Notes on Term Intensives
The main purpose of a Term Intensive (or TI for short) is to provide a supportive structure for people who would like to experiment with intensifying their daily Dharma practice. The idea is to examine one’s spiritual life and see what feels in need of shoring up or cutting away, and then to make one’s commitments accordingly. If your life feels just too crowded, what might be cut out of it, to allow for more space? If your daily practice is shaky, what would help to make it more solid? In what ways do you dream of reshaping habitual ways of thinking, talking, eating, or working?
There’s a form to fill out and keep, and it lists some of the common pledges that people make, but what you decide to do is entirely up to you. Don’t be misled by the multiple choices on the form into thinking you should be doing all of them, though doing what you do choose regularly is often helpful. The form is just a prompt, aimed at helping you to be specific.
The key is to strike the right balance – each participant must “reach, but not overreach,” as my teacher Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede once put it. The point of a TI is to stretch ourselves, and virya, or effort, is definitely involved, but it is important to be realistic. You are accountable for what you pledge – once made, the commitments should be taken seriously – but succeeding with small steps is better than repeatedly not meeting more ambitious goals.
Also consider any changes to your usual routine during the TI period, such as business trips or holidays. It may be prudent to treat these times differently, just as you may want to have a different schedule on weekends.
Once you have decided on your pledge, fill out the form and bring it to the Opening Ceremony. Part of the ceremony involves participants reading out their pledges before the group. Also register through the website and if you won’t be at the ceremony Sensei will read out your commitments for you.
There’ll be weekly group meetings in which participants will report on how their TI is going. This part of the TI is what gives it some fibre – we are each accountable to the whole group, and our efforts support and encourage others in their efforts. Also post a brief report on the list serve set up just for the TI. If you live in Auckland, please make an effort to come to the meetings. If you live out of Auckland, then just send your report to the list each Tuesday.
Because TI’s are for a limited period, we can dare to try different things – but of course the true test of the TI is the degree to which it carries through into our non-TI life. At the very least, it may give participants a sense of what is possible, with a little help from our friends.
In the Dharma,