I was 28 years old when I joined the Order of Interbeing in 2007. I didn’t feel ready at the time to join the OI ranks of brown jackets and not much has changed for me in that regard, I still don’t feel qualified 5 years later, whatever qualified means. And on retreats I still struggle to wear the brown jacket, concerned it will set me apart from other sangha friends on the path. So why did I join the Order? Why am I on this path? Have you ever been walking in the woods and come to a fork in the trail and decided which way to go based on what simply felt like the right direction? It was like that for me. Sometimes the answer doesn’t have to be clear in order to take a step on the path. All I knew for sure is that I enjoyed the practice and wanted to be of service to others. And that really was enough.
Becoming an OI member isn’t about having a perfect practice or mastering sutras and recitations, it isn’t about having knowledge that others don’t or gaining status and high rankings, it’s about seeing where our particular skill-set shines and offering that to others. You can’t build a house with only one tool just as you can’t build a community of practice with only one practitioner.
For me, joining the Order at a younger age has been a wonderful practice in stepping up and saying, “Yes!” Yes, I can do this, yes I want to commit myself to this beautiful tradition, yes I have a lot to offer. To embrace ourselves fully just as we are with authenticity is of great value to to the world. When we embrace ourselves we embrace others. And when we embrace others we embrace ourselves. Being a part of the OI brotherhood and sisterhood is about embracing. Embracing the practice, ourselves and one another.
Nicole is a member of Be Here Now Sangha in Missoula, MT