By Ariella Ruth Goldberg, MFA
Jesse Thompson (MA Contemplative Psychotherapy, 2003) is the epitome of a Naropa alum. He works as a clinical psychologist, a field that supports the well-being of others; while on the side he's an entrepreneur. Thompson is the founder of Mama's Fire Authentic Tibetan Hot Sauce, a business that he's endlessly passionate about, which also funds Sacred Works Projects, a nonprofit that is very close to his heart.
When Thompson was getting ready to graduate in 2003 with his Master of Arts in Contemplative Psychotherapy from Naropa, he became inspired by the teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and other teachers that were coming over from Tibet that he encountered during his time at Naropa. Around this time was when he had the desire to give back to the community, even though he learned from his peers that it is often difficult to receive funding for projects such as this, he decided to start the Sacred Works Project with a friend. "I learned to appreciate the importance of Loving Kindness while at Naropa University and my mission became to make a business entity which was based in bodhicitta Loving Kindness. This became the Sacred Works Project," Thompson said. He was inspired by the kindness he felt in the teachers he encountered at Naropa, and he was determined to put that kind of kindness into the world.
While still passionate about practicing Loving Kindness through the Sacred Works Project, Thompson also began working in psychology upon graduating from Naropa. As his day job, Thompson has worked as a clinical therapist for several years, and currently lives in Portland, Oregon. As a clinical therapist, he has mainly worked with patients who suffer from severe trauma, and dealing with that amount of trauma naturally came as a challenge. He felt it was important to meet everything in his life with Loving Kindness, which is a notion drawn directly from his time at Naropa. This positive act came in the form of really getting the Sacred Works Project off the ground. In order to do that, he needed to find funding.
"Mama's Fire was born as a cottage industry to support my love and my mission to financially back projects of Loving Kindness. I felt that if people could pay their bills doing sacred projects which brought about kindness, then they would do just that," Thompson said, proudly. This Tibetan hot sauce recipe came from a Buddhist teacher that Thompson studied with in Portland, Oregon, when he was searching for a good authentic Tibetan hot sauce recipe, which led to his business Mama's Fire Authentic Tibetan Hot Sauce. The sauce comes in a short jar, and is an oil-based sauce, which sets it apart from many others on the shelves. Because of its different appearance, sales weren't great at first, so Thompson focused on another spicy product.
In 2006, Thompson created the recipe for his barbeque sauce. Barbeque sauce was a whole new endeavor to him, and became his main focus for a while. Mama's Fire is completely supported by donations, which allows him to put his tasty products out into the world. Like any business, getting off the ground can be a struggle. One way of getting through difficult times for Thompson was to recite this mantra: Om Shari Bodhi Sagara Swaha which translates to: I offer you oceans of bodhi kindness so be it. "I was saying these mantras just to survive, to be honest," said Thompson, recounting the emotions of his day job, as well as the financial struggle to get Mama's Fire off the ground and into stores. The same mantra is said over the sauces that he makes before they are bottled. For Thompson, this is a way to infuse the food with Loving Kindness. You can be sure when buying one of Mama's Fire sauces that you're buying a product that is made with love, and also gives a lot of love back. All of the profits from Mama's Fire fund the Sacred Works Project.
The Sacred Works Projects are chosen based on an application process, where applicants send in a short description of the project and a full budget. Thompson's hope is "as we get stronger, we will be able to create grants for those projects." Currently, Sacred Works is funding the Kids Thrive Haiti Project, which is a school for girls in Port au Prince that was formed as a way to make something positive out of the disaster and devastation in Haiti.
After several years of hard work, Jesse Thompson is excited for the future of the Sacred Works Project. In order to keep those projects going, Mama's Fire products are now sold in whole foods and independent grocers, and will soon be available at the Naropa Cafe.
Jesse Thompson's Blog: http://mamasfire.wordpress.com/