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Support a Buddhist Chaplain

September 12, 2013

Dear Ladies and Gents, loyal readers of Dharma Cowgirl and first time browsers,

I have recently updated my donation page with a new fundraising effort. This page has been there since the blog’s inception, though it did not generate any income until a specific project came my way earlier this year (Save the Kittens!). I’m so happy that so many people supported my one-woman cat-trapping crew and put up with months of ubiquitous cat stories and photos. Now, as I enter my doctoral studies, I am faced with new challenges and I’d once again like to ask for help. Please consider donating to support my work as a Buddhist chaplain and a scholar in the budding field of Buddhist pastoral theology and spiritual care.

Donate via Paypal by sending money to:
monica.mostly[at]gmail.com (replace [at] with @)

Specifically, I am raising funds to help pay for my clinical pastoral education (CPE) at University of the West, where I will provide spiritual care to students, faculty, staff, their families, and, in particular, the three-dozen or so Buddhist chaplains-in-training. CPE is a critical part of any chaplain’s education; it is a way for us to start our practice of spiritual care in a supportive, supervised environment. It can be thought of as a practicum, internship, residency, or student teaching opportunity. Most CPE units are offered by hospitals. The CPE unit I would like to start this year is “community-based,” meaning it gives me the opportunity to practice withing my home spiritual community and find my own clinical site. I want to make that clinical site UWest!

 Unfortunately, this interfaith CPE program, which is offered by the Academy of Jewish Religion, is about three times as expensive than a normal hospital CPE program. This is because, in a hospital program, CPE chaplains provide care to hospital patients, staff, and families. The cost of their training is offset by the benefit of their services to the hospital. I expect to complete a hospital CPE program next year, but this year I want to start at UWest. That’s why the AJR program is so exciting for me! It involves 300 clinical hours at my site and a weekly 4-hour meeting with my CPE cohort and supervisor for support and supervision. I can spend my time at UWest providing one-on-one spiritual care, facilitating group process and support groups, holding rituals services and meditation, and providing Dharma talks as requested within and among my fellow Buddhists!

In contemplating CPE, it struck me that what is already an emotionally demanding process of supporting others through times of stress and trauma is made all the more so because most (all?) Buddhist chaplains must do so in a largely non-Buddhist environment. They work with largely Christian care-seekers, as well as Jews, Muslims, Hindus, spiritual folk of all kinds, as well as atheists, agnostics, and humanists.  New Christian chaplains, on the other hand, get the unintended benefit of going into their CPE knowing they will largely be working with other Christians, or at least theists. I have seen my fellow Buddhist classmates struggle not only under the burden of CPE, but under the burden of adapting to the needs of largely non-Buddhist care-seekers. It is a worthy effort and not one I wish to forgo. Its just not something I want to start with if I don’t have to. Let me run the 10k before I run the marathon? I believe that as a result, I will be even more prepared for chaplaincy in a multi-faith hospital environment next year. In the meantime, I get to give something back to the home spiritual community that has nourished and supported me these last three years.

When I arrived at UWest, our cohorts met for weekly group process with the faculty. This was a way to support our spiritual formation as care-givers in our own right. We were care-for and could give care to each other. It helped ease the burden of what is not only a rigorous academic program, but one that also calls for deep inner development. We dug deep into our minds and hearts to understand our own motivations, habit-energies, goals, preconceptions, assumptions, comfort zones, and triggers. We uncovered trauma past and present and dealt with ongoing stress. There were tears and laughter, deep doubts and powerful experiences of clarity. Unfortunately, as our program grew and the faculty’s teaching and advising burden increased, they were no longer able to facilitate group process. Various student-led process groups sprung up in the years since then, but not enough to meet the needs of all chaplaincy students. I hope this is at least one need I can help fill during my CPE at UWest. I believe it will lead to better prepared graduates and Buddhist care-givers.

If you would like to support me in this goal, please go to my new Support a Buddhist Chaplain page. Donate funds to cover educational tuition and fees or make a direct donation of books and materials. My goal is to raise $2,000 by October 1st to pay for the first half of my CPE training during this academic year. I am not asking for donations for personal expenses. I will continue working and supporting myself with food, rent, etc. If you would consider supporting my educational path, even with only $5, I would be exceedingly grateful. All donations make a difference and brighten my heart!

One final goal of my CPE training is UWest is that I hope to turn this into a more permanent arrangement for students and alumni following me in the program. I will work with UWest, the Academy of Jewish Religion, and other funding groups to find a way to perpetually support at least one student per year through this process. This will not only provide important training opportunities to the student, but also invaluable spiritual care to the UWest community. If you support me in this attempt now, I will do everything in my power to support other students in the future by seeking grants, ongoing scholarships, or institutional support.

I want to point out that UWest does already have a dedicated number of student chaplains running around campus. The Chaplaincy Club provides prayer services, memorials, and holiday observances. Our ‘Chaplain on Board’ Aroon Seeda of the U.S. Navy volunteers on campus on a weekly basis to provide spiritual care to students. The UWest Contemplative Council and BudaWest organize regular meditation and retreats. Students also benefit from a dedicated Wellness Center with a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I don’t want to detract from any of the activities already taking place at UWest. I merely want to further support our rapidly growing student body. Please consider helping me by going to my donation page for more information and regular updates.

Donate via Paypal by sending money to:
monica.mostly[at]gmail.com (replace [at] with @)

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