Our next Global Days of Service period is upon us!
Dear Treeleafers - as we approach our next service period there will be some of you for whom this is the first time you participate in the service effort - feel free to view the experiences in past threads of those who have gone out into the world to serve - for others this will be the second, or third, or fourth time that you are being asked to serve your community, your world. There are plenty of ideas in past threads - and I am sure new ones will be shared.
For some it will be an uncomfortable experiment, for others a chore to be gotten out of the way. For some it will be something to be performed but kept at arm's length like a dirty diaper or unpleasant conversation. For some it will just be a thread on the Forum that is read quickly and then forgotten, or a swipe of the debit card to benefit the charity that has sent us the most spam to our inbox. For me service was all these things - it was an imposition, an inconvenience, and a big question mark in terms of what in the world it had to do with Zazen and Zen Buddhist practice. My resistance was strong - I felt so sure sitting on the zafu in silence was far more dignified and "enlightened" than picking up trash or serving fellow human beings, or cleaning up shit.
Zazen is the core of our practice - make no mistake about that - but for our zazen to be real it must expand to encompass our life and all our actions - seamlessly with the world around us - instead of being something we do for a few minutes every day or so. In time it is no longer "ours" - it is part of the flow of life dancing with itself around us.
But I am a fool - I express myself so awkwardly that I will let Dostoevsky do it -
"Understand me: voluntary, fully conscious self-sacrifice, free of any outside constraint, of one's entire self for the benefit of all is, in my opinion, a mark of the highest development of individuality , of its highest power, its highest self-mastery, the highest freedom of one's own will."
It is appropriate I think to recall the Enso here - all things come back to the beginning - to find one's true self one must relinquish the self. To become an individual one must lose oneself in something larger than the boundaries of the stories we have created for ourselves, the narratives that provide the scaffolding of our identities, the identities that separate us from one another and serve as the basis for difference, conflict, and suffering.
Be careful. What you find in service to others, to sentient and insentient beings (are they any different?) may open wide new vistas to you....
Please share your experiences here - I'm particularly interested in knowing how the experience and meaning of service has changed for you over time... and several Global Day of Service periods.
Thank you, and
PS - why am I quoting Dostoevsky in a Zen Buddhist forum? Stay tuned and find out!