Did you know Ratna Ling Retreat Center is operated entirely by a community of volunteers?
Everyone who welcomes you to the property, from the reservation staff, to the kitchen team, to the teachers who host our retreats, all live on the property and dedicate our time to the mission set forth by our founder. What began as an effort to establish a foothold for the Buddhism in the western world, has transformed into a collection of 22 non-profit organizations each playing a different role in transmitting the Buddha’s teachings in the west. As members of the Ratna Ling community, we have an opportunity to practice the lessons of Tibetan Buddhism in both our daily lives and our work. But what does it mean to live in community?
- Sharing is caring for the community. While it is nice if your roommate is willing to share access to the bathroom or the last cookie, learning to share also goes far beyond the practices usually taught in childhood. When living in a small community of adults, sharing means: sharing time, resources, knowledge, energy, feelings, and successes. In 2016, Psychology Today published an article that supports the theory that humans share interpersonal energy and can influence response mechanisms between one another. When living in a small community, it is good to be aware of the energy you are bringing, and if necessary, discussing it. “Good Vibes Only” is not realistic all of the time, but it is important to be aware of what you are sending out into the world.
- Patience, grasshopper. Patience is a strong-willed response against adversity stemming from a settled temperament unshaken by either external or internal disturbance. Patience does not mean that one need be a doormat to get along; on the contrary, having a firm footing in your beliefs and the ability to calmly explain your stance with precision is far more beneficial than always giving in, or perhaps worse, giving up.
- This too shall pass. Impermanence is a common thread in Buddhism. That which is, will, at some point, no longer be. For example, when a member decides to leave the community, it takes a toll on the other members. We go through the gamut of emotions before settling into our new existence. Of course, there are also undoubtedly moments when energy is high and everyone is feeling empowered and excited. While this is emotionally exhilarating, it is also realistic to understand that this indeed too shall pass. Living in a community is spiritually uplifting, but it is still a group of humans working through existence together. Nothing is perfect.
- Discourse over retaliation. When one has consciously adopted a stance not to retaliate against an actual or perceived harm, once one has achieved true tolerance. Living with a group of similarly minded people gives you an opportunity to test the waters during times of conflict. This is especially valuable during small squabbles because it can prepare you for when bigger obstacles become more challenging. In reality, it is relatively simple to mitigate a situation before it becomes a full blown crisis because everything is improv, no one really knows what they are doing or why they are here. The challenge is to not let it escalate. One valuable piece of advice to remember when things get heated is, “it’s not you versus me, it’s us against the problem.” When you know you have a partner to work with, you can decide together what needs to happen and how to get there.
- The power of the breath. It goes without saying that living in a community that supports and teaches meditation, means that we learn a lot about our breath. Sitting in meditation? Pay attention to the breath. Struggling through a challenge? Check in with the breath. Mind getting the best of you? Come back to the breath.
The Buddha considered the community of like-minded practitioners so important that he included it as one of the “three jewels” of Buddhism. The jewels of the community, the teacher, and the teachings work in tandem to support individual awakening. The spiritual path is a long, often strenuous and usually an exhausting road. The support of a thoroughly invested community helps to establish and maintain the discipline necessary to navigate the rough patches.
By Katie Roerich