Strengthening Relationships

By Therese Fitzgerald At the international gathering of the Order of Interbeing in October 1996 at Plum Village, there was much discussion about mentoring. Thfty proposed that a person not only "wait" a year after receiving the Five Mindfulness Trainings to join the Order, but that there be a training program within the Sangha based on the four-year Dharma teacher training program. Over the years, it has become apparent that preparation for receiving the Trainings and becoming a community leader are essential for strengthening the individual and the Order.

In Interbeing, Thay writes, "If you want to formally receive the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings and enter the core community of the Order of Interbeing, it is because you wish to become a community leader, to organize the practice in a Sangha. Only when you have the feeling that you have enough time, energy, and interest to take care of a community should you ask for formal ordination. Then you will be working together with other brothers and sisters."

Returning to Berkeley, I encouraged our local Sangha to engage in a program of preparation for three friends who had declared their intentions to receive the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. We met monthly to discuss aspirations, review our understanding and practice of the Five Mindfulness Trainings and the Three Refuges, explore the 01 Charter, and learn with Wendy Johnson about practicing mindfulness with children. The aspirants also engaged in a program of "meditation hall caretaking"-practicing inviting the bell, hosting evenings of practice, and leading Trainings Recitation Ceremonies. Last August we met for a weekend of practice and training. When the three aspirants received the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings from Thay at the Santa Barbara retreat, it was a wonderful occasion for celebration by the whole Sangha of their careful efforts.

In the past few months, I have engaged in mentoring by correspondence and in person with more than a dozen aspirants nationwide who do not have ordained members nearby. I developed an outline, drawn from materials presented in this issue, as a base of exploration in the mentoring relationship. We correspond each month, and arrange for individual meetings and group training days whenever possible, along with at least two retreats a year together.

Working within this framework, we are developing relationships to help inform and sustain the practice of mindfulness in our lives. My individual relationships with Dharma brothers and sisters are crucial for my own growth and deepening of understanding. It is wonderful to be part of a process that nurtures these kinds of relationships among people with shared aspirations.

Dharma teacher Therese Fitzgerald, True Light, is a Co-Director of the Order of Interbeing.

PDF of this article