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Karma Kitchen DC Going on Retreat After April 10th

Open letter to Karma Kitchen DC Community:


It has been a little over two years since we started Karma Kitchen DC at Polo India Club (now Dalchinni). We have had an incredible journey thanks to our volunteers, guests, and larger community. We have witnessed some amazing ripples of kindness and expressions of generosity which keep us, the KK DC Core Team, inspired and motivated week after week. 

As you may know, the restaurant which housed Karma Kitchen recently changed management and the restaurant is heading in a different direction. Now - after two years of whirlwind action - we are taking a pause to search for a new home for Karma Kitchen. We hope this pause serves as an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the deeper values, of inter-connectedness, trust and abundance that Karma Kitchen stands for -- and we're looking forward to seeing all of you when we're back! April 10th will be the last Karma Kitchen at Dalchinni Restaurant. 

While we are searching for a new restaurant, we are hoping to keep up the spirit of Karma Kitchen by having "Guerrilla Kindness" style activities on Sundays. Please continue to sign up to volunteer and let us know if you have any ideas!

If you have any suggestions for restaurants/owners we should talk to, please let us know as soon as possible!

For updates on Karma Kitchen's re-opening please visit us at 

In service,

The Karma Kitchen DC Core Team

(Alyssa, Aparna, Aya, Karthik, Krishna, Lavina, Sala, Sujata)

An Experiment in Generosity

Website * Blog * Facebook * Twitter

--Aparna on Mar 23, 2011

Loud and Silent

Four weeks ago at KK, a first-time guest waited till the restaurant was closed and then offered to play a song on his flute. "In the same spirit of love that you run Karma Kitchen, I do gift-economy yoga in the parks. I also make my own flutes, and I wanted to share this song for all your hard work today," Vlad Moskovski said. With his meditative fluting, all of us almost forgot that we were tired. :)

Three weeks ago, a regular volunteer unexpectedly came in for setup. She helped us frame the theme for the day: Freedom. Most of didn't realize that Susan Schaller was internationally renowned for her work with the deaf. Before she left, though, she taught us how to communicate "Freedom" in sign language. At the end of the day, all the volunteers did a little tribute to her with a photograph that show the begining of the "freedom" expression:

Two weeks ago, some hip-hop artists were so rocked by the KK vibe that they spontaneously got up and started rapping and beat-boxing some lyrics about Karma Kitchen. It had the whole restaurant jamming together. (Although one of the guests had recorded it, we have yet to receive that video! But some bootleg audio is below.) At the end of their performance, a young woman on the other side of the restaurant yells out loud: "I just started a new job, and we get 30% and I'd like to just like pay-forward that discount to you guys. You guys rock!"

Bootleg Audio-Clip:

Last Sunday, a big table of 10 had their meals, participated in our activities, checked out the kindness table, talked with the server, paid the check forward, and just when we thought they were about to leave, they huddled together to do a cheer: "Who do we appreciate? Who do we app-reee-shee-ate? Karma-Kitchen. Karmaaaaaaaaaaa-Kitchen." (It was much longer, but that's all we remember :)) Almost instantaneously, everyone felt elated.

Through all the loud and silent expressions of joy, Karma Kitchen continues to touch hearts.

--Dipa on Mar 21, 2011



‎Life is too short to wake up in the morning with things that you regret. So love the people who treat you right, forget the ones who don't and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy they just promised it would be worth it.

--Sneha on Mar 9, 2011

Meera's Inspiration

After a long time I had the opportunity to volunteer with Meera a.k.a. Marriette.  After KK, I got to catch up with her, as she was telling me about her trip to India and volunteering.  Among her stories was one about tagging random people on the street with chai!  It inspired me to try this on my own.

I felt my birthday was the best time to try this.  What a great way to start the year, I thought.  The night before, one of my family friends (Leela Auntie and Anand Uncle) invited me over for a home-cooked meal.  They asked me my birthday plans and my story inspired Auntie, of whom is my mother's age, in which she asked if she could join.

The next day, early in the morning, both Auntie and I picked up coffee from Starbucks in four 12-person-travellers and proceeded to the Farmer's Market.  We served coffee to the vendors to help them kickstart their morning.  Their reactions and smiles to follow encouraged our efforts.  Transformations were flowing like rivers and right in front of us.  Halfway through, the Farmer's Market coordinator shutdown our operation in which Leela Auntie suggested that we serve the Davis Downtown instead.

Excited that Auntie immersed herself in this activity, we proceeded to do just that.  We received comments such as " Are you promoting Starbuck's", we replied, "No."  "What are you promoting then?", " We are not promoting anything, would like a cup of coffee?"; "How much are you selling the coffee for", asked that same person.  " We are not selling this coffee, we are giving it to those who want it."  This person and a few others could not believe in such a force and their facial expressions and body language-reactions made the day for us!  

We made sure to communicate to everyone that this is a gift of generosity rather than a free item to be made use of.  Leela Auntie really took to that definition.  At the end of the morning, she told me what I have heard and felt everytime at Karma Kitchen; her feet and body were aching but she her spirit felt rejuvenated.  I agreed with her and felt for the first time that we actually got to know each other better.

One of the best birthdays ever!  A special thanks to Meera and Leela Auntie for giving me that!

--MJ on Mar 6, 2011

When Your Heart Melted

Thank you for coming together to serve 121 guests, with a generosity-filled Karma Kitchen experience.

Watching the 3-year-old girl and her 5-year-old boy who shyly came inside the kitchen to sing twinkle-twinkle-little-star as their thank-you to the Karma Kitchen crew or hearing a guest who proudly declared: 'Well, today was the first time I shared the gift-economy concept in sign language with my deaf friend' or seeing a woman ride on her bike to drop off a hot-plate of hand-made (and yum!) cookies just for the volunteers or listening to Vlad's soothing did-the-CD-player-just-start-working flute, it was obvious that not only were people's bellies full but their hearts were overflowing.

To our "share a moment when your heart melted" theme, here were some of the notes that people shared on their tables ...

"Every time I come into Karma Kitchen, my heart melts from the energy of love being given and received."

"A kid had a hot dog and fed it to a dog in the street that was homeless."

"When I found my soul family again, in this lifetime."

"After a first date that was a really good one, R came back, knocked on my door and told me how much he enjoying getting to know me.  We dated, married, and divorced -- but that is still a good memory."

"Heart Melts, Eye Gazing, twice winks, sprinkle, twinkles, renewed."

"I was handing out Christmas gifts and the little girl who was there hugged me and told me she loves me and didn't get off my lap the whole night."

"My love for my partner."

"Walking to work, saw a tree full of pink flowers under the blue sky and thought -- "Wow, this is beautiful."

"Pictures of puppies and kittens."

"My lovers kiss this morning."

"My heart most recently melted when I started to go deeper with a sweet girl named Coral!  It has gone from acquaintance to friends with benefits to lovers to something deeper that's hard to classify. :)"

"Awakened heart to the truth and openness of divine union.  First time to fully allow myself to be vulnerable and rise in love was two weeks ago."

"Seeing the people of Egupt celebrating the hope of a better future for themselves and their children."

"When a cat walked into my room and spent the day with me."

"It is very gratifying and blessful to have people to help the less fortunate during hard times.  It is very pleasing to put a smile onto everyone's face."

"When I was a camp counselor, one of my campers surprised me with the gift of a sterling silver ring.  She said, 'It's for you.  I want you to have it.'  She was six."

"Standing 16,700 feet off the ground level on top of the Andes."

"Asha's sweet face and smile, and the children's voices on the other side of the room."

"My heart melted this morning as I played pat-a-cake with my 2 1/2 year old son, he laughed warmly grabbed my cheeks and said, 'I love you, Dada.'"

"I melted when I kissed Sybil and forgot how much time had passed and that the afternoon had turned into night and turned into morning."

"There are so many moments.  All I have do is pay attention and beauty melts my heart.  Every moment you and I choose goodness I am inspired and the calouses that build upon my heart melt away."

"My heart melted when I gave birth to my 3 sons -- it continues to melt as I witness them growing into independent adults.  So many wonderful memories -- many milestones in this journey of life."

"When I was a young teenager, my father brought home a man he found who was starving under a bush.  Fritz, a former fighter pilot from WW I, from Germany, lived with us for over 3 months.  My father taught me love was action.  Watching a starving man eat was lovely."

"When I read the story 'Father and Son Getting Home,' by Wes."

"Looking into the face of a dozen young women who were orphans in Fiji and so genuinely graceful for the gifts and services we were there to provide.  Peace."

"When I looked at my sister." --Bilal Abraham, age 5.5 years old

"When my mommy hugged me." --Sakeenah Abraham, age 3.5 years

"When the stray cat came to me (I take care of them), even though they are sometimes irritating."

"Looking into my new friends' eyes."


"When I met my wife."

"The last time my heart melted was this morning when I heard my 2.5 year old son say, 'I love you.'  He has a speech delay and chooses his words carefuly.  It melts my heart every time he chooses to say, 'I love you.'"

"My heart melted when I met my friends new dog, a pitbull stray."

"Last night I melted into the earth and the tree, surrounded by loving people and accepting myself as one of a community, unafraid to express my talents and share my gifts unconditionally."

"The last time my heart melted was this very morning when it time to get my little son up to get him to his art group.  He looked sweet and tender as he is, and I snuggled up to him and nuzzled him awake.  That special time moved me from sleeping to waking."

"Love is a reflection."

"I think love is a the reflection of your true morality shared between people, despite your physical differences."

"Be careful in live, for pain it can create.  Do not own your karma, Now let it dissipate."

"Blueberry pie!"

"Milk & cookies melt my heart!"

"I'm too high to remember."

"Love is selfless.  It makes you care about other unconditionally.  One of the most beautiful feel."

"My moment my heart melted: my daughter brought me to this place, and I felt extremely warm and happy compassion from her as well as the people who introduced the concept to me."

--Vikram on Feb 13, 2011

things we forget

this is fantastic guys! thanks so much for sharing and taking photos of some of the notecards :)

absolutely love. 

you should also check out, a blog run by a guy in singapore with bits and pieces of advice that he slaps on a post it note (in a creative fashion) somewhere in singapore every day. he's always sure to scan the post it before going off and putting it somewhere though. really beautiful idea

--Ankit on Feb 3, 2011

A-Bun-Dance :)

The server crew pulled off an amazing effort at Karma Kitchen Berkeley on Sunday, serving a whopping 138 people over a longer-than-usual day. 

Abundance was the theme of the day, and that certainly applied in terms of people  -- both guests and servers, as Sharanya stepped up in the morning to help with setup in between work at the lab, Lachmin swung by with some gifts for the kindness table, and other Secret Santas replenished low supplies and filled in gaps as he so effortlessly does. Veteran server Kai even jumped in to help bus tables after eating a meal as a guest.  And that was just the extra help! More veteran servers and new servers alike stepped up to ensure a full server crew, as MJ and Bhoutik returned after another huge effort last week, Pancho heard help was needed and of course showed up, and not only that, but brought along Kate, who rocked her first time serving at KK! So certainly abundance was in the air that day. :) 

But little did we know just how much A-Bun-Dance would manifest. :) There were not one, but two spontaneous expressions of joy that wanted to collectively happen this Sunday! (Not to mention the perhaps dozens of song outbreaks that Natalie led with the tables she served :)) First, Natalie and a guest led the restaurant in a couple rounds of two-part song "In the Jungle" -- complete with high notes and all. :) 

Later, one table played the smile deck game and someone picked the spontaneous dance of joy card!
That called for another pause-for-collective-gratitude moment in the restaurant as everyone fell quiet and DJ Bhoutik served up some tunes. Perhaps not as organized as last week's dance of joy, :) but a few coherent dance moves arose, and soon nearly half the restaurant was dancing along! Even some guests who had been waiting outside came in just for this. For some of those waiting outside, that was the only taste of KK they would get that day, as we have to stop seating at 2:30PM in order to clean up, allow the last lingering tables to finish, have our closing circle, and reset (read: re-transform) the restaurant for dinner that night. Still, we hope they were able to tap into the abundance from within that Matthew brought up in the opening circle. :) (Begs the question, is abundance a state of mind or a state of things?)

Of course, lots of visible abundant joy that was happening out front was enabled by plenty of invisible abundant work that was happening in the back. Matthew and Michelle were plating up food with gusto (and making sure servers had a bite to eat here and there :)), Emily mastered the dance of drinks & desserts during her first time serving, and Jay handled a volume and frequency of dishes that's hard to imagine.

One guest put it (and illustrated 'a bun dance' ;)) nicely on one of the reflection cards: "grateful for art because art is abundance." This kind of no-strings-attached service is indeed an art, and every week everyone co-creates this work of art -- from guests, to kitchen staff, to extra help, to the serving crew, to folks waiting outside happy to just come in for a dance. We are indeed grateful for all that art. Thank you all.

--Maitre-D :) on Feb 1, 2011

Most Powerful Piece of Wisdom

Karma Kitchen has a theme every week on which we encourage the guests to reflect on. The "theme" last weekend was: Wisdom. We asked each of the guests, "What is the most powerful piece of wisdom you have ever received?" Here are their responses, some obvious, some not so obvious, and some just made us laugh out loud:

  • To make the best of your life, live in the moment. Forget the past, think not of the future. This moment is all that matters. Don't let your mind limit your spirit. Let both run free and clear. Fear is useless, you know what danger is, so let go of emotions that cause hesitation.
  • Approach life with child-like wonderment.
  • Be Yourself!
  • Always be happy with what you have.
  • An hour with your grandparents is time well spent.
  • Life engenders life, energy creates energy, it is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.
  • We know nothing -- but all we need is love.
  • Read the book and find out!
  • Never take your lawn too seriously.
  • Don't forget to laugh, especially when times get difficult.

  • Make a plan, work the plan, ask for help.
  • Respect your parents! They are wiser.
  • "Whatever you are, be a good one." --Abraham Lincoln
  • "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." --Eleanor Roosevelt
  • "Affirm for yourself: I am submerged in eternal light. It permeates every particle of my being. I am living in that light, divine spirit fills me within and without." --Paramahansa Yogananda
  • Love is harmony and harmony is love. This sublime principle of creation. This unifying and attractive force of existence, is everywhere. Love pours forth from the center of all that is. Cultivate love in your heart and radiate it forth will all your might.
  • Be compassionate and loving to yourself and to others.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Anger is like an inward shaped dagger. The greatest danger from exhibiting anger is to yourself.
  • The periapt of wisdom works pretty well on my archer, but that might be pathfinder -- only, I'm not sure.
  • Be self-aware of your impact on others, but realize you are powerless in controlling them.
  • What is our purpose in life? To love and be loved. To appreciate beauty, in art and nature. To leave the world a better place than when we came in.
  • "Remember that your are absolutely unique, just like everyone else." --Margaret Mead
  • "Be who you are, and say what you feel, because those who mind, don.t matter, and those that matter, don't mind." --Dr. Seuss
  • We're all insignificant specks of dust, but that's not depressing!
  • Smile!
  • Accept people for who they are and be kind.
  • Someday someone might decide to make a movie on your life; make sure it doesn.t go straight to the video!
  • That which doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger. My mantra in life.
  • Never be where you are not needed, and never go where you are not wanted.
  • Know yourself and accept yourself!
  • Live so that you will be impressed with yourself.
  • If you want something never had, you have to do something never done.
  • "Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself." --Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Take decisions with care and thought.
  • My grandfather, who lived to be 100, often said: "Mind Over Matter, Health Over Wealth."

  • Take the time and space to listen to yourself.
  • Never complain. Never explain. Don't get excited.
  • Question authority.
  • "A hare is a fast runner, but even the lazy hare gets overtaken by the tortoise." --by My Teacher
  • The way to hell is paved with good advice.
  • In any interaction, assume positive intent.
  • Be patient with others. No one is perfect; don.t expect them to be.
  • "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." As cliches it maybe, it is the best advice I have received since coming to college.
  • "Take the best of every culture in constructing your values and identity." --My Dad
  • Learn neuroscience (how you work), theoretical physics (how the universe works), and linguistics (how we communicate with others). Simple!
  • Wisdom has many forms and paths. One of them is selfless love and volunteering at places like KarmaKitchen.
  • Live a life of integrity.
  • Take advantages of your resources. --Tian
  • "A woman is like a tea bag . you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water."
  • Live life with no regrets. --Anuja
  • Reality is about perception, not intention. --Sherry
  • Change what you don't like in your life, you have the power to change anything if you put your mind to it.
  • "My religion is kindness." --The Dalai Lama
  • Don't compromise who you are for anyone!
  • Talk less, see more.

What a joy to be in a space that generates so much wisdom!

--B2 on Jan 30, 2011

There is no higher purpose than to serve others.

Dear KK-Team,

The more you volunteer at KK, you will find out the magic that Guri brings.  She handled the interface role with boundless generosity and still had time to bus and share a few anecdotes with the rest of the volunteers.  Amish seemed to find his calling here at KK.  He was amusing the guests with his playful nature as he immersed himself in the spirit of overwhelming the guests with his generosity.  The first few times volunteers take the server role, they tend to show a bit of stress, however, Melody seemed to achieve Zen-peace right away in her role.  She made sure to get into conversation with willing guests and still kept up on every task of her role.  KK's mascot is a turtle named Senor Slowdown to remind us all to make sure to experience the moment; Alex's continuous peaceful calm served as my Senor Slowdown reminder.  Bobby and Sateen seemed to enjoy dishwashing.  Most of the time, that role takes some getting used to but they seemed to ease into it rather quickly and for the first time I have seen, they alleviated all bottlenecks before they happened!  Bhoutik's energy is always amazing and enthusiastic.  He is able to approach and maintain any situation as a result.  Kudos to the platers!  Kinjal and Manan handled continuous orders from beginning to after we ended and all the while exuding happiness and smiles.  Those smiles had a contagious effect on the rest of us; I especially noticed that effect take place during our volunteer lunch.
A few reminders of the day:
- The dance of joy that Muranda brought to KK and included the rest of the restaurant really made the day special and created a medium in which other people could break out of their comfort zone and continue on their journey of kindness.
- A month back or so, there was an Indian family that came to KK for the first time.  Right as they heard the concept they were blown away and really appreciated the space that KK provides but were reluctant to try the community table.  This time they entered and opted for the community table and seemed to enjoy their time even more.  The Dad's face was beaming.  His wife participated in the dance of joy at first with hesitation and then brought others to join her.  Transformations like this is what keeps me coming back to KK.
- We don't serve food to go at KK because the point of this project is to experience the space provided by all of us and CharityFocus.  There was a college student that came at a time when there was a line outside and she had a class to go to.  She patiently waited through the line and was seated but she wasn't able to order in time.  She expressed her gratitude of the time that she spent at KK and said that she will eventually give this a try.  I decided to gift her with a meal to go so that she will not attend her class hungry.  This brought tears to her eyes and non-verbal realization of the Kindness we are all representing that day.
- After they enjoyed their meal, this table of six had questions ranging from 'what is the motivating factor to volunteering at KK' to 'how can we become volunteers'.  All six of them signed up on that e-mail list at the Kindness table.  Another transformation about to happen..
Whether or not you were able to experience any transformations on Sunday, know that your selfless service sent out ripples of kindness out into the world.  Those ripples will allow the newcomers to KK to begin their journey towards generosity and other veteran guests get to continue that journey.  Sometimes you have the extraordinary chance to witness that transformation and a lot of the times the transformation happens outside of KK once guests have some time to process it and/or get more exposure to the concept.  Regardless, know that your time at Karma Kitchen helped make that effort progress forward.
Thank you!

--MJ on Jan 25, 2011

A comment from a guest at today's Karma Kitchen in DC

"My first experience here or at any place like this. Simply amazing! I am moved to tears by the generosity of spirit, kindness, and goodness that underlie this model. The concept embodies our highest ideals and all of your wonderful volunteers execute with grace, enthusiasm and encouragement. Kudos to Tamara on her first day and Loveena for the best smile on Connecticut Ave. The delicious food is even better when we get a check for $0.00. I ended up putting more money in the envelope than I even would have paid for lunch because I want Karma Kitchen to thrive!"

--Anonymous on Jan 9, 2011

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