2023-10-06-Gil-Ten Protectors (5 of 10) Caring for Sangha
4:15PM Oct 6, 2023
Greetings from Insight Meditation Center and continuing this 10 part series on that's called the 10 protectors or the 10 supporters or helpers a 10 helps. And this one today is in a skillful and wise way caring for supporting the sangha caring for and supporting the practice your practice community. Now, ever since we I was involved in this IMC sangha got involved many years ago, when it was just a small sitting group of Monday nights, but 12 people 15 people came, and I joined them as a teacher, they had been in already in place for maybe four years. And coming out of kind of monastic training, I'd seen how phenomenally useful it is powerful is to care for the place that we practice in. And the place where we're supported location and friends and community and maybe teachings. And there's something in the alchemy of practice that changes for good way when we also care for the place we practice. And so because of that, when we were just a small, few people coming, it was easier for me to take care of the logistics, it was very few things, there was a key that open and close the church library where we met, there was flyers from Spirit Rock meditation center that we put out to let people know what was happening, there was very little insight meditation opportunities in the Bay Area back then. And and that was it, someone with a key someone took care of the fliers. And I could easily done that myself. But it felt like such an important thing, to provide people with an opportunity to care for the place they practiced. And so we found someone and I think the person who then carried the key, open the place every week, I told them, that they were the president of our sitting group, gave them some, you know, some higher level caretaking responsibility for it. And even though there was almost nothing to do, I thought it was useful for people to step into a little bit of a leadership role. And I didn't know what was going to happen with that, but and then slowly we grew and developed and it was remarkable. How many people stepped forward to volunteer. And one part of the benefits of volunteering was forming a sense of a deeper sense of community and connectedness with other practitioners. And this idea of kind of caring for the Practice Center. So there's more sense of connection community also supports and protects our own practice, that something which is not available too much when we practice just alone all the time. One of the important so we come and become we can become in a sense of protector of the sangha, which is a powerful thing to do to be but more importantly, there's a way in which being little bit selfish, selfless, little bit kind of extending ourselves to support others is a protection for our from our selfishness, protection from us doing the practice and a little bit too self centered ways too preoccupied by me myself in mind is my practice, I'm going to get enlightened, I'm going to get concentrated, I'm going to, you know, you know, all these people are getting in the way they just make life more difficult and complicated and, but who rather to see that we grow in, in connection to the community, with them, they mirror who we are, we they mirror, how we might be a little bit off or how we pick our confused and we might take things excessively, personally or it might be situations where our our judgments of others come forward. But being a community working with people becomes a mirror for ourselves. And this was one of the reasons first reasons I think that I decided to go live at a Buddhist center was I'd been practicing Zen in college, I meditated Zen Zen meditation twice a day, on my own. And, and but I'd visited San Francisco Zen Center, occasionally, once a month or something, and I noticed something peculiar there. I was young I was 22. And, but I had all these social games that I played, you know, I wanted to present myself in a certain way. So they would think of me in a certain way, I had some way I wanted to be seen. And so I was talking and engaging in ways to try to get that response from people. And so playing the social games to try to get to reinforce certain identity that wanted to have. And so when I went to Zen without, when I was with my friends, I didn't even know I was doing this, we were all doing it. So it was all kind of one big kind of social kind of thing where we were kind of we were good friends and got along well, but there was this kind of, you know, moving in and out unconsciously, with this kind of game of self and self presentation. But when I came to San Francisco Zen Center, and talked to some of the more senior practitioners there, a remarkable thing happened, that I would do this social kind of games of presenting myself in a certain way. And there would be no response. They weren't playing the game. And they were kind of a mirror. And I was like, wow, and then I really saw what I was doing in a way that I hadn't seen before. And so I thought this is invaluable to have people mirror, my the ways that I'm kind of off, I want to see this more clearly. And so that was a first desire to go live at the San Francisco Zen Center, to be around these people who mirrored me and in ways that showed me where I needed to let go, where I needed to grow, where I needed to kind of really take a good look at myself and see the things that were not necessarily so wonderful about me. And I felt so lucky that I'd found a place to go to have this mirrored for me that I kind of see this about myself. And even though some of it was, you know, rather embarrassing, maybe or, you know, a little bit that would, you know, cringe about what I see in myself. I was so happy. I felt much safer, as a human being moving through the world, when I was being mirrored or wait that was being shown all the ways in which I was off. And so that was a protection for me. And I love this protection, I felt safer being in such a community. And so to be to have community for support, to know people more personally, to be able to witness people's goodness in a way that sometimes you don't see it unless you're sharing and caring for the community life. And, and so here at IMC, I felt it was always important to make it available for people to be volunteers. But never require it. I thought it was extremely important to not have any sense of obligation around it than any sense that you were less a member of the community if you weren't volunteering. So this art of kind of making it very available to people people have all kinds of circumstances in their lives. And people have busy lives, they have personal circumstances that keep them quite chatter might challenge by and they don't have the ability to the time or the interest to volunteer at their local sangha and their community. So the art of that finding a balance and making it available. But having no one had any sense of obligation was kind of the balancing act that we've tried to do here for these many years at IMC as we grew. And, and so to so whatever your community, Buddha's communities that you have, that you practice in, to offer some care to them. And so you know, if you live someplace where there's no no Buddha's community that you're directly connected to, if this YouTube is your community these years, maybe there's some simple way that you can volunteer for IMC and the distance. There are, you know, people help with technology or help with managing some of the some of the zoom and different things that we do recordings. So, you know, it's not always easy to find volunteer positions for people, but it's essential for who we are. And but I'm not so I'm not trying to not get offering this and fishing for people trying to get people to volunteer here. What I'm trying to do is talk about this protector, this protection we get
when we protect the sangha, we're protected as well. And the primary protection that I celebrate is protection from being excessively self preoccupied, maybe even selfish, and it's hard to see how that works. And so to be in some situation where you have to stretch yourself beyond your usual sense of self We have to drop it. And there's all kinds of ways to do that, besides supporting a sangha. So there's other ways. There's other sangha, there's other communities, I was struck by how much this was the case, having little babies and toddlers, boy was that a mirror for myself, boy was that the place where I saw ways in which I was self, selfish, maybe your self concerned self preoccupied, in ways that I had no idea, because it was, it was those ways in which I could do it so freely, without in a reasonable, healthy way, no one could see it, I couldn't even see it. But to the demands of caring for young children, was such a good mirror. Wow. And I saw all kinds of things about me that were challenging to see and challenging to let go of Vivian even. But it was a fantastic sangha fantastic way that I was a protection for me to see things that about myself that I hadn't even seen and, you know, long monastic life. So to find some ways, so to be in connected to other people, supporting other people, that steps you out of the little world of self that you might have, or, and stretch yourself in such a way that something that's not needed, can be let go. So that you find yourself freer in relationship to living this life, where you're not going to have the wind drag of self concern, you don't have the tension of conceit, you don't have the, you know, something, you're involved in the world kind of in a more selfless way, or impersonal or non personal way or without you being the center of attention. And, but the other becomes more valuable. And in situations where I've been that way, in my life, I just felt like so it was a freeing movement to do that. And, and in some ways, I saw more of that possibility of freedom from self concern, self preoccupation, in supporting and helping others and working for others, then sometimes I've seen in meditation itself. So this kind of guy, and going back and forth between meditation and having this challenge of how we live in the world, is a wonderful balance. And, and, for some people, this teaching about, you know, being, you know, doing things more nonpersonally or, without self selfishness and preoccupation needs to be heard very carefully, because it's not meant to be any denial or diminishing of the value of this person that we are. And that's that's meant to be a kind of sacrificing ourselves. For others, it's meant to be able to step forward and more fully and become ourselves more fully, rather than being less, but this more fully way of stepping forward. There's something that says the shell the ties of self concern, can fall off as we do so. So, thank you. And may you consider ways in which your support your care for others may be a mirror for you to see yourself better, and help you break out of the ways that self concern is limiting for you. So, thank you very much.