By Beverly Alexander
I have had the pleasure both of owning a guinea pig and of being one. Greg Ascue, Jim Needles, and I were among the first to participate in a formal, year-long Order of Interbeing aspirant training program.
As part of our commitment, we all trained and acted as Doans (meditation hall caretakers). We set up the meditation hall, greeted guests, and tidied up afterwards. We were also part of the Mindfulness Trainings recitation ceremony team-Sangha Karman, Assistant, Head of Ceremony (reader), or Bellmaster.
Therese Fitzgerald and Arnie Kotler set aside time to have a series of meetings with us. We wrote about why we wanted to join the Order of Interbeing. We prepared and presented talks on the Three Jewels. The practice of giving talks on Buddhist subjects was very valuable. It helped us to examine these ideas deeply. We received the advice and encouragement of Arnie and Therese.
I think an aspirant training program is wonderful. So wonderful that there should be more of it! I know this is difficult to pull off with everyone's busy schedules. If possible, aspirants should have occasional day retreats together, or even a weekend! Our group shared a weekend together which, sadly, I missed.
Perhaps aspirants could write essays on practicing with the essential teachings of Buddhism, such as the Four Noble Truths, and some of the sutras. A practice journal would help reinforce our practice and help us see where we have come from and how we are growing.
We could have a community service component too. It could be very flexible, taking into account the fact that some practitioners might have young families or other responsibilities. Other skills to be learned might be those useful for facilitating meetings and general skills for establishing and/or maintaining a Sangha.
This was a nourishing experience and I recommend it to all who love Thay's teachings enough to make a deep commitment to nourish the teachings not only in ourselves, but others.
New Order member Beverly Alexander, True Holy Insight, practices with the Community of Mindful Living in Berkeley, California.