A few years ago I had the good fortune to work with some amazing folks in Japan. We took a train from the hustle & bustle of Tokyo to a very quaint little city nestled in the mountains. When we arrived two hours later in Nara, Japan, the sun was just beginning to set behind the hills and sweet fluffy snowflakes began drifting down from a patched grey sky. Later we would meet the deer herd who famously walk about the town in the public parks next to a popular temple. These semi-domesticated deer would saunder right up to you and boldly declare their need for some snacks. Then they would eat the pellets from your hand, huff when they were finished and move on to the next tourist. The way these deer had been woven into the community fabric in Nara was really fascinating.
We traveled to Nara to visit a cultural arts center embedded into the forest above the city. Nestled on a little cliff with a great view of the temple, was TanPoPo No Ye. A center where folks with disabilities and professional artists would gather to develop series of retail items to include hand made fabrics and clothing that we weaved on site, one of a kind pottery, paintings and sculptures. A large variety of artistic mediums were taught at TanPoPo No Ye, and they were famous for their exquisite gallery installations.
This funny sounding phrase, TanPoPo No Ye means one little tiny seed in a dandelion that goes off, far from it’s sister and brother seeds, to travel to a new land, make roots and begin a life of “good”. Words and short phrases in the Japanese language often have larger, more global meanings, and there is no direct translation to English.
To me this unique experience of immersing myself for a few days in a community that lived in such symbiosis with nature, wisdom, truth and altruism, created a lasting effect. I sometimes see myself as that dandelion seed, going out into the world, often a scary and intimidating world, to see what good I can contribute.
Last night at the Women in the World Summit in New York City, I was struck by the CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi’s claim to affect change, especially for a company that has experienced some remarkable challenges in the last 18 months. “Go to a place where you can make a difference, at a place that is making a difference in the world.” Of all the great tidbits of advice that were blurted out onstage at the opening night of the summit, this is the one that resonated with me the most. This affirmed my decision to work with the team at an international non profit entitled Karuna-Shechen, providing humanitarian support to people living in the Himalayas (more on this incredible organization in future big posts.)
Khosrowshahi’s words gifted me the idea to imagine if we were all tanpopo no ye’s for a time, drifting to the places where we can plant ourselves and do good.