Visit to Casa De Paz

7 Soulforce Fellows & 2 coaches had the privilege to visit Pancho Ramos Stierle at Casa de Paz in Oakland. What a wonderful visit it was!  

We arrived at Casa de Paz and began our work with Pancho by engaging in a 15-minute meditation.  There was a quiet strength and energy to our time together.   Pancho shared stories of what happened during the Occupy Oakland movement a few years ago, and that he left his house at 3 am to go and meditate when there were police trying to disrupt peaceful protestors who had set up tents in downtown Oakland.  Pancho's response to the violence was to meditate in the midst of this chaos, so he sat for 3 hours meditating as violence disrupted around him. With that radical act, he presented an image of love to the world, while also protesting what was happening around him.

Casa De Paz has a flag of the world billowing in several places around the house and gardens. There is a place upstairs to meditate and pictures of Gandhi throghout the house.  We talked about the idea of Satyagraha, and how on Sep 11th, 1906, Gandhi came up with the idea of "Love in action," as a method of peaceful, nonviolent active resistance to injustice.  At Casa De Paz, the doors are kept open in the community to send a message about where our security really comes from.  You can come into the house to meditate or to eat a meal.  He realized that community is fragmented in the Fruitvale where violence can be prevalent, so he leaves the doors open to invite people to talk to each other. There is a community garden where there used to be trash, and he gives away fruit to the community instead of having to rely on the liquor stores or fast food chain stories which are prevalent in the community.   He cites a funny story about how he tells the "homies" in his community that it's the "drive-thurs" not the "drive bys" that are killing us.    Pancho also talked to us about how we have 400 million subconsious cells in our brain, yet only 40 of those are processed, and so our most of actions and feelings are being triggered without our active awareness.  Like watching the water get clear when a rock is dropped, we have to to meditate to really understand what is happening with us.  When conflict comes our way and we have the choose to "fight or flight", that there is a 3rd way and that is to connect with what is happening with ourselves.  

Pancho heard about what the groups are working on, as well, and gave his feedback and thoughts to the group projects in place, and we were grateful to spend some time with him.  He encouraged us to speak up and get our voices heard.   He was excited that our groups are taking on such important work.

He's a real life example of Soulforce. We often used the phrase:"What would Pancho do?" during our Leadership Institute, and now we have a real picture of that. We are grateful and inspired!  

Part 2 of our field trip was visiting our friends Nipun Mehta and Sima Sanghvi at Karma Kitchen!  More on that next time!