It’s not up to our country’s leaders to instate an atmosphere of togetherness, it’s up to us.
We are the people we’ve been waiting for to rise up.
So let us rise up as one community.
In the spirit of connection, understanding, and compassion,
let us rise up.
Category Archives: Community
Last night there was a state wide peace march at 5:00pm in five different cities around Montana, organized in the wake of the fear building up in our area around the possibility of becoming an area of welcome for refugee families affected by distant, raging wars. Recently, over 500 people packed into a school gymnasium in Hamilton, MT to attend a town hall meeting to help address a proposed letter to be sent by our state Governor, Steve Bullock, and our congressional delegates, to President Obama’s administration disapproving the bringing in of refugees. Having heard from someone in attendance at this meeting and in reading the news the overall energy was infused with hatred, scathing remarks, hostility, and, ultimately, underneath it all, fear. It was a meeting that could’ve easily turned violent and was not an entirely safe place for those in opposition to the vast majority in attendance at the meeting, who were adamantly against refugees coming into not only our particular part of the state but the country in general. The state wide march was in response, largely, to this town hall meeting.
This past week I had the opportunity to attend two meetings as part of the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative’s (MIC) community outreach training. As a faith leader of my local sangha and director of the Open Way Mindfulness Center I have been serving as our representative at a variety of MIC meetings, events, functions, trainings, and workshops since its inception, about 3 years ago.
On Tuesday I went to a training offered through the MIC by Doug Walker, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, who traveled here specifically from DC to offer the training from Healing Communities. From their website:
Healing Communities is a framework for a distinct form of ministry for men and women returning from or at risk of incarceration, their families and the larger community. Healing Communities challenges congregations to become Stations of Hope for those persons affected by the criminal justice system.
The training was being offered to a host of different congregations so that we could open up dialog, brainstorm ideas, and hopefully move forward with an action plan in order to open our doors and create a safe environment for individuals returning back to the community after being incarcerated. Healing Communities aims at addressing concerns and issues that might arise within faith communities and also helps shed light on the social stigma involved for those coming out of the prison system and their families. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 1 in 32 Americans are under correctional supervision, which means in prison, jail, or on probation or parole. And since 95% of inmates will be eventually be released from prison at some point that means this is well worth our time as faith communities to address in terms of how to best support our congregations, since the chances of this affecting some of our members, on some level, is extremely high. This isn’t an issue for certain areas of the country or certain demographics of people. This is a matter that concerns us all.
During the training on Tuesday a local Methodist pastor shared the quote above, stating that it was the creed of Methodist leadership, “Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comfortable.” I had never heard this before and it very much struck me as being important enough to jot down so I wouldn’t forget it. When I looked it up online I discovered that it originated from an American humorist and writer by the name of Finley Peter Dunne. As it turns out, Dunne’s quote is from an essay he wrote about the state of newspapers:
Dunne once wrote the following passage mocking hypocrisy and self-importance in the newspapers themselves:
- “Th newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward”.
- – From Wikipedia
Since then Dunne’s quote has been adapted and used in many contexts and is often enmeshed within ministry work. I really connect with this quote in regards to faith leadership roles. It makes a lot of sense to me and has offered some good food for thought.
A primary focus of both the Healing Communities training and the MIC meeting we hosted at the Open Way Mindfulness Center last night entitled Better Together (which was a conversation about community service and some of the unique issues facing Missoula and how we can engage our particular mindfulness tradition in getting involved both individually and collectively) was about developing relationships. In terms of supporting men and women during the re-entry process and also getting our sangha members actively involved in community service work forming, building, and sustaining reciprocal, genuine relationships is the most important aspect. It is the nature of relationships and the web they form that unites people together, that offers inspiration, motivation, and ripples outwards to positively affect others. Relationships take time. They take active participation, interest, and an authentic drive to connect.
I think many things can be whittled down to the importance of relationships really. Whether it’s with business, family, volunteer service, politics, creative endeavors, social communities, hobbies, interests, activist work, or otherwise our relationships are what bind us together. Our relationships are what make us who we are. And its the building of even more relationships that often serves as the best kind of support and nourishment that we can offer and benefit from.
May healing communities and the relationships they foster abound – in all of the many ways that this can take place.
P.S It just occurred to me…perhaps sometimes, it is we ourselves who are the comfortable that need to be afflicted by giving our time and energy to help comfort those afflicted.
In honor of my 300th post I thought I’d pay homage to my local meditation group, the Be Here Now Sangha, celebrating 13 years together this month! The word sangha is Sanskrit meaning spiritual community in Buddhism.
The above collage shows some of my favorite sangha pics taken over the last 10 months. From our white elephant gift exchange last December to our dinner & a movie night in January, from our monthly open mic nights to participating in the river clean up downtown in the spring, whether we’re hiking the woods, gathering for a potluck & campfire or having fun on the lake at our summer camp out we sure know how to be joyfully together in community :)
I started the Be Here Now Sangha, rooted in the mindfulness tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, in September of 2002. My husband and I had sat with a meditation group on the east coast, in early 2002, called the Night Sky Sangha. While they have changed their format and tradition since then they continue to meet at the Pebble Hill Church in Doylestown, PA, which I am so delighted to know. When we moved back to Missoula, MT I missed having a group to practice meditation with. So even though I was a novice and did not know much about mindfulness or meditation at the time I did what somehow made sense to me: I started my own group! I knew I didn’t have the resolve to meditate on my own at home. I needed others to practice with. I didn’t presume to have any knowledge or abilities. I simply wanted the support of others to continue my mindfulness and meditation practice with. I knew myself well enough to know that if I started a group I’d follow through with it. I jokingly say, and it’s true, that all I did was show up and turn the lights on for those first few years. While there was a little more involved it wasn’t much. My role at the beginning can be whittled down to four words: I kept showing up.
Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) teaches us that the way to peace and happiness is through personal transformation, and that mindfulness is the key. From September 1 through October 31, to celebrate the monastics’ USA tour and the 40th anniversary of Thay’s bestselling book, “The Miracle of Mindfulness,” we invite you to:
Post on your social media pages showing how you are part of the miracle of mindfulness with our #miracleofmindfulness campaign.
This past weekend was our 2nd annual Be Here Now Sangha camp out on the Flathead Lake in western Montana (it would’ve been our 3rd annual but we cancelled our trip last year at the last minute on account of the weather). Our sangha (based in the mindfulness tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh) meets every Monday night from 7:30-8:45pm and our format includes: sitting and walking meditation, a reading, sharing circle, and a closing circle for gratitude and healing. Outside of our regular weekly gatherings we like to get together for social events that allow us to build our relationships with one another and have fun – potlucks and open mic nights are our favorites :) And our newest favorite is our summer camp out!
Only having done two camp outs so far we’re still honing in the art of group camping. Logistics and feeding 12-15 people on camp stoves in the woods (in bear country) with no electricity and running water takes some planning. Every year we learn a little more about how to improve on our set up for the next camp out. It’s a great adventure!
Yesterday there was an emergency response drill at the airport. Community members were asked to volunteer to be part of the process in order to enable city emergency responders to practice their organization and skills in the event of a tragic occurrence. The FAA requires every airport to perform these drills every three years.
The day was sectioned into two parts and a volunteer could sign up for all or part of the day. The morning was designed as the Response Phase, where volunteers would act as victims of a plane crash, and the afternoon was set up for Family Reunification, where volunteers would be searching for their injured loved ones from the crash at the local hospitals. I signed up for the whole day. When I heard about this volunteer opportunity I was motivated to get involved due to having been active with the clean-up efforts of the local avalanche that struck a neighborhood in our town three months ago, burying four and claiming the life of one. After that experience I figured the more I can do to help train emergency responders the better.
The Response Phase required us to sign in around 7:30am. We were given cards upon our arrival that listed our injuries and symptoms and then proceeded to go through moulage, the application of scars and make-up to simulate our assigned injuries. There were around 70 volunteers so this process took some time. My card stated that I had upper back pain, a lacerated left shoulder, and trouble breathing deeply. It also had my vitals listed on it. Here is a pic of my fake wound: