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Volunteer Profile

by Melanie Speir

I first learned about Spirit Rock 14 years ago when I ran across an article by Jack in a copy of Tricycle magazine. He wrote about the value of exploring death as a means to open more fully to life, which struck me as macabre but intriguing. I was unfamiliar with Buddhism. To learn more, I found out where Jack taught and started attending Monday night sanghas and daylongs at Spirit Rock. I also started reading books by Spirit Rock teachers. I felt like I needed more support to develop my practice, so I put myself on a waiting list to join a Kalyana Mitta Group (spiritual friends study group) closer to home. I ended up starting a group myself. That group continues to be an enormous inspiration to me for how to live a practice. 

I decided to volunteer because I want to help people find Kalyana Mitta (KM) groups more easily than I had and I also want to help more groups get off the ground. KM was my primary practice support for 5 years. We went through a number of incarnations over time with people coming and going, and interpersonal and organizational issues coming and going, but we kept bringing it all back to the Dharma for guidance. It’s been a precious opportunity and I’ve grown in ways I can’t imagine growing without this group. 

I was fortunate enough to enroll in the Dedicated Practitioners Program 3 years ago, which reinforced my appreciation of sangha as a catalyst for practice. I’m a firm believer in the blessings of community.

As a volunteer KM coordinator, I’ve learned there are a lot of people looking for spiritual friends and community. I’ve also noticed that people want to know how to relate to spiritual friends in a dharma based way—they’re not just looking for friends, they’re looking for friends that practice Buddhist principles and support one another to do so. I’ve learned we need to be creative about finding ways to support community development.

Recently, I started a cyber-KM group that uses Google Hangout to connect. The members of this group either live in areas where they can’t find a KM group that meets in person, or they have such demanding work schedules that they don’t have enough time to drive to and from evening meetings. It’s been an interesting challenge using the internet to connect, but I’m impressed with the commitment to persevere that the group members demonstrate. 

Volunteering has brought me rich new friendships, given me the opportunity to work with the wonderful Spirit Rock staff and teachers, and challenged me to apply my practice in new ways.  It’s given me the opportunity to practice generosity and be a small conduit in our lineage, for which I am deeply grateful.  

We are always looking for practitioners to start and foster groups in their area.  Check out the Spirit Rock KM website page to learn more. Join us on Sunday, March 9 from 1:30-5 pm for a half-day program, led byJames Baraz and Elad Levinson, designed for people who currently facilitate or attend KM groups, or people interested in forming KM groups or meeting folks in their area who already belong to successful groups. Register and learn more about volunteering at this event here.

Visit https://www.spiritrock.org/volunteeropportunities to learn more about Spirit Rock’s volunteer program or contact our Volunteer & Community Coordinator at volunteering@spiritrock.org. 


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PO Box 169 • Woodacre, CA • 94973