Awakin Calls are weekly conversations that share insights and inspiration from various corners of the ServiceSpace ecosystem.
Fabiana Fondevila -- Embodied Spirituality & The Many Flavors of Wonder
Fabiana Fondevila is an Argentinian writer, speaker, teacher, ritual maker and all-around wonder activist whose discovery of unknown weeds in the garden led her to uncover practices for disentangling weeds of darkness in her heart.
She began her career as a journalist, working for the main newspapers and magazines in her native country. After spending years covering foreign news, and serving briefly as a war correspondent, she slowly began to turn around and return to the spiritual questions and pursuits that had moved her as a child, despite having grown up in what she calls a “militantly atheistic” household.
She spent years interviewing some of the world's top thinkers, mystics, scientists and philosophers, and explored the wisdom traditions, in search of a map that could help her find spiritual direction outside the bounds of religious dogma and beliefs. And then, life transpired: her older sister took her own life, after a lifetime of mental illness, and Fabiana’s parents died shortly before and after, undone by the pain of their daughter’s unraveling.
This led Fabiana deeper into the path. But this time, no books or schools or lineages seemed potent enough to shine a light in the darkness. She left her search aside, her heart a knot of unanswered questions.
One day, as if by chance, she stumbled upon some weeds in her garden that she did not know, and decided to look them up. This steered her to a treasure trove of ancient plant wisdom that captivated her, echoing a thirst she vaguely recalled from childhood. Weeds led to trees, trees to birds, birds to clouds, and through this muddy, verdant trail she found her way back to herself. In communing with the natural world (even with the scarce bits of wildness that could be found in a city) she discovered an infinite reservoir of awe and vitality that has fed her soul every day since.
In her book Where Wonder Lives, to be published by Inner Traditions/Findhorn Press in January, she lays out a fictional map of nine territories that have given humans rest, renewal and a window into mystery since time immemorial. The first one is called “The Jungle,” and highlights her incursions into the more-than-human world.
In her seminars and workshops, Fabiana explores myths and archetypes, ritual and ceremony, dream interpretation, shadow work and self-transformation, and what she likes to call "essential emotions" – love, hope, awe, gratitude, compassion, forgiveness – that she considers our hearts’ native language. Her focus is on an embodied spirituality that does not shun the material plane nor bypass the more somber aspects of existence.
She also writes poetry and fiction. Her Young Adult novel Ana despierta won second prize in the Sigmar Literary Contest in 2018. She created the antidiscrimination campaign #Ver para crecer (Spanish for "To see is to grow", a play on the expression "Ver para creer": To see is to believe). Since the beginning of the pandemic, she has been giving free weekly talks on Sundays at 11 (Argentine time), on the many ways to turn this crisis into an opportunity.
Her ultimate mission is to help foster a more loving world, inspired by a sense of everyday, life-worshiping wonder, and to interweave our inner and outer work, so that the riches within and without cross-pollinate, grow new buds and bloom.
Join us in conversation with this awe-inspiring and wonder-full writer.
Matthew Fox -- Fidelity vs Faith: Bowing to the Heart Over Authority
“Our self-expression is meant to be the manifestation of the silence of our hearts.”
Matthew Fox is a pioneering spiritual theologian, author, and perhaps the only man alive who has had this theology systematically singled out and denounced by two successive Popes, only to see a third Pope incorporate it into Church doctrine. His courageous stance on issues like the sacredness of our relationship to the environment, the divine feminine, gay rights, and other controversial issues have sparked a spiritual revolution in the United States and around the world.
Fox is the leading exponent of Creation Spirituality, a more expansive and inclusive perspective on Christian doctrine that brings it closer to the mystical foundations underpinning all religious traditions, and which traces its inspiration back to Catholic visionaries like St Francis of Assisi and Meister Eckhart. His forthcoming book, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic--and Beyond, is about a medieval mystic woman who lived through the plague of the Black Death, and draws out insights and principles relevant to our modern COVID-19 era. "A theologian way ahead of her time," he writes, "Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness."
While Matthew’s life has been full of innovation in work, worship, and education, his heart has been anchored firmly in fidelity to service and reconnection, even in the face of opposition and resistance from prevailing Church dogma. Along the journey, he’s been consistently regarded as one of the most spiritually influential living people, and received numerous awards and accolades, including the Abbey Courage of Conscience Peace Award, whose other recipients include Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa, and The Dalai Lama.
Matthew began his religious training in the Catholic Dominican Order pursuing a Doctorate of Spiritual Theology in Paris at the suggestion of Thomas Merton, the groundbreaking Trappist monk known for his extensive interfaith studies and explorations of mysticism across traditions. This openness to a diversity of views and emphasis on direct experience perhaps set the stage for the first conflicts with the Catholic Church, when Fox later taught a holistic pedagogy in collaboration with a feminist theologian, a Jungian psychologist, and a physicist.
Some time later, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (future Pope Benedict XVI) had Fox’s work and writings investigated for heresy -- an investigation that turned up empty after examination by a team of Dominican theologians. When Fox questioned the doctrine of “original sin”, Ratzinger banned Fox from teaching for a year. When Fox failed to condemn homosexuality, embraced feminist theology, and worked “too closely” with Native Americans, the conflict culminated in his expulsion from the Dominican order for “disobedience” several years later.
Matthew was received into the Episcopal Church where his innovative outreach and instincts for interconnectedness drew inspiration from rave parties as a vehicle to bring liturgy and church worship back into the lives of young people. He created a series of “Cosmic Masses” where he consciously reinvigorated Western ritual through ecstatic and visceral celebration over music and pre-modern dancing. These worship parties continue to this day and have been held in well over a hundred venues, including the Parliament of World Religions, and touched tens of thousands of participants through a spectrum of themes, including “The Black Diaspora”, “Rumi and Sufi Wisdom”, and “Economic Justice” among many others.
One of his greatest contributions has been to clarify and amplify the principles of Creation Spirituality, a paradigm shift brought out in his book Original Blessing that upgrades and reformulates prevailing dogma with broad, positive, and
Joan Blades -- Moving On Post-Election?: Transforming Civic Discourse One Living Room at a Time
Joan Blades is an “accidental activist” at the forefront of movements that have shaped American culture and politics. A deep believer in the value of grassroots engagement, Blades through her various endeavors has experientially acted upon an insight about the power of ordinary people driving change – an insight that later was articulated as the 3.5% Rule by Harvard political scientist Erika Chenoweth: 3.5% of the population actively participating in social movements can impact serious political change.
Blades in her latest endeavor, Living Room Conversations, seeks to help rebuild respectful civil discourse across ideological, cultural and party lines in a grassroots way – in ordinary living rooms. An open source effort, Living Room Conversations offers an intimate structured conversation format to citizens as a powerful tool to rebuild respectful relationships and identify common ground. Living Room Conversations can take place in person or online with six simple, self-facilitated hosting best practices. “This is a deep listening practice; it's never a debate,” Joan said in a 2017 TED talk. “And that's incredibly powerful. These conversations in our own living rooms with people who have different viewpoints are an incredible adventure. We rediscover that we can respect and even love people that are different from us.”
Joan has had a prolonged look at the dysfunction of partisan behaviors, as well as at the good will, intelligence and power of ordinary citizens. After growing up in Berkeley, CA, during the civil rights era and being active in the women’s rights movement, Blades pursued law and became an expert mediator – helping women to mediate their own divorces rather than litigating – and then achieved entrepreneurial success with her husband as a co-founder of Berkeley Systems, a tech company best known for the Flying Toaster screen saver "After Dark" and the game "You Don't Know Jack."
But in 1998, her life took an unexpected twist. She and her husband grew weary of the political gridlock surrounding the impeachment hearings of President Bill Clinton. So they created a simple online petition: “Censure President Clinton and move on to pressing issues facing the nation.” Within days, this homegrown petition sent to friends had amassed hundreds of thousands of signatures from across the political divide. This was the first time in history that an online petition helped transform the national conversation. And cyberspace mobilization was officially born, with Joan dubbed its “mother” as she was named 2003 Woman of the Year by Ms Magazine. MoveOn.org, which Joan then co-founded, has since grown to 3.3M+ members participating in progressive grassroots advocacy.
After MoveOn.org, on Mother’s Day 2006, Blades co-founded MomsRising, a virtual organization advocating for the needs of mothers and families from environmental pollutants to healthcare to wages. Because everyone has a mother, the organization sees its work as lifting up entire families through this critical point of entry and focus.
Blades is the co-author of two award-winning books, The Motherhood Manifesto and The Custom-Fit Workplace. She is currently launching a new initiative called MisMatch, a program to convene middle and high school students across the country for powerful conversations.
“When we care about each other,” says Blades, “we find ways to meet each other’s core needs regardless of our beliefs.”
Please join Aryae Coopersmith and Janessa Gans Wilder in a timely conversation with this optimistic change- and peace-maker, a true believer in the power of citizens to transform our national civic discourse.
Meenakshi Gupta and Anshu Gupta -- Give, Receive and Dance
Join us on this heartful conversation with these 2 incredibly inspiring icons as we explore their inner journeys along with some stories and insights from their incredible work at Goonj.
Goonj’s work over last 2 decades has been instrumental in strengthening the culture of giving in urban India and increasing sensitivity towards the dignity of the receiver, and to honor the collective intelligence already present in rural communities. Further, at every disaster - like floods, or the pandemic, or the daily disasters like poverty, through the length and breadth of India, one can see spirited Goonj team, serving our sisters and brothers in need.
What started as an expression of the “still small voice” within them by giving away 67 of their own clothes, has become an idea, a movement in no time, today enabling 5,000 tonnes of material to be shared annually. Goonj has been torchbearer in highlighting clothing as a basic unaddressed need that deserved a place on the development agenda, and repositioned discard of urban households, as a development resource for villages. As Goonj has blazed the trail from discard to dignity, for a trash based (not cash based) circular economy. Born in the same year as their daughter Urvi, Goonj has been their child, as well as their parent.
Anshu Gupta - The eldest child in a middle-class family from Dehradun, a road accident in his teens rendered bed-ridden – botched healthcare because his father refused to pay a bribe. But the yearlong confinement in bed served as a period for introspection. To this, were added the seeds of service when he travelled to Uttarkashi in 1991 for post-earthquake relief efforts. Later, at Goonj, an organization he founded that redistributes over 3500 tonnes of used clothes annually, this first hand experience of rural India helped him structure imaginative solutions with urban surplus, to some basic needs that were outside the radar of civil society. Anshu Gupta, India’s Clothing Man, embodies an instinctive empathy and connect with people, moving the focus from the conventional – giver’s pride to the unconventional – receiver’s dignity. The Ramon Magsaysay award 2015, conferred to him credited him for “his creative vision in transforming the culture of giving in India, his enterprising leadership in treating cloth as a sustainable development resource for the poor, and in reminding the world that true giving always respects and preserves human dignity.” Anshu’s vision for Goonj extends beyond its organizational structure : “Goonj doesn’t want to grow only as an organization; it wants to grow as an idea.”
Meenakshi Gupta- A Commerce Graduate with an advanced degree in Advertising, Meenakshi largely remained the behind the scenes worker in the initial years of Goonj. In 2005 she joined the work full time, ending her 15 years corporate career, also ending 8-year stint as News Publicity Head at BBC South Asia. Often called the backbone of organization, Meenakshi serves the movement in multiple ways - right from anchoring the group in the foundational values, to giving voice to unheard communities like women including menstrual hygiene issues, it communications strategy, co-authoring 100 Stories of Change. Widely travelled and a trained Dance Movement Facilitator, Meenakshi values her time with people in the deep interiors of India as her biggest learning.
In this inspiring poem, they share their wisdom as they co-created their lives’ paths, and in turn, it shaped them.
अगर चल सकते हो अनथक,
और छाव का इंतज़ार नहीं है
तो यह जगह तुम्हारी है ...
अगर भरोसा है खुद पर,
और अविश्वास नहीं है जग पर
तो यह जगह तुम्हा
Rebecca Henderson -- Reimagining Capitalism and Business as Usual in a World on Fire
It’s not often one finds within the halls of Harvard Business School warnings that capitalism is on the verge of destroying the planet and destabilizing society. Yet Dr. Rebecca Henderson, one of only 25 University Professors at Harvard University, with a joint appointment at the Harvard Business School, is doing just that. Though she says she “learned early and often that achieving professional success was about mastering the numbers and playing the game,” she is now urging business leaders, her colleagues and her students to reimagine that game.
For the first 15 years of her career, especially as one of the rare early female tenured faculty in her department, Rebecca learned the lesson that she says every successful manager has learned: don’t “do” enthusiasm—or ethics or emotion—at work. Do expertise. In other words, leave your politics and passions outside of work. “To be a businessperson is, by definition, to climb into a box whose walls are defined by the bottom line,” she says. “Only those who can reliably deliver profits are likely to survive in today’s ruthlessly competitive world.”
But two key realizations helped her begin to climb out of the box. First, a movie changed her life. In 2006, she saw “An Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore. The film shocked her out of the comfortable assumption that someone else would take care of things. “I sent an email to everyone on my contact list telling them that they had to see it and began teaching a course on sustainable business.”
Second, about ten years ago Rebecca came home to find her husband on the floor. He was a famed astrophysicist at Harvard who had risen from the “wrong side of the tracks” in New Jersey to become one of the world’s greatest astronomers. She thought at first that he was playing with the cats. But soon she realized he had passed at age 61 from a massive heart attack. Blindsided by the loss, she learned to pay attention to the amazingness of life.
I learned what I had known intellectually for a long time. I’m a Buddhist and the Buddhists say there are good news and bad news. The good news is that you’re not going to die. The bad news is it’s because you don’t really exist. I really believe that. We are balls of electrons, collections of energy moving through the world and we dissipate and that’s ok...but while we are here, we should do everything that we can. The boundary between us and the rest of the world is so fluid. So I think of myself as a song the universe is singing. So when people say, “How do you do this work? How do you keep optimistic? How do you keep hopeful?” I say, “Well look, the world is on fire. What else are we going to do with our time? What are we going to do with our time?” We have to address the problems that we face. That’s what gets me out of bed each morning.
At Harvard Business School, she turned her course on sustainability into a broader examination of “Reimagining Capitalism: Business & the Big Problems”, which grew from 28 students to over 300 -- and which has become the basis for her recent acclaimed book, Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire (Hachette/Public Affairs, April 2020).
While Rebecca recognizes that the world is “radically out of balance,” she believes capitalism can help bring it in balance and be a force for good if only we can reimagine how it operates. “Free market capitalism is the greatest source of prosperity the world has ever seen, but capitalism is on the verge of destroying the planet and destabilizing society,” she says. “The good news is we have both the resources and the technology to build a just and sustainable world – and purpose-driven businesses could be the critical catalyst that drives the kinds of global, systemic changes we need to reimagine capitalism in a way that works fo
Mohammad Modarres -- Abe's Eats: Building a Longer Table
Whether he’s founding a biotech business, drawing political cartoons, or strategizing for nonprofits, Mohammad Modarres is bringing people together in common endeavors and enterprises to create a more inclusive and equitable society. One of his latest ventures is the first-ever “Interfaith Meat.” It’s Halal, Kosher, and as a bonus, sustainably sourced.
The seeds for Interfaith Meat were planted in 2001, when his family moved to Chelsea Street in a suburb of New Jersey. In the house to the left lived a Chinese pastor. To the right, secular Jews. Across the street, an Orthodox rabbi. Next door, Sunni Muslim doctors. “We would exchange holiday cards,” Modarres recalls. “And we would make home-cooked meals for each other during Ramadan.”
Then came 9/11. Mohammad’s family was assaulted in public spaces by anti-Muslim bigotry, from physical attacks to forced removal of his sister’s hijab. Still, at home on Chelsea Street, his neighbors continued to offer support and kindness to each other. In Modarres’s words: “It gave us hope that this type of exchange not only could happen, but would need to happen for people to see the type of world that you want to live in.”
Fast forward to 2016 when, after the US elections, bigotry erupted again. Anti-Muslim hate crimes rose 91%, and anti-Semitic hate crimes, 57%. Modarres responded by holding his first “Shabbat Salaam” dinner to convene Muslim and Jewish friends, not just to eat side-by-side, but to share the same meal. The two-in-one Interfaith Meat that honored both religious laws has since evolved into Abe’s Eats, a company whose mission is to use well-sourced foods as a medium to foster cultural understanding between communities.
Modarres’s work usually starts with incubating an idea and starting small. He has participated in the TED Residency program; mentored and coached student founders at several universities; founded Interfaith Ventures, a nonprofit organization that promotes religious unity and dialogue through inclusive events; worked with food experts and religious leaders on regenerative agriculture, the importance of buying local and supporting small farms; and most recently, created a Jewish-Muslim comedy show series called “Cut the Beef!”
His varied passions share a common thread of being about “first and foremost creating a society that’s built on truth.” He sees us all as neighbors. So his goal is simply “to build a longer table, not a taller fence.”
Please join interfaith leaders Aryae Coopersmith and Sally Mahe in conversation with this dynamic social entrepreneur and interfaith bridge builder.
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