It’s the end of the first week and we’ve all survived. Unfortunately two of our team - Amitasuri and Jamie - have been poorly and therefore unable to join us on the first few days of the Karuna door-knocking appeal. However we’re hoping that they’ll both be fit and well very soon.
I must say that, generally (and perhaps surprisingly) we seem to have enjoyed ourselves. Speaking for myself, I’m having a great time. Not that it’s always been easy, but there is something very special - and challenging - about what we are doing. And amongst all the nervousness about whether I can really bring this off, there is a simple joy around what we are trying to do and the beginnings of an appreciation of why this practice is said to be so transformative. In training, and out on the streets,
I am learning to stay aware. So that, when someone opens their door, I am sensitive to them, their mood and their situation, and can respond appropriately. I am appreciating how my own mental state sets up conditions for my potential donor, so between each call I am reaching into stillness and approaching each door with a sense of kindness and acceptance for whatever I might find there - regardless of whether I’m going to like or not. And whether the householder smiles or frowns; whether they welcome me or say that they are not interested, I am trying to respond naturally and kindly from my awareness, rather from some memorised script.
Of course, this all sounds fine in theory but it is much harder in practice and I’m noticing myself falling short. Talking too much, filling space, and not allowing the other person time to respond is, I think, my major working ground. But it’s fascinating work, not least because people are so very different. I’ve had the odd door shut in my face and been ignored more than once but I seem to be doing okay at not taking it personally, knowing that behind the next door there will be a different person and (hopefully) a different response.
On the whole people are very polite and some are very kind and supportive, even if they aren’t able to donate. According to my call cards I’ve knocked on 132 doors over the last four nights some of which I’ve visited more than once. Most people say they aren’t interested, some can be persuaded to take a Karuna booklet to read and agree to a call back after they have read it, a few are very open and responsive and willingly take the booklet. Maybe these personal responses are unchangeable, but I’m not so sure. It seems that the way I am: my awareness, my tone of voice, my receptivity, my kindness, my energy, equanimity, patience and my sraddha - my faith in my Buddhist practice - can all make a difference on the doorstep. And, similarly, the lack of them has an effect as well.
Yesterday, in our training with Vajradakha, we learnt a door-knocking Metta Bhavana, where we wished for the wellbeing of ourselves, a team member, a low caste child in India and a householder who we were due to see again that evening I found this immensely helpful and last night, in spite of a long run of “no’s”, I felt very positive about moving onto the next door.
All in all I’ve had four good evenings with quite a few, second visits coming up next week It’s only one week and we are still beginners, tackling the basics. But as the weeks pass and our training and experience grow, it’s beginning to feel that our appeal - the Green Tara Appeal - really might raise a lot of money for the projects in India
My final call last night, at 9.30, was a second visit to see a beautiful young woman who I had spoken to earlier in the week and who told me proudly that she was half-indian. She was so moved by the work Karuna is doing and, although on a very limited income, she eagerly offered a small, but worthwhile monthly direct debit. Naturally I was pleased - it was my first donation but there was something else that pleased me even more…
Her name, she told me, was Tara.*
I can’t imagine a more auspicious end to the first week
*In Buddhism the figure of Tara represents compassion