Witnessing a Birth

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Reflections on Forming the Wake Up Collectivity of Ambassadors

By Nhu-Mai Nguyen and Elli Weisbaum

Wake Up Ambassadors together before the public talk in LA on October 24, 2015
Wake Up Ambassadors together before the public talk in LA on October 24, 2015

It all started during a Wake Up Order of Interbeing (OI) Skype call. These monthly calls began in 2013 as a way for OI members and aspirants to discuss the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. Eventually, these meetings evolved into sharing about Sangha activities, the establishment of online mentoring relationships, and the challenges that some Wake Up Ambassadors had with completing the highly rigorous aspirant process.

One day someone joked, “We should just get all the Wake Up Ambassadors to come to Deer Park Monastery for the US tour!” We all laughed, but immediately afterward everyone was serious in agreement. Thus was the birth of the international Wake Up Collectivity of Ambassadors.

Desiring to learn more about other Wake Up Sanghas, receive inspiration for our own practices, and spearhead global initiatives, we put out an invitation on Basecamp (a web-based project management platform) for Wake Up Ambassadors from all over the world to come together.

The response was phenomenal.

Wake Up Ambassadors from the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Colombia, Mexico, Canada, and all over the US came together at Deer Park in Escondido, California in October 2015, for the Miracle of Mindfulness Tour.

Some Wake Up Ambassadors were able to gather at Deer Park a little early in order to plan the retreat with Brother Phap Luu. As we sat together for the first time, the immediate love and solidity from each person was felt strongly.

We discussed how we would flow with the general retreat schedule and what activities we would offer specifically to the Wake Up community. Many questions arose during this process, but the most significant was, “What makes someone a Wake Up Ambassador?” A number of us were confused, and we wanted to define what it meant to be a Wake Up Ambassador in order for our intentions to be as clear and inclusive as possible. Brother

Phap Luu, who was part of the original monastic and lay group that helped coin the title, offered a simple yet clear definition: “A Wake Up Ambassador is someone who is active in the Sangha and wants to help grow the Sangha.”

We agreed that during the retreat, we would join most of the general Sangha activities, but we also would organize peer-facilitated Wake Up workshops. Our first workshop was called Open Space, and in it we collectively decided upon workshops and breakout sessions where the ambassadors could discuss topics such as right livelihood, OI mentorship, Wake Up projects, relationships, and healing. We also offered Wake Up presentations of the Five Mindfulness Trainings and Beginning Anew.

Each breakout group had an ambassador to facilitate the discussion. After about thirty minutes, we gathered together, and the facilitators shared some reflections and insights that had come up.

This was a very interesting and playful way to look at the practices and hear many different perspectives on them. Though we all enjoyed spearheading projects and organizing Sangha activities, it soon became clear that cultivating brotherhood and sisterhood was perhaps the most important aspect of this collectivity. Some of the richest moments were: heart-opening sharings during Dharma discussion; watching the setting sun on the mountain ridge; impromptu ice cream socials by the turtle pond; singing and playing music; and drinking tea under the starry sky.

We gathered on the last day to discuss global Wake Up initiatives. The proposed initiatives include: forming an international Wake Up Care-Taking Council (CTC); creating mentoring relationships between OI members and Wake Up aspirants; hosting a web-based Winter Retreat program; completing the Wake Up Manual; spearheading Action! Wake Up (socially engaged Wake Up initiatives); and forming a committee to organize the next international Wake Up Collectivity of Ambassadors.

The North American Wake Up CTC is in the process of possibly planning one or two CTC gatherings in 2017.

We wish to express our deep gratitude for our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, who watered many of the seeds that grew into the Collectivity.

Playtime with Wake Up Ambassadors and Plum Village monastics at the beach in Oceanside
Wake Up Ambassadors and Plum Village monastics at the beach in Oceanside

Reprinted with permission from the Mindfulness Bell, Winter/Spring 2016.

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