My Life


Do not pursue the past. Do not lose yourself in the future. The past no longer is. The future has not yet come. Looking deeply at life as it is in the very here and now, the practitioner dwells in stability and freedom.  — The Buddha

Don’t worry. This isn’t my autobiography. It’s about my life in what Thich Nhat Hanh calls the Kingdom of God — the Here and the Now.

I’ve never liked the idea of retirement, so as I listened to one of Lama Surya Das‘s dharma talks last week during a retreat, I was grateful to come to the realization that I’m not retired. I’m on a permanent spiritual sabbatical.

Mel Harkrader PineDuring a working career, anyone can see themselves as in a helping profession. If you approach your role as one of service to others — whether you collect trash, make guitars, sell hardware, or operate on infants’ hearts — you are in a helping profession. But few of our occupations are widely defined that way. My jobs generally were not. Newspaper copy editor. Corporate public relations executive. Speechwriter. Book ghostwriter. Annual report project manager. Insurance agency owner.

So being on a permanent spiritual sabbatical puts, for the first time in my life, a good-guy white hat on my shaved and less-than-saintly head. But how does one spend one’s days on a permanent spiritual sabbatical?

My spiritual life takes two interconnected (aren’t they all?) paths. I’ll discuss the Buddhist one, the Unitarian Universalist one, and how they connect.

As a Dzogchen Buddhist, I attend retreats as often as I can and practice a morning ritual of meditation, prayer, chanting, and my own variant of yoga. I read, learn, do what I can to serve Dzogchen and my teacher, and work to get closer to the Buddha within.

As a UU, I write and deliver sermons, support the worship process in other ways, and offer compassion and guidance to my UU community when asked. I have recently been accepted into the UU Society for Community Ministries and will be working out my role as a community lay minister. But I have decided against applying for nomination to the UUA Board of Trustees, a move I had been considering. My chances would be slim, and my calling is not in governance.

My calling is in writing, meditation, worship, and spreading compassion, especially to the least among us. That’s where my two paths join.

So, on my permanent spiritual sabbatical, I’m devoting more attention to this blog and its readers, who are UUs, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Taoists, and others interested in a spirituality that transcends narrow dogma. I’m continuing my weekly Buddhist meditation group and may find new ways to teach meditation. I plan to reach out also to some of the minority churches in my area. And I’m always available to write and deliver a sermon. My next will be August 6 at the UU Church of Loudoun on the modest subject of what it means to be human.

I spend most of my days reading — listening with my eyes to the cries of a world in pain.

Perhaps most important, I continue my own spiritual journey toward wholeness and compassion. May I become a better husband, father, and friend.

If you have been reading this blog, you may have noticed that the song below is one of my favorites. Through it, Iris Dement speaks to me, and for me.

— Mel Pine (Urgyen Jigme)

Copyright 2017 © Mel Harkrader Pine

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