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Oranges Have Juices in Them :-))

My gratitude to many beautiful souls who came together in visible and invisible ways to make May - Karma Kitchen a vegan, nature friendly in every way possible. The planning started a few weeks back shopping for organic ingredients, looking for a commercial baking place and staying committed to values that we all hold very dear that is to make Karma Kitchen a healthy place for all.

A day earlier to Karma Kitchen last weekend Sandy, Prakash, Ann and Markus all came together to bake the vegan banana-walnut muffin with was showered with their love, mindfulness and joy to feed the guests.

Karma Kitchen  was bustling with people by 2pm, engaging in  beautiful mindful discussions around nature, composting, planting, community building, honeybees, pets and kids. When asked what would you like to drink, a 3 year old kid who was really mindful of the gift of fruits specially oranges said, he does not need anything to drink as oranges are full of juices, talk about mindfulness:-))

Others said they totally felt home and felt they were visiting friends and family. One liked the muffins so much that she decided to gift it forward to some more friends who were visiting her in the evening. We were also blessed to have a 3-legged visitor Tiger, and it felt like circle of life is perfect as it is.

We had visitors from our own community; Sunnyvale, Fremont, Foster city and we specially thank each and everyone of you to come out on a beautiful afternoon to support Karma Kitchen. More in pictures here.

--Shruti Prakash on May 24, 2012

Karma Kitchen Launches in Hayward!

On the opening day of Karma Kitchen Hayward, we had lots of beautiful experiences, stories, ripples & community connections. The volunteer spent the full day sending out unconditional love & respect to all. :)

After couple months of planning, we finally arrived at the launch of KK in the heart of the bay! It was a beautiful Sunday, a sunny day after a long week of stormy weather with lightning and thunder, and perhaps it was nature's way of expressing its joy for our humble beginnings.

Snappy's Cafe, where we host KK-Hayward, is a small warm cozy place in the downtown Hayward. As soon as we entered the cafe, we all rolled up our sleeves and got to work rearranging the table layout, setting up a gift table, write the menu on the board, and tending to the many small details. And we're very grateful to KK-Berkeley for their unconditional support, guidance, everything else. :)

We had a very natural flow of mostly local people in the cafe. Everyone who came in the doors yesterday were filled with positive energy; it almost felt like a marriage hall in India :) where everyone was excited about the new beginnings and making sure everyone felt at home! A teacher came in with her mom and aunt, and they were so blown away that they plan to come every month! She also wants to bring all her students to experience it! Several people expressed interest in volunteering. One person commented, "This was absolutely necessary in East Hayward, which doesn't have a good image due to many community challenges." Someone else felt like it was a historical event that "I simply couldn't miss!" The anonymous gifts on the gift table really touched a lot of people, and they all understood the pay-it-forward idea too to keep the inspiration rippling.

For this week, our menu was quite simple -- some tea, muffins and organic oranges that Prakash had generously gleaned from the neighborhood! Soon, we hope to augment it with other items that we can cook in a commercial kitchen nearby, but ultimately, when love is main entre, the rest of the food feels like a side dish. :)

By 5PM, we closed with a circle of sharing around our intention for the experiment, as everyone spoke about values like trust, intention, support, community, abundance, family, courage, impact -- and gratitude for the cafe for being open-minded enough to try out something as crazy as this! Initially employees were little hesitant to join the begining circle but by the end, we could clearly see the transformation that had already happened as they joined the closing circle with their smiles and gratitude.

It was such a beautiful feeling that we all walked out with. No words can quite capture that feeling -- but here's a photos that might help :) ...

Hope to see everyone next month at KK-Hayward!

[Original Blog]

--Shruti on Apr 16, 2012

An Uplifting Day With Visiting Volunteers


Thanks for a beautiful Karma Kitchen last Sunday!  As Emmanuel summed it up, it was uplifting not only on the surface and also elevating at a subtle level.
Our day started with our own reflections, with Arthur's story of reaching out to a homeless person or Erik's insights of not giving up or Cynthia's "I'm ready to get started now!" excitement.  Then we all split up into teams and got oriented.  Yuka was visiting all the way from Japan and Bela from DC!  As Shreya gracefully handled the hot-seat,Guri, Hannah and Varsha plated up a storm for all 138 guests!   Lauren not only offered up them sweet desserts but perhaps the most artful "theme of the day" (ever!), while Amy was zipping from the front to back.  And in perhaps the most awesome testimony to Andrew and Erik's dishwashing duo, Juan never even had to help them!  Although we had never worked together as team, we came together after a mere 15 minutes of orientation -- not just to serve food, but serve up generosity.  
Great work, everyone!  And thank you.
In reflecting back to our shared time together, I remember all those little moments of joy that we collectively put in motion.  A coffee shop owner came to dine at KK because one of her customers had told about the gift-economy and she had to see it to believe it. :)  Now, she is keen on doing something similar at Snappy's Cafe in Hayward.  A couple struck up a conversation with an elder next to them, and ended up leaving $20 to tag him with books that he loved to read.  A completely skeptical guest was drawn in by the "vibe" and by the end, she just couldn't stop raving about it.   We tagged people with little wisdom-filled gifts, Varsha's hand-made earings, and sometimes just a genuine smile. So many people who didn't know each other shared a table with "strangers" and ended up creating rich friendships.  The whole restaurant got together to sing a birthday song for Yuka, and one of the guests even shared a gift and offered up some spoken word poetry.   The whole ambiance was filled with a sense of electric joy.  Just like all of us, many others signed up to volunteers -- and were happily elated when we told them that we typically have a several-week waitlist to volunteer. :)  Generosity begets more generosity.
On the oustide, an oversized fellow named Ben was smoking and few seniors were not happy with the second-hand smoke; while we had no legal ground to ask Ben to stop smoking, I appealed to his empathy and requested him to move farther away.  He hesitantly agreed.  While they waited an hour for their table of six, we offered them some "raw, vegan, organic" coconut-macroons that were gifted to us by a woman in Colorado; they were very touched by it.   As they got seated, felt the ambiance and engaged in some conversation, they warmed up more and more to the spirit of Karma Kitchen.  At one point, Ben spontaneously got up from his seat and just enveloped me in a giant sized hug.  "I love you, man," he said.  It wasn't about me but more the space that we had all co-created; and so on behalf our posse, I replied back: "Love you too, buddy".  He was about to step outside for another smoke, and I told him, "You know, my friend, your lungs aren't going to be lovin' you so much if you keep smokin'.  How 'bout you not smoke this one time, in the spirit of generosity to your own self?"  He smiled.  Others on the table vocally agreed.  And he gave in, with a big smile.
One small act, one invisible friendship, one genuine smile at a time, we change ourselves and the world around us.  Thank you.

--MD and Arthur on Mar 2, 2012

An Artful Sunday

Thank you for a joyous time of service, last Sunday at Karma Kitchen!

We served 152 guests and spread lots of ripples of generosity.  From a NY Times best selling author to a first-date (which went very well :)) to a Catholic priest to many first-timers who had never experienced a "gift economy", our guests spanned the entire spectrum.   As one of Juliana's guests explained to another friend: "Karma Kitchen is like an enclave in the world where the normal laws of Economics don't apply."  The context of generosity we all co-created really does bring out the best in everyone.  Adam sang pop songs in the back while Michelle and Joanna were busy trying to create smile-shaped peas on the plates and Root relayed the food; Mike and Scott shuttled from the front to the back as Andy was busing tables and Karan's Shinto-Shaman guest wrote down 10 websites for him to explore "options trading". :)   All along, Sam was busy "harvesting lettuce without counting the leaves".  Lin could multi-task dessert like nobody else, but her closing comments were touching: "First time, I came here for community service hours; today, I'm back because it feels so great."  Alex, who had "wettest job in the house", summed it up quite well: "It was amazing to be part of something where we came together to do something that none of us could've done individually.  And that too, with strangers who had never worked together before."  
Yesterday, two teenage sisters came with their mother to practice generosity at Karma Kitchen.  They tagged others with smiles and told them about our theme of "Art as Service".  One of the guests wrote this beautiful note: 
And a guest named Jahson offered up an energizing poetry reading, that compelled another random guest to write on our site: "One of the most memorable KK experiences I've had, which came on a particularly magical Sunday for me."  Jahson's 6-year-old son also looked on proudly, as people thanked his father.  A guest asked to buy his book, and he said, "That was my third book sale; maybe I can even call myself an author now."  The anchors spontaneously opted to buy ten books (which we all now have) and confirmed, "Jahson, You're definitely an author."  Small acts of love, nurturing one journey at at time. :)
Thanks again for serving.  In serving others together, we organically come closer to each other and that's a beautiful thing.

--Sam and NM on Feb 21, 2012

Making Kids Smile

Last week a woman came to @KarmaKitchen with her four young kids, all rather sad and silent. We didn't know why but we took it up as our challenge to make their day; various servers tried different tricks, but nothing worked. Then, Arthur went up and tried, but still nothing ... until he landed upon a genuis question for the kids: "We aren't supposed to do this, but would you like ice-cream before you start the meal?" It jolted everyone out of their sadness. All the kids smiled, the woman also smiled, and by the end of their meal, they all left in good cheer. One small act at a time ...

--Matthew on Feb 5, 2012

Unite with Laughter, Friends & Love!

"If you were not afraid of failure, what would you do today?This was the themed question of the day that Karma Kitchen guests were introduce to when entering the restaurant. 

With this in mind, 138 guests poured in at a steady flow, keeping the house just filled to the brim but not overflowing. As tummies filled with loved-filled food, minds settled to enable deep thinking. Many responded to the question saying they would change a significant aspect of their lives....a better job, a new home-town, attempting the impossible were just a few examples of what fear of failure prevents us from realizing.  However, the ambiance of compassion shattered personal barriers such that guests and servers alike had no fear to be open and generous with each other. 

On several occasions, actions such as a few caring words, a caressing hug, and a tender touch moved adults to tears.  A one year old baby girl smiled like the sun after being tagged with a drawing made by another child in the restaurant.  One couple specifically came to Karma Kitchen to rejuvenate and energize prior to their evening performance in the city.  Another joined the community table and subsequently planned a radio program to showcase the gift economy. 

Many guests came not knowing what to expect, but all left with an understanding of how selfless giving sustains wealth and well being far better than consumerism. 

This Sunday, Karma Kitchen proved to be that place where the community can unite, friends can laugh, children can play, couples can love, and servers can blow everyone away with generosity.

--Mani on Jan 17, 2012

If Happiness Was Your Currency ...

As we served 111 guests yesterday, one thing that particularly stood out for me was how people engaged in small acts of gratitude. A woman gave us a hand-made thank-you card with her own photography, one guest offered a signed copy of her book to Keith, one man visiting KK after a long time insisted on giving me his tie!, another on Nancy's table gifts her a hand-made bracelet, Leena's guest gives her a "You Are Loved" card, another guest gives us a plant that we asked Vishnu-ji (our chef) to pay forward. It was just non-stop gratitude from all sides. :) One of the KK coordinators sent in hand-baked brownies for all volunteers in the back, and while someone else left us chocolates to snack on. :) Across the board, whether is it was Keena-Janice-Li constantly smiling while plating or the unflappable team of Midhun-Kanan-Amy giving Juan a run for the money, :) generosity was abound in our small acts. People abundantly gave out hugs and smiles, as all the guests reflected on the insightful question of the day: "If happiness was our currency, what kind of work would you do?"

Keith went through all the notes and musings that our guests wrote for our theme of the day and said, "I'm blown away by all the responses, let alone the art that accompanied it!"

If happiness were the currency, my work would be ... gardening & juggling & playing fiddle; helping at risk youth climb trees and produce music that uplifts the spirit; become a master pizza-maker; someone who puts their head out of the window when driving in the summer in the country ("A breeze detector"); lead a safari that helps protect the animals and the photographers; bike messenger who doesn't work the AM-shift; organize community, grow food, sing, dance, spend time with babies. Serve @ Karma Kitchen! For happiness I would work growing food, preparing and sharing the hearty healthy food. Aw Yeah! If happiness is currency then working has ceased to exist and thus I only must exist in the happiness with fellow happy humans! Spreading happiness. Playing Music. Helping people feel "that feeling" and the connectedness to the spirit of life and the excitement, energy, love, and appreciation that comes with it. My work would be to grow food, cook it and share it with everyone. Happiness is a currency; each day we're paying people with our energy; as we keep our energy high, we pay each other in happiness all the time.

If happiness was the currency, every place just might be like Karma Kitchen! It elevates people into a heart of gratitude and that ripples of goodness continues onwards without an end.

Thank you, all!

--Keith on Dec 25, 2011

Giving unconditionally and receiving gracefully

I am fortunate to have been part of the Karma Kitchen team this past Sunday in Berkeley, just before the Christmas holidays. After our shift was over and we sat down to a community (and long awaited) luncheon, I found myself suddenly moved and almost reluctant to go.

The impact to me was strong enough to inspire deeper reflection, and one area I focused on was the concept of giving and receiving. When I compare the experience of Karma Kitchen to my own life experiences, I found a big difference. At Karma Kitchen, we the volunteers were there to give and serve, from our hearts. Thus, whenever giving is so passionate, it requires the recipient to gracefully accept. That is the only way giving and receiving have taken place.

I find this to be lacking in my daily life. Perhaps we are all trained to be so self sufficient that we don't need other people to help or share. Everyone is in their own houses, cooking their own meals, caring for their own children, working their own jobs. There is no community spirit at all.

When I think about my customers on Sunday, I realize that they were all happy to be there, ecstatic when I brought food to the table, and enthusiastic about being part of this experience. I hope they could tell I loved being there and I loved serving them. They accepted with grace.

I suddenly remember a quote from Kirpal Singh that I store in my heart. It goes like this:

Kind hearts are the gardens.

Kind thoughts are the roots.

Kind words are the blossoms.

Kind deeds are the fruits.

If we can remember and respect the wisdom of the ages, and have a place to experience them, then we really can be the change.

Thank you, Karma Kitchen.


--Nancy on Dec 23, 2011

Restaurant Owner's KK Moment

Last month, a few Karma Kitchen volunteers and I were casually talking to the restaurant owner, Rajen Thapa. He remarks, "I've noticed that Karma Kitchen really changes people, even the creme of the crop at UC Berkeley." We start talking about the vast ripple effect of Karma Kitchen in the local community, and then he adds one of his own. 

"Okay, true story. Friday is our busiest night at the restaurant. Last Friday, in the peak of the traffic, our whole computer system crashed. Just like that. The staff panicked. Remembering our four years of Karma Kitchen, I made an announcement: 'Friends, our systems have crashed, we don't know what you've ordered and we can't accept any credit cards. So [raising his hands] you don't have to pay anything. If you have cash, great. Otherwise, please enjoy the meal." People ate, people honored the trust, and people gave. When one guy says, "I'll go back to the ATM and come back. You can keep my iPhone till I return," Rajen responds: "No, no. Just keep your iPhone. We trust you. If you want, come back tomorrow and pay. Or the next week." As he's describing the story, there's a big smile on his face -- which is exactly the reward for such actions.

It turned out that trusting the generosity of others was even more profitable than his other nights. Go figure. :)

--Maitre-D :) on Dec 16, 2011

Human-to-Human Conversation

Early in the day, during my volunteer shift at Karma Kitchen, an elder woman came in -- she might have been the first guest -- and was seated in the far corner. After her server had greeted her and given her water and a mango lassi, I tagged her with a handmade smile button. 

She hadn't smiled much, but she did smile for a second when seeing the button. I asked if she'd like me to pin it on her lapel and she said no, that she would "fix" it when she got home. I visited her two other times -- she was there for quite a long time, perhaps 1 1/2 hours. 

On my third visit, I asked her if she knew that the theme of the day was Smile. She said she didn't smile much ... that smiles needed to be genuine. Thus began a conversation that roved around from authentic smiles to the politics of the day. I listened a lot but I also engaged in conversation. I especially did not try to get her to smile. I let her be herself. We talked for a fairly long time, then I had to get back to work. The restaurant was busy. 

A little later in the day, I had a similar experience with a man.  During check in, I commented that I had engaged with two people who dined alone and seemed to be in a dark place. 

In both cases I felt we'd connected and had a real human-to-human conversation. The volunteer sitting next to me asked if one of them was the white-haired lady in the corner. I said yes and she said that the woman never talks to anyone. 

Later, as we were readying to leave, the volunteer who was the server for that woman gave me a "You Are Loved" card and said that the white-haired woman, on her way out of the restaurant, asked her to give it to me.

--Marianna on Dec 12, 2011

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