Unanticipated Blessings From Kalyana Mitta
by Melanie Speir
Kalyana Mitta has deeply enriched my personal life and spiritual practice in ways I never anticipated. Initially I was attracted to the Kalyana Mitta listings on the Spirit Rock website because I felt isolated in my practice. I longed for friends on the dharma path. I didn’t feel qualified to start and facilitate a new group myself. After unsuccessfully waiting two years for someone else to start a group in my area, I finally took the plunge. I’m so glad I did!
At first, facilitating a group was terrifying. I’m a shy introvert and was a “beginner” at dharma study to boot. Then I started to see the growth. We treated one another kindly. We studied dharma books together. We had rich discussions and shared how we were applying what we learned in our daily lives. Interactions deepened and became more trusting, intimate, and real. Eventually, we started applying the dharma skills we were studying to our group interactions.
Sometimes individual personalities and preferences rubbed up against each other and wise speech was hard to hear. I learned a lot about myself from group members I found difficult. I struggled with wise discernment, judgment and equanimity. I had to step up in situations I would normally have avoided. The kindness we invoked to hold all of this made all the difference to me.
My group has been going strong for seven years now and I cherish our meetings and friendships. We’ve read over two dozen books together and explore the dharma in depth. Kalyana Mitta continues to be my favorite place to practice skills like wise speech. My fellow group members understand what I’m trying to do and are helpful. No matter what’s going on in my life, the group is a haven of compassion, kindness, confidentiality and non-judgment. Because of this I feel safe to say what I need to hear from myself - to hear my own confusion, fear, attachment or wisdom - and to see it reflected back with acceptance. It feels like unconditional love. I feel honored to witness my friends’ courageous journeys and offer my best support. They inspire me endlessly.
The natural extension of this experience for me has been to volunteer as a Kalyana Mitta coordinator for Spirit Rock. I also recently completed the Dedicated Practitioners’ Program, which incorporates interpersonal and group practice with formal study. I deeply understand why the Buddha placed such importance on sangha.
Spirit Rock offers bi-yearly Kalyana Mitta workshops to develop and support KM groups and offer an opportunity for people interested in forming new groups to meet. Daniel Bowling and Dana Curtis led the most recent workshop. You can listen for free at Dharmaseed.org by clicking here. For more information about Kalyana Mitta, contact KalyanaMitta@spiritrock.org or call (415) 488-0164 x325.