VoM May 2014
I found ATS after reading Noah’s book Dharma Punx, and after reading an article in Shambhala Sun. I had been introduced to Buddhism at a young age, and over the years, dipped in and out of the vast pool of Buddhist flavors. But never really committing, and with long periods of absent mindedness.
And, as many of us did, I came back to Buddhism because of a major crisis in my life. While I explored other teachers and Sanghas, ATS felt like home to me. I was uninterested in a religious approach, and had always felt like a fake when practicing in that vein.
I have been attending regular classes at ATS for a little over a year. A couple of things that keep me coming back. The teachers. The sense that they are sharing what they have learned, their own life experiences, this helps relate teachings to our lives. Also that the teachers themselves are still on the path. That is Meta-teaching, not the teacher as be all and end all of knowledge. I often hear, ” go find out for yourself if these teachings work” at the end of a class.
Also, the community, the Sangha, is so vibrant. So many different backgrounds, all on the same dharma path, sharing what we know, supporting each other in the practice, in our daily lives. It is a rich community.
I volunteer because I have the time. Many people have long days with work and family, and at this time I don’t have those. So it is with great pleasure that I volunteer. I also feel that the more time I spend at the center, the more it is an everyday experience of my life, the more centered my path becomes. And, I am so grateful to have this community of friends and practitioners that volunteering feels like a way to nurture that that has given so much to me.
I volunteer by cleaning the Melrose center every Tuesday, entering names and emails on the database, and hosting Wednesday night classes at Melrose. And what ever else comes up that I can be of help with.
I keep coming back because this is my path, because Noah said “If I can do it, You can do it!” because I am in one year of practice more at peace, mindful and happier than at any other point in my life. And I like that.
I came to ATS during a period of great suffering, my marriage had ended unceremoniously, my mother died and I was suffering the loss of a rebound relationship. My career was floundering and deeply I identified with my story, the source of suffering, my thoughts carried me deeply into the past and way into the future, the presence of the present moment, hadn’t begun to have any resonance. I was my thoughts plain and simple, I knew no other way. I was in pain as well as the source of my suffering.
I’d known about ATS for years but I thought it was about addiction recovery and didn’t check further. While attending a sitting group at insightLA I heard Rick tell a group of girls that they could attend a class the following Monday at ATS. Lonely and despairing I went.
It’s funny how much of it seems a blur but I started to come Monday Wednesday and Friday nights, I remember wanting to attend an all day with Shinzen, money was tight and I asked if there was anything I could do to work for my attending the daylong. Shelly said I could clean the hall and bathrooms. I jumped at the idea. I am also, the back up host on Wednesday nights.
Now I help and volunteer whenever I’m able.
What I’ve learned is at first it seems like you’re meditating for yourself then the reasons the sources of suffering shift slightly and you see the world differently, part of that is in service. Have you ever done something where the payback was so much larger than the act of contribution? What an amazing gift.
It’s a privilege to be part of an organization, to contribute to a group of people struggling with the pain of their own humanity.
I am grateful and honored to be part of the ATS community, volunteering is so rich and provides much nourishment.