The Manual Labor of Enlightened Society

BROOM IMAGEI still remember some of the questions in my mind when I first started coming to our Center:  Who maintains  this place?  Who pays the rent?  Who pays for all the tea and cookies?  Who makes all these beautiful flower arrangements?  There seemed to be no staff, no pleas for money, no tangible stress around these things that I knew did not just arise from thin air.  Little by little I learned how things work around here — that the rent, the cookies, the toilet paper and everything that costs money is paid by membership contributions, program fees, and donations; that the center is cleaned by the members themselves; that all the flower arrangements are made and cared for by just a few people — and that all kinds of other jobs are done by pure volunteer energy and dedication.

In a recent conversation I had with Richard Does, our Center Director, he used the image of the three wheels of dharma to describe the things we do at our Center – we practice, we study, and we work.  He explained that this image has its roots in the early days of Karme Chöling, the first Shambhala land center.  Work, study, and practice are all necessary to maintain a functioning dharmic community, and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche felt that it was important for each person to engage in all three.

Although cleaning is not my favorite kind of work, my turns on the cleaning rota have actually been quite enjoyable.  They have given me a chance (about once every eight months) to connect with other members whom I might not otherwise get to know, and they have reminded me that cleaning is both service and practice — meditation in action, you could say.  I have come to think of it as the manual labor of building enlightened society.

While I am still inspired and impressed by all the work we do – and with joyful effort, most of the time – it seems that our sophisticated cleaning system has recently faced some challenges.  The Council is currently discussing possible solutions, and we would like your input.  Are we all too busy to clean the Center ourselves?  Do we need to hire a professional cleaner?  Are members willing to increase their dues to cover the expense?

One obvious challenge to the system we have had in place is that there has been a gap in the position of “rota chief” (the person who assigns the weekly cleaning teams).  Another obstacle has been that several people whose names were on the rota list were either not aware of this or felt that they could not or did not want to clean the center.

Please take a moment to take a quick survey so we can have a better idea of how the direction the sangha wants to take on this important issue.  Many thanks,

Kerstin Lange, communications coordinator