Nipun Mehta’s profile of Pancho Ramos Stierle, veteran of Occupy Oakland, former PhD student at University of California-Berkeley, disciple of Gandhi and member of Casa de Paz (House of Peace). Pancho focuses his practice on “meditation and small acts of kindness.”

More on Pancho can be found at Democracy Now and YES! Magazine.


Pancho’s Acts of Kindness

In a completely unrehearsed move of raw compassion, Pancho, with all the love in his heart, looks directly into the police officer’s eyes, and says, “Brother, I forgive you. I am not doing this for me, I am not doing this for you. I am doing it for your children and the children of your children.” The overflowing love coming from the heart of this man on a nine-day fast is unmistakable. This is not the kind of encounter that police are trained in. Seeing his confusion, Pancho steps up his empathy and changes the topic. Looking at the last name on his badge, he asks for the officer’s first name. And addressing him as a family member, he says, “Brother, let me guess, you must like Mexican food.” [Awkward pause.] “Yes.” “Well, I know this place in San Francisco that has the best carnitas and fajitas and quesadillas, and I tell you what, when I get done with this and you get done with this, I’d like to break my fast with you. What do you say?”

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One time, a mildly drunk man with bloodshot eyes is roaming the park with his girlfriend. Initially, they smirk and make snide remarks but then as they approach Pancho and his two housemates sitting in crossed legged meditation, Pancho opens his eyes with a loving embrace. As Pancho reaches to grab something from his bag, the man instinctively reached for something (possibly a gun) in his pocket. “Brother, here’s a fresh, local, organic strawberry for you,” Pancho said while holding up the edible, red-colored gift from Nature.

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As Pancho is shackled up in solitary confinement, he creates a makeshift cushion with his shoes and starts meditating. The guards themselves start taking photos to post on their Facebook walls! Moved by his equipoise under conditions of extreme stress, some guards even inquire about the specifics of meditation. One of them befriends him and gifts him an extra “package” — a toothbrush, a toothpaste, a piece of paper and a pen. Pancho then cleans up his cell of all the litter, toilet paper and other waste; on the piece of paper he writes, “Smile. You’ve just been tagged with an anonymous act of kindness!”, and leaves that extra toothpaste and toothbrush next to it. “I wanted to beautify the cell for the next person after me,” he would later say.