A Call In to Service

Dearest Sangha,

It is with much sadness that I am leaving the Bay Area after over 10 years and 4 years organizing Wake Up SF. Sometimes, you have to make tough decisions that put your health first. 

As a parting offering though, I am bringing forth a “Call In” (the opposite of the Call Outs we have so many of these days!) to service for the sangha. 

Practitioners new and old are needed to keep the practice fresh for the entire four-fold sangha. Whether lay, OI, Dharmachaya or monastic, we can take the time to recommit to our community, to join hands in the spirit of Thay and realize his vision of the Sangha as a Buddha (or was it the Buddha as a Sangha?). 

The strength of the Bay Area sangha has been a joy to witness – the largest Road Retreat on the tour! – a community in the midst of flowering. 

A few things really stuck with me over the retreat. After experiencing the peace and ease we felt in the urban forest, one person asked, “Is this always available?” Another retreatant expressed how lonely she felt on the path. 

These two sufferings are not unrelated. It is much easier to experience the joy of the practice with kalyana-mitta, spiritual friends. Noble friends allow us to give and take refuge at any time. Together, we can create the space for True Peace, True Love and Social Justice in ourselves and in the world around us. 

It is just like sitting back-to-back with a friend while enjoying the sunshine and listening to a cool breeze between the trees, much easier for both to be in the present when each has someone to lean on. (If you have back pain, you know what I’m talking about.)

If you weren’t at the retreat in Oakland this weekend, I’d ask that you take the time to listen to Dylan’s speech at the Closing Ceremony. If the recording is poor, it is only because my hands were resonating too much with what he had to say while holding the phone. 🙂

When you sit on your cushion next, please look inside for that bodhichitta, that small voice that calls you to service. I know it is there, if only you would listen. Even if you think you have nothing to offer, be assured that your stable presence and kind words can be more than enough to nurture someone else’s bodhichitta. Over time you can grow that warmth and expand it, until the refuge it creates encompasses you and the sangha. And, if your experience is anything like mine, when the storm comes, the sangha will also be there to provide refuge for you.

As Dylan, Elm, Gary, Steve, Sophie and many others continue the work of sangha-building here in the Bay Area, I know that they will need your help. Young flowers are as fragile as they are fragrant. The sangha needs you now. Will you answer the call?

May You Be Free,

Compassionate Refuge of the Heart