The Path of Engagement

November 10, 2006

[from Sara Schedler]

> I am writing to tell you about a new two-year training
> program in socially engaged Buddhism, co-sponsored by
> BPF, called the Path of Engagement (POE). The program,
> which starts in April 2007, is an intensive practice
> curriculum that includes meditation, study, mentoring,
> training, reflection, and investigation, all in the
> context of a supportive community over two years. It
> is designed to meet the needs of those wishing to
> deepen their ability to embody spiritual principles in
> the midst of their action and engagement, responding
> to the needs and challenges of our times with wisdom
> and compassion.
> My original interest in developing the Path of
> Engagement came from a desire to offer BPF chapters
> and developing BASE groups a long-term education and
> training program in SEB that could support their work
> in their home communities. One idea I’ve had is for
> interested chapters to choose a representative from
> their group to participate in the Path of Engagement,
> collectively help fund their representative to
> complete the program and have their rep. hold
> trainings in their home communities based on what they
> learned in the POE. The Path of Engagement could also
> be seen as a training program for burgeoning BASE
> mentors.
> The program is designed by Donald Rothberg, whose
> recently published book, “The Engaged Spiritual Life:
> A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the
> World”, will form the underpinning of the program
> curriculum. Anushka Fernandopulle, BPF’s Board vice
> president, recently signed on as the co-facilitator of
> the program, which is very exciting! Other teachers in
> the program will include Joanna Macy, Jack Kornfield,
> Sylvia Boorstein and many more (a complete list of
> teachers is posted below). For more detailed
> information about the nuts and bolts of the program,
> please read on below. […]
> The program is limited to 35 participants and
> applications are coming in fast, so please email me if
> you are interested in the program.
> Thank you very much.
> Sincerely,
> Sara Schedler
>
> The Path of Engagement Program
>
> The Buddhist Peace Fellowship is pleased to announce
> the first Path of Engagement Program, intended to help
> participants connect their individual spiritual
> practice with their work, service, and action in the
> world. Co-sponsored by Spirit Rock Meditation Center,
> the Path of Engagement is an intensive practice
> curriculum that includes meditation, study, mentoring,
> training, reflection, and investigation, all in the
> context of a supportive community. The program is
> designed to meet the needs of those wishing to deepen
> their ability to embody spiritual principles in the
> midst of their action and engagement, responding to
> the needs and challenges of our times with more wisdom
> and compassion.
>
> The program will begin April 23 – 29, 2007 and will
> continue for two years. Participation is limited to 35
> persons. Applications received after November 1st will
> be considered on a rolling admissions basis, until the
> program is filled. Although there will be a common
> grounding in mindfulness and lovingkindness practice,
> participants who share the program’s intentions are
> welcome from any tradition or approach.
>
> Donald Rothberg (Director) and Anushka Fernandopulle
> will facilitate the program and be lead teachers. The
> program was designed by Donald Rothberg with the help
> of Sara Schedler.
>
> Other teachers in the program all have considerable
> experience in bridging dharma practice, service, and
> action in the world, and include Spirit Rock teachers
> James Baraz, Sylvia Boorstein, Jack Kornfield, and
> Diana Winston, and a number of other teachers,
> including Michele Benzamin-Miki, Joanna Macy, Thich
> Minh Duc, Caitríona Reed, Alan Senauke, Tempel Smith,
> Heather Sundberg, and Larry Yang.
>
> Sara Schedler will administer the program. […]

> Program Commitments
>
> 1. Five 7-day residential retreats: Our intention is
> to ground participants in core Buddhist teachings and
> practices, and to explore how we might better embody
> these teachings in the world-in our relationships,
> work, service, and action. The retreats will combine
> periods of silent practice with interactive training
> and teaching sessions, and times for discussion and
> inquiry. Topics will include:
> . Basic Buddhist teachings and practices, such as the
> Four Noble Truths, the Four Foundations of
> Mindfulness, and the Brahmavihara (lovingkindness,
> compassion, joy, and equanimity), both on the cushion
> and in the world.
> . Ethical foundations for individuals, groups, and
> societies.
> . The Bodhisattva path.
> . Wise speech and nonviolent communication.
> . Working in groups and organizations as spiritual
> practice.
> . Working with diversity (gender, ethnicity, class,
> sexual orientation, etc.) as practice.
> . Clarifying motivation and setting intentions.
> . Opening to suffering, opening to compassion.
> . Working with difficult emotions, including anger,
> fear, and despair.
> . Interdependence, non-duality, and relating to
> “enemies” and “opponents.”
> . Transforming conflicts.
> . Developing a Buddhist-based social analysis.
> . Studying exemplary engaged lives.
> . Working with young people.
> . Balancing taking care of ourselves and taking care
> of others and the world.
> . Commitment and action for the long haul: What makes
> this possible?
> . Body-based practices to help ground our engagement.
> 2. Study curriculum: Year-round, ongoing study of
> classical texts and contemporary writings with short
> monthly “study and practice” assignments.
>
> 3. Ongoing daily practice: We ask for a commitment to
> a daily spiritual practice and focus. This will look
> different for different people.
>
> 4. Engagement in the world: Each participant will be
> engaged in some way, for example, in service, the
> helping professions, social change work and activism,
> or some other way of responding to community or social
> needs, either through employment or volunteer work,
> minimally several hours a week. This provides the
> “field of application” vital to develop feedback loops
> between spiritual practice, reflection, action, and
> group learning.
>
> 5. Individualized Intentions and Goals: With the help
> of a mentor, each participant will develop general
> intentions and specific objectives within the context
> of a common program curriculum.
>
> 6. Program Buddies: Scheduled discussion and
> reflection with a buddy from the program.
>
> 7. Interviews with Mentors: Regular half-hour
> interviews with a mentor, focusing on formal practice,
> connecting practice with engagement, homework, and
> one’s personal intentions and goals. Interviews will
> be monthly or every other month, in person or by phone
> at the teacher’s discretion, and are on a dana basis.
>
> 8. Regular small group meetings: Periodic (monthly)
> groups will be available either in person or via
> conference calls. Groups may form where there is a
> critical mass of participants and a mentor available,
> for example, in different parts of the San Francisco
> Bay Area, or in other cities. These groups will help
> establish continuity between the retreats, and will
> develop community, provide a place for personal
> “check-in,” and help focus on the monthly “study and
> practice” assignments. Groups are held on a dana
> basis.
>
> 9. Registration: Applications are available from Sara
> Schedler or on the Spirit Rock web site. You need to
> have a reference, ideally from a person in a senior
> position as a teacher or supervisor, who knows you,
> your spiritual practice, and/or your engagement in the
> world well, is supportive of your participation in the
> program, and is willing to write a short letter on
> your behalf.
>
> All participants need to have a background in
> mindfulness and lovingkindness practice, preferably of
> at least two years, and to have attended at least one
> contemplative retreat. Participants also need to be
> involved in some form of engagement in the world,
> either volunteer or paid. Applicants need to have
> permission from the program director in order to waive
> a prerequisite. Fuller information is found in the
> application.
>
> 10. Costs: The program is priced on a sliding scale
> between $5,460 and $3,760. Anything you are able to
> pay over the low end of the sliding scale may be taken
> as a deductible nonprofit organization donation on
> your income taxes. These sliding scale donations help
> us to provide scholarships for other participants in
> the program. Time-payment arrangements and
> scholarship support are available. The fee does not
> include teacher and staff dana for retreats, and dana
> for any interviews you may receive or groups you might
> attend. Please be aware that participant dana is the
> only compensation teachers receive for leading
> retreats, conducting interviews, and facilitating
> discussion groups between retreats.
>
> Scholarships: Qualified participants who are unable to
> afford the low-end sliding scale fee are encouraged to
> apply for scholarship support when submitting an
> application for the program. We have also applied for
> grants to support the program, particularly those with
> lower income.
>
> 11. Communication: Access to email and the internet is
> a prerequisite for joining the program.
>
> This program is intended to meet the needs of
> practitioners, to help our practice be more integrated
> and seamless across all parts of our lives, and to
> respond to the needs of our times. […] For more detailed
> information on the teachers and curriculum, please
> consult the Spirit Rock web page.

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