“I want to know what everyone’s favorite movie is,” James West, our Director of Programs, said during lunch on the first day of our recent three-day retreat to Banyan Grove, a Service Space-managed center dedicated to cultivating inner transformation and compassion in Forest Knolls, CA.

As a 100% remote organization—with team members hailing from Mexico to Milan—this inquiry proved particularly apropos. Without a water cooler at which to stand around and chat, we simply don’t know many basic things about one another.

While dining on beautiful vegan meals, we agreed enthusiastically about the movies that made the top of our lists and laughed with surprise at others. We talked about our Enneagram and Myers-Briggs designations and reveled in both our commonalities and differences.

We also discussed more difficult topics like the sadness and distress that proliferates in the media. We talked about the reality of this harsh world. Despite its harshness, however, we acknowledged always our belief that change is possible through individual empowerment and group hope. This led us to ask perhaps the most profound, yet simple, question of the retreat: “What is our why?”

The TPP Team taking it step-by-step at Banyan Grove.

A group of ten or so team members gathered in the Zendo (the mediation hall) to ponder this question, and we found we had a lot to say:

“My ‘why’ is my belief in the power of individuals to change the world.”
“My ‘why’ is my belief that one action can build a movement.”
“My ‘why’ is my belief in our human-to-human opportunity to uplift people.”
“My ‘why’ is my belief that everyone has the potential to be a changemaker.”

Hugs in the Redwoods with Peter and Selene

We continued by discussing in depth the philosophical underpinnings that make TPP unique, like our pledge to uplift individual action by donating $1,000 a day to persons devoted to improving their parts of the world, our willingness to participate in almost every issue, our fostering of relationships and collaboration, and our unwavering dedication to inner transformation. We saw where we had a meeting of the minds and where we did not. We acknowledged our imperfections and cherished each other for them.

On the last day of the retreat, we ended by participating in a service project, and then said our good-byes. With heart-felt hugs, we expressed our feelings of gratitude for each other, for the experience, and for the people who make our work possible. True, we left with a good idea of each other’s favorite movies and a handful of inside jokes that will last us until next year’s retreat. Most important, though, we learned about our “whys”—and found strength in each other’s stories to fuel us for the life- and world-changing work that lies ahead for us all.

We all had such great fun learning about one another!

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