Last weekend, I organised our second Happier World Conference together with my friend Chi and a bunch of really kind and positive volunteers.
Service: Giving is Receiving
The event was a not-for-profit and we did our best to organise the systems to encourage kindness and generosity.
So, I volunteered my time to organise the event, and we didn’t hire any staff. Instead, we asked our community for help - and help they did! One volunteer gifted her time for months to help run our social media account. Another volunteer insisted on cooking all the vegan food for our speakers. My friend Chi volunteered many hours of her time to help communicate and manage the volunteers, order posters and more. A photographer gifted her time and worked tirelessly for the two days, not only taking photos but also editing, selecting the best ones and uploading them. Another one of our long-term volunteer film-makers offered his equipment and time over not just the two days, but beyond, to help create a short film of the event.
This year we also decided to experiment with over half the tickets on a donation or ‘pay-it-forward’ basis. This means for those who have the means and courage to do so, can pay for more than the standard ticket price. Others can donate less or whatever they wish. In this way, we had some people who could only afford £3 to attend an event that cost around £100 per person to organise. And others donated twice the standard ticket price to create a space for others to attend. And we did it! We managed to make the event more accessible to more people through the generosity of others. The room was filled with people on both low income and high income - maybe even millionaires. But it didn’t matter. We were all together to explore how we can be the change, and transform ourselves to enable transformation in the world.
Even our community cafe was a pay it forward experience. Someone had anonymously paid for the cakes and tea and coffee. Each person was gifted their snacks and drinks and their bill was zero. They were then invited to pay it forward for the person behind them.
Why did we bother organising all these gifted tickets, donation tickets and running things with volunteers? Because we know that happiness comes from giving, not just receiving. When you give of your time, when you’re generous, you’re going beyond the boundaries of me. And with that shift from me to we, you open up the field of infinite possibilities. Your heart opens and your spirit sings. Think back to the last time someone gifted you their money, their time - beyond the call of duty. How did that make you feel? How do you think it made them feel?
Stillness: An Oasis for Wisdom
The other element of the event was stillness. This is where the mindfulness really comes in. Service, kindness and giving are wonderful, but they work well when you balance them with an inner journey. We sounded the bell at the start of the event, and before and after all breaks to invite everyone to sit in stillness together. The minute of silence gave time for people to turn inwards.
For me personally, the moments of silence gave me a time to rest my body and mind. The inner quiet also created greater space for wisdom. I was better able to see the attendees and shift my being from go, go, go to slow, slow, slow. :)
With stillness comes a greater clarity about what’s happening. With clarity comes insight. And from those insights, you grow in wisdom and compassion. Stillness is a key part of the happiness mix!
A happier world is a world with more opportunities to serve and be still. Service means to be generous, to give with an open heart. And stillness means to look inwards to your inner landscape of thoughts, feelings and beyond.
Together, stillness and service are the wings upon which the human spirit can soar to new heights of possibilities.
As my teacher, friend and speaker at our conference, Nipun Mehta said:
Meditation is inner service and outer service is meditation
So I invite you to take the step to take some moments to be still today and help someone out in a mindful way - who knows how far that ripple of goodness with spread. Start small, as small is the most beautiful.
The possibility is a happier, kinder world for us all to live in.
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