On Being

I’ve been listening to Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast for over a year now. I was drawn to it because it touched on topics that I’ve always been fascinated with like the intersection of passion and purpose, being instead of just doing, living an introspective life, among other things. So when they announced that they will be having their first conference, The Gathering, I immediately signed up to be informed once registration opened. I got more excited when I saw that part of the roster of speakers included people like Seth Godin and Maria Popova. The registration questions were not the usual and kept with the show’s theme of how one can contribute to civil conversations and what one’s current spiritual context is. There were 5000 applicants and only 400 were chosen and a few of us were provided with scholarship to attend. I just had to get myself to the venue.

The Gathering was held at the beautiful and brand new 1440 Multiversity Campus. Set on 72 acres amidst the redwood forests of Scotts Valley, it was the perfect location for this event, providing places to walk, sit, pause, reflect and commune. Plus they have the most attentive staff and the most nourishing food. This place with the soul was a fitting setting for conversations for the soul.

I leave The Gathering with a collection of stories, heart tugs, insights and reminders and I wanted to share to help me distill these further and also to just put these out there. Over the next few weeks, I hope to write a bit more about these reflections since I’m still reeling from the onslaught of thoughts and interactions.

Be still, get kinder.

Meditating with Sylvia Boornstein was one of the most nourishing experiences I’ve ever had. She speaks of how creating spaces for stillness allows us to be kinder. The time we take to be still is the first expression of kindness, to ourselves. As we go out to the world after this practice, we notice people and how they are. Because of this we see someone just like us, needing gentleness and we can’t help to respond in the same way we did with ourselves- with kindness.

Notice, listen deeply.

We were taught that when we listen we do so non verbally as well. We lean forward, utter affirmative sounds, nod our heads and make sure that we have an open body language that encourages a speaker to go on. But real deep listening is about staying still, not showing any affirmations and just letting everything about the person and what he is saying speak to us. We create a space for the speaker to let his whole being express and just be, then we notice intently from our own listening space.

Be gentle with yourself and with others.

Sometimes we are hardest on ourselves when the best thing we can do is treat one’s self like we would a closest friend or even a child. Self-care and compassion is necessary so we can care for the rest of the world. We don’t know what each one is also struggling with but we do know that just like us we need a bit more gentleness, a little reassurance that it’s gonna be okay and that you are okay.

Say yes, and.

I got to join an improv class and the same lesson as before resonated- saying yes, and. It speaks of three things- listening intently to what is given, affirming it and adding something to it. It is building on what is offered, a beautiful co-creating without overly fixating on how it will turn out. It is investing in the moment, in the person and in yourself as you give your own gift.

Practice impatient persistence.

Seth Godin spoke of being impatient with the status quo and persisting till we get enrolment to our cause. We tend to lose heart when we see roadblocks even if we know that what we are fighting for is good and just. Persistence to keep at it with the belief that we can chip at it everyday and eventually make a dent is what the world needs for real change to take shape. Energy comes from collectively trying.

Infuse poetry in your everyday.

I’ve never been a poem kind of person but witnessing the readings throughout the gathering has tugged at my heartstrings so much that I’d like to make it a daily dose. Words beautifully or even brokenly put together to speak of one’s yearnings is so worth pondering on, and maybe eventually creating. I’d like to try.

Show up even if others cringe and cower.

On the last night, a guy goes up to the microphone and volunteers to play a song he composed for the occasion. I immediately cringed and thought “Oh my, what is this guy trying to do. This should be good, otherwise what an embarrassing situation.” I caught myself as this crossed my mind and I realised that I have yet to come to terms with showing up and coming forward. So when I met him the next day I told him exactly this and I as I did I realised that if we put work out there and care so much about how it is received then it remains to be about us and our ego. But if we give the gift of ourselves and the work that we do without any fixation on the outcome, that we are fully generous with our giving, then people will learn from this genuine act of giving.

As I head back home, I carry these truths and hope that I continue to bear witness to myself, to others and to the world as I notice fully and intentionally everyday.

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