Please consider supporting me to participate in a street retreat on May 8 in New York City. As a participant, I commit to fundraising $500- part of which goes to support the service agencies that care for us on the streets. After you donate, I will add your name to a bead on my mala bracelet, so you will be with me on my journey.
Why?Why am I returning to do a street retreat for the 4th time and, in November, an Auschwitz retreat for the 6th? Looking back on my reflections from my May 2013 street retreat (below), I see how:
- The retreat provided me with a powerful experience of deep listening
- My May retreat resonated with me through my year
- The practice of listening reveals to me greater levels of depth every day
- I could really use another experience of intensive practice
Then and Now
Last May, I was nervous about people managing Stone Soup for one weekend in my absence. Since then, I let go of roles that were't right for me and moved into new ones. Today, there is an active Leadership Team who has been making meal management better and better each week.
Last May, I was working on the Café full-time, nervous about what would happen when my unemployment rant out. Today, I receive a part-time salary while we serve a growing number of people each week, sometimes surpassing 100 guests.
Last May, I decided to leave my men's group in order to initiate teaching a Dharma in Action workshop series. I taught the first session to 9 students last Sunday.
Last May, I was completing a certificate in non-profit management and considering business school. Today, I have started studying more closely with Bernie to complete my Ministry ordination and I am launching a new organization to support additional Cafes around the world.
Thank you for supporting me on this path of letting go of stale roles and stories, tuning in to the creative field around me and waking up to new opportunities, again and again.
May 2013 Street Retreat Reflections
The theme of this street retreat for me was listening to the manyness. My intention was to plunge as deeply as I could into the three peacemaker tenets of Not-knowing, Bearing Witness and Loving Actions. Listening to the manyness is about bearing witness to the whole. Meditating in Washington Square Park, hearing a saxophone player in the distance, dogs barking, birds chirping, construction clanging, kids laughing, people talking... a giant symphony, a beautiful cacophony and all of it so alive, so perfect and my likes and dislikes and emotional reactions, all of them teachings.
Our retreat liturgy defined Not-knowing as “the source of all manifestations. Seeing all manifestations as the teaching of not-knowing.” How do I treat my teachers? I listen carefully to what they say, with my heart and head. Can I treat all manifestations like that? Can I treat all people like that?
Listening to the manyness of Washington Square Park, my struggle to listen to some of my colleagues came to. Tears shed, with a little opening. Leaving meditation, the whole universe was a bit softer, my step lighter... tender and present.
I witnessed my own reactions, empathy and annoyance, fear of saying the wrong thing and the joy of laughing with old friends and strangers. I got to know my street allies, sharing deeply about work and love. I listened to a man tell me how drugs brought him from earning $70,000 a year to living on the streets and how he quit drugs, but is still working on quitting alcohol. I watched a fist fight erupt and get broken up. I saw a Muslim argue with the preacher at the evangelical services required of guests in order to receive a meal at the Bowery Mission.
As a meal program administrator, I was sensitive to the minute differences in logistical solutions to the challenge of feeding people on a tight budget. I was sensitive to the relationship between program logistics and guest experience. I was sensitive to the relationships among and between guests, staff and volunteers. I saw that program staff and volunteers are on a stage with a spotlight shining on them and that they set the tone for the whole room, whether stressed out and yelling to hurry up or sharing a relaxed smile. I noticed how different locations handled wait time. I considered freshly logistical considerations at the Stone Soup Café and my drive to create meal programs that honors the dignity of all was invigorated.