Volunteer for a Year (Part One: Dulcius ex Asperis)
Posted on 26 Sep 2022
“You yourselves must strive; the Buddhas only point the way. Those meditative ones who tread the path are released from the bonds of Mara.”
Since I arrived at KSDL from Zimbabwe many have said how they admire my choice and wish they could do the same. “A whole year, I could never do that, I have bills to pay!!” This time last year my work contract ended. Volunteer? Nothing was further from my mind.
“This moving away from comfort and security, this stepping out into what is unknown, uncharted and shaky – that’s called liberation.”
The pandemic offered a lot of quiet time, and time alone. Some of it spent on my cushion. The pace of life slowed. Work hours and income reduced. I read a lot. I spent time in retreat. There was also pain, and much sadness. Seemingly solid, reliable parts of life fell messily apart. Dragging my heels with finding work led me to finding a Dharma buddy to practice with once or twice a week. It was a powerful, virtuous cycle.
"When we throw a rock into a river the rock will sink. But if we have a boat, the boat can carry hundreds of pounds of rocks and it will not sink. The same thing is true with our sorrow and pain. If we have a boat, we can carry our pain and sorrow, and we will not sink into the river of suffering. And what is that boat? That boat is, first of all, the energy of mindfulness that you generate by your practice. That boat is also the sangha—the community of practice consisting of brothers and sisters in the dharma.”
From Friends on the Path: Living Spiritual Communities (2002) What is sangha? Thich Nhat Han
Only when my heart overruled my head and made the decision to join a practice community, did the opportunity present itself. Then, of course, the obstacles presented themselves. I wobbled. I worried. I cried. I didn’t give up. One by one, solutions appeared, and they made me braver. Four months into my stay I am inspired by every one of the diverse group of people who live or pass through here. Not all are Buddhist (good to know this before you get here). Lama Zangmo offers solid guidance, for each one of us. Just ask. Growth and learning in her presence are inevitable. The boat she steers is stable and it seems this journey is a little sweeter with difficulty (Dulcius ex Asperis).
In Part Two I will share more on day-to-day life at the Centre, post pandemic!
Much love and courage,