Inspiration Information — Nipun Mehta

by aaron on August 15, 2010

“There’s this myth that you need to have things before you can give.  Service doesn’t start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take.” –Nipun Mehta

The world is an enormous place.  I realize this is a silly statement, that everyone knows how large-scale this pale blue dot truly is.  And yet (and this is an important YET), in the everyday tunnel vision of daily survival, where the world becomes reduced to a small bedroom, or the glass-metal capsule of your car commute, or the 4 slate walls of an office — I think we often forget  just how expansive and full-blown life actually is.

And then you turn on the television, you surf the internet, you step outside your apartment and it hits you square and hard — there are millions, no billions, of people moving, shifting, earning, spending, suffering, loving, fighting, living everywhere, all the time.  There are oil spills, earthquakes, pacific islands sinking into the sea, polar bears drowning, volcanoes exploding, children sick and starving.  And the realization expands to incomprehensible dimensions — the world is HUGE with huge terrifying problems.

And yet, (and this is the more important YET), the world is also overflowing with HUGE inspiration.  With big and small tidal waves of kindness, charity, the incomprehensible beauty of humanity flung wide-armed and unexpected, like a laughing child in your lap.  And all we have to do is expand our periphery a little, to step out the front door, roll down our windows, lean around those slate walls and look beyond the subjective lens of our individual existence.  Shift our vision so that the tunnel becomes a sweeping panorama.

So it is that the wisdom of Nipun Mehta found me, in of all places an outdoor rock jacuzzi overlooking the expanse of Hanelei Bay, Kauai, while lounging among the timeshare vacationing elite.  I was soaking in the boiling water, trying to unwind from a stressful day of writing deadlines (although to be fair, I was writing by a pool on Kauai, so stressful is extremely relative here), not wanting to talk or interact with anyone.  In fact, I was actively avoiding eye contact with the other jacuzzi guests, so locked into my own headspace.  When a voice skips across the surface of the pool: “you’ve been on that computer all day, you must be a writer.”

Now people are often relaxed on vacation.  Their everyday guards are down.  They are prone to random enthusiasm, effortless smiles and yes, in this case friendly conversation.   But David and Hi-Jin Hodge, the lovely couple who I ended up talking with for the next hour, did not strike me as temporary enthusiasts.  These were two incredibly gifted artists (check out their work here and here), with a passion for positivity and human connection that went beyond the casual confines of a hot tub.  We ended up having an amazing conversation about the human capacity for creating change, during the course of which they turned me on to a man they had just recently met in San francisco who had deeply inspired them.

That man was Nipun  Mehta.

Nipun was born in Ahmedabad, India in 1975.  At the age of twelve twelve, his family moved to Santa Clara, California in the heart of Silicon Valley.  By 17, Nipun was an overachiever in the most extreme sense of the word.  His first year of college he took on 65 units of credit, the equivalent of 3 years in one, all while playing competitive, pro-level tennis.  Shortly after he got a job during the dot.com boom at Sun Microsystems, where he quickly acquired a small fortune.  And then, over a gradual evolution of giving, Nipun gave up his job, his money and all his free time to become a full-time founder of the non-profit organization Charityfocus.

What started out with three friends as an experiment in pure gift has organically grown into an ever expanding web of volunteers ranging in the thousands, with over 4500 ngo websites built (free of charge), and offshoot branches of charity news in the forms of HelpOthers.org, DailyGood.org, KarmaTube.org, and KarmaKitchen.org —  Some of my favorite sources of inspiration of the web.

But it’s not just the work Nipun does that I find so uplifting, it’s the new paradigm of social service which he calls “the gift economy” that is a message I think everyone can benefit from embracing.  In his own words:

“Gift economy, in the sense we use it, is this idea that you give freely, without any strings attached. The person who receives it carries this gift forward. And over time, as enough people carry this forward, this sort of sacred reciprocity takes care of everyone’s needs. So what goes around eventually comes back around to me. It’s not that I give to this person and he’s going to do something back for me. There is just this trust. You give and make somebody’s day and they go out and do the same for somebody else and in your time of need, somebody will come and do this for you.”

One of the simplest examples of this ideology is the idea Nipun and some friends created for Smile Cards: which I will let him explain in the video below.

For their honeymoon, Nipun and his wife spent a year traveling through India by foot, living on only a dollar a day and relying on the karmic kindness of giving and receiving from strangers.  His stories from his travels (which you can read here) are all phenomenal and profound, and showcase how big the world is… but how much bigger is the circumference of the human heart.

My favorite part about Nipun Mehta is that he preaches “small things with great love”.  That individual acts of good fill up the vast reservoir of human kindness, one cup at a time.  Nipun Mehta has created an enormous wealth of inspiring outlets to plug into and get charged.  If ever you are lacking for inspiration or positive ideas, you need only click over to any of his charity sites and get involved.  Or look at his list of “random acts of kindness” and try to perform at least one a week.  Guarantee it will lift your spirit and break down those walls that keep us from seeing each other and the world in full.

In his own words: “Any time you practice the smallest act of service, even if it’s only holding a door for somebody, but with full heart— may I be of use to this person— that giving changes the deep habit of my mind from everything being mecentered. In that brief moment, there is this other-centeredness. That other-centeredness kind of relaxes the patterns of the ego. Over time, all of those small acts, those small moments, lead to a different state of being where, ultimately, presumably, it just becomes effortless.  It becomes who you are.”

Be the change you want to see in the world.  And the world will become you.  Big and full and bright.  As I learned in that jacuzzi, inspiration is everywhere.  We need only lift our gaze, widen our smile and open our minds to the panorama around us.

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