Introduction by Ryan Shelton: Mark and I had a lot in common when we met in 2012. We both worked for universities in the Research Triangle of North Carolina doing research related to applied math and physics. We were also serious meditators trying to balance work, dhamma, and our relationships. As is the nature of dhamma friendships, we got to know each other very quickly as we shared our life stories and personal struggles during 14 hours of driving to and from a Trust Meeting at Dhamma Patapa.
After experiencing the clear-eyed benefits of my second 10 day Vipassana course, I decided to go home and take my daily meditation practice seriously. I wanted to sit twice a day, one hour each. With all the best intentions and this strong motivation, I started off pretty well. Mornings, easy; evenings, not so much. All kinds of mental states-fear, frustration, guilt, drowsiness-came to the surface as barriers to keeping my goal. And I failed.
Then I learned that weekly group sittings were being offered, and the location was along my commute home from work. A warm, generous woman opened her home for people to practice Vipassana together twice a week in the evening. I immediately felt something different from my at-home sittings. It was hard to pinpoint at the time but I now recognize the diverse group of a dozen or so meditators-some regulars, others transient-as my first reliable interface with the Dhamma community. The purpose of maintaining my daily sittings, although still a challenge, started to come clearer into view. Before and after the sitting, people would chat about their lives and Dhamma goings-on: upcoming 10 day courses, news of a new center, and opportunities to serve.
I learned at a sitting that an upcoming 10 day course in Colorado needed servers. Having just served my first course at the Northwest Vipassana Center, I was in. What an eye-opening, different experience that was! Thrust into the role of kitchen manager at one of the first courses organized at a new rental site, I quickly learned that this was going to be different from my previous service. The detailed manuals, orientation, and the time-tested environment from my last service were replaced by “take it as it comes”. But the community of servers, some new, some experienced, formed a Dhamma family nucleus. Everything worked out. The concreteness of bringing our understanding of equanimity and anicca into meeting that 11am lunch deadline was striking. In addition, Dhamma service helped us begin to develop a deeper understanding of metta.
By then, my daily sittings were so much easier to keep. I had directly experienced the benefits of meditation by meditating and serving with others. Looking back, I see those regular Tuesday and Thursday evening group sittings as the source of my Dhamma family and so much support to maintain my daily practice. Nowadays, I get the wonderful opportunity to sit in a dedicated space for meditation: Boulder, Colorado’s Dhamma house. And, with the recent purchase of 156 acres of land in Elbert, CO for a permanent Vipassana center, the opportunities to meditate, serve and continue to grow my understanding of anicca, equanimity, and metta here in Colorado are abundant.
This blog is an example of manifestation of Dhamma community and family.