March 07 Newsletter » Committee Work
SENSEI BARBARA JOSHIN O'HARA

When I see the placid, tranquil look of the Buddha sitting on the altar, I wonder how well it would survive sitting on a committee.

There comes a time in one’s practice, of course, when looking like a buddha is not so hard. Once the mental muscles are developed, it becomes easier to slip into samadhi, the state of no-thought where concerns and worries are transcended, or that state where just the faint sense of their irrelevance lingers, like wispy clouds in an expanse of blue. Some call it a deep state of absorption, and it’s enjoyable and even addictive. Others refer to it as an escape.

To that extent, Roshi talks about serving on a committee as “advanced practice.” And what I think she means is that one becomes willing to abandon the ‘blue sky’ metaphor and come back into the messy, human realm of feelings and emotions. Coming up against people who have opinions and ideas that are different from one's own brings one in contact with places in oneself that are not always so pleasant and agreeable. The structures and bounds of the ego — that raging two-year-old, for example, who still wants to have its own way, who is convinced it knows best and to hell with everyone else — becomes a lot more apparent in a meeting than when sitting undisturbed on the cushion. joshin sensei

Relationships where differences are expressed are a good place to get to know that two- year-old, to become familiar with its tyrannical sway, to meet it at its place of hurt and rage. We can’t transform what we don’t know exists. Committee work is a great way to find out.

I feel indebted to sangha members who serve on committees. May the two-year old in each of us be happy!

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