An update from the Guiding Sangha
I volunteered, or rather “was volunteered” in an air of friendly wholesome support, to offer an article on our Guiding Sangha (GS) face-to-face meeting that took place in Seattle, Washington, USA on June 27th through the 29th, 2014.
I’ll begin with a sampling of agenda topics to show you the typical breadth and scope of such a multi-day gathering. Soon, the GS will be posting notes for anyone who is interested. The list here is by no means complete and does not reflect the depth of our discussions.
The real honey of this work for me as a GS member is doing all this from (as best I can) a meditative mind, that is, while “in practice.” Bringing a high degree of focus and attentiveness to our Insight Dialogue practice during every Guiding Sangha meeting is a vital, albeit challenging, part of the our process. We are not a typical corporate board. I’m smiling as I type this, having been a board member of several entities over the years.
Our agenda topics included:
- Meeting with Sarah & Rachel, Metta’s administrative staff, the first day, mainly about the web site. How is the website serving well and where do we need some improvements?
- Metta volunteers Anita Bermont & Susie Clarion joined us by Skype to discuss community development. By the time you read this, Anita and Susie will have represented Metta at the Buddhist Insight Network (BIN) conference in August.
- We discussed the possibility of expanding the GS with more talent, wisdom, and compassion. This is still being worked out.
- We worked out a procedure for getting the GS meeting notes distilled to a manageable size and have them be presented so as to be representative and informative, but not too dry nor too lengthy for our greater Metta community.
- We continued a discussion, tabled from previous meetings, regarding building a more transparent culture within Metta. This article and our future web postings are pieces of the increased transparency effort throughout Metta Programs.
- We continued the discussion around dana and giving as a central value at Metta. This is part of ongoing attention to support Metta’s culture and practice, touching all of our activities. This is a far-reaching topic.
- We discussed the Teacher Development and Community Care Teams. We explored, for example, to what extent we’d like to encourage uniformity across all Metta teams in areas such as consensual decision-making, role rotation, cross-training, integration of practice, budget consciousness, and so forth.
- The evolution of the Whole Life Program (WLP) was discussed in quite some detail. There are many facets to this, Metta’s longest running program after retreat offerings.
So, as you might guess, the GS meetings are full and rich, far beyond the sparse list of topics above. Being in practice as we work together is a major piece of the process. I am an “associate member” – a designation generously offered me to accommodate some restrictive health concerns I have – for this I am truly grateful. I find my involvement in the GS at times grueling, but most of the time personally invigorating on multiple levels. This is exciting stuff! That is, trying to conduct real business from a meditative state of mind rather than by following the more common “Robert’s Rules of Order” model. These Skype and face-to-face meetings are indeed marathon gatherings in terms of time and energy required. I find the merging of my analytical mind with my more intuitive heart-mind, or “right-left” brains, as challenging as it is interesting.
What truly engages me, touching me where I live, is this intense form of bringing extraordinary mind states to everyday living. That is extraordinary and, in my experience, rare in the world of business. As in Insight Dialogue practice, the GS members support each other to be mindful, internally and as a group, in each moment. Serious issues are dealt with even as we allow for individuals’ passions and emotions to arise. These emotions, too, are respected and cared for with empathy, compassion and all the wisdom we can muster. That agreement to practice with mutual respect and kindness is personally challenging and supportive to all of us, as individuals and as Sangha members, and of course is immensely important to realizing the full capacity of Metta Programs as a vital organization.
All of us acknowledge how difficult and crucial this process is. It’s just like remembering the Insight Dialogue guidelines during formal practice; we keep in mind our values, intentions, mindfulness and so on, and support each other in that remembering. We are uniquely situated being under the umbrella of Metta Foundation’s church status. In some way, perhaps this helps us actually infuse this level of wholesomeness, wisdom, and compassion into Metta Programs’ mandate to deliver Metta’s mission to the world. This process takes time as well as mindfulness. This liberal use of time in service of awakening is generally rejected as irrelevant in modern western business. As challenging as it is, it would be far more challenging without the support of Metta Programs’ main benefactor, Metta Foundation. The Foundation understands the real value, far reaching benefits, and has been consistent in their support. I hold much gratitude and respect around this.
We are engaged in a groundbreaking process, which is beyond challenging, but the potential rewards are perhaps beyond prediction. I don’t know of any group attempting this in-life, in-business path of awakening to this degree. I find joy in seeing Metta Programs evolve with some of the best energy I’ve ever witnessed during my many years of involvement. I feel fortunate and honored to be a part of it.
I invite all of you to share in this evolution, and bring real practice to your involvement, and to your daily living. For me, in today’s world, it comes down to clearly seeing how our moment-to-moment, day-to-day, interpersonal relationships are a basic source of dysfunction, pain, and suffering. The movement of ignorance and hunger in our own minds spread out through and are amplified by our interactions with others. Can this go the other way? Can our interactions be a source of untying the painful knots of fear and selfishness? All of these things are possible if we attend to them and not act from habit and conditioning. How we relate to one another in daily living, the attentiveness, kindness, respect, wisdom, compassion, and love we bring to our relationships in daily living, moment-to-moment – that piece of who we are, extrapolated outward – makes our world the way it is. This is a statement of the obvious, I know, but I invite you to contemplate this dynamic and how empowering this observation could be to you. For me, this is nothing short of discovering how I can help make the world better. It is possible. It is accessible. We each can be a factor in our world becoming a better place. That for me is a life with spark and deep purpose.
David Selwyn, Orcas, WA, is an associate member of Metta’s Guiding Sangha and serves on the Operations Team. He began practicing meditation earnestly in 1971, and encountered Insight Dialogue as well as Metta Programs in their early developmental stages. He has held both formal and volunteer positions within the organization. Insight Dialogue and Dhamma Contemplation have been a rich source of insight, calm, and clarity in David’s life.
For years he has held the vision of organizations and businesses infusing mindfulness and daily practice into the work they do to fulfill a mission. This vision is manifesting in David’s work with Metta, as he holds this intention while undertaking daily tasks, business operations and interactions. It is an ambitious, even daunting, expectation, yet he believes the benefits are widespread and great – it is a path that truly leads to a better world.
Photo credits: David Selwyn