In 2013, Jason Patrick, who is affectionately known by many as Bearded Yogi, held a birthday party that doubled as a fundraiser for God's Love We Deliver, an organization that cooks and delivers meals to over 5,000 people each year in the New York City metropolitan area who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves.
A year later, Patrick's birthday party morphed into a full-on celebrity-studded event called Big Love Weekend dedicated to help raise awareness and funds for God's Love We Deliver. For 2015, the yoga teacher, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2011 and, according to a press release, "became involved with God’s Love We Deliver after becoming a witness to those that were homebound and too sick to feed themselves," is aiming even higher.
(Photo above: Jason Patrick with Parker Posey at the 2014 Big Love Weekend)
We caught up with Patrick to learn more about The Big Love Weekend and his work with God's Love We Deliver. For more info about how you can be part of the fun (and help a very worthy cause), scroll to the end of this article.
The Huffington Post: What inspired you to create Big Love Weekend?
Jason Patrick: Big Love Weekend came from a place of wanting to be of service - wanting to give back to my community. It is the path of yoga I teach -- Karma Yoga -- which is centered around selfless service. I wanted to help share that with the larger community: my students, fellow New Yorkers, and the world.
The Big Love movement really started as a way to express my gratitude for all the people and support systems that helped me when I needed it the most. Part of my story was learning to accept HIV. A few years ago, I was diagnosed as HIV-positive. I was very ill, living abroad -- and so I was not really equipped to deal with the virus on a lot of levels. I had to move back to the U.S. to take care of my health. I had to be humble and ask for help -- for, really, the first time in my life.
Back in NYC, I got a lot of assistance from my community of friends. Being a gay man, I was very fortunate to have support in the LBGT community -- from Callen Lorde to The Center. I learned to accept my disease and to be cared for in the process.
My experience sparked a desire to give back and I really didn't have to look far. I had a personal relationship with God's Love We Deliver and I had seen the organization in action. It was a pioneer in helping my community of friends who were dying of AIDS in the 80's. I saw the organization's bravery in delivering daily meals to those too ill to shop or cook. I saw fearless care -- at a time when panic and ignorance about the disease were common reactions to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S.
Since then, God's Love We Deliver has expanded from an HIV/AIDS initiative to feeding those living with other chronic illness, including diseases like cancer or MS. I wanted to be part of this organization -- to give back to a community that has always supported those living with HIV.
The initial way I supported God's Love We Deliver was to throw a bash to help raise funds -- around the time of my birthday. Since then, what is now known as Big Love Weekend has become a two-day affair with many players. February 28 this year will be a wellness day focused on meditation, yoga, and inspirational talks with people like Gabby Bernstein. March 1 will be the celebration bash with food, music, DJs, you name it! It will be a time to honor our ambassadors and encourage continued momentum for the movement.
What are you hoping for the Big Love Weekend participants to experience? To be inspired? Or to inform them more about God's Love We Deliver?
I really hope to encourage others to become ambassadors of God's Love We Deliver. There are many people in our community who are homebound -- too sick to even make it down their apartment stairs. And they need us. They need armies of us to prepare and deliver nutritious meals.
I also hope to strengthen a person's connection to his or her community, the philosophy of Karma Yoga. I hope this movement taps into and awakens a person's desire to be of service. We all have something to give.
Why is God's Love We Deliver an organization that you are so drawn to and that you support so often?
I saw God's Love We Deliver be fearless in its mission when my community was dying of HIV/AIDs three decades ago. In many ways, God's Love We Deliver was an inspiration for me to be fearless in accepting and managing my own illness today. God's Love We Deliver delivers 5,000 meals every single weekday. But the nutrition doesn't exist in its food alone; it also can be found in the visits, the smiles, the conversations, the hugs, and the hope. Why would anyone not want to be part of that?
The Big Love Weekend 2015 will consist of:
Wellness Day on Saturday, February 28 and the Birthday Bash and Dance Party on Sunday, March 1. The Wellness Day includes two yoga classes led by Elena Brower and Moda Yoga’s certified teachers, Dina Tsouluhas and Guillaue Brun; a puja ceremony guided by Priest Prakash Bhat; workouts from Kirk Myers Fitness, the trainers behind celebrity Hugh Jackman’s physique, and Patricia Moreno of Sati Life; a talk by spirituality guru Gabrielle Bernstein, and food and beverages lovingly donated by Untamed Sandwiches, Gingersnaps Organic, Health Warrior, Nibmor, La Colombe, Juice Generation and Balance Water.
Sunday’s big Birthday Bash will have food, talks, and live music and a DJ’ed dance party.
Registration is $216 for both days, and there are options to purchase a one-day Wellness Day pass for $108 or Birthday Bash for $108, as well as further ways to fundraise via Crowdrise.
For more details on the fundraiser, as well of the fundraisers already committed to raising funds for God’s Love We Deliver, head here.