February 2nd, 2010


New shipper, hurray!

As you might have seen, something's been on my mind for the past few months: who is to be my successor? We've been putting up advertisements here, making it a featured item on our other recruitment areas, and asking our friends if they know someone suitable. Two weeks ago, I sent out an email to our volunteer recruiting team and everybody at DP, asking "What's our contingency plan for when I leave in a few weeks?" Not ten minutes later, Bridget (one of the new volunteers who's been here for two weeks) walks in to the shipping room to say hi. "Andy," she says, "I heard you're leaving in a few weeks. I was wondering, how does someone get into Shipping?"

"Well, Bridget," I tell her, "you ask that question." It was the same question I'd put to Gwen back in August before I transferred to Dharma Publishing. We talked to Anette, who supervises all the factory workers, and Magda, who supervises the DP office workers, and scheduled her to start training on Monday, Jan 25.

It's been a week now that I've been working with Bridget, training her how to use the database system and the different shipping programs, how to package books and art for shipment, how to make notebooks and laminate posters and assemble products, and how to work within DP. It's been a super-positive week and Bridget is picking up everything super fast and asking questions when she doesn't. As it is, I mostly just sit on my computer, writing up reference sheets for her (and her successors) to use when I'm gone and answering any of her questions about if an invoice looks good or a package is well-packed or where something else in the office. I feel pretty confident about leaving her on her own, since she has an excellent support team upstairs with Meggie, Andrea, Marianne, and Magda, who know how to do everything I haven't taught her yet.

After a couple days of working, Arnaud held a meeting with Bridget, Meggie (as shipping supervisor), and me (as trainer) to check in. He asked Bridget how she was doing, if there were any issues she had already or foresaw, if she would like to continue with shipping. Thankfully, she said yes, and while she voiced some concerns, they're nothing that can't be overcome - especially with everybody supporting each other to make for a happy, productive office. He then set out what he expected of the Shipping department: to keep the office a clean and welcoming space, half library and half work room; to get orders out in a timely manner, but not to sacrifice quality in favor of rushing orders; and to ask for help if it's ever needed. All in all, it was rather nice.

For these coming weeks before I leave, I'm transitioning myself out of Shipping to let Bridget take over while still providing some support. It's a great situation because orders are still getting out while I have the opportunity to record my knowledge, answer Bridget's questions and make sure she's getting everything done that needs doing, and taking care of some projects here (like organizing parts of the warehouse). Moreover, we're both staying on task, since we stick to the factory schedule and take breaks with everybody, so we get a lot done when we're working and then relax a lot when we're not. My intent is to stay out of the shipping room for most of the day to get Bridget up and running as quickly and possible, but be accessible for if she needs a hand.

So, the great man-hunt is over: we've captured a new shipper!

Longchenpa Ceremony

This past weekend marked the Longchenpa ceremony, an especially important time in the Nyingma Buddhist tradition according to the Tibetan (lunar) year. Longchenpa is, according to tradition, a rather decent Tibetan Buddhist philosopher; we publish some of his writings in Now I Come to Die and Kindly Bent to Ease Us volumes I-III (available to buy on the DP website </plug>). Anyway, I think that he died around this time of the year -- somebody correct me if I'm wrong -- so his energy is supposed to be most accessible now.

Since it's that time of year, all of the Nyingma folk in our organization hold a four-day ceremony, so that's us, Odiyan, and the Tibetan Nyingma Institute down in Berkeley. Basically, it's a lot of candles, lamps, and chanting around the clock. No, really, we had people chanting all day every day from Friday afternoon through this morning. During the daytime, everyone participating in the ceremony split into two groups, which traded off chanting and taking breaks; in the evenings and overnight, people signed up for 1- or 2-hour sessions all through the night.

The ceremony (from what I heard) is intended to let you draw some of Longchenpa's energy back from the universe and contribute your own to that cache - but it's also meant to push you beyond your limits and your comfort zone, into that area where you're just so damn tired that you're kinda floating and zenning out. A couple people had to drop out because it was killing their bodies, and I understood why; when they'd come on break into the kitchen where I was working, we had a bunch of red-faced zombies on our hands. They'd quietly get something to eat and moisten their throats, sit around for an hour, then go spell off the other group. Man, oh, man.

Those of us who didn't participate in the ceremony helped out in our own way. We spent some of our regular work hours down at the factory as usual, doing what we could with just half a dozen people. The rest of the time, we came up to the lodge and helped make food and clean up for everyone. (Isabelle and Roger told me about how, this time last year, they ended up washing dishes for three days straight to help the retreat participants focus on Longchenpa'ing.)

The retreat finished this morning at 8:30am and the retreatants got the morning off to relax and unwind. Some people took walks, other people meditated. We all came back together at lunch and went back to our regular work schedules. Everyone seems happy and positive after a great couple days devoted to the ceremony!
notebook machine

Getting down to business, baking coo-kies

For the past couple months, I've been hanging out in the kitchen a lot, chatting with Mo and Tracy and Kari, helping out wash their dishes in the morning, baking in the evenings, all that stuff. It's a happy, comfy place - who doesn't like hanging out in the family kitchen? Well, I've been hoping to actually work in there part-time since November, and it seems the time is ripe! With the Longchenpa ceremony this past weekend, Tracy asked me if I'd like to come do some official baking and prep work in the kitchen during the day. Of course, I said yes!

This has actually been a long time in the making. Back in October, I made two birthday cakes for everyone's birthday that month; and for Halloween and Thanksgiving, I baked some stuff. Although I haven't been in the kitchen much this month since I've got some personal projects in the evening, plenty of my food has come out of those ovens into the Ling's collective tummy. I also mentioned to Mo and Kari that I wouldn't mind coming up to help out in the kitchen doing dishes.

Now that I've got a competent replacement in Shipping to make sure orders keep on going, I've taken the opportunity to go help out in the kitchen these past few afternoons. I'm learning a lot about cooking for fifty (and being careful with my math) and about just basic cooking skills: how to handle different vegetables and keep several tasks going at the same time in a busy kitchen. It's a really great experience and I'm thoroughly enjoying being up and on my feet, making food to keep the community running. Of course, it comes back to me - I eat it, too, and the cooks get plenty of compliments on yummy food. Moreover, after I leave the Ling, I can certainly put this experience down if I want to apply to work in a kitchen for a restaurant or café.

Life is good, guys!