Speaking at the Sounds True Wake Up Festival (Photos)
Effortlessness and things "just happening," leading to incredible results, is a consistent theme here on the Smile Blog.
Speaking to an audience of 1,000 people on Day 5 of the Sounds True Wake Up Festival right before bestselling author and one of the original western Buddhist teachers, Jack Kornfield PhD, is yet another instance of this kind of magic.
It started in July, waking up one morning at the leprosy community in India to an unexpected email from Tami Simon, founder of the spiritual publishing platform Sounds True, inviting me to speak at her upcoming and newly founded Wake Up Festival—a 5-day immersive conference designed to help people "wake up" to lives of greater authenticity and meaning.
Never heard of Tami before, never heard of Sounds True. But I should have, as she was one of the first — if not the first — person to professionally package and disseminate the work of spiritual authors and leaders in audio format.
She started in 1985, way before yoga, meditation, and conscious living were mainstream and has since worked with and helped popularize such luminaries as Jack Kornfield PhD, Thich Nhat Hanh, Carolyn Myss, Adyashanti, Mark Nepo, and Dr. Andrew Weil. Her company has grown over the years to employ over 80 people and there are now some 1500 titles available through the Sounds True website.
I was connected to Tami through Ali Smith, who you may remember from the Holistic Life Foundation in Baltimore, if you've been reading here. I met Ali a year ago on the Effort Less tour, when I gave a presentation at the mindfulness-based after school program he facilitates with his two partners, for so called at-risk youth in Baltimore's inner city.
Tami was looking for a non-profit organization to align the 2013 Wake Up Festival with, as she did the year before with Ali and Holistic Life. As my luck would have it, Ali enthusiastically recommended me (though Living Smile is not a formally incorporated non-profit but operates as one*) and after reviewing my work online, Tami asked if I would be interested in speaking at the festival where I would be highlighted as their non-profit partner. Even though I was 12,000 mi. away, I enthusiastically agreed because I knew this was an opportunity I couldn't miss.
(It also opened up the possibility to finally set a date with my friend, Jason, to conduct a fundraiser in NYC for the Malezi Centre, whose fundraising goal I am trying to meet by the end of the year.)
Speaking to 1,000 People
I was given a prime time speaking slot. 20 minutes on the last day of the festival, right before the final keynote presentation by renowned Buddhist teacher and bestselling author, Jack Kornfield. 1,000 people were estimated to be in attendance.
After a warm introduction by Tami who I presented with a charkha from the Gandhi Ashram, I took the stage and highlighted the "what and where" of my work since 2009. The orphan genocide survivors in Rwanda. The leprosy community in India. The Kitui Ndogo slum in Kenya.
After, I explained the why of this work and how I view service as a way of life and process of ego elimination, and I made a few references to the effortless magic — especially where material sustenance is concerned — that tends to result from this path.
It was some experience for me. I've never presented to such a large audience before or on such a professional stage with cameras filming. It's all a bit of a blur but I remember being so relieved when the talk was over and receiving a standing ovation, as I ended by saying, "When you take one step towards your dream, it takes ten towards you."
Stepping off the stage, both Jack Kornfield and Anne Lamott, whom I was seated next to, gave me a big hug, and Anne even donated to the Malezi Centre!
Thank you Tami and thank you Ali for helping to etch into memory an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. I hope I properly represented your trust and belief in me.
* Living Smile is not an incorporated non-profit organization. However, I am partnered with a non-profit organization, which acts as a fiscal agent by processing Living Smile donations. Given the size of my activities, it hasn't made sense to formally structure Living Smile. Anywhere between 95-100% (i.e., the overwhelming majority) of the donations I receive, flow directly to the various projects I am involved with. The remainder supports my minimal personal living expenses while traveling.