The last weekend of July always feels special, the longest day has been, there are a few more frosts to look forward to and spring finally feels close. During the last weekend of July this year a few of us gathered at the centre for the yearly AGM and Hui. The weekend was intimate and rich, we moved with each other like a family, eating together, having long conversations by the fire and practising together. This served well as we began to discuss the ever evolving idea for a Year of Service at the Wangapeka.
Earlier this year a core group of five volunteered to explore this idea and what it means for the future of the Wangapeka. What is a Year of Service? It is an idea that explores the fundamental role of Service to the Path of Liberation, and an opportunity to explore the many ways in which this is possible. This idea looks into viable and appropriate ways in which a community of people, a central group, could live at the Wangapeka, serving the centre and beyond.
We had a rich and generous discussion over the weekend looking at the proposal written by the YOS core group. The idea was very much alive in all those who attended and a shared enthusiasm was expressed for the possibilities of the future. At the heart of the vision rests this notion of service and what it means individually and for the Wangapeka – this is where we started our conversation. Many ideas and thoughts were expressed : we talked about remote workers and how the current era of technology could play a role in supporting people to be here longer term. It was mutually agreed that the ‘who’ was the most important aspect and as the next step the board is looking into asking teachers and elders for their involvement. We had a lengthy discussion that felt productive and fruitful.
The rain eventually came, adding to the delightful wintery scene. Although attendance was small, it seemed this was just what the Wangapeka and we needed – a weekend of gentle, calm, friendship and inspiration.
I received in early July an email from Georgia who has been one of a core group of five looking into the possibility of creating a Year of Service at the Wangapeka with the potential of becoming a new working/ practice model for the running of the Centre. In that email was a proposal to the BoT and additional information about what has transpired since the February 2022 Hui theme of Service. I was struck by all the effort and enthusiasm which has gone into that exploration to bring it forward to this point. In itself an act of Service.
The hui was an opportunity to inform the membership of all that has transpired and receive feedback. Of the twelve of us present was created a small and intimate circle of friends which included the warmth and heart of the hearth not unlike those ancestors of the distant past who found connection and trust gathered around an open fire, and now in this modern era, to share in thought and reflection the evolution of this phenomenon called the Wangapeka Educational Trust.
Three generations of Dharma community were present….Sol being the youngest and David the eldest providing a diverse range of perspective, interest and enthusiasm to move the proposal forward.
Discussion arose around individuals working remotely, while living at the Centre and paying rent for accommodation or even gifting their earnings to the Centre while being immersed in and engaging in an atmosphere of Dharma practice and Service.
Times have clearly changed since I was in my twenties and thirties. How willing are we as a sangha to accommodate these changes in an evolving model for the Centre without losing connection with the foundational threads and weavings of Dharma practice?
Can we be of service to those who are working for Greenpeace for example, and are drawn to the Dharma, while they live and work remotely from the Centre? Can the Centre become a place of support and refuge for those who are working to save the planet and its inhabitants from a sixth extinction….a place of practice and reflection promoting a vaster view that’s so dearly needed in such unprecedented times?
As we sat in circle around the fire it was palpable to feel the connection and sense of a much larger family joining once again in the main hall with a common purpose.
Perhaps a purpose to live a dream. A dream that some of us had that night of friends living together at the Centre with an uncommon openness of heart free of self interest.