A friend of mine has a photograph of herself on a wall at her home marking her completion of her first-ever marathon race.
You’d think the image would be triumphant: a photo her smiling as she crossed the finish line; a photo in which she is cheered on by friends and supporters; or being doused with champagne to celebrate a race well-run.
But no; the image is of her lying sprawled out flat on the ground in her T-shirt and jogging shorts, in the shadow of a concerned onlooker worried for her safety.
At first I didn’t know what to make of this image; why did she feel such an affinity for it? Why did she display it so proudly? One would think embarrassment over having collapsed after crossing the finish line – even after accomplishing a 26.3-mile run – would overcome any sense of triumph she might have felt.
But it wasn’t the appearance that was being celebrated: it was the accomplishment itself, pure and unadulterated by ideas of what it was “supposed” to look like.
We can feel that way sometimes when we’ve undertaken any large task; we can hang back, worried about looking ragged and imperfect, fearful of mistakes or even failure. A giant task may seem too difficult for one person to handle, and it may make us feel alone and overwhelmed.
But this is where sangha, or community comes in. We can help each other forward, just by being mindful and aware – and willing to reach out, even if we don’t exactly know what to do.
The Columbus KTC is roughly half-way through its journey to find a new home. We’ve gotten through the basic building design, received provisional city permission and raised about $1 million, but now we have to complete our designs, permission and raise another $500,000.
This might feel a bit discouraging, especially since there’s so far yet to go. But what an amazing journey it has been, and what amazing friendships we have made along the way.
This past week about 25-30 local business people gathered at The Idea Foundry in Franklinton to look at KTC’s plans and hear our request for them to consider investing in our project – to help us create “a sanctuary of kindness in the center of the city.”
We spoke about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, and encouraged them to think of us as a partner for wellness in the community. We told them about the $100,000 challenge grant from the Hummingbird Fund of Jim and Christina Grote, and asked them to consider helping us meet that match. We fed them and thanked them for their interest. We promised to call them back soon to check on their availability to help us.
In the usual insular world of local spiritual life, this might not have been possible – but these were unusual times, and KTC founder Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche encouraged us to reach out. “Find people with means and ask them to help you,” he said. So we invited 180 community leaders to a reception and asked them to assist.
This is how communities can grow and connect. We were so excited to meet them, and they were so excited to meet us. The dharma works in mysterious ways, and we hope to learn more about this soon.
But even if they cannot help us in tangible ways, they can help us with love and encouragement – and by introducing us to others who can help.
Meanwhile, at the KTC, we are heading into the winter season and will be hosting Lama Lodro Lhamo from KTD Monastery the second weekend in November. If you can help with the program – transporting cushions to First Community Church for our Friday night/Saturday sojourn there (Nov. 10 and 11) or helping set up and clean up at Tifereth on Nov. 12 – please contact KTC Director Kim Miracle at email@example.com.
And if you are visiting the KTC any given Sunday, and see people struggling to carry cushions and folding puja tables to and from the 10 a.m. Sunday pujas in the Nursery (off the atrium , where our Welcome Desk is located), please help them carry cushions and tables. And if you see lost folks with KTC badges on, greet them and help them get where they are going. And if you see a person looking down and forlorn, say a gentle hello and make them feel welcome.
As Ram Dass, the American Hindu teacher once said, “We’re all just walking each other home.” When we use the mindfulness we gain from meditation to notice the needs of other people and reach out to help them – or when we look up from our own struggle to take on a task all by ourselves and see others in the vicinity, and reach out and ask them to help us – we get a little closer to each other, and get a little closer to the “family feeling” that helps make Columbus KTC the most welcoming and warm Buddhist sangha in the city.
Our leadership team – Director Kim, Assistant Director Michelle, Treasurer Steve, Secretary Justin, and At-Large Member Eric – have been nothing short of remarkable, taking on so many tasks to keep the center open and flourishing while planning all the technical details of our new building. They are my heroes, and I ask that you continue saying the Tashi Prayer for them and the great work they are doing to bring us home again. They have taken on this work without pay and sometimes without a lot of sleep – along with taking care of their families and working full-time jobs – and are deserving of hugs and whatever good vibes that we can send their way.
It’s been a long road, and we have another year or more to go. When we finally trudge into our new dharma center in 2018, carrying a heavy load of cushions or books or furniture, we may be tired, and we may feel like collapsing in a heap in the center of the shrine room – but the accomplishment, the happiness of being home again – will certainly be worth it.
May all beings benefit from your work in the dharma, and your practice of meditation!