Seva Cafe: love all, serve all

From YouTube:

Volunteer Anjali Desai explains the vision behind Seva Cafe, a pay-it-forward restaurant in Ahmedabad, India, where each patron makes a donation toward the next person’s meal. Devoted to the principle of “think globally, act locally,” Anjali describes how this communal experiment in giving reminds us that every individual act of goodwill resounds in the collective human consciousness.

I love this idea. “Think globally, act locally” has been my mantra for years and I think it’s a very easy thing to forget as we rush around in our crazy lives. It’s all about mindfulness, being in the present moment and knowing that our actions, however inconsequential, affect someone or something else. Interbeing, as Thich Nhat Hanh believes.

Would the world be in the shape that it’s in if we truly believed in a collective human consciousness? I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel a paradigm shift coming on.

feed the hungry, save the rainforest, buy books

If you look at the right sidebar you will see that I added four charity sites that make it extremely easy for you to donate on a daily basis, without spending a dime of your own money. How much easier could it be to think globally and act locally?

When you click the links, the charities work with their sponsors to buy books, donate cups of food, donate bowls of food for shelter animals, or donate money to preserve square footage of the rain forest.

In 2006 visitor clicks:

* funded over 29,000,000 bowls of food for shelter animals
* funded the preservation of 316,304,335 square feet of rainforest
* funded over 5,000,000 pounds of food for people
* funded over 300,000 books

Over 60% of the world’s illiterate are women. For over 800,000,000 people in the world, hunger is a daily reality. There are millions of unwanted animals in US shelters. Millions of acres of the rainforest, the lungs of Mother Earth, are endangered on a daily basis.

To all of you who regularly visit this blog, and even those of you who visit once and never come back, please take four seconds to click each link. Those of you who visit every day, please click each link every time you visit. And those of you with your own blogs, please go to the sites and get the code to add a widget. You’ll be accumulating positive merit for yourselves!

Think globally, act locally, we are One.

The Animal Rescue Site

The Hunger Site

The Literacy Site

The Rainforest Site

i’m not the only one

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that I try not to buy things made in China as a one-person protest of China’s occupation of Tibet. I’ve also written about Mindful Shopping (what a concept!) here and about how difficult it is to find things that are not made in China.

So it did my heart good today to read this story in the Chicago Tribune about another woman who tried to stop buying things made in China — for a different reason, but it is her protest just the same. I thought I was the only one who diligently read labels!

A family tries 12 months without ‘Made in China’

Strike China from the shopping list? Good luck. One experiment highlights how much U.S. consumers rely on those imports.

By Mary Ellen Podmolik | Special to the Tribune
August 19, 2007

Is it possible to live without Chinese-made goods?

That’s what Sara Bongiorni wanted to know, and after a year of a self-imposed embargo, she said she’s thankful her telephone didn’t break because she fears she might have broken down herself and bought a replacement made in China.

The Baton Rouge, La., mom and her family did make do, however, without a coffeepot, a blender, birthday candles and a lot of toys.

“We knew it would be difficult but until we did this, we really didn’t know how much we rely on imports for everyday things,” Bongiorni said….

The story gives tips on boycotting Chinese goods:

– Don’t expect friends and family to join in.

– Be prepared to go without convenience items, like an inexpensive coffeemaker.

– Get out your magnifying glass to look at tiny print on boxes and labels.

– When ordering from catalogs and Web sites, be prepared to make phone calls asking for the item’s country of origin.

– Dig deeper. Some toys from Danish firm Lego, for example, are made in China.

– Brush up on geography. You’ll have to decide whether Hong Kong and Macau are part of the boycott.

On the Students for a Free Tibet website it says that “in December 2002, a worldwide coalition of Tibetan and Chinese organizations and human rights and labor advocates launched an international Boycott Made in China campaign designed to level economic pressure on the Chinese government to end its occupation of Tibet. In a coordinated effort to urge people to stop buying goods made in China, activists throughout Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Europe and India, are educating consumers about what their money is supporting when they buy ‘Made in China.’

The Boycott Made in China campaign, representing a worldwide coalition of Tibetan and Chinese organizations and human rights and labour advocates, plans to put the brakes on China’s crimes through the power of the individual consumer. Campaign organizers believe that, more than any other force that could be bought to bear against China, the latent power of the free, informed and responsible consumer can pressure the world’s last surviving giant Communist dictatorship to allow the Tibetan nation and the Chinese people the freedom they have been long denied.”

Tucked away comfortably in our small towns or suburban subdivisions, ALL of us are a part of the bigger global picture. Our choices DO affect change, one person at a time.

Sorry if this sounds judgmental, but THINK, PEOPLE! Mindfulness is a life practice. Mindfulness is a choice. THINK about where your food comes from. THINK about where your clothes come from — are they made by companies in foreign sweatshops that employ child labor? The three biggest corporate villains for clothing are Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and Dilliards. THINK about whether the cosmetics you buy are tested on animals. The biggest corporate villains for cosmetics insofar as animal testing and using known carcinogens are Maybelline, L’Oreal, Almay, and Revlon.

Think outside the box. Think mindfulness. Be mindfulness. Be aware.


be part of the solution

I’m an old hippie who still believes that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. But here’s a book and a website that can help all of us be part of the solution.

From the Better World Shopper website:

“Globalization has brought wonderful products from around the world into our homes, but it has also allowed companies to exploit the resources, workers and us, their customers, to their benefit. One will spend less for such products and they will appear to be more convenient, but by acquiring such products these companies are also making us complicit in the devastation they bring to the environment and the additional suffering they cause to the animals and people used to make and sell their products. Would chocolate taste as sweet if you knew that the company that sold it employed children in sweatshop conditions and used unsustainable farming practices to produce it? The problem is that most consumers don’t know which companies do the right thing when it comes to environmental stewardship and other ethical practices and which ones just don’t care. If consumers had this type of information at their fingertips, most would forgo the small savings and modest conveniences and buy products that are better for the world and the beings that inhabit it….

Over seventy product types and the corporations that sell them are graded on human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement and social justice. For $10, this website sells a convenient pocket size book that makes it is easy to refer to as you shop ethically. An average American family spends $18,000 a year on goods and services. Make those dollars count by using them to teach corporations that being responsible to the world is being responsible to their bottom line….”

The website lists the 10 best and worst companies on the planet based on a comprehensive analysis of their overall records of social and environmental responsibility for the past 20 years:



If any of you have read my posts on the situation in Tibet (please read “News from Tibet” in the sidebar for the latest), you know that I try not to buy things that are made in China. That is very hard to do nowadays, but I’m wacky about reading the labels of everything I buy. Yoga peeps, look at the labels of your yoga clothes next time you reach for those funky yoga pants. Are they made utilizing child labor?

And let’s think about yoga mats: where are they made? As yogis, can we make better choices? Can we recycle those old mats that are made from non-biogradable materials or do we just throw them away to end up in a landfill somewhere, out of sight, out of mind? Yes, those eco-mats are more expensive, but in the long-run, which are a better choice? If my college students decide that yoga is not for them, I ask them to donate their mats and props to me for use at the domestic violence shelter where I teach. I tell them it is a better choice than the mats ending up in a landfill…or under their beds gathering dust!

I also refuse to support the Wal-Mart corporate culture. Some time ago I organized a citizens’ group to fight Wal-Mart to keep them from building next to a wetland/bird sanctuary, so I know first-hand how they play the game. They stop at nothing. We still got a Wal-Mart, but we “won” the fight: we saved 50% of the land, the developer moved the Wal-Mart across the road to “vacant” land (a farmer’s cornfield), and I worked with my town and the commercial developer to buffer the wetland from the strip mall that was eventually built through the use of native landscaping.

Don’t be part of the problem.
Be an educated consumer and shop mindfully (what a concept – mindful shopping!)
Engage in conscious choices.
Support your local farmer.
Eat organically.
Think globally, act locally.

These are not cliches. Change begins with each one of us. Be the change. And if the yoga peeps who read this blog could post about this book…cool. Spread the word…and spread love.


buying your way toward enlightenment

Isn’t this great? I can’t wait to get my new VISA card that has an AUM or Buddha’s face on it!

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I saw an ad for this I let out a groan. Using Buddha or the AUM symbol to market something that is the epitome of a capitalist society just rubs me the wrong way. Sort of like when I see the images of Hindu gods and goddesses on underwear or see a cocktail called the “Buddha Bomb” on a menu — a tad distasteful to me, but maybe I’m just overly sensitive to things like that.

While I commend VISA for the concept of the card holders’ points going toward socially conscious projects such as Youth Aids or Rainforest Action Netork, there is also something about using these images to promote accumulating more unnecessary junk in our lives that is disingenuous to me.

To me, yoga and the spiritual path are about downsizing. Ridding our lives of clutter, both physical and emotional, in order to strip us down to our bare essence, to our True Nature. I know for myself that the longer I walk along the yoga path, the less I “need”. I may want things — who wouldn’t want a pair of $90 yoga pants with handpainted chakra symbols flowing down the legs? — but more times than not I ask myself, yeah, but do I really need them?

I could charge my next yoga retreat with this credit card, but when it comes right down to it, I don’t need a credit card with an AUM symbol on it to remind me to think globally and act locally.

A few weeks ago I taught a yoga class as a benefit for a local domestic violence shelter. I had a donation box set out in the yoga studio where I teach for about two weeks before the fundraiser. I raised a lot money, but I found it amusing when a student wrote a check for $120 for a class pass, and then could not even put $1 into the donation box. That’s OK — maybe she was still paying off her credit card bill that included those chakra pants, with the matching $150 Swarovski crystal sacred energy Shakti necklace, and the $80 eco-yoga mat that she carried in the $200 real leather yoga mat bag. Later I saw the same student buying a $4 cup of coffee at the Starbucks down the street.

Hmmmm…I wonder if she used that AUM card to charge that latte?