Looking Towards 2018
I've been doing a bit of visioning lately, both in terms of my personal life and the practice I'm building around me, and I thought I'd invite you into the process. It's an exciting time and one I've anticipated for a great while: a time when I feel free and able to stand firmly upon the work I've done within myself and the experience I've gained these many years, and from this foundation to create, within whatever capacity I have to do it, a structure that supports others in their spiritual growth and personal freedom. Below you will find an outline of my vision for this next year and beyond. As you consider that vision, if you have ideas, questions, comments, or concerns I hope you will make them known to me. I would much prefer to do this work in conversation with those I'm hoping to serve than in a vacuum. If you are aware of things you need; if you have feedback for me; if you have requests of me going forward I would eagerly welcome these as well. Thank you in advance for your input.
Before I look forward into this coming year I hope you will indulge a glance at what has come before. Three plus years ago, in September of 2015, I left the monastery with but a few dollars in my pocket and no clear idea what I would do, where I would go, and how I would make my living. I wouldn't say I was frightened by the change--I was too excited for that--but I was definitely on the edge of my seat as I anticipated what would happen to me. I received help from those who know and love me, for which I am profoundly grateful and without which things would have turned out much differently. I profited from the training I had received, which taught me how to trust the process as it unfolded, to wait and pay attention, to say yes to what the moment offered, and to circumvent the conditioned processes that attempted to interfere. Eventually I found a place to be and a temporary livelihood (working with troubled teens in a wilderness setting in Colorado). I formed a partnership with my beautiful sweetheart Anna and set up a home with her. Once it seemed probable I would survive and I had the attention for larger things, I began to look into my heart to see how I wanted to spend the remainder of my life and what I have to offer. Gradually it became clear that my calling had not changed, that I lived with the same purpose I served all those years at the monastery: to awaken to my authentic nature in this lifetime, so far as that is possible for me, and to assist others in the same work as best I can. In 2016 I completed and published a book, created a website, and initiated this blog. In December of that year I picked up my first coaching client: a beautiful soul, my friend Nick, who I met way out in the middle of nowhere Arizona.
This past year has been just as eventful. I now have some thirty people I talk with on a regular or occasional basis, which translates into twenty to twenty-five more conversations a week. I facilitated a large event in Raleigh, NC, which was my first as a representative of my own practice rather than as an organ of the monastery. I offered two other public events as well, one near Asheville, NC, and one in Portland Oregon. The result of this expansion is that I am no longer in a position to need to work strictly for money. I offer everything I do on a donation basis, and people have been generous enough to allow me to let go of my day-job and offer practice full time. I don't exaggerate when I say this is a dream come true for me. Thank you so much, my friends, for supporting me in this way and creating this opportunity both for me and for the growing group of people whom I serve.
My first priority this coming year is the same as it has been these past twenty-five, which is to practice every day with as much spirit, heart, and determination as I can muster. I want to maintain a strong meditation practice, as that is the foundation for everything I do, and I want to care for my body and spirit through yoga. I want to practice following the Guidance that Life offers in each moment; I want to do what is in front of me to do and forgo what it is clear I must let go of. I want to stand fast in my integrity and avoid nothing, ignore nothing, and run from nothing, to the best of my ability. I cannot offer to others what I do not practice myself, and so I wish to maintain my own practice before all other things.
I intend to fill my coaching schedule. I've parceled out my days such that I have time to write in the mornings (theoretically: it's been tough to make it happen thus far, but I'm optimistic for the future) and my afternoons are devoted to one-on-ones. I figure I can take on 5-7 more folks before I'm maxed out. Let me know if you would like to participate.
I intend to finish my second book and begin the publication process. I have a large pile of words collected already; what remains is to sort them out and order them into a coherent whole. The way I envision it now, the book will outline the ways in which we might end the suffering in our world by transforming it in ourselves. I'm imagining four sections. In the first I'll outline the processes within conditioned mind by which we are captivated by the illusion of a separate self who suffers. Second, I'll describe how those same internal processes operate on the outside to create the conditioned society we live within. Third, I'll present what I've learned over time about the ways we each may life a skillful and conscious life (in terms of ending our relationship with conditioned mind, certainly, but also in terms of practical things such as decision making, work and money, sex and relationship, and so on). And finally I'll offer what I can see about the ways we might use the spiritual technology I promote, the same that has the power to free us from conditioned mind on an individual basis, to save us all as a human family.
I intend to find avenues through which I can do more group work, which I love. I'm currently planning a retreat in Arizona in March (there are still a couple spots left if you want one), and I will likely offer another in the fall. I'm in conversation with an organization in Florida about doing an event there, and I'll likely teach some more in Portland this year. And I suspect that more opportunities will open up as I go forward. I have a feeling this will be the year that things begin move and my role as a teacher/facilitator begins to take off.
For a couple years now I've been carrying around the idea that I would like to start a training center somewhere: a place where folks who wish to do spiritual practice full time can go and receive guidance and support. I don't envision a monastery so much as a half-way house, a center where people can work, have relationships, and participate in the world as usual, but within a context of practice and with the support of close community. I imagine a group of us living and practicing together somewhat as monks, but with one foot in the world and with the intention to use our experience out there as a mirror into which we can look to see both our social programming and our potential to live in freedom and real happiness. I feel a need for this kind of training in our world. Traditional monastic practice fills a need as well, and I can imagine creating a monastery of some sort down the road to pair with the urban training center, but the more urgent need, I think, is for support for practice in the world. I don't know if anything concrete will happen here this year, but it might. All I would need is a small handful of folks who want to do it and we can begin.
Anna and I are in conversation about ways in which we might collaborate in the creation of this practice center. She brings skills and experience to the table which I don't have and which could round out the training offered. The wisdom she has acquired through her life as a long-term Outward Bound instructor, an educator (she has a PhD in education), an artist, and a nature-connected life-coach could temper, broaden, and soften the focused Zen training I've received in ways that I believe would be good and helpful. See what she's up to at www.gracewithnature.wixsite.com/mysite. There appears to be an opening for this project to take form in Portland. In December I traveled there in order to meet with a woman I trained with at the monastery named Caverly Morgan. I'd encourage you to look her up (www.caverlymorgan.org). Among other things she has founded an organization that brings mindfulness practice to the public schools. We are discussing the possibility of cooperating in various ways, and it could be that the training center I envision and the community Caverly has built in Portland could mutually serve one another. It's likely Anna and I will journey to Portland in the spring to explore the possibility further.
Those are the big rocks! In addition there are a number of smaller things I'm hoping to accomplish this year. It's beginning to feel like it's time to set up a non-profit so that people's donations can be tax-deductible, and for other financial/logistical reasons. If you are someone who knows about such things and if you feel like helping out I'd love to have some assistance with this. I'd also like to upgrade my website. I'm rather proud of it, considering that I built it myself and what an amateur I am, but I also understand that someone who actually knows what they are doing could improve it dramatically. If you are someone with these skills and a desire to contribute them to this effort I'd be most grateful to have your assistance. And of course I intend to maintain this blog throughout the year. It's been a bit inconsistent over time, I know, but I hope I'm in a position now to keep it going regularly.
That's the news from here! Thank you, friends, for your attention and your support. Thank you for practicing with me. I can't do this without you, of course, and I feel so grateful for this opportunity we have made together. Thank you, each of you, for being the beautiful person that you are.