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"I Have Enough": Things That Bring Me Contentment

This week's theme, partly inspired by Rev. Heng Sure's wonderful song, turned out to be a subtle one, with varying interpretations. From the opening server circle, where Arthur put forth his modified version :) "I AM enough" to a conversation with a guest towards the end of the day which centered around the question: enough of WHAT? Many pointed out that during this time of monetary recession, contemplating "I have enough" can tie the mind in a sort of knot! So it seemed to do during this server-guest conversation. And then we considered a redefinition of wealth, as it were, to not only include financial capital, but right in front of our eyes was an abundance of social capital! And how about serendipity capital (always high at KK:), or SMILE capital :), or spiritual capital...and then a knowing smile forms on the face, because we realize, as perhaps Arthur meant, that we *have* so much of this as part of our *being* -- and in giving our various forms of capital we actually *create* more wealth.

A few guest contributions that stood out to me:

Five things that bring me contentment in my life: Walking in Nature, Giving to others, Meditation, Spending time with my family, The love of my husband  *  I have more than enough of: Money, Vitality, Insight, Love, Vision  *  Grateful for Yoga. Grateful for the darkness, without it the light wouldn't be seen. Grateful for a wonderful place that all can come and gather in love, generosity and peace. Grateful for today's sunshine and light. We are grateful for you!


And finally, nothing says contentment quite like these drawings :-)


--Chris on Dec 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Sunday: 'I Have Enough'

Thank you for a wonderful time serving 67 guests last Sunday at Karma Kitchen.  While that's considered a "slow" day, it certainly didn't feel slow to any of us. :)

As Arthur, Caille, Lotus and Chris sported their new Karma Kitchen t-shirts, we started with our "I Have/Am Enough" theme as guests shared their contentment recipes, enjoyed meals served with smiles, and left us with a "server's high" (as Chris put it).  This being Thanksgiving, some of our guests were from very far away places like Turkey and Denver, while some were from across the street, like the lawyer-turned-chef from Chez Panisse who wants to volunteer!  The vibe was infectious with so many memorable encounters with the guests. On the offerings table, an author left some books of Indigo Animal, a magazine editor left copies of Peace Power,  a gardener left some chillies and lemons, and an anonymous guest left us hand-knitted scarfs (that looked so good on Lotus! :)).  All along, in the back, Piyush was unstoppable with the dishes and Anu had adventures with club-soda while Ami and Arthur added some love as they plated each order, and the unflappable Uma refused to trade her interface role. :)  To top it off, how cool is it that Caille was working on a media story while still busing not just the tables but even the high-chairs!   (And Sharanya, it was a huge help that you and your mom were able to come by early for setup and the oh-so-many-ice-cream-flavors run to the store.)

As we sat together at the end to share stories, server-highs, sugar-lows and joyous-laughs, :) I remember the Pema Chodron quote we ended with: "Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity."

To know that we all came together, simply to create a space for these small ripples of goodness, is an occasion of Thanks-giving for me.  Thank you.

--Maitre-D :) on Dec 1, 2009

Karma Kitchen: Sharing & Serendipity

Dear Friends,

When people bring people close to them over to experience Karma Kitchen, that's a real testament to the space created here -- and a reflection of the spirit that drives this experiment:

When you stumble across something special -- you share it.

This Sunday that kind of sharing showed up at the door many times over (we served a total of 90 guests!)

  • Sharanya, a bubbly Karma Kitchen volunteer whose mother has just flown in from the East Coast brings her in at 9am to help with set up. Together they fold napkins, set tables, roll inspiration scrolls -- part way through her mom asks if they can sign up for next week too :)
  • Another volunteer comes in as a guest with her parents visiting from Southern California -- she doesn't tell them anything about Karma Kitchen but lets the surprise of it unfold on its own -- eventually blowing them away :)
  • A renowned professor from Columbia Business school rolls through in between lectures to share the KK experience with a couple of colleagues -- one of them is moved by the end of it to run to her car and bring back a Trader Joe's gift certificate, " I thought this would be the perfect place to pay this forward.
  • A family of eight show up -- a couple of them have volunteered here before, the others have just heard of it and were wondering what they were in for. But the palpable energy of Karma Kitchen takes over. They engage in wide-ranging conversations with their servers in the midst of a delicious meal and an exquisite dessert selection. "What you are doing here is noble work," says the father of the family, as they prepare to leave.

And then there's the serendipity factor...

  • Two friends walk in, one of them visiting from Ann Arbor. Neither of them has ever been to KK before. As they browse through the abundance of wisdom and inspiration on the kindness table, they can't help but share heartfelt appreciation for this space.
  • Five friends come in just before closing time -- they have no idea what they've walked into but very soon their resonance is palpable. A Kodak moment: All five heads bent earnestly over the step-it-up activity of the day. "Share what you are grateful for."
  • The very last guests we seat are two women from out of town, one from Sacramento, the other from Atlanta. They were just, "looking for some place to eat." At the end of their meal they want to know if they can find an online copy of the Commonly Asked Questions on our menus. "We want to send this to all our friends. This is Amazing.

Another Once-in-a-lifetime Crew ...

Dipa and Susan's artistic plating (that even includes a special arrangement of spoons!) evokes gasps of admiration from several diners. Tom and Kye's steady, unassuming and hard-working presence helps a leaner than usual crew function smoothly. Vishal does two straight shifts of dishwashing with a constant smile, Radhika brings a special warmth and grace to the role of interface and a crazy flood of naan orders. Hafeez makes the time to try and truly connect with each of his tables. Newly married Shireen finds Karma Kitchen online and convinces her husband Edgar to sign up with her -- their sincerity and warmth was evident through the day. And we can't possibly forget Eva, Jazz and Myles who came in as guests and seamlessly slid into various volunteer roles when we most needed the extra help!

Attached is our crew picture. Sign up for future weeks is online as usual. Thank you all for the unique opportunity to serve in this space together -- have a wonderful week and --

Happy Thanksgiving!

In service,
Pavi & Viral

Karma Kitchen Coordinators

--Pavi on Nov 23, 2009

Karma Kitchen & The Magic Carpet

Last Sunday at Karma Kitchen in the spirit of Thanksgiving we invited guests to reflect on gratitude and what they were grateful for. Below is a selection of four of the wonderful responses we received...

" Gratitude is a magic carpet to this moment. When I am grateul I am not imprisoned in my fantasises of the past or present. For example, I am more agitated than usual for Karma Kitchen day, because I walked in worried about catching an Amtrak train this afternoon. As soon as I saw Pavi, Kye and Susan and the joy of Karma Kitchen I was grateful and in the moment. I now thank KK for all the smiles, food and chai, knowing: everything is OK. Catching the train belongs in the future. Now, I thank KK for this wonderful life. NOW.


Karma Kitchen is an adventure hidden in plain sight where some of the hard shell of our isolation and fear of others can be softenend by an atmosphere of generosity and giving -- Strangers meet over food in the context of the wonderful paradigm of giving -- Its all a gift of a group of people inspired to spread the self-healing that can grow from acts of kindness and a feeling for others --
Thank you Karma Kitchen!!

Reminds me of my mom's house. A menu with no prices is radical and amazing.  The idea of a "gift economy" is very inspiring -- I would love to learn more.


Thanks to the people of Karma Kitchen for a BEAUTIFUL manifestation of GRATITUDE IN ACTION.

--Karma Kitchen Coordinator on Nov 23, 2009

Karma Kitchen & The Pudding of Heaven

There were nine of you, fired up and ready to go when Viral and I arrived just after nine on Sunday. The largest set-up crew we've ever had, arguably the most sincere and most definitely the only crew that's arrived carrying its own meditation cushions :) We zipped through readying the space and settled into a circle of silence --- still strangers at this point (we hadn't done intros yet), but when we opened our eyes at the end of that period, a quiet bond had already been forged.

Susan set the tone for the day, sharing the story of her eighty-something year old mother in Alaska, who without a moments hesitation had gifted a small fortune so that a man on the street with frostbite could save his leg. Connecting that spirit of unconditional giving with Karma Kitchen she gave gratitude for the space. Over the next six hours we would each attempt to keep that flame of generosity burning bright.

Incidentally we broke an interesting KK record this Sunday  --- for the highest number of Stanford grad students serving tables, washing dishes, busing tables and plating food :) You guys rocked (thank you Somik for bringing in wuch a wonderful group!) And the stories that came from the day were special.

The Nicest Person I Meet
Gopal who saw a guest "doodling" on a piece of paper at her table, later discovered that doodle to be a flawless piece of art that she gifted to him. He decided to pay-it-forward, to a nine-year-old boy who was scribbling an uncomplimentary note at his table :)  "Look what he's writing," says his mother, "are you sure you want to give him this?" Replies Gopal, "I was just given this picture and decided I would give it away to the nicest person I met today. And yes I'd still like to give it to him." The child received the gift, quickly discarded his not-nice-note and substituted it with the more benign drawing of a ship :)

Pudding of Heaven
Earlier in the circle MJ talked of the power of transformation that comes alive at Karma Kitchen --- those moments come in surprisingly humble ways -- like Chinmay's experience with a guest who had repeatedly refused his offer of rice pudding and then shared with him the story of a saint in the marketplace who was handing out flowers to passerbys. As the story goes, people hurried past him, either too suspicious, arrogant or preoccupied to receive his offering. And as the story goes, if any man or woman had stopped that day to receive the unconditional gift in front of them, he or she would have entered the gates of heaven. "Your offers of pudding and my refusals remind me of this story," says the guest laughing. And now the Pudding of Heaven might just be the new name of our dessert and a great lesson in learning how to truly receive :)

The Tipping Point
So many other stories from the day. A table of four who come for the first time and are touched to discover that you can't tip your server at Karma Kitchen. Volunteers who slip into whatever role is needed of them, including making the naan (thank you MJ and Jazz!). Offerings of homemade Sauerkraut, homegrown oranges and a giant persimmon that appear on the Kindness Table, the serendipity of a volunteer who finds herself serving her grown up daughter's grade school music teacher, the unexpected delightof a first-time plater who served up a steady stream of dishes to reflect smilingly at the resulting feeling of glowing satisfaction, "as if I'd cooked the entire meal myself!" ...

Thank you all for your presence at Karma Kitchen this Sunday. It was a real joy to serve together and we hope to have you with us again on a future week.

--Viral and Pavi on Nov 17, 2009

The Jolly Good Crew

Thank you for coming together for a wonderful offering at Karma Kitchen yesterday -- and serving exactly 100 guests!  As Lalita appropriately said, the description of these experiences simply can't do justice to the actual, visceral sense of connection that we all felt yesterday.

In thinking back -- all the way to yesterday :) -- I remember the smile of that 3-month-pregnant mother that got tagged with a Bart pass to go somewhere she hasn't been, and that bowled-over gentleman who wanted his check as a memoir (and insisted on busing their own table!), and the young local woman who wanted to donate copies of "Urban Empathy", and Hafeez who was gladly sharing his "pass the buck" idea with unsuspecting strangers, and the older woman who gave each of the volunteer her hand-drawn blessings, and that kid who gave the most unbelievable hugs, and that table that had all kinds of questions, and that song that Jeff sung (after which one group wanted to gift him a trip to Yosemite!), and that lawyer in the back :) who silently, single-handedly and whole-heartedly kept doing the dishes the whole time, and really the effortless ways in all of us came together like a family.

Thank you for your time, your friendship and all the ripples you helped generate.

Oh, and the group photos from Jeff's camera: the smileys, the goofies, and the closing feast. :)

--Maitre-D :) on Nov 8, 2009

Karma Kitchen Guest Comments

Thank you for the delicious food and wonderful hospitality.



Thanks a lot for a nice dinner. And spreading the knowledge of helping others.



Carlsbad, CA loves Karma Kitchen.

--Trushna on Nov 5, 2009

Of Anonymous Artistry & Change @Karma Kitchen

 Dear Friends,

Last Sunday at Karma Kitchen the volunteer orientation was momentarily interrupted by a woman who peered around the door. "We open at 11 am," offered one volunteer helpfully, and she shook her head, "Oh I can't stay to eat today, I just came to drop these off". And she held out a series of miniature cards. Each one hand-drawn in vivid colors -- like small stained glass windows. Each intricately covered with beautiful words of blessing and carefully concealed within, 'a singularly small gift' (in the artist's own words) -- of a folded up dollar bill. For many, many months Karma Kitchen has received these cards with no idea where they came from. We found them on our Kindness Table week after week, but the quiet giver remained anonymous until a recent week when she was "caught" :-) Since then she has only continued to give more in this utterly humble and joyous way expecting nothing in return -- except this week we weren't going to let her leave empty-handed...

We had something from her -- not from us -- but from a faraway grandmother who roughly a year ago, hearing of Karma Kitchen had carefully crocheted the edges of two white handkerchiefs and promptly paid-them-forward to the restaurant -- to be gifted away at the appropriate moment. That moment had arrived :) Here is a collage of the anonymous cards that continue to amaze and delight Karma Kitchen guests and volunteers alike, and of the equally artistic and anonymous gift that found the perfect recipient this Sunday.

That early-on moment set the tone for the rest of the afternoon -- as the trickle of guests in the initial part of the day grew to a steady stream each of the crew brought their own unique artistry to the day. The theme was Change and guests were invited to reflect on the process of change in their own lives. Their thoughts fluttered in on colored scraps of paper, here is a glimpse of some of them...

"I am getting married! Everything in my life is changing"/ "I am learning not to use the word 'No'."/ "I think a big change has been learning how to love.'/ "Change is the growth of our family"/"I'm going to walk more and drive less! Pick up some garbage today and start a conversation with one person I don't know./ "I just returned from a 10-day meditation retreat all of which was a gift, with no expectation of compensation. I had never heard of Karma Kitchen before but suddenly I am faced with the gift of a warm nutritious meal. THANK YOU for bringing change and helping me remember that the gifts are all around us."

In celebration of all the gifts that surround us in each moment,

Pavi & Viral
Karma Kitchen Coordinators


--Pavi on Nov 2, 2009

A Once-In-A-Lifetime Chorus

With a 30-person party walking in through our doors at 11:00 am, last Sunday's crew had no choice but to hit the ground running -- and they rose to that challenge with grace, grit and joy! Each person stretched more than  a little in the spirit of generosity, reaching within for that deep reserve of energy, selflessness and warmth to carry us collectively through a wonderfully active afternoon serving just under 100 guests.

As one volunteer put it, "I felt at times like I was the only server and everyone else on the crew was my 'savior'" :) That kind of synergy is vintage Karma Kitchen, where everyone has "got your back". The spontaneous relationships that are forged so swiftly in a space like this are special -- they light up the afternoon. This week was particularly unique with volunteers in town from India and New Mexico (including my mother and sister!), guests from Sacramento and Davis, a professional singer who offered up the gift of her voice, a special request for Karma Kitchen to pay-forward a set of six tickets to the SF Girls Choir, the launch of the $1 Kindness Challenge (artistic little envelopes created by volunteers Hafeez and Dipa, each containing a dollar bill and an inspiring invitation to use it as the "seed" for a pay-it-forward act), a woman who received her wisdom scroll with an air of awed amazement, "I can't believe a place like this exists in the United States!" The theme of the day was harmony and  as part of the step-it-up activity, guests shared lines from their favorite songs -- here's a quick sampling of their notes:

"From a distance we are all instruments marching in a common band" - Bette Midler "We're one but we're not the same. We get to carry each other" -U2 " We are the world" & "I'm starting with the man in the mirror"- Michael Jackson, "Imagine all the people living life in peace' - Elton John "To love another person is to see the face of God" - from Les Miserables

Each week at Karma Kitchen is a kind of once-in-a-lifetime chorus, each week there is a new variation on the same timeless theme of generosity. Thank you for being a part of that continuing "song".


--Pavi on Oct 27, 2009

Who Receives the Most? And KQED Reporter. :)

One of the things I noticed this week was how volunteers themselves were moved by the experience.  Arthur came in at 9AM for setup with mantra of "practicing oneness", in the opening circle Jazz mentioned how he needed Karma Kitchen after battling a friend's suicide attempt the night before, MJ shared how KK is really like a temple experience for him, Lachmin spoke about the irony of her speeding ticket :) while driving all the way from Sacramento, Tanya talked about moving from London just the week before and experiencing community, and so on.  Multiply all that positivity with the wide ranging guests from a UC Berkeley professor to an author of a book to students to seniors to friends of servers to passerbys to Irina Rivkin singing a song to Mike Lee interviewing guests for KQED's California Report.  It created wonderful ripples of goodness.

--Nipun on Oct 19, 2009

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