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Good News, Bad News, Help Needed!

February 21, 2016
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The good news is that I have been accepted to present both a paper and a workshop at an international conference in Australia in July.

The bad news is that I have been accepted to present both a paper and a workshop at an international conference in Australia in July.

sadpandaWhen I submitted my proposals for this conference last October, I knew making it work financially would be difficult but possible. Since then life circumstances have changed and right now I can NOT afford the airfare to Australia, let alone any of the other conference costs. (Those who know me personally, understand why this is the case.)

At least, not without help – your help. Please go to paypal.me/MonicaSanford to donate! I need to raise $2,000 by March 15th. 

Three years ago, I reached out via my blog to raise funds for my first unit of clinical pastoral education. You helped pay for my first year of chaplain intern work. Since then, I’ve been able to pay for my second and third unit. University of the West has had a campus chaplain for three years in a row due largely to your generosity. I’m hoping that you will help me again now.

Here are the details: I’ve been accepted to the Global Conference for Chaplains in Higher Education at La Trobe University in Bendigo, Australia. I also presented at the 2012 conference at Yale University in Connecticut thanks to a kind scholarship from the organizers. This conference only happens once every four years and I’m hoping that the Australian location will draw a more diverse crowd from the Asian side of the Pacific Rim.

If I can get myself across that ocean somehow, I’ll be presenting a paper:

Communicating Religious Pluralism as a Spiritual Value: A Buddhist University’s Experience.

In general, Buddhist traditions view religious pluralism as a spiritual good and multiple religious praxis as a cultural norm. This is due largely to Buddhism’s historical co-existence with multiple Asian (and now western) religions, a flexible metaphysical orientation, and practical focus with clear boundaries. This stance is radically different from the approach of many western traditions to religious multiplicity (which range from exclusive to inclusive to plural) and can often lead to confusion. University of the West, a small, private, non-profit, Buddhist-founded school in Southern California has remained authentic to its Buddhist roots while also actively welcoming and valuing students and staff of all religions and none for twenty-five years. The university has addressed confused parents, skeptical accreditation agents, distrusting peer reviewers, and diverse students who vary from actively averse to indifferent to strongly attached to the university’s Buddhist identity. For these stakeholders, the university has found ways to actively communicate what many western audiences view as a direct paradox, being both truly Buddhist and completely religiously plural. Moreover, the university has articulated an institutional spiritual identity in which being plural is an inseparable part of being Buddhist – it is a core spiritual value of Buddhism as the university understands it. This paper will explore the philosophical foundation of pluralism within Buddhist traditions and Buddhist religious history, its current articulation at University of the West, and some of the ways that westerners can dialogue with Buddhists (and other eastern religions) around alternative approaches to religious pluralism.

I believe this is an important topic. The theme of the 2012 conference was also interfaith (the 2016 conference is going with Dig, Dialogue, Diversity) and yet over 90% of the participants were Christian chaplains. I hope this conference will be more diverse, but I also feel the duty to show up and ‘represent,’ as it were, a non-Christocentric perspective.

I’m under no illusions that my ‘minority’ status probably helped me be accepted to present at both the 2012 and 2016 conferences. I’d like to change that by making the conferences and the face of campus chaplaincy more diverse overall. The day I get turned down because there are too many good proposals from Buddhist college chaplains will be a good day.

My 2012 presentation on self-care packed the tiny room we were assigned and I observed that self-care was clearly an important topic for college (all?) chaplains. Therefore, I will also be leading a workshop:

Sustained Compassion Demands Self-Care: But How Do We Do That?

Self-care, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, burnout – buzzwords all chaplains have heard, but how do we actually deal with them? This workshop will draw on two threads, recent social science research (Kristin Neff, Brené Brown, Daniel Goleman, etc.) and ancient Buddhist teachings (meditation and contemplative training), to present participants with practical ways to exemplify the chaplain’s compassion over the course of a long career. Recent findings in social science have further legitimated traditional contemplative practices that are now being adapted to secular and religiously plural settings through programs such as Compassion Cultivation Training at Stanford University and Cognitively-Based Compassion Training at Emory University (via the Emory-Tibet Partnership). This workshop will present some of the basic principles and practices from these projects as they pertain to the practice of spiritual/pastoral care. Moreover, it will emphasize the necessity of self-care to the practice of authentic compassion not merely as a means to an end, but as an integral aspect of that compassion. Topics covered will include healthy boundaries, dealing with failure (personal and professional), and relating genuinely and non-judgmentally to others. Finally, the workshop itself will provide opportunities to actively practice self-care during the 55 minute session, as well as gain tools and resources to further develop a lifelong compassion-based spiritual care practice.

Exciting, right? I’m excited. I really want to present on these topics and I really, really want to be able to attend the other sessions and learn from my fellow campus chaplains.

This is, of course, if I can raise the funds to go, so let’s get down to dollars and cents.

  • Registration & Meals $351 US
  • Accommodation for six nights $553 US
  • Flights from LAX to Melbourne $1,623 (today, they range upward to $1,800-2,000)
  • Ground Transportation $250
  • TOTAL COST $2,777

Some prices have been converted from Australian dollars into U.S. and may vary as currency fluctuates, but probably not by much. This doesn’t include travel insurance, meals outside the conference center, workshop materials, or other costs that inevitably crop up (what do you mean I didn’t pack any socks?!).

My goal is to raise $500 by March 1st so that I can register for the conference and an additional $1500 by March 15th so I can book my flights. That will allow me to confirm my participation by the early bird deadline and get posted on the conference website as a presenter. Then I’ll worry about finding/funding a place to lay my head at night.

You may donate funds directly through PayPal with this link: paypal.me/MonicaSanford. Any amount is welcome.

Or you can contribute to my GoFundMe campaign and watch how it’s going.

I’ll even put up a reward, just like a crowdfunding campaign. Anyone who contributes to this project in any amount will receive 1) a copy of the paper I present and 2) a copy of my workshop materials including presentation slides, handouts, and lesson plans, with permission to use, adapt, and distribute at no cost. I will consider your contribution a ‘purchase’ of the workshop materials (not the paper) for unlimited use by you.

If you’ve never sent money via PayPal before or donated to fund a personal cause, please be assured it’s simple, safe, and secure. See summaries of previous fundraising campaigns on my blog:

Know that your money will be going to a good cause and you’ll get frequent reports on its use, plus your rewards for contributing. And I promise, no fun will be had in Australia. No fun at all.

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