Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Participation Game

Tuesday night on Open Air, Jen, our Africa coordinator, with the help of that intrepid reporter-monk Dave, launched the 2011 fundraising campaign for the Africa Vulnerable Children Project. This year we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our commitment to assist in poverty alleviation in Africa and enter our 6th year in Kantolomba.

If you’ve been involved in this practice for any time at all you know what a very big deal “participation” is for us. Ours is a practice. There’s nothing philosophical or theoretical about what we do. It’s a “bringing conscious, compassionate awareness to how you are and how you do what you do in each moment” way of living. One is either practicing, or one is not practicing. Understanding, knowing, learning, and figuring out don’t have a place in this every-moment, paying-attention practice of ours. With that orientation the folks behind the fundraising campaign have come up with a way we can all participate in this decade celebration by practicing our every-moment awareness via what they’re calling the Participation Game.

Now, I confess this sort of thing has never been my idea of a good time. I don’t enjoy games. Most of the games on offer when I was growing up were competitive, and I never liked seeing anyone lose. I just couldn’t understand the fun in something that resulted in one person or group being wildly happy while another was miserable. Oh, sure, I heard all the “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” messages, but I didn’t see anyone buying it. When I realized I was cheating so my cousins could win, I quit altogether.

So, when I heard the word “game,” I watched my fundraising enthusiasm start down hill. “Can I please just hold a bake sale?” (Anyone who knows me well knows how much I must dislike games to have a thought like that!) However, I’m a student of Zen so that response was pretty quickly replaced by, “Okay, I’m willing. What do I do?”

As some of the details of the game were announced I found myself getting a little bit excited about it. The first thing we heard, on Open Air, was an invitation to send an email to with “participation” in the subject line. All very mysterious. I determined to send mine in as soon as the show was over and promptly forgot. Fortunately, we had another chance the next week and I got mine in. More details were revealed. I saw some emails go back and forth as the strategy was being finalized, but didn’t really take in the details. (I don’t like games, you know.)

Then, on Tuesday night, again on the Good News portion of Open Air, all was made clear! I raced to the website and could not believe my eyes. It’s gorgeous, clear, easy to follow—fun. And, best of all, it’s a game in which everyone wins!

I cruised around making my pledge and signing up here and there (I thought I might win one of those guidance appointments), and generally had a very good time playing. I highly recommend it!

As I was playing, I recalled something that happened a couple of weeks ago at the Monastery. We were all racing around getting the place ready for a retreat, each of us with a long list of chores and tasks, attempting to get as much done as we could before the meeting time of 4 o’clock in the garden. Earlier in the day two of the monks had prepared 3 beds for transplanting tomato plants from the greenhouse to the great out of doors. It was a big job to get all those little ones into their new homes and important to do while the sun was lower in the sky, giving them the best chance to avoid the shock of a painful transition.

Everyone gathered and set to the task in typical attentive, mindful, kind, monk fashion. I was completing a task on another part of the grounds at the time, but heard glowing reports later that evening during group about how much fun it was to do something like that together. The feeling of everyone focusing their attention and energy in one direction to accomplish a compassionate outcome is as good as it gets. The consensus was that doing anything with Sangha is fun.

I confess to having felt a little twinge of disappointment that I missed the great tomato extravaganza because I know from years of experience that it’s true—being with Sangha makes everything fun. Given that, you can imagine how delighted I am to get to participate in the Participation Game.

I invite you to join the fun.

In Gassho,