want to build on that so in addition to the writing and curious to hear your reflections about language because you've chosen to live in a place in India where I believe your language command is certainly not your first language or your second language or maybe your third language and and your goal was to love right you weren't there as an expat and so I'm curious what you've learned through grappling with language barrier and still connecting with people so deeply as you do?.
Joserra: Yeah I think. I mean language is there, not verbal language but really we are always communicating in different ways and I think some scientists that say that most of our communication happens without words. So the way we look or the way we touch people is also communication. Even if you are not speaking I could feel the love. In India I got a chance to connect with people without the verbal language. Yeah you see all kinds of other languages in what I would say is that in a little touch here and there or a hug that look him in their eyes. So I actually like that it's kind of a game to try to connect with people without the language barrier.
Birju: I love it. I want to ask like a more pointed question because yeah, there's many ways can look at the world, they can call it a very friendly perspective of saying of course we want to walk towards love and compassion and there's a lens that says Joserra this is this is really nice but it's also all waste of time. You've been well educated in the main system of the world, you could be running some major organization having some leveraged path to make a big difference and to support the causes that you care about. So I'm curious what you'd say to that?. What leads you to purposefully not walk on that path that is well traveled that people think is the way that would make the world a better place?
Joserra: It is still actually a doubt which is alive. I think I'm finding my way and don’t have a final answer to it. I definitely feel cultivating myself has been the priority for last years and now manifesting in very small experiments. I feel it’s of value for me right now and this is the place where I want to see myself. And I can see that they are not two different things actually. Because for example we were having a retreat the other day and I know one person who is working for a company like one of the bosses of the company after he came to the retreat, he was very moved by the small acts and this kind of connection and after the retreat he went back to work and he had this experience where usually he used to say people, “you have been late”. And usually he does it in a not kind way. I want to pray that he was reflecting that. In that he said that day he was not able to do it like that and he changed. He said, “I had to be kind, I came with an energy that I had to be kind and saw the situation in a completely different way”. So you might say a very very small act but how that act changed the dynamic in that day and how in the long term it is giving him an example to think. In general of the way how he relates with these employees for example and we know many great people after a three day retreat start for example twenty-one day kindness challenge or so many things that go deeper into that first experience. So for now I'm going to be in this small space but I guess I can also see the greatness of it. But I'm not close to go for a couple billion or a bigger organization is not something I completely dismiss. So yeah it's kind of a question it's an open question for me.
Birju: Thank you
Rina: Thank you Joserra for all that you do and for answering these questions so wholeheartedly and generously and actually we had one question that just came in from Birdie in Texas. What is one practical small step that a person in the USA can do daily to foster more loving presence?
Joserra: I think there are there are many many different ways. I think meditating is a beautiful act of love. I will I never say or you should marry gay but I think when I started to read about neuroscience how we can actually change our brain and how all the quality that we want to develop we can actually develop through small practices. So yeah I think maybe you've to choose a value and say I'm going to try all of that through meditation or changing myself in some ways. I am not very good at giving advice. There are so many things that you can try and there are these challenges that I was talking about which you can find in the website kindspring.org. For twenty one days you can just perform small act of kindness from like for example giving cake or to give flowers to your neighbor or you can hug some people in the street you are seeing or you can do many many small impact.
Rina: Thank you bringing so many of the values we we learned about from Gandhiji or Vinoba Bhave who are with us and are very much alive in the world today and I think one of the people that is really living these value. They are true values of love warriors as Joserra would say. This is very much alive in Joserra’s life and the community he is a part of it that well. I just wanted to thank you for that.
Birju: Thank you Rina wonderful that process of sharing and thank you for what you're living in life and you're spending time with us and. We'd love to invite everyone to share their gratitude as well but before we do that we would love to close our call with a minute of silence to practice gratitude from a more a distilled space within us and then I will take a fall off me and after that one minute of silence. Thank you very much.
*** This call was transcribed by: Indira Jambulingam, Prabha Nallappan, Kozo Hattori, Gayathri Ramachandran, Pavi Mehta
About Awakin Calls
Awakin Call is a weekly conference call that anyone from around the world can dial into. It is completely free, without any ads or solicitation. Each call features a unique theme and an inspiring guest speaker. Read more ...
Subscribe To Newsletter
To stay updated about guest announcements, fresh content, and other inspiring tidbits, subscribe below and we'll send you a weekly email.