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ServiceSpace Interns: Beginners' Minds in Kindness and Generosity



Nov 25, 2017

Guest: Sophie, Maya, Apurva
Host: Audrey Lin
Moderator: Anne Veh, Vishesh Gupta


Audrey: This week’s theme is called "Beginner's mind in kindness and generosity." Given our youthful guests this week who are in high school and college, we are really excited to dive a little bit deeper into this theme. 

So Apurva, Sophie, and Maya are students who spent their summer interning with ServiceSpace this year to deepen in the values of kindness and generosity as they set out in the world. It gives rise to the question of how do we stay fresh and rejuvenate a beginner's mind with regards to values of kindness, generosity, and interconnection. Even as we begin to interact with the dominant paradigm of individualism in this world. 

So we have the great pleasure of having Anne and Vishesh as our moderators today. For those of you that don't know Anne and Vishesh, it is so hard to give you a soundbite introduction to them, but Anne is a remarkable woman, kindness team spear header. She is a mother, an art curator, and so many things to so many people, but whenever you see her, she has these lit up eyes that really speak a thousand words in one. She has been hosting different kindness circles in different schools around the Bay Area in California where she lives and basically working with youth and inspiring these values. And in really authentic way, whether it is with inner city middle school students or Waldorf high school, you know, public or private or elementary kids, all sorts of folks.

And then Vishesh! We are also really excited to have him share a few thoughts on this themes since he was actually one of our ServiceSpace summer interns in 2014. We were so excited because this past summer now that he has graduated from college and working, we had him join us as a mentor this summer for internship. And it has been so great to have him and his thoughtfulness along the way. 

So Anne and Vishesh. Do either of you have any thoughts on this week's theme of beginner's mind in kindness and generosity?

Anne: Sure, yes. My mind is kind of bubbling with these ideas or memories of feeling the gift of a beginner's mind. Actually, Audrey, thank you for the kind introduction. But I was just reflecting on the kindness circles, every time we have a kindness circle in a high school and we're in the circle with young beautiful souls, high school students, I feel like everything goes away in my mind, and I'm just present to each soul in this circle. And how there is a different quality in my heart that I wouldn't say takes over, but the mind just goes quiet. And I feel like for me that is the gift of a beginner's mind is just not knowing. 

And in these circles, it is always so organic. We might have a thought to how the practice is going to evolve, but once we get in the circle it just goes away and it is just present. Kind of the beauty of not knowing and learning from each other. And I just think the power of the circle always brings in that essence of the beginner's mind and it is infectious as well. 

Audrey: Beautiful. Someone had written in beforehand to this theme. David Doane wrote: "I value individuality in the sense of being myself, but not in the sense of not caring about or using others." And interconnection for him are those basic foundational facts. "I can be in the world of dog-eat-dog, each person out for himself or herself and not be of that world. I can be myself and be compassionate, generous, and cooperative. The question is will I. In regards to these values, I rejuvenate the beginner's mind by staying open to learn, to experiment, to work together for the good of me and the team. 

So many beautiful thoughts. Vishesh, does anything come up for you around the theme of beginner's mind in kindness and generosity? 

Vishesh: I was just reflecting on how beginner's mind has this element of repetition without any kind of memory or residue of previous. Just like going through the internship again this year and seeing many of the same sorts of themes and questions come out, at never in one point did I feel, I think thanks to the interns and their presence, that "Oh, you know I've done this" or "Oh, I know this," that kind of thing. And just the power of approaching something again and saying let's see what happens this time? I think is really amazing. Just like even the interactions. Maybe one day my boss is having a bad day. If I don't let go of that and begin again with him the next day, we'll just have that in between us forever. So I was just thinking about that element of repetition without remembering something previously. 

Audrey: Wow, getting deep already...only 15 minutes into the call. Thank you both. Maybe I'll just pass the baton over to you. Um, Ann, to help us introduce the call.

Anne: Thank you...just really a blessing to be moderating the call this morning and also to be moderating with Vishesh. SO, all of us together will create a really beautiful circle. I just want to create some context for you know what is a summer internship and how does one become a summer intern and just to share everyone on this call that this process has been co-created by many and I'd say the word, matter. Matter is defined by whose who quietly shine on others and are around for others to grow. And the ServiceSpace internship has been designed with such a loving attention to every element from creating an application with thoughtful questions and inquiries to designing a 10-week immersion in the themes of generosity, moral actions, simplicity, wisdom, energy, patience, truth, determination, and loving kindness. 

And each week explores with a theme with insightful readings with seat question for reflections and journaling. And the practice of sitting in stillness begins with 5 minutes a day in the morning and evening and increase each week by 5 minutes until culmination of sitting for 45 minutes a day. And each intern is asked to do a random act of kindness everyday, while deepening their practice of weekly theme with mindful acts and moment to moment intention. And every week the interns and their mentors synch up and join for a virtual circle that feels more akin to sitting around a campfire, sharing stories from the heart and listening with full presence. And there's a seed question for the circle of sharing on these calls. And I wanted to share a few questions that demonstrate the depth and breath of personal explorations. 

So, here are 2 questions. One is: Is there one piece of wisdom that comes to mind that's changed your lens forever? Another question is: What is an experience you had where your moral compass was challenged? How did you respond to it?

So, these questions go deep, deep within the heart and over 10 weeks, you can imagine the transformation that occurred. And when we know each other's stories, we grow in compassion and empathy towards one another. So, these shining interns have grown and deepened in great beauty and we are thrilled to hear these summer interns this morning, Apurva, Maya, and Sophie. And their mentors are Vishesh, Audrey, Ann Marie, and Ahmed. And I want to shine the light on the mentors who lovingly and selflessly devote their hands, head, and heart fully in service. And the adjoint relationship between the interns and mentors transcend time. These are lifelong bonds of noble friendship. And I'd like Vishesh to introduce each of these interns. What a blessing to have both Audrey and Vishesh to mentor and on the call this morning. So, thank you both! Thank you for your love and vow of deep service. 

Vishesh: I want to echo everything Ann said... what a blessing to always have that deeper relationship. I was a so-called mentor for Apurva, but I never really felt like that. Quick introduction to the interns on the call today. We have Apurva, who, every week, he would come in and he would have such purity of intention on our calls, in such sincerity that he would look into topics that, even in things that I'd think it's not so hard, but he would come in and expose a new dimension or expose new way of thinking about it that I'd never thought before. Also, the dedication that he's values throughout the summer, he's had many challenges come up, but he was able to continue practicing his intern works through there. 

We have Sophie. Sophie was just an amazing soul and spread so much light on our weekly check in calls. She'd always have this inter-transformative way of thinking and you always got this sense of it's not just me from her. She would share and bring in the presence of so many others into our cozy chats. We have Maya, who even though she was the youngest, or maybe not quite, but on the younger end, it never felt like that. I felt like I was talking to such a wise soul and she has such an honest and vulnerable reflections on her truth that encouraged all of us to share vulnerably and openly about our truth.

Anne: Thank you, Vishesh, with that beautiful introduction. We now will dive into some beautiful questions. I want to start with a question for the interns..is if you could just share a little about yourself today where you live, where you are in school and what occupies with your time and your passion. Sophie, maybe we can start with you.

Sophie: Sure, hello, can you all hear me?

All: Yes.

Sophie: Yeah, so I am actually sitting in my room at my college in Lancaster, Pennsylvania., Franklin Marshall College. It's winter, but it's a beautiful winter morning. I guess it's afternoon here. And it's beautiful. My heart is filled with gratitude and joy. I'm speaking with all of you...it's such a beautiful reunion. I actually spent the beautiful morning with my professor, who is also my life mentor, and his wife, at his house earlier this morning. We had breakfast t and we had a few prayers before I came back to the room to this call and that's where I am right now.

Anne: Thank you for honoring this call with that beautiful share. How about Apurva, how are you and where are you calling from today?

Apurva: So, I'm at my parents' house in Orange County, California. Uh, we don't really celebrate Thanksgiving and traditional things. But yeah, this past week has sort of been stressful but to coming home and relaxing, it's really necessary, so that you can recharge and go through this peace stuff I'm sure this call will sure go through. So, relaxation is important. So, I'm just relaxing. Probably spending some time later with my family.

Anne: And do you have a large family, siblings?

Apurva: No, no, just my brother and my parents.

Anne: And where are you in school?

Apurva: I'm in college right now, 3rd year, junior. 

Anne: Maya, how about you?

Maya: Right now, I'm still in bed at home. And we actually had the couple of days off. My sister from college, she came over and she brought her roommate with her. And we are just spending time together with family and such. And we just came back from a surprise trip to San Luis Obispo from a day or 2 ago and we saw the most beautiful sunset there and I was just looking at the pictures this morning. Right now, I am in San Jose, California. And I'm 10th grade at school...and is that everything?

Anne: Yes, that's beautiful and you made me reflect that when you mention that beautiful sunset and that your passion is in noticing beauty and you are very artistic, I hear.

Maya: I will try I will try

Anne: And I would love to ask you know maybe we can kind of share a little bit about you know your passions as well but you know what maybe we'll start with you Maya that what inspired you to do the summer internship and what are you carrying with you?

Maya: What was the last line you said?

Anne: And what have you carried with from the internship?

Maya: Okay. So what inspired me was mainly my sister who I mentioned she is doing college right now but she actually did this internship a couple of years ago and she was kind of the one who pushed me towards doing it this summer because I was kind of looking for something to do over the summer. I was looking at accounts and stuff and so she was like oh this is something that will be really good for you and I think it is something will give you lot of joy. And so I kind of just went into with like this is something that I can like do and this is something that I should like try and put some effort in. 

And I got a lot more out of it than I had put in which I am so grateful for and so one of the things that I got out was like always-always just like breathing like always been able to focus on my breathing especially when I'm stressed with school and test and such than it's been really useful for me and I've been meditating for a couple of years, several years now but I think that I kind of got out of touch so the summer kind of helped me practice more which that made me more in touch and more-more able to recognize when I needed to just like take a break or just take a couple of deep breaths and suddenly enough I actually have a bunch of like knee problem and such and so I had been into physiotherapy for a while and then I quit in November of last year hoping that that would be, I would be done with it, but I ended up having to go back in about a month or so though. And now we have a new routine of stretches and exercises for me to do and most of them involve breathing deeply and so every night I practice it. It was funny how it all ties together.

Anne: Wow. So these are I can feel many of these are like going to be lifelong skills that you're cultivating?

Maya: Yes definitely.

Anne: That is beautiful. 

Maya: I can even recommend to my own friends whenever they are stressed I just tell them to pick a couple of deep breaths and that helps them a lot so it is really a skill.

Anne: I was actually going to ask you have your friends noticed anything different in you and I would ask also how is this experience changed your relationship with your sister since you have both done through the internship you know individually but also didn’t Priya your sister also joined the internship this year a little bit and was part of the process.

Maya: Ya she was a mentor and so I guess that both there was a way of like kind of whatever she was home for the summer that I could like connect with her over like we could talk about things but then also in some ways it was like ok like having family on the call like it was somewhat of a different experience I am guessing then it would have been if she wasn't there. So over all I think it was a good thing that she was there and was able to make sure like oh you are doing this or how is it going with this and so it was very nice to have her on the call. And yeah my friends well I've always kind of turned like a very kind of caring type of person so I guess they have noticed like I have taken more time to listen and things like that which they have appreciated. 

Anne: Hmm. Thank you thank you. And Apurva what inspired you to do the summer internship and what have you carried with you?

Apurva: So the way it started on the summer internship I was just I had remembered Nipun's talk that he gave many years back probably four years back at the Jain temple in Southern California and I thought of it, not really thought about it and it was just in the back of my mind and then I can't remember what it was but I decided that I wanted to connect again with service space and so I sent Audrey an email and I asked hey what can I do and you know stuff like that and she told me about the internship and I looked at the website and I thought great. 

This was really cool so it was sort of like kind of a whim that I joined. I didn't really have any sort of deep inspiration. All I wanted to you know be like I don't want to like philosophize over and think really really deeply about it at that point. So I just joined on a whim and then eventually that is how I came to be in the internship. It wasn't any sort of inspiring moment or anything like that. No one in my family has any connection with service space so it wasn't like Maya's where her sister had done the internship so it was really a spur of the moment decision.

Anne: Wow and how does that living in you now?

Apurva: It's sort of been really reflective of how you should pick your answers when you can’t because even though any of your chances might not end up being for the better most of the time if you take a chance on the spurs of the moment it does help you and that sort of shifted my perspective a little bit because I tend to think of myself is really cautious in what I do. It takes me a long time to recognize the need to do certain things and I don't know, I was surprised by myself that I decided to sign my entire summer for this internship. You know it required hour and half, one call during the weekdays and then another hour of reflections to type them all up and think about them. So that in addition to everything that we're going on. 

So I didn't realize that I was committing this much time before I entered the internship but once I was in the internship the amount of time I committed for the internship was something really really significant. I enjoyed doing it. And so I mean that's why I kind of consistently keep up with the reading and reflections. And I try to make my reflections worth reading not just for other people but if I write and I read on what I have written then that sounds more deeper understanding for myself.

Anne: Hmm and you find that you have devoted more time even with the busyness of school and family life and all that you kind of carved out sometime or some scared time to kind of honor this time you had during the internship. Has that kind of carried with you?

Apurva: So I normally don't post on the service space website. Maybe I should do that more often but I have sort of kept a mini journal of things that I have done since the internship and it's sort of there's is few random acts of kindness that I've written. Some things about stress giving things that I have and it's not all related to the themes that we explored in the internship like generosity and more of action and stuff like that but a lot of it is about that. I mean later in the call I might if I have the chance I might  go over a couple of different experiences I have had since internship ended. But yeah I mean that's sort of stayed with me. I sort of spend about an hour each week just writing stuff. Writing isn’t the right word, I type it because I like typing but ya.

Anne: Ya. No its beautiful. I think the power of journaling is really powerful. It is  beautiful gift that you have given yourself and have carried with you. Thank you and Sophe how about you? What inspired you to join and what have you carried with you?

Sophie: Ya for me it's quite a long story but I pick the important parts. I think it actually started from two summers ago, when I ran into an article online that was published by The Work and Conversation back then I read an entry from that piece of magazine online and I was so astonished by this interview I saw was some something I've never seen before. It was so authentic and so beautiful. I got curious about this magazine...what organization does it belong. Then I got into a little bit of a research and I found out service space. Oh, I read to be a member and  I started reading people's reflections, the articles and I got to know Nipun virtually and not in person and I was just so deeply moved by the spirit of service. It somehow touched my heart very deeply. And I was like, wow I was so moved, but i didn't know how to get involved with Service Space. 

I know they have open volunteer positions, but I didn’t know about this internship until last March.  And I made a service space friend, we just met when I was traveling in northern california and told me about this internship  so he sent me the application and I was like yes I want to do it, I want to commit to it.  So I filled out an application and sent it to Audrey, and that’s how it started.  And what have i carried? Oh wow, To be honest I think that your experience was very powerful to me, very life changing.  I carried the things I learned with me and many aspects of life.  It’s talking about real human connection.  I received the most whole-hearted friendship and mentorship.  

Seriously, I received  the most whole-hearted mentorship from Audrey, from Emory, and it moved me so deeply to pay it forward.  I especially do the mentoring work at my college I mentor 10 younger students so the least I  could do was pay the mentorship forward to them.  At the same time it teaches me about the connection so I try to be a more deep listener to whoever I encounter in life.  I try to be more authentic and connect to people more deeply than i used to and I try to reflect on the values I have learned, generosity, patience and  apply them to my actions in daily life.  So it has transformed me very deeply.  On the other side, actually Nipun is coming to my college, so I guess that’s also one thing that’s being paid forward.  Also, there’s a lot of beautiful things being paid forward. I am actually presenting for a class and my professor is going using Pavi’s book as one of the textbooks for the class.  

Anne: Very beautiful

Sophie:  Yeah it’s very beautiful, it’s things like service space happening even at my college and so yeah it’s very beautiful and I’m carrying a lot with me and I feel very fortunate.  

Anne:  Well, I wanted to share with everyone on the call this morning that as we were getting into the call this morning, you were sitting in your dorm room and you were looking out the window and you saw Priyanka who has become a really dear friend of yours and your attention how you immediately see her on campus and outdoors and your awareness is so beautiful and  touching you know. So, thank you, thank you all, really beautiful sharing.  We’d love to jump into some experiences that you’ve all had during the summer internship and wanted to ask you each to share what your most memorable random act of kindness was, and maybe Sophie you can just begin? 

Sophie: Hmmm... is it okay if I share any experience?

Anne: yes, any random act of kindness that was most memorable to you. 

Sophie: Yea, I was, there's so many, one thing that was so touching you know we did the lemonade stand. We got ... there all the interns and mentors, we got together in the park and we wanted to perform some kindness and we did a free lemonade stand, we were offering lemonade to people on the street and I went. My group was Vishesh and another servicespace friend Kozo and it's hard to describe but he offered a couple lemonade to a lady that was sitting on the bench at a bus stop and I'm sure it was lemonade was a lot of love, compassion and kindness but we didn't know the lady was having a hard time. A cup of lemonade brought the lady to tears and she started sharing her life with us.  So that was a very powerful moment of performing an act of kindness. We brought a lemonade but what it showed us was a life-story of a women. 

That's so beautiful this deep connection that this small act yes and one more thing is what I learned is that although it was a planned event that we were offering kindness, offering lemonade, what I learned is that just in life we don't have get with an event, we can offer what we have, a cup of water, lemonade, a smile, who knows what will unfold if we do it with heart. 

Anne: So beautiful. Yes, thank you Sophie. And I wanted to invite  Vishesh at anytime to jump because he was very much a part of these wonderful events too. So Vishesh please join in at anytime. And Aprova, how about you, what was the memorable that pops into your mind? 

Apurva: Well, do you want it to be in the internship or sometime since the internship also?

Anne: It can be any random act. It doesn't have to be during the internship. 

Apurva: Okay then, I'll just go back to one that I had in September-ish. So um this was late september, early October, when I go to college, I take the bus. There was a guy and the driver he was really polite and he just really helpful to the to certain students who need to get somewhere. And you know, he just seemed like a really friendly person. We started talking about the area we live in and stuff like that. Here's the thing though, he's not allowed to give his name. I just asked him, what's your name? 

And for some reason he's not allowed to do that. I think it might be because he's an employee and he can't really, that's something he can't do. So, he didn't tell me his name. That was a little bit odd at the beginning because normally when you are friendly with someone you might want to ask them their name. So then before I had asked him his name I had also thought maybe as a matter of courtesy or kindness, I wanted to have some kind of gesture, to give him coffee because a lot of people like coffee. Personally I don't like coffee but I've heard that many people do like it. So that is something that I wanted to do. Then when he didn't tell me his name, it struck me as little odd and I thought maybe if do end up going through this, it might make the situation a little odder. I don't know if that makes sense. 

Because of certain, because he had a job to do at that point, so it might have been an inappropriate thing to do.  So I had emailed Vishesh about this and I had asked him, "what should I do?"  And he told me that certain things are, certain decisions are made from the heart space and the headspace.  So what ended up happening was that I didn't go through with that random act of kindness, but I think the random act of kindness in this situation was to keep on being friendly.  Certain kinds of situations in life you can't always have a physical act of giving.  Sometimes all it takes for giving is to have a conversation with a person.  So I think in that case the headspace did intervene a lot.  But at the end of the day if you are going to give you might as well give from your heart, and the #1 way to give that is to have a conversation, even though that person is a stranger who doesn't know your name and you don't know his name.  So that's sort of like a random act of kindness that happens pretty much every day, because I have a consistent kind of going home and going to school.

Anne:  Wow, I am so touched by the level of your attention and your reflecting on the process of what would be a kind act.  And I just love your relationship with Vishesh, too, to be able to share that, you know to share that question, that inquiry.  And even with that you feel all the barriers are removed as you go through that beautiful process and then this simplicity as you end up, as you reflect as just having a conversation is such a beautiful act of kindness.  Thank you, you are a beautiful teacher, Apurva.

Apurva:  Well actually, Vishesh is a beautiful teacher because he actually, I think, before I connected with Audrey I connected with him and he told me a lot of stuff that has helped.

Anne:  Mmmm, wow, these relationships are really beautiful for all of us to witness in this call.  Thank you.  And how about you, Maya, what is a memorable random act of kindness for you?

Maya:  I remember not very many of them, but one of the first ones I did in the first couple of weeks was I was  like, "oh, I should have a random act of kindness to do today", is that I think we were just walking, taking a hike, or a walk in the park, and I made a point to smile at everyone I walked by and see who would smile back.  

If I saw someone who was having a bad day or didn't seem as happy l would try to make it a point to say, "Good Morning", or "Hello" to them.  And then that made me more conscious of how people reacted, and so that kind of became a consistent thing that I've been doing since, of trying to make it a point to notice the emotions of people who are strangers but they're passing by, and seeing if I can just lend a smile or wave a hello and see if that changes anything.

Anne:  This beautifully reminds, kind of ties back to the theme of the call which is Beginner's Mind, and the sense of not living in the world as an individual but really connecting with others, and how just by practicing these little, small acts, how it can just change everything.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Well it would be wonderful to hear from you, all about, maybe to think about what surprised you in your internship.  Like what was an element of surprise that's in your heart, that you experienced in the internship.  You know?  What would be that element of surprise.  And I open it up to all three, if anyone of you wants to share this next question.

Maya:  So one thing that I found surprising was how incredibly difficult some of the meditating was to do.  I've been taught and have been practicing meditation for a while, but it was just like, sometimes when it was just like doing twenty minutes a day, it was so difficult to get myself to do that.  And to find myself sitting for the whole time, because I would get uncomfortable, and again the knee problems,  it wouldn't really work out to be crossed-legged, so my thoughts get distracted and such.  So I just found it kind of surprising how hard it was compared to what I was used to.  And I just meditated for a couple of minutes.  I would be fine, but then when trying to do it longer it was more of a challenge for me.

Anne:  Mmmm.  And have you continued with the meditation?

Maya:  I have to say that I haven't continued as much as I'd like to.  There have been a couple of times where I've invited a family member to sit for a bit.  One thing that I've found really good is to go on a walk and be aware of my breathing the whole time during that.  But I haven't really sat down and mediated in a little while now.

Anne:  Yea.  But I feel like even your act of smiling at everyone and even it feels like to me you're doing a walking meditation.  You're meditating more than you realize.

Maya:  Yea . .

Anne:  Thank you.  Sophie or Apurva, would you like to share?

Apurva:  Ok, so I just wanted to briefly agree with Maya that meditation, and the thing that got me the most was having the silence, the moment of silence for thirty minutes we reached the final week.  The final week we started reaching thirty minutes.  I just never really did the appropriate time level that we were suggested that we should do in the homework.  And I remember the first time I was sitting there in silence, I started laughing, because I just though absurd it was that I sitting in silence.  I had been so used to not being in silence that when I actually was in silence I just started laughing.  And now I laugh at incredibly stupid I was not to have done this before.

Audrey:  [Laugher]  Say more about that. I know that for you sitting in silence is like a very challenging practice, and how did it evolve for you over the ten weeks.  How did you come to that view of "how did I not do this before?"

Apurva:  So I had done breathing exercises before, but that's different from having silence.  When you're doing breathing exercises, you're fully awake and you have your eyes open.  Just that significant act of having your eyes open makes a difference.  In both situations you're aware of how you're breathing, I would say, but the difference in having silence is that you also shut off thoughts from coming, or you try to lessen your thinking.  That might sound strange to some people, and it did certainly for me the first time I tried it.  And as I mentioned I started laughing,  I was like:  "How can I stop my thoughts from coming, thoughts just come."  So what I realized is that, and I still struggle to this day with sitting more than twenty minutes in silence.  And even in those twenty minutes I find my mind is really active, and I'm thinking about this, and I'm think about this.  It's lessened, but it's not totally gone.  So I guess it's something that I have to work on for the long-term.  So yea.

Anne:  Hm-hm, great.  A lot of long-term, definitely.  I th.ink for all of us.  [Laughter].  Yes.  But have you found that during challenging situations that you kind of, do you find yourself anchoring in this space?

Apurva: So when I’m in a stressful situation I can’t always sit down in every situation, if I’m in class for instance I can’t just tune myself out and go into silence because I need to be paying attention to what the professor is saying. Other than that I would say it does help me to a certain extent -- imagine if you had a slate -- in the olden days paper wasn’t widely available so they kept on writing on the same slate so after you were done writing something you would erase the slate. My situation is something like that. I erase the slate but there are certain chalk marks that are still there. So the silence kind of erases the slate but not completely. It’s sort of a thing that allows some clarity but not all the clarity you would want. 

Anne: Wow. That’s a beautiful metaphor. Thank you. And Sophie?

Sophie: Yeah I have two things I want to share. I learned through the practice of sitting in silence I live with less fear which has been really helpful. I am gradually seeing that I am living with less and less fear and I’m more present in different situations and even in challenging situations. And the second thing I want to share - going back to your question “What has surprised you the most?” I would say - I’m not sure if surprised is the most accurate word but I was surprised and deeply touched by how people in the ServiceSpace ecosystem live their life. How they live, again I received the most wholehearted mentorship.  Audrey, Vishesh everybody has their full time day job but they are doing this. They are the most hardworking people I’ve ever met. I was like, “Wow! They are taking this mentorship as another fulltime job and they give so much so unconditionally. And I think at one point early on I was surprised. I was just so overwhelmed by all that I was receiving as a mentee. So I was like, “Okay -- people can live like this with the full spirit of service, so purely.” And I remember how repeatedly I was overwhelmed by the generosity that I was receiving.

Audrey: And you were giving it out in spades Sophie. One of my favorite moments with Sophie was when we did the lemonade stand with all the interns that were local and living in the same area. We ended up going to this park and setting up this lemonade stand and then Sophie comes in and says, “I want to cook fried rice for everybody and just give it out.” So she super thoughtfully got these paper boxes to put the fried rice in and she tried to order it online but they didn’t have it online so she and her dad went to a restaurant to ask if they could take their take out boxes. And then filled up sixty boxes of fried rice. And she wanted to write little nice messages on it wishing people well and she came to the park with these huge bags and they were totally devoured within minutes. People loved it. Just seeing that -- all that energy and all that care and all that intention poured into this small act of something you would spend a weekend day doing was really powerful.

Anne: Sophie you are a mentor to 10 students at Franklin and Marshall and hold a circle with them. Do you meet once a week? Could you share more about that process and where these students come from?

Sophie: Sure! My students -- awww -- being a mentor at college to these 10 beautiful young hearts is one of the biggest gifts I’ve received in my college career. We meet at least once a week I get dinner with them every Thursday night. And we hold a circle every Sunday at 11 o’clock. So yeah these are first year and also first generation college students. SO many stories in their life. Every time when they share their life stories I am so touched and will be like, “I need to take a few breaths before we continue.” Because their stories are so heartfelt. Many of them have been through a lot of challenges in life at such a young age but all of them are like pieces of light. They are so strong. They are so beautiful and they have the spirit of service. I remember the first time we met their question was how can we serve this college community? What can we do? 

And I wasn’t expecting that. Wow! And some of them are reflective, “Oh we’ve received a lot from others to be here and we want to give.” And it just came so naturally with no expectations. And so we meet every Sunday for sometimes one and a half hour sometimes two hours sometimes it goes a little longer. We always start with a circle of sharing, just how they are doing. But most of the times stories come forward just with that question how are you doing? So last week since this was the weekend before Thanksgiving my colleagues and I said let’s make the theme on gratitude. So we put their names in a tissue box and had them blindly pick. And whoever’s name they picked they would use the art supplies to make a piece of art for that person as a gift of gratitude and companionship. It’s been really beautiful. Very simple and authentic and we’re deep listeners to each other and we really hold space for each other and support each other and it can lead to a more successful college life and better well-being. And I really learned how to be a mentor from my experience with ServiceSpace. It really transformed me.

Anne: I hope your group gets to meet Nipun when he comes to campus.

Sophie: Yes!

Anne: I know we are going to invite all the listeners to join the queue for questions and as that happens I wanted to just ask Maya, I know art was very much a part of your practice after the internship have you seen your own practice evolve or shift since the summer experience?

Maya: I guess it’s kind of just grown more and more. I’ve always really loved being able to create and so calligraphy which i started about two years ago has been one of the ways I’ve taken to and enjoyed doing. Just last night I was creating some different doodles and small pieces. And I had not been feeling that great I was kind of down so I just went to my room and started making stuff. And my sister came in and was like, “What are you doing?” And I was feeling better just through that expression so it's been a really good escape for me and a really good way of calming me down. So I’ve been very grateful for it definitely. Since I do more so with calligraphy, you can write words down, so I like writing down words that relate to my mood or quotes and such so it intensifies what I’m feeling or is a release from it.

Anne: And can you share Maya a little bit about the calligraphy project you did?

Maya: Yeah so one of the small side projects that I did -- each week we had a theme and with that theme there would be a key word so even before reading the articles and stuff I would just take that work and do a little sketch or a drawing of what it meant to me and write the word next to it, or after reading the articles I would try again and see if there was any difference and I would share this with the other interns and mentors. And it allowed me to immerse myself more in each theme over the week.

Anne: Thank you. It’s beautiful to hear about your individual projects. We have a question from Priya -- a beautiful question: “What’s a challenge that you encountered in the internship and how has it shaped who you are today?”

Maya: One of the challenges -- I have a problem and still do with procrastination, so getting to the reading and responding to it on time was a challenge. I would do it last minute or the day before so there wasn’t time to reflect more on my responses. I was literally doing it right before the call sometime. So I realized how that stunted how I was able to read and respond to the other interns and mentors responses as well as the depth of my own writing was not what it could have been. So that kind of made me realize that I needed to change. So I picked up the ball and was able to do more of the responses on time which helped me connect more with it.

Anne: Have you taken that into your school life?

Maya: I’ve tried. Going home after a school day I’ll spend some time reading or lazing around because I don’t want to get to my work, but I’;ve found a way to put away the distractions while I’m doing the work. I still need to focus on getting to do the work but I think that my work ethic has been a bit better.

Audrey: That’s great! I remember one of the topics we talked about one of the weeks was on procrastination and one of the things that you’ve shared is even getting out of bed there’s such an urge to just want to hit snooze instead of getting up to meditate.

Maya: Just jumping out of bed as energetically as you could was Amit’s suggestion and I tried that for a week. What’s carried over is that if I just count down from five -- 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - that kind of motivates me because I’m like okay I’m not giving myself another countdown! So that’s been efficient in getting me out of bed.

Audrey: I actually wanted to ask Sophie about one of your projects that you did over the summer. And for folks who don’t know Sophie is quite remarkable and when you get to know her you realize that she’s seen a lot in her life. She came to the US from China when she was 15 and attended high school on her own without her family around in a new country with a new language and culture, and many other things. And I was really touched by your intention of wanting to create a project of capturing people’s stories on suffering and so you’d done that this summer and interviewed a bunch of people about their views on suffering. Not a common topic for a 21 year old to explore. Can you share a bit about what prompted that interview project and any highlights that come up?

Sophie: Before I start - I’m probably turning this project on suffering into my thesis for graduation. Each of us take on a service project as part of our summer internship and I thought about it for awhile. I’m very interested in people’s stories. As Pavi said, through stories we see our world a little clearer. And I’ve always been interested in the nature of suffering and I want to learn about it through people’s stories. Somehow the universe connected a few people with this project so I interviewed a few very remarkable friends in the ServiceSpace ecosystem. I interviewed John who I consider as a teacher. He worked as a counselor in prisons with troubled youth and later founded a school for at-risk kids and I was so touched when I interviewed him. We talked for the first time ever in this life on the phone and we went right into the theme of suffering without me knowing him without him knowing me, but he just shared his life and experiences with me like I was his granddaughter. And there were so many touching moments but one thing that really struck me was when he said when we connect stories pain becomes medicine.
 
And I asked him you’ve served all your life, you’re there for people all the time but how do you deal with your own pain and suffering when you encounter them? And I learned that he didn’t have an easy life he had a lot of loss, but he told me that after you overcome your own pain, you learn from the experience and you serve others because you grow stronger. And I was like, “Wow.” And I also interviewed Kozo who overcame cancer and he really touched me deeply when he said, “Love no matter what. Cancer was grace and I love my cancer.” And I remember in his Awakin Call he said when someone slaps you on the cheek you turn the other cheek and ask how can I serve you? It was beautiful I interviewed him in a Ramen restaurant with Vishesh and it was beautiful watching him eating Ramen, happy and alive and answering these questions. And of course I interviewed Audrey who is on our call today.

Audrey: We don’t have to share about that though.

Sophie: What I learned from Audrey is she’s compassion. As we know Audrey is a revelation of kindness and joy. You’ve taught me so much Audrey. 

Audrey: It’s just so beautiful to witness the way you were asking these questions and coming from that deep place so thank you! We also had a question from Jane in New Jersey and she had asked - do the interns work from where they live or do they have to go to a common location? Great question -- it’s pretty sweet to think about how these internships began. Young minds who wanted to be of service and many of them lived in the Bay Area. This past summer they didn’t have to be in the same location so some were spread out but many of them lived in the same area. 

Our weekly calls would be virtual so we’d log onto a video call and the curriculum was all online so they would do that on their own and chat with their mentor once a week about how it was going and we would sync up on a weekly call. And those internship calls were what started these Awakin Calls. Six years ago or so we were doing a summer internship and the mentors in that particular internship they said, “Oh no! The internship is ending - we don’t want these calls to end!” So they ended up starting a weekly call at the same time that it used to be for their internship calls and they would interview a different volunteer every week. And it started out as a weekly forest call where you would glean insights from a different volunteer in the ecosystem and then over time grew into these Awakin Calls where we get to interview guest speakers from different walks of life all over the world. So there are in person elements but a lot of it is virtual and wherever you are there’s that metaphor of blooming where you are planted so we use the internet platform to leverage that too.

Audrey: I had a question for Vishesh who has been intently listening to the interns throughout the call. Since you have the unique perspective of having been both an intern and a mentor. An intern when you were in college in 2014 and then coming back as a mentor this summer -- and all the mentors do all the practices and readings and reflections -- so you went through it again from a different lens and I’m curious what’s the highlight or something that has stayed with you from that journey of that dual lens? What inspiration comes up for you? Give us your wisdom!

Vishesh: To just be a mirror for all of you. It’s funny how they are totally different skillsets. Knowing something and teaching something are very different. I still remember poor Apoorva he got on the first call with me and I was like, “okay there’s this silence thing” and he’s like great I’m ready what do I do? And I said sit in one place and don’t move. Close your eyes and focus on your breath.” 

And that’s all I said. And he said okay great I’ll do that. And the next week he gets on the call and is like I tried that but I got these thoughts and didn’t know what to do with them. And I was like oh shoot I forgot to tell you about that part. So I was like basically they come so let them come and then let them go. And the next week he says that’s all great and stuff but in a very noisy place it’s very difficult to settle down. And I said, “Oh I forgot to mention you should find a quiet place and try and do it at the same time every day and that kind of thing”. So every week I was learning all the things that I wasn’t explaining and that I just sort of knew by osmosis or had just internalized and wasn’t thinking about consciously any more and going back to the the state of Beginner’s Mind, when i tell Apoorva or anybody else something I have to enter the state of Beginner’s Mind to think about what they must be experiencing when I tell them what it is and I thought that was a very valuable experience to go through.

Audrey: That reminds me of a story of Gandhi. A woman came with her young son who loved eating sugar and she said, “Gandhi can you tell my son not to eat sugar? And Gandhi said come back in two weeks. So they took the long trek back home and the long trek back to visit Gandhi and she said Okay you told us to come back in two weeks so can you tell my son not to eat sugar? So Gandhi looked at the son and said, “Don’t eat sugar.” And the mother said, “Why did you ask us to come back two weeks later? Why didn’t you tell us this the first time?” And Gandhi says, “Two weeks ago I was still eating sugar.” So that lived experience is really something. It’s true we hold ourselves accountable and it’s so beautiful that all of you have said yes to these values and diving a little deeper into these values and all of us diving deeper holds us all accountable to them and supports each others journeys.

Kozo: Hi this is Kozo in Cupertino. Such an honor listening to this call. It gives me so much hope for the future that there’s these amazing young people out there doing amazing things and being mentored and nurtured by other amazing people whom I consider young people. But I wanted to ask the interns because, I don’t even know what they call your generation anymore - you’re not Millennials - you’re newer than millennials. But you guys are inheriting what they call a broken world. There’s global warming, there’s a lot of conflict in the world. And I’m wondering what your feelings are to that and how being an intern with ServiceSpace has shifted or given a different perspective on that scenario that you guys are walking into.

Anne: Beautiful question Kozo and great to have you on the call!

Sophie: So great to hear you Kozo! That’s a really wonderful and tough question. My experience with ServiceSpace actually made me more aware about what’s going on in the world. But it deepened my faith in humanity, in the virtues that we have in our nature. I still get frustrated by some dark force that I have to encounter in life. But with this internship I know there’s such a big ecosystem, this center that I can return to. And it reminds me to practice and deepen my faith in humanity and hope and kindness and generosity. Because there is a lot of hatred going on. A lot of suffering and I just think as this period of humanity it’s a time that has an urgent need for compassion, and there are days that could be very dark and disappointing but at the same time we just have to be more compassionate to heal the world because it’s at an urgent stage. For compassion for beauty for light for all those good things.

Audrey: Wow! So much hope. Maya or Apoorva do you have anything to add or anything that comes up for you?

Maya: I can just say that it’s been really nice. I’ve missed being able to talk and share with all of you guys and it’s been really nice to just hear your voices again and remember things about you. So I really enjoyed this call a lot.

Anne: I just want to share that a dear friend from ServiceSpace Mish wrote in and she says, “Dear amazing interns, I’m so proud of each of you for having taken the intern leap and hearing your stories today is so inspiring and encouraging. Thank you for applying what you have learned during your internship in your life. And putting your kindness out there your actions hold the power to transform our world. You are all so delightful I bow to each of you. Big hugs Mish from New York City.

Audrey: She had written a reflection earlier on this topic of Beginner’s Mind I feel young at heart even though I am in my seventh decade and am still learning for which I am so grateful.

Anne: Everything comes full circle! And I have just one last question for each of you -- how can we in the ServiceSpace ecosystem and as your noble friends serve you?

Maya: Just continuing to be amazing role models that I always look up to. Whenever I talk to anyone about ServiceSpace I am always talking about how the people are so kind and how every Awakin Circle is a magical experience and how grateful I am to have met and connected with so many people. So just being able to look forward to that it’s just the best thing about ServiceSpace.

Audrey: Thank you Maya!

Sophie: I think Maya said it so well! It’s just a beautiful and I feel whole when I think of you guys and I know you’re always there. My story is our story, your story is my story I feel that interconnection. I don’t ask for more. I just hope that this continues and that we are all well and joyful and walk the path together. 

Anne: Thank you so much for all of your stories and sharing such deep wisdom. You are all so mature in the heart. We’ve learned so much from you.

Audrey: As Mish and Kozo said it gives us so much hope just to know you all and the fact that you would dedicate your summer in such a way, and all that has unfolded it’s so beautiful. And thank you Anne and Vishesh for pouring so much into this. I know Anne was listening to all the mini-TED talks that our interns did and reading through the different reflections to prepare for this call and Vishesh too, thinking through what kinds of questions to ask. Just pouring so much into this space it really all adds up. Thank you to our dear listeners for tuning in and holding space here with all of us.It’s such a privilege.