Thursday, 9 October 2014

A Grandmother in Berkeley

Learn more about this amazing spirit at her website:
I never grew up with my grandparents. A byproduct of being a first generation Canadian, I guess. They were left behind, on the Tropical Island my parents parted ways with for the industrial urban American jungle. 

There I was born in a high-rise apartment in downtown Toronto. In a Jewish hospital nonetheless. And I was raised by my parents as best as they knew how. Moral, righteous loving beings they were. 
Taste of liberty came late in life. In my early twenties I’d journey out to the west coast. Not knowing then that it was where most Americans gravitated towards as they fleeted from conformity to liberty. 

As a wanderer-vagabond-traveler, life was light at first. But the dark side of it all was there as well. Kids from troubled-broken-homes hitting the road in search of joy or peace. 

And it was on one of those journeys you can say that I found Andree. An elderly half-Jew who’d be the closest experience I’d ever have to a Grandmother daunting over me. She’d set meals in front of me and never left me hungry. 

She lived in Berkeley. She'd moved in during the 60's, as the land near her home was excavated and North Berkeley Bart station was born. Her home held a large expansive Garden. Chickens laid eggs out there amidst the vegetation. “Help yourself to the Garden” she’d tell me. And I would. Making myself garden salads whenever she disappeared off on one of her many social engagements. 

She was an active woman. A social activist to be specific. She taught an Eco-Art class at Laney College and held happy hours at her kitchen table every evening. Intellectual discussions about climate change and environmental destruction ensued. Her house was always brimming with life and activity. 

She'd invite me to stay for awhile up the stairs and into her attic turned bedroom. Books alongside the walls, old family pictures and her personal office. She’d show me to the back to a small room that would be mine for the days that I’d stay. Sun light streamed in through the windows up on the ceiling. I’d fall in love with the space immediately and count my blessings that she’d offered for me to stay.

As someone who strongly believes that the revolution for change must begin at home, her life unraveled before me like the very inspiration and light I needed. It was quite evident from the moment I met her that I was destined to cross paths with her. Her Garage converted into an art-studio where she made the plates and cups we ate and drank from. Her house covered in hand-crafted art. A powerful example of how one person, one home can make a small shift in reality.

I’d celebrate Rosh Hashana with her. We’d light the candles and dip apples in honey. Her son would come over and enthrall us over dinner with humor. She’d hug me, as we prepared dinner, “thank you for helping me”. And I’d be overwhelmed. It was rare that elders hugged me. It was rare that I was commended. 

I didn’t know how to show her I loved her. She’d walk past me and my heart would brim. I’d want to stand and hug her, rub my hand against her soft skin. But I had just met her. So I’d hold it all back. Holding the love and admiration within me. 

It was interesting that my first extended time with a Grandmother that she’d be a Jew. I always joked that I was partially Jewish. Growing up in upper-middle class neighborhoods where Jews predominated. 

“So you were Rich” she’d inquire. I didn’t know how to answer the question. The economic state of my family had fluctuated from poor, to rich, to middle class all in one life-time. To explain my economic status was complex. I felt affiliated to every economic bracket that humans adhered to. And I’d have to branch into history to truly explain it all. 

Nevertheless, I could have simply have said that though I’d grown up amidst wealthy Jews that it didn’t mean I was always as wealthy. Instead I kept cutting up the egg-plant placed before me and continued preparing dinner. 

How to explain why I lived with bare minimal simplicity. What I was doing on the road this time around, I didn’t truly know. I’d left a burden of pain and confusion in South Asia. Another story I’m still waiting to write. 

But she’d catch me. Catch me as I wandered through hunched over from regret. She’d catch me the way Grandmothers do. And she’d make it clear that she’d tasted pain as well. But she hadn’t let it hold her back. It had turned her into a woman with a mission. A woman that was aware of the struggles of the Earth. And was committed to making a difference. 

In the little ways of course, extinct animals painted on her car. “Stop Bitchin’ and start a revolution” written clearly on one of those weekend T-Shirts she wore. Inviting me to the class she taught at Laney College on Eco-Art. And by giving a hand to whoever seemed to be in need. By being there for me, when I needed her the most. 

Perhaps I have not been blessed to truly live and be with my genetic grandparents, but I surely believe I have found a Grandmother in her. And oh how very grateful I am that it is a Grandmother with a spirit for life, positive change and human evolution. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Buddha Flow

There have been so many great American adventures, thinkers. On those silent days where the mind’s past memories and conditions fade away I remember within me a piercing radiant light that just wants to feel what it feels like to be alive. A distinct unique phenomenal existence that should be remembered.

I want to be one of those people that remind people to wake up and seize the day. This could be your last day on Earth, make it beautiful. Praying, ruminating and thinking about Death helps me remember how precious and fleeting this glimpse of eternity can be. And fearlessly I recon I might as well become comfortable about being dead and free. 

So, I leave alone to places where I know no one. I sit on planes praying for all those I left behind, less I return to find them no more. But letting go I set forth into the unknown in hopes love will be found there too on the other side. And it usually is in the arms, hugs, support, and kindness of the humanity I have found everywhere. 

Humanity is what has kept me going for so long. So that I can build healing community centers, civic hacking projects for a new world paradigm, a world where working a prestigious 9 to 5 doesn’t encapsulate your day and life. Rather, perhaps that there are other things that one wants to put time to. To ride your bike a distance further than yesterday,  to sit by the ocean and feel it crash beneath your feet. These moments provide for me a glimpse a life of a Buddha amidst the chatter of material. 

Something keeps pushing me forward over the hill and into the arms of a hand glide up in the air over the Pacific Ocean. And you begin to wonder whether you’d ever want to stop living an exciting exhilarating life.

Especially when it seems to happen so effortlessly the more you let go of your mind, plans and to-do lists and just let life happen for you. The way a tree bares mango. The magical wonderful experiences that will make you as valuable as the sun - come naturally, organically. As you keep smiling and growing and accepting all the gifts life wants to share, seeking out to see the genius and intelligence in every precise moment that makes you whole and complete.

You remember. Life is easy. Life is precious. Life is awesome.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Free Space for a Free Bird

The day of my 24th birthday I’d whispered out to the Earth from the top of a hill in Berkeley: ‘Universe I want to know now what exactly you strive to teach me’. Hours later, with the night sky for company, I’d venture to meet a friend at a pop-up civic venture project at Mission and 7th in the Somo District of San Francisco.

A four-storey building would reveal everything I’d ever searched for. Free Space they’d call it, a project for the month of national civic-hacking. A property owner would decide to pass over his property for a month to some of the most experienced civic-hackers. Four stories high and spacious, in days they’d transform the space. Cultural-hacking they’d call it.  A massive network of burners and civic-hackers painted the walls and filled a month’s calendar with more than a 100 free workshops. Allowing me to taste first-hand what it would feel like to live in a free-world.

All my needs were met. I’d attend the contact dance classes, yoga and book-readings. Rummage through a free-cycle of clothing; I’d find new outfits to replace those lost on the road. And food-hackers ensured boxes of food were donated in the second floor kitchen. I’d even find a place to stay just blocks away for free!

The abundance of social engagement and goods to be shared for free uplifted me to heights of elation. It was the best gift the universe could give me. After months of living out of my back-pack to prove some inner intuitive knowing that humanity can be as free as the birds in the sky… This social-project settled beyond my imagination my inner-stirring that believed that we could live for free.

Free with value and worth. The project would go on to be recognized by the White House for its innovative nature. And to think all it took was a pure intention, a wish and a well-placed coincidence for me to discover magic. It was one of those miraculous experiences that would prove beyond all doubt that all dreams can be manifested!

In front of  Free Space in June 2013. This whole wall was painted in less than 10 days for free. Check out the video below to get a virtual tour of the space! You can find me in the video below at 6:29.

Friday, 28 February 2014

I'd pack one bag and set forth...

I’d go to work, swirl in my chair and watch my heart pace. Something was calling me in the direction that he had left. 

Three days would pass before I worked up the nerve to book a ticket to catch him in Calgary. I’d pack one bag and set forth…