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Richard Kauffman: Volunteer Profile

James Schattauer, Sage Lewis  

 Over the years I had passed Spirit Rock several times on my way to Point Reyes and the beach and wondered what went on there. When I decided to get serious about a meditation practice a little over a year ago, Spirit Rock's websites was one of the first ones I visited. After attending several daylongs and classes, I was so drawn to the physical beauty and serenity of the landscape that I wanted to spend more time there. Last summer, the Facilities Department was looking for new volunteers, so I attended an orientation and signed on for a half day a week. I’ve worked indoors my entire career. Now that I’m semi-retired, I figured it would be a good way to spend more time outdoors and put my hands to use on something other than a computer.

My first job didn’t disappoint. I was asked to blaze a new hiking trail from the road near the parking lot up into the hills behind the Community Meditation Center. It was a hot summer day, and even hotter once I was decked out in protective gear and started maneuvering the weed whacker through the tall grass. The machine was loud, smelled of gasoline and kicked up a lot of dust in places. I remembered someone had said to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes. By the time I got to the top of the hill, I was soaked in sweat. But when I shut off the motor, the wind and silence took over. Hawks soared at eye level, peering down into the streambeds looking for lunch. I was hooked.

Since then, I’ve pruned oak trees, cleared blackberry thickets, raked leaves and cut up and cleared downed trees. I’ve watched the seasons change and experienced the land in extremes of heat and cold. I’ve watched the creeks resurrect themselves from sunbaked gullies to surging torrents. The work can be physically taxing, but I usually feel more exhilarated than tired when it’s time to leave. I’ve come to see the work as part of my practice — a sawing, pruning, raking, hauling, weed whacking meditation.

The Facilities crew members are a great bunch, all very generous with their time and extensive knowledge of landscaping and construction. I’m continually honing my landscaping skills and acquiring new ones. Everyone on staff makes you feel welcome and truly appreciates the work volunteers do.

I look forward to my weekly stints at Spirit Rock. In January, I signed on as a Dedicated Volunteer, making a six-month commitment with regular hours. It’s great to be able to accrue credit toward Spirit Rock retreats, but my main motivation is being able to contribute to a place that I think is doing important work and that I find inspiring.

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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