By Jacqueline Kim
For the past year or so, Deer Park Monastery has been renovating Clarity Hamlet, its housing for its nuns. I felt a connection to the activity because of its clear vision in continuing the monastery’s eco-sustainable living and also because I have taken refuge in the original space more than a few times over the last twelve years. I wanted to be involved with fundraising efforts but continued to be busy with my own career reconstruction in Los Angeles.
After a nourishing weekend spent at the monastery with our Sangha, buoyed by the beautiful practice energy we shared during our time together, the desire rose up again. Three days in a normal, busy life is short, but I’ve also experienced a profound ground shift in the same amount of time, re-emphasizing for me the power of resting my thinking, my motor to accomplish life, and to just be, with myself and others.
The concept of a sit-a-thon came to mind. Its simplicity had appeal. Any number of people could do it from any location. They could reach out to their contact lists for sponsorship using a sign-up sheet I would draft with links and information—and the activity would water our collective practice.
The sisters emphasized wanting us to raise funds mindfully; this would be a wonderful way to experiment with right livelihood. We could coordinate details online, sit in whatever location we found ourselves, and bring people together who could not otherwise congregate in the same time and space.
When it came time to reach out, my housemate, a leader with Wake Up LA, and two other facilitators of Los Angeles Compassionate Heart Sangha committed to one-hour time slots. I shared this with the Sangha. This was such an important step. Knowing others were on board, several more people wanted to join. On the day we had chosen—Saturday, August 2, 2014—two other local Sanghas, Flowing River and Organic Garden, would be hosting their regular weekly meetings. Their facilitators joined us and offered to dedicate their practice and dana to the sit-a-thon. Before we knew it, we had twelve continuous hours committed, including a practitioner who would sit when she arrived at her destination on the east coast.
It was an exciting day. I awoke at 7 a.m. to sit with the first hour of sitters. Afterwards, it was hard to go back to sleep. An event was happening and it felt like my attention was needed as an anchor.
Throughout the day it was like this, beginning your sit knowing you were carrying the baton from the sitter before you, and then passing it on with care to the next. Eleven hours later, at 6 p.m., my housemates and I were on the beach, the sound of the ocean around us. They left to prepare an activity for their own Sangha and I sat quietly, wondering where the last sit-a-thon-er could be. Did she live on the west side of the city where her Sangha usually meets? I envisioned her in my mind and sent good energy. When I opened my eyes, it was 7 p.m. Our first sit-a-thon was complete.
Members shared about the event at Sangha the next day. A few of them had met to spend their collective hours together and reported that they had had a great time. They sat, they walked, they cooked. They sat longer than they ever had in their lives and said it felt great to have each other’s support as they did. They expressed wanting to do it again—just to do it! In the end, we raised $2,300 from our collectively linked twelve-hour day.
If it sounds fun and worthwhile to host a sit-a-thon, it’s because it was! It was the birth of a simple model that can be done again, and with ease.
For updates on Deer Park’s Nunnery Project, please visit www.deerparknunnery.org.
Jacqueline Kim, True Beautiful Garden, practices with the Los Angeles Compassionate Heart Sangha. She works as a filmmaker, writer, and performer, and happily writes songs for the Mahasangha, including “Two Promises.” A film she co-wrote, Advantageous, will have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. Currently she is honing her skills in Fine Art and Design with a goal to create healing and interactive public space for people in transitory living situations