This Transparent & Collective Process

I’ll cheerfully admit to being a bit apprehensive in stepping up for my turn to say a few words about our fundraising drive this year; I was raised with a lot of aversion to discussing money and am far from the world’s biggest fan of our current collective economic structures, so I find I need to show up with extra awareness and careful attention in order to speak comfortably about money.

Money has the potential to be an extremely fraught topic for all sorts of reasons. Many of us carry shame or aversion or attachment or fear around it, for all sorts of reasons both practical and emotional. All of which, while excellent grist for the zen-practice mill, can make it difficult to have productive conversations about our organization’s finances and future. I’m not here to offer easy answers on something I’m still very much working on myself, but I do have my own small realization born of zen practice on the topic to share in the hope that it may resonate for others.

It is, as promised, very small and quite simple: While it’s appropriate to thoughtfully and skillfully offer observations and suggestions about financial matters in order to support people or organizations I care about, like Hollow Bones, I don’t have to cause myself or others additional suffering by putting my “stuff” around money into collaborative conversations about practical financial matters, facts, math, budgets, and future planning.

Some of this realization is purely protective of my own energy; if I’m going to be busy finding aspects of money fraught or difficult I at least can avoid compounding my own difficulty by giving the topic more attention and power than is skillful or necessary. This protection of my own energy and attention then allows me to show up better in the ways I wish to for others.

Some of it is very practical; there is work that we have chosen to do together, and part of the job I have accepted is to help us do that work. That means budgets and bills and conversations about what makes sense and what doesn’t. It means listening to your voices when it comes to goals, values, and finances. And, quelle horreur, it means helping to ask all of you for money!

Working on our personal feelings about money is a crucial part of our bodhisattva path; we chant in our morning service, “The Awakened Ones rely upon this transcendent wisdom and experience no ego confusion or hindrance in this mind. No hindrance, therefore, no fear.” One of the specific fears being addressed here is the fear of acts of giving getting in the way of our own survival. This is a very natural fear, as we live in a complicated physical world where it feels as though we must forever be afraid of not having “enough.”

When viewed with our Clear Deep Heart Mind awareness, however, the hindrance drops away. We are no longer beholden to conditioned ideas of “self” and “other” and “enough,” and the fear is no more. We are able to unchain ourselves from all ideas of money being a fraught or difficult topic, and to then show up as fully present bodhisattvas, engaging in dana and collective community action.

For me, this shift in my thinking and lessening of my personal reactivity around money has also helped me to discern underlying values I have around money that are skillful and important rather than fearful or closed-off. Primary among these for me is the value of transparency when it comes to money, particularly when collaboration is concerned. A frank and honest ability to talk about what things cost, why certain decisions are made, and how our spending can best match our goals and values seems to me to be critical and necessary in our work as a community.

When we’re able to show up with transparency and honesty, willing to ask and answer complex questions, willing to iterate through our attempts at solutions, and willing to listen to all of the voices at the table, we become collectively empowered to do our work of acting “skillfully and appropriately” in each set of circumstances. Transparent and collective processes can feel slower than other types of process, or more difficult, but I have observed them time and again to work out in ways that strengthen us and bring us together, allowing us to show up awake and compassionate to whatever transpires.

I have observed over this campaign that the leadership of Hollow Bones Zen has chosen to prioritize transparency around finances and having a listening attitude to community voices, and I am personally grateful for that and for the opportunity to engage in this important work with all of you–work that encompasses both my own “stuff” and our collective goals and values as we choose how we want Hollow Bones to look and feel.

Our community is a precious container, truly a rare and beautiful jewel. I’m committed to doing what I can to further the presence it has in the world, and will also cheerfully admit to harboring hopes that all of you feel the same way. I sincerely thank you all for your time and attention, and invite you to reach out to me with any questions or suggestions you may have regarding our community’s finances, or to Umi or taiso or whomever your preference is for any and all questions and suggestions.

Liaoran Spencer Grey Kindred is a priest of Hollow Bones Zen, and currently serving as assistant executive director.

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