I've realized that being in the role of volunteer is a great way to connect with other people in the sangha. More importantly it's been a way for me to get out of the self (negative) narrative that happens between these two ears, being in the middle of the herd, getting to know and love others in the sangha.
I was a practicing drug addict and alcoholic (some decades ago) and being in 12-step programs I've learned that giving back is a crucial way for me to get out of self. This fits so well also with Buddhism since according to the Buddha there is no "self" as I sometimes think there is. I need a lot of reminders that were all connected and contributing is a way for me to see this. For me it's not like I volunteer for fun or spiritual growth (although these do happen). It's more of a necessity for my spiritual well-being /awakening. It helps reduce my stress, anxiety and fears also to focus on others.
I've started to see that so many of these fears etc. are habituated from the past, but when I act by volunteering and giving back I'm much more in the moment and the stories of the past or future go away. I'm also not a good multi-tasker, so if I'm setting up the sound for an event it's kind of hard to be focused on the fear of the day.
Being a part of Spirit Rock is amazing, but when I just come to events I'm not really getting to know others in this community as much as I'd like to. I've found that being more involved I've started to really get to know people on a deeper level—teachers, staff and others in the sangha. Sometimes it's not always so easy to rush up to Spirit Rock after a full-time day job, but almost always after I'm there the teachings and the sangha allow me to experience a sense of freedom and support that really opens my heart.
Sangha is very important to me and I'm reflecting on how I can be connected more to this outside of Spirit Rock and volunteering. Opening my heart and being vulnerable to others (trusting) is not always so easy for me, but the more I develop the relationships I have through volunteering, the more I've slowly started to let my defenses down and let the love (healing) in. The test (if there was one) is can I be kind and compassionate to myself and others in my life?
Volunteering has given me a sense of belonging and giving back in a meaningful way. I've started to reach out to more people in my life and feel a bigger sense of being a part of a new group of friends and growing sangha that I hadn't connected with before.
Spirit Rock relies on the generosity of our many volunteers. We offer a range of volunteer opportunities from one time projects to ongoing service. Check our website to find out more about our volunteer program or contact our Volunteer & Community Coordinator, Marya Mayer, firstname.lastname@example.org.