Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Thich Nhat Hanh, my favorite Buddhist teacher, established the Order of Interbeing in the mid-sixties.

It is a community of monastics and laypeople who commit their lives to supporting the mindfulness community and the teachings of non-attachment from views, interbeing, happiness, and impermanence. They vow to relieve all suffering: within themselves and others.

To join the Order of Interbeing, members commit themselves to live their lives following the 14 Mindfulness Trainings. These include abstaining from alcohol, not speaking when angry, resolving conflict however small, and conscious consumption of media.

I have always wanted to be a member of the Order of Interbeing, but many of these commitments seemed too big of a hurdle for me. It’s a combination of fear of failure and laziness, not wanting to give up habits that have brought me so much comfort.

It was a typical example of my Inner Saboteur, the Judge, preventing me from living the life that has true meaning to me.

But last Sunday, I finally read my letter to my mindfulness community, asking them to accept me as an aspirant in the Order of Interbeing. I feel proud and happy to share it with you:

“Dear respected Thich Nhat Hanh, beloved Thay, Sangha, and friends,

Nine years ago I wrote my first application letter to be accepted as an aspirant in the Order of Interbeing.

At least seven followed. Four years ago, I even submitted a whole application package to Terry Cortes, our beloved Dharma teacher.

Until now, I have not followed through, because my perfectionism did not deem my efforts good enough. That was enough fodder for my inner critic to also deem myself not good enough. It didn’t think I was good enough, to begin with, and the thought that I could be an aspirant and bring forth Thay’s work was outright ridiculous.

Which Sangha would be so blind that they could not see through my smiles, hugs, and cheerful disposition and see my dark, ugly sides of jealousy, competition, judgment, yelling, anger, and blame?

And even if that Sangha was wise enough and did see positive qualities in me, how on earth could I possibly make any meaningful contribution to a community that is so precious and sacred to me?

Now, thanks to Thay’s teachings and my mindfulness community, I believe I can.

When I heard Terry speak at our retreat about listening to ourselves, I knew that my self-criticism was just an inheritance handed to me by the struggles of my ancestors. And like any inheritance, I can choose what to do with it. I don’t have to schlep it around and carry it on my back wherever I go.

I can take the contents and hold them close to my heart, and mindfully feel whether I want to keep them, recycle them, or donate them to Goodwill for someone else to use. Perhaps my mud can nourish someone else’s lotus.

Today, I ask you to accept me as an aspirant to support our Sangha. I bring my not-so-good traits, my flakiness, and my propensity to stress.

And I bring a deep, sincere love for Thay and endless gratitude for our Sangha. I can literally say that I owe my life to his teachings and community.

I love you all so much and promise that I will do what I can to help carry the raft to the other shore and bring as many beings with us.

May the fruit of my aspirancy benefit all beings.”

You too might have aspirations that you keep pushing to the back burner because your Inner Saboteur is busy running your life.

Or you don’t have clarity about what your deepest goals and aspirations are and you wished you knew what your North Star value is.

And maybe you just want some support to take the first step on your journey toward manifesting your vision.

P.S. In honor of my favorite Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, I invite you to donate to the TNH Foundation to support his teachings.

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