At our community meeting last week, I was touched as volunteers spoke about their experience of getting involved in IMSB. I reflect on the energy and engagement of our members often when I walk into an event–every chair and table was moved as a gift of service by a member; every flyer and arrangement was offered by volunteers; each event happens as an act of loving kindness from many unseen participants. It is heartwarming to witness the selfless service that many members offer to the community.
I was especially inspired to hear volunteers speaking about what motivates them to give their precious time to support our dhamma activities. Everyone seemed to consider their service to be an integral aspect of their spiritual practice, whether as a gesture of gratitude for what they have received, or as an act of generosity that ensures the teachings are available to others. Some people find that volunteering increases the consistency of their meditation practice by making sure they come to the group consistently. Others have developed valued friendships through service.
Service was, and still is, an integral element in my own practice. I served as cook, manager, and in various organizing roles almost as frequently as I sat in silence in the early 1980’s. When I lived in Thailand in the 1990’s all the laypeople pitched in to prepare the meals and maintain the monastery. When living with my teacher in India during the 1990’s my roles varied, but nearly all my waking hours were spent in service: preparing the hall for meetings, cleaning, cooking for visitors, writing letters and secretarial functions for my teacher, and general housekeeping. I spent far more time serving than sitting in the cross legged position. The dhamma was lived in activity and interaction.
After I began teaching in the late 1990’s I quickly learned that actual teaching is only a small portion of the activity; most of the work is administrative. Even now, in IMSB’s fifth year, teaching composes only a tiny fraction of the time that I give to IMSB. The vast majority of my time is devoted to administrative functions, organizational communications, and meetings–the behind the scenes work of running a small non-profit corporation that has no paid staff. Although I would like to teach more than administer, and there are courses and dhamma subjects that I would like to teach as soon as I have the time, active involvement remains a natural expression of my love of dhamma. It keeps me close to dhamma activities, and expresses my gratitude for the Buddha’s teachings.
IMSB is in a phase of growth now where we are encouraging greater participation from our members and friends. We would like to increase the stability of the organization, and add programs for beginning meditators, encourage meditation among young people and families, enhance the social connections within the sangha, and enhance our internet offerings. We are waiting for volunteers to step forward who will provide a broader volunteer base and support these activities.
I love seeing people helping out in simple ways, by pitching in with whatever needs to be done at the time, or signing up for the little tasks that are done each Tuesday night. It is always so nice to see many helping hands returning the tables and chairs after our weekly meetings. I’d also like to see some of our committed volunteers make the transition from serving as “grunt labor” doing already organized tasks, into serving in leadership roles that encourage initiative, leading teams and projects, and helping IMSB to fulfill our purpose of promoting the teachings of virtue, concentration, and wisdom.
If you’d like to get involved, please contact our volunteer coordinator at volunteer, fill out our volunteer survey, or approach me or one of our board members at any event. Let us know how you would like to be involved. Currently we are seeking audio technicians, social coordinators, and assistance with our web site, administrative tasks, and fundraising. If you have skills, ideas, or interests to offer, please contact us. We will welcome your participation.