Monday, January 10, 2011

Why I signed up for a business school class

The board of the Zen Peacemakers recently decided to sell our property in Montague, MA. I have been living, working and training here for the better part of the last two years. Amid this period of change, various energies surge and flux as various overlapping elements of our community forge new paths. The local meditation community, which has been known as the Montague Farm Zendo, is looking into options for a new roof. Bernie, the founder, is focusing his energy on spreading the three tenets and Socially Engaged Buddhism domestically and in Europe. I am helping him with that as his assistant. I am a lame duck tenant.

When I learned about the farm's fate as well as layoffs, I felt disillusioned. The developing Montague Farm Zen House and the Symposium on this campus were dreams come true. Everything was coming together. And after the Symposium in August, the thing I feared most was suddenly happening. It was hard to avoid getting wrapped up in worrying about the significance of the daily twists and turns of a relatively high period of uncertainty in an uncertain universe.

Returning to the Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat in November, I felt comforted by the feeling like I was part of something much bigger than the campus I live on. I reflected on the reason I came to Montague in the first place: to be part of a Zen House, a dharma center where service to the community is viewed as a spiritual practice on par with meditation. I asked myself what I still lack to be part of such a center?

I decided to sign up for a business school class so that I could further develop practical tools to implement my beloved vision. I switched from listening to podcasts on social media marketing to listening to audiobooks on business development.

I was inspired and emboldened by my contribution to Auschwitz and Symposium registrations. And yet, it wasn't enough. As we discussed at the Symposium, Socially Engaged Buddhism needs to find a business model that is right for us in this culture in order for it to survive. My dream is a sort of a modern Buddhist Catholic Worker House. I did my internship at Haley House, a former Catholic Worker House in Boston. A modern version would mix high tech (Internet) and high touch (face-to-face) and would also be hybrid charity/social business.

While the recent past has felt worrisome, there has also been excitement of possibility amidst change. To be part of something new means standing out on a limb. Uncertainty is good training.

What do you think is necessary to make this dream viable?