Sometimes – like now – my spirit wanes around the truth I’ve captured in this sentence, from a recent spoken word piece I’ve written: “Self-absorption is the rampant plague of our time.”
On Wednesday night, I attended a film showing of “500 Years”, as part of the Roxy’s current month-long series honoring Native American Heritage Month.
Following the film, there was a 3-person panel set up for a Q & A session. As the film credits rolled, over half of the audience left, leaving around 25 of us to engage with the panel members. This is something I experience a lot. (I’m now remembering the Hate Crimes Forum I attended a couple of weeks ago, where by the end of the evening only 10 of us remained in a sea of empty chairs.) I find this to be a sad commentary on our ability to act on behalf of supporting others in matters when in stands to inconvenience our own lives.
I’ll tell you, in both of the cases I just mentioned, I would’ve preferred to have left, too. I was tired. I was ready for bed. But I stayed, because it was the right thing to do. I stayed because those panel members deserved my attention and my presence. They were devoting their time and energy to a cause they believed in and were passionate about. And the very least I could do was stay.
Public service message:
Think of others before you depart for yourself.
I’m currently reaching maximum saturation levels in terms of my usage of time spent on writing projects, events planning, managing meetings and gatherings, and attending a variety of other functions. I’m in the boat right now of practicing to say no when it comes to the question as to whether or not to take something else on – AND it’s going well, too, I might add.
Factoring into all the many lovely things I’ve chosen to do with my time is to: tell a story on stage at the Wilma Theater here in town on May 5th, as part of an interfaith concert and celebration event called Tangible Hope, submit an article to be considered for publication in the Mindfulness Bell for their sangha building issue (slated to come out in the fall), and write a short piece for the Community of Faith section in our local newspaper (for their May 12th edition).
Is interfaith work and sangha building different? Ultimately, no, I think not. When I look and engage through the lens of sangha building, I see clearly that sangha exists wherever I go. It’s all around me. Whether in the setting of my home sangha of Be Here Now or my larger Plum Village family, or my growing relationships and partnerships with local pastors and interfaith members as part of the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative (MIC), which I serve to represent our communities of Be Here Now and Open Way with, sangha is an action verb; it’s a quality of heartfulness that propels me in the direction of cultivating brotherhood and sisterhood.
From the story I plan on telling as part of the Tangible Hope concert event:
I remember a time a few years ago when I was standing in a long security line at the LAX airport – I had just spent a month on a retreat at a monastery in our tradition in southern CA, so I went from this beautiful, sequestered and quiet environment to a place that was decidedly quite different. As I was standing in the security line, I had the wonderful insight that I didn’t feel as though I had left a lovely setting with my extended sangha and was now tossed into a hectic and unpleasant environment with grumpy strangers; I had simply transitioned from one sangha to another: from my monastery sangha into my air traveling sangha! This insight allowed me to interact with the space and the people around me in a different way – a way that was more open, friendly, caring, and kind. So, when I look and operate through the lens of sangha I experience it wherever I go, all around me – I carry it with me and I actively create it.
If we are truly invested in building sangha – aka spiritual community – then we must practice to envelop it fully into our lives and not relegate it to just our own beloved circles consisting of those whom we share most closely and are most comfortable with. The true spirit of sangha building must be all inclusive; this is the only way we can serve as agents of change in the world and continue beautifully into the future.
Old Missoula Peace Sign on Waterworks Hill
Since my last post was so long and I didn’t cover a few things I wanted to I thought I’d do a second post about the peace un-conference I attended. So if you’re interested in reading in detail more about the un-conference and what that entailed please read the previous post.
During the opening and lightning keynote speakers in the morning someone said the following statement, which I then wrote down after it was reiterated by one of the participants in the closing circle: Where there is conflict people care deeply, which then creates an opportunity for peace. I thought this was an interesting insight into the nature of polarizing issues and beliefs. On both sides of the fence, no matter what the difficulties are, people are filled with care and concern about something. One side might be particularly drawn towards concern about the environment while the other side may be concerned about the security of jobs and economic prosperity. To see the areas of similarity and overlap is incredibly important when it comes to the transformation of the us-verses-them mentality. It’s difficult to make lasting, effective change when we only see the differences and set our perspective in the direction of separation and division.
Flyer picture for the Peace Un-conference Presented by the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center
Yesterday my husband and I attended an all day event entitled Rising from the Ashes: How Do We Create Peace from Chaos, Confusion, and Conflict. It was an un-conference sponsored by our local Jeannette Rankin Peace Center (JRPC). Designing it as an un-conference is a reference to something called Open Space. From their website:
Open Space Technology, or Open Space, is a meeting format discovered by Harrison Owen. There is much written about Open Space available in books and on the internet, and yet often the format defies description or explanation. It is much more easily experienced that written about.
The basic process of Open Space helps those participating in the event co-create an experience based on responsibility and passion. It is a very welcoming and very frequently fun process, and also one that can be challenging in the same way a good game is challenging. Open Space invites the participants to engage to a high degree.
Never having attended an Open Space setting before I could only imagine what to expect in terms of format and set-up. I was, like many others, a little nervous. The Five Principles of Open Space set me a little more at ease:
1. Whoever comes are the right people
2. Whenever it starts is the right time
3. Wherever it is, is the right place
4. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have, be prepared to be surprised!
5. When it’s over, it’s over
And the one law of Open Space is called the Law of Two Feet:
If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else.
In this way, all participants are given both the right and the responsibility to maximize their own learning and contribution, which the Law assumes only they, themselves, can ultimately judge and control. When participants lose interest and get bored in a breakout session, or accomplish and share all that they can, the charge is to move on, the “polite” thing to do is going off to do something else. In practical terms, Owen explains, the Law of Two Feet says: “Don’t waste time!”
I just finished my annual End of the Year Letter that I send out to friends and family and thought that it would also be nice to include the letter here on my blog (along with the pictures from the letter). Sharing our lives and connecting with those in our personal community of friends and family is mindfulness in action. Happy reading!
Last weekend, while walking two kiddos I was doing childcare for to a local park, we went past a house that had a small free library in a nice little window doored box on a post in their front yard (pictured above). It’s a simple concept that I phrase as: Wanna book? Take a book! Gotta book? Leave a book! Turns out that you can go to http://littlefreelibrary.org/ and learn all about these free libraries and even find out where there are ones in your community around the U.S.
Well, I was so drawn to this idea that I decided to make my own! You can buy a kit on the website above or simply make it a do-it-yourself project. So I went to our local home re-use center and found a $5 brown metal cabinet. After some light sanding, primer, and paint I was ready to go! I searched through my bookshelf for books to donate to kick it off and even threw in some DVD’s (I came up with 13 books, 9 dvd’s, and 3 kids books). And around 9:00am this morning I set it up out front of our house on the curb and now it’s open for business! My good friend Jennifer helped me to come up with names and my favorite was one of her suggestions: Books in the Hood :)