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Adrienne Plasse: Volunteer Profile

Adrienne Plasse  

 About ten years ago The Emeritus Program at College of Marin (for folks over 50 years old) offered a course on diverse and unfamiliar spiritualities. Each week students visited a different spiritual center in the Bay Area, three of which were Buddhist. I joined the course and, with the rest of the over-50 gang, found myself on a field trip to Spirit Rock, listening to someone talk about mindfulness and equanimity. Not bad, but not enough at the time for me to commit.

During the next few years, I came to daylongs once in a while — still curious, but not hooked. I was a single mom working full-time at a stressful job. Who had time for mindfulness? Then the time finally came when I retired and my daughter went off to college. Instead of experiencing the rest and peace I had longed for, I felt anxious and confused without my work and my child. I wondered, what was the point of even getting up in the morning? The convergence of doubt, restlessness and free time lured me back to Spirit Rock. Maybe it was worth another shot at that mindfulness and equanimity stuff.

At the Wednesday morning Sangha and at daylongs over the years, I’ve heard the teachings and listened to many stories, including my own. I’ve been there for the searching, suffering and hope and have learned a lot. I was on a roll but getting a little maxed out on the talks and retreats. I still wanted to spend time at Spirit Rock but I needed more context for my practice. I wanted to absorb the Dharma in another way. I decided to volunteer. Most of my work has been helping at daylongs and other events. I greet folks and then get to sit with them. I know it sounds pretty close to what I had already been doing, but as a volunteer it is a deeper experience. I am now a person who holds and supports a holy space for learning and healing. I feel empowered to hear the stories with a compassion that accompanies the teller. I am here to serve. It makes me feel happy, alive and grateful.

Before I ever knew about Spirit Rock or lived in Marin or gave birth to my daughter, I worked for four years as a nurse-midwife in El Salvador during the civil war there. When I returned to San Francisco in 1992, I joined St. John of God Catholic Parish and Sanctuary Church. Since 1986, it has served refugees and immigrants from Central America. I have been able to continue the commitment I made in El Salvador through the Sanctuary Movement in San Francisco.

Since the November election, our work has expanded to include all immigrants and refugees regardless of national origin and many new communities that have become Sanctuaries. We are training to be “Rapid Responders” to ICE raids and arrests. We hold public witness and prayer events, marches and rallies. We help support the families of the deported and raise money for organizations that provide legal defense. For me this work of Sanctuary, like volunteering at Spirit Rock, is a practice of accompaniment and faith. Both are informed by the spiritual calling to take on greed, hatred and delusion and transform them into dignity and hope.

Spirit Rock relies on the generosity of our many volunteers. We offer a range of opportunities from one-time projects to ongoing service. Visit the Volunteer section of our website to find out more about out volunteer program or contact our Volunteer Coordinator at Volunteering@spiritrock.org or (415) 488-0164 x224.

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