My Path to Chaplaincy

All moments in our lives lead us to the present moment.

With the support of family, friends, and mindfulness community (sangha), the cumulation of many moments has led me to the path of Chaplaincy. In March I began studying under Joan Halifax and other wonderful teachers at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Upaya’s Buddhist Chaplaincy Training program is described as: “…a visionary and comprehensive two-year program for a new kind of chaplaincy intended to serve individuals, communities, the environment, and the world. The program is open to those who wish to prepare to serve as chaplains as well as those who wish to deepen their understanding of service from a Buddhist and systems perspective.”

For years now, I have been practicing and studying Buddhism and meditation, looping it into my personal time, relationships, hobbies and work. The path has not been smooth or without forgetfulness and struggle. There have been times where I have needed the practice of meditation most, and yet I turned the other cheek. It is difficult to sit with ourselves. It is difficult, sometimes, to even breathe deeply. Our chest may be tight, our shoulders raised, our face and jaw is tense. We live in a society that inflames stress and pressure rather than relieving it…And the common options for relief are temporary and toxic.

It is becoming my year’s work (my life’s work?) to transform these difficulties. The first year of the Chaplaincy training is focused on “Inner Chaplaincy”, as we can not provide stability to others without being more stable in ourselves. Already, I feel immersed in these teachings and look forward to sharing my journey with all those who wish to walk along side me. Thank you to my friends, family, and sanghas, including the Mindfulness Community of Puget Sound and 40+ colleagues in Cohort 9/10 as well as to our numerous teachers at Upaya. I could not be here without all of you.

Some people have asked me what kind of work I will delve into after I complete this program. My volunteer and professional work within K-12 and the LGBTQ+ community have given me some ideas on where I may want to focus my energies, but I am also interested in expanding my experience and outreach into prisons and onto the streets, connecting with some of our most universally vulnerable family members. But the greatest thing is, I don’t have to know right now. In fact, one of the core foundations of this Chaplaincy training is “Not Knowing.”

So for now, I will sit with my notions of the future as just that, notions. And I will instead focus on the present moment of my budding meditation practice as the basis for healing grief in my own life. This program already inspires me to deepen my own grounded-ness, so that I may provide a stable shoulder for all beings in need of compassion who I may meet on my path.

Tall order, but I am taking things one breath at a time.

In gratitude,