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The phrase “the hardest thing I’d ever have done” is often used to describe appeals. It’s true – I’ve never done something as completely challenging and engaging on every level.
The hardest person for me to meet on the appeal has turned out to be myself. I love meeting strangers; I’m hungry for the connection and I find it much easier to hold rejection from others lightly. Facing up to the everyday ways I’m making my own life harder though is terrifying.
When you meet someone who is under no obligation to please you (and frequently doesn’t want to give you their time, let alone their money), you are met exactly how you are. Whatever you bring is reflected back, and so you can clearly see how you are limiting yourself, telling yourself ‘No’ before they have even opened the door.
My inner ‘No’ comes in three forms. In training these are called the ‘Inner Guardians’, and each is a different way I create my own suffering.
The first is self-hatred, dislike or low self-esteem. In the presence of this black panther demon I’m small, self-critical and apologetic. He turns me into a ‘nice’ Buddhist, who accepts things at face value, sucking up all my passion, ferocity and conviction for the cause.
The second guardian is a demanding perfectionist, for whom nothing is good enough. For the harpy, with leathery black wings and horn-rimmed spectacles, every house that doesn’t sign up is a failure, but in order to rationalise her impossibly high standards I lose contact with myself and my experience.
The last is a little girl – seemingly carefree, curls bouncing in indifference. She is strong and independent, refuses to ask for what she needs, and is terrified of vulnerability. Her image is most like mine, and so she has the most powerful guard of all – a closed heart.
You don’t need to do an appeal to meet your own guardians, but what Karuna gives is the best possible context to face them. All any of them really want is to be loved, so bring on the self-metta! Being open and receptive to whatever happens will make an appeal much easier for you, and if you can meet your demons with kindness and acceptance, whoever is on the other side of the door isn’t as scary!
Crucially, you aren’t alone. The community is the heart of the appeal, and having a nurturing environment allows everyone to explore themselves, and be successful in doing something incredible for others. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to live with such wonderful women, all of whom have shown me unstinting support, kindness and generosity.
For me, doing an appeal has shone a spotlight on how I create my own difficulties. I’ve had to face up to the everyday ways I make myself feel inadequate. However, by directly challenging my self-view and going beyond myself to meet others, I’ve opened up to the infinite possibilities of connection, the magic and the opportunity in the world.
This is the most inspirational and spiritually rewarding thing I can imagine doing. I’ve made life-changing connections here, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to anyone who wants to deepen and strengthen their practice.
By Caroline Ivimey Parr
Kalyanalila appeal 2014