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Spirit Rock Volunteer: Carol Copsey

Juliet Smith

 Having been graced to live in San Francisco with proximity to Spirit Rock, and because my brother has long been a student of Ruth Denison, I have had some familiarity with Vipassana meditation over the years. After I was diagnosed with a serious medical condition, a wise holistic health provider advised me to slow down and develop a steady meditation practice. Once I was well enough, I endeavored to follow that advice and sat some Spirit Rock classes and a Women's Retreat with Julie Wester and Anna Douglas. About the same time that I decided to join the Dedicated Volunteer program, I started a challenging medical treatment, and volunteering helped me gain perspective on life beyond my own problems. It regularly bathed me in the positive, healing energy of the people, animals, wildlife and land at Spirit Rock. My health is stabilizing, which I feel is attributable to the loving, kind energy of my community, including the Spirit Rock sangha.

It is wonderful to be able to be with some of the staff. I can witness the Spirit Rock team apply the dharma to Spirit Rock’s values in their daily substantive work, with humor and professionalism.  I am so lucky to be present at a moment of great openings at Spirit Rock and to feel the sympathetic joy of fruition of the expansive, long-planned and dedicated efforts of others.

Volunteering in Development, I assist in expressing Spirit Rock's gratitude by calling donors to thank them for their generosity and stuffing envelopes with letters acknowledging gifts. While volunteering I have had the luxury of greater access to Spirit Rock's teachers at dharma talks and participated in a touching daylong with James and Jane Baraz on Gratitude. The overall effect has put me in close touch with gratitude, deepening and broadening my sense of appreciation and my awareness each day of my good fortune to be alive.

In addition to offering a heightened sense of gratitude, service at Spirit Rock has enhanced my self-compassion practice. Everyone surrounding Spirit Rock frequently thanks me for being of service, and special events are offered to volunteers.  I get to add a new feeling — that I am included and recognized at Spirit Rock — and I notice that helps me send more loving, kind compassion toward myself.

And it must be said: the food is delicious! The sage healer who prescribed meditation also suggested shifting my eating habits, and I set about to learn more vegetarian cooking. There is no higher standard and inspiration than the Spirit Rock dining hall! On retreat and as thanks for my service as a Dedicated Volunteer, I have been offered the blessing of food from the Spirit Rock kitchen staff, who prepare and serve it with the utmost heartfelt metta. That has truly nourished both my body and my spirit.

I hope to recover more fully and return to my work as an employment attorney. I intend to stay close to lessons taught from the rawness of disease about some of the foolishness in life and the primacy of love. Volunteering at Spirit Rock will help me hold that; it is time that is so very well spent and worthwhile. I hope its merit may contribute to the well-being of others.

Spirit Rock relies on the generosity of our many volunteers. We offer a range of volunteer opportunities from one-time projects to ongoing service. Check our website to find out more about out volunteer program or contact our Volunteer & Community Coordinator at Volunteering@spiritrock.org or (415) 488-0164 x224.


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