I’m attending via the Internet a year-long series of lectures through the Upaya Zen Center about Socially Engaged Buddhism. On the honor system (the program consists only of watching zoom or YouTube lectures and a Facebook forum with no interaction with any leading the program other than group emails), as part of the year, we are supposed to have a “social engagement” project informed by Buddhist principles of right living.
Social engagement as an intrinsic element of spiritual practice/observation seems completely consistent with the principle of Quaker practice I was raised with —that of putting one’s faith and recognition that there is good in every being—into how one lives and works. It also resonates with my understanding of the yoga practice of seva (“selfless” service), which I have tried to make a consistent part of my personal yoga sadhana.
After much intentional and spaciously open contemplation of this exhortation to have a project, and in response to my listening to the lectures and the questions and observations of others listening to the the program, I came to the conclusion that, actually, I could not take on another thing without it being toxic to myself.
In fact, after 30 committed years, I’ve given notice of my intent to retire from the Federal civil service at the end of the year. I am also doing less volunteer work than I had been prior to the pandemic. For the rest of the year, I am continuing my concerted efforts to share my experience and knowledge to make sure my co-workers are prepared to take on the responsibilities for the complex project that has been largely my responsibility to lead and coordinate for over a decade. That, along with what it is taking for a mindful emergence from pre-vaccine pandemic living, is taking all the energy I can give and still be healthy.
I continue to budget to make reparations, to speak out, and make other consistent offerings, but am at last releasing the need for measurable accomplishments, rather than feeling compelled to find or produce more.
As saying that I am doing what I have already been doing has not seemed sufficiently responsive, and after these months of trying to articulate what I mean in a way that would not sound dismissive of the task, I wrote this haiku:
This is my project:
Be kinder to myself and
Also to others.
PS It is, I am sure, just a coincidence that it is Bastille Day.
PPS Get out the vote!