New Beginnings

New Beginnings

on Mar 20, 2014 in Creativity, Livelihood+Financial Liberation | 11 comments

Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Program Graduates and Maia

Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Program Graduates and Maia

Life is about not knowing, having to change,
taking the moment and making the best of it,
without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Delicious ambiguity.

-Gilda Radner

You haven’t heard much from me lately – but I haven’t forgotten about you.

As each Tuesday passes I’m aware that I’ve fallen out of my practice of writing something related to freedom to share each week.  I miss connecting with you.

Recently I’ve been in the midst of a major phase shift in my life and all my energy has gone into that, which is why I’ve had to disappear for a while.

Several months ago, after much discernment, I came to understand that I’ve reached the end of a cycle with something that has been very dear to me: my role as director of the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program. This has been a huge part of my life for the past six years and, as of the end of this month, it’s coming to an end.

Every year since 2008 when Roshi Joan Halifax and I co-created this program, I’ve watched students come into this two-year program with a sincere intention to serve from a place of practice. And I’ve watched each one of them go through a profound transformation. The photo at the top of this post is of the most recent group of graduates, Cohort 5 – a truly beautiful group of people doing courageous work in the world. You’ll be hearing more about some of them soon right here on the LLP.

Making the decision to leave this position was not easy. It’s scary to let go of something that is precious to me as well as familiar. But I know that it is the right decision. As much as I deeply feel that supporting others in a transformative process is my life’s work, I also could see that it had to take a different form. It’s time to open up new possibilities.

Over the past weeks, many people have been asking, “What’s next for you?”

That is such a hard question to answer.

The first answer that comes to me is: I need a bit of a rest. The wisdom of taking a sabbatical every seventh year is very clear to me. So some of what is to come will be fallow time so I can re-connect with myself. (Because of that need for fallow time, I’m going to wait until this October to run the Fall in Love with Your Work e-course again rather than try to do it now when I feel kinda depleted.)

The other reason the “What’s next?” question is so hard to answer is that I’m coming to realize that I no longer “plan” my life. I used to… I’d create five-year plans, goals, objectives, on and on. But you know what? These past few years I’ve discovered that I don’t actually control my life. (Some of you will be saying ‘duh!’)

What is more true is that life lives me.

It’s not that goals aren’t useful. It’s just that they are not the most important thing. The most important thing is to be of service, to soften suffering and cultivate joy in this world that needs it so much. So my modus operandi these days is to say “yes” to whatever assignment the universe may have for me.

As of this moment, I am still waiting for the assignment to come.

But I do know a few things. One of the reasons I am making this shift is to open up more space for writing, teaching, and facilitating.

So I think it may be helpful to share how I feel I can best be of service, and then throw this out to the universe (which is made up of all of you!) and see what comes back.

I’ve spent a lot of this past year considering my “sweet spot” – that place at which my strengths and the world’s needs intersect. Here’s what I believe it is: Bringing together spirituality and pragmatism. You might call it Applied Wisdom. Here is what makes my heart sing:

  • Bringing mindful awareness into organizational processes… helping individuals to access their natural wisdom and equanimity; supporting them to create healthy and effective workplaces informed by those qualities
  • Creating and supporting communities of transformative learning and practice (Upaya’s Chaplaincy Program is a great example of that)
  • Helping people to tell their stories, and sharing them with others in a way that is healing and generative
  • Connecting people and resources… I am a born connector, and I love seeing good people find each other

If you’d like to work more closely with me in something that involves any one of those four areas, either individually or as part of an organization, I’d be very happy to hear from you and explore the possibilities. (And I’m open to possibilities not on the list!)

You can learn about some of the options for working together here.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you have navigated major changes in your life and work. What have you found helpful in these liminal places?


I’d love to stay in touch with you! When you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll receive my monthly newsletter with reflections on life and liberation, as well as my e-book, “9 Keys to a Liberated Life.”



  1. Feel you on the not-knowing, groundlessness, delicious ambiguity. As a new friend told me yesterday, “deepening into yourself, you uplift others.” Plan or no plan, I see you deepening and trusting your intuition, and that certainly uplifts me. I look at some of my writing idols like Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and I think — they’ve written multiple prize-winning books! And are scary-smart and fly and accomplished! What am I doing with my life???

    But that’s why it’s so helpful to have resilient liberation-oriented community like you. Reminding me, and all of us, to try to trust the process and value the path itself. The liberation is in loving what we are doing.

    Thank you for the (yes to Sandra!) bravery of sharing your process, its twists and turns, letting it be what it is and not having to conform to a linear idea of what “success” should look like (although you also have plenty of success to be proud of!). And thank you for the reminder to let life live us.

    all the hugs,


    Katie Loncke

    March 21, 2014

  2. I’ve never planned anything much in my life, I’ve always been open to consider every opportunity that comes to me – and trusted my gut, my heart and my instinct about which ones I should say yes to…

    I think there is deep and ancient wisdom in the seventh year sabbatical and hope you can protect space for you to rest.



    March 21, 2014

  3. Love this transparency, clarity, presence–
    I can easily envision us working together at some point….


    JI Hyang

    Ji Hyang

    March 21, 2014

  4. Maia, like Sandra, I hope you take all the time you need – that fallow period is so precious and ultimately incredibly productive. I’m so glad to hear you honoring what you need. And excited for you in how you see your unfolding. Sending a hug!

    Ursula Jorch

    March 21, 2014

    • thank you, dear Ursula — hug received, and sent back to ya!

      Maia Duerr

      March 21, 2014

  5. I didn’t know you worked with Joan.
    Thank you for sharing. It’s nice to see someone’s successes and who seems to know how to transition and when.
    As for how I have navigated major changes in my life and work…I have fallen from one conveyor belt to another. And now I’m quite uncertain, after a time on this current one, how to get off, onto what, or if I should. Or if am I on a treadmill? Which calls into question the value of perseverance – one of my major strengths, so I am told.

    In the past 15 years, I have become, I realized one day, in awe of people who fulfill their long term plans. I look forward to learning where life next takes you.

    peter metcalf

    March 20, 2014

    • Hi Peter, Yes, I look forward to learning where life next me next too! And I understand about the feeling of not have certainty if I am on a path of persistence or stubborn-ness/treadmill. One thing I am paying attention to these days, though, is the ‘joy factor.’ If I feel as though I’m not tapping into a deep well of joy and nourishment in whatever place I’m in, perhaps it is time for a change.

      Maia Duerr

      March 21, 2014

  6. Wise and wonderful words, my friend. I love you … and wish you all the best. Always.


    March 20, 2014

    • thank you, my dear space sister and Shabbat friend…

      Maia Duerr

      March 21, 2014

  7. I’m thinking of you with love, Maia. You are so brave! I hope you take all the time you need to nourish yourself. I know your next assignment will appear in due time. I’ve never been good with transitions myself so no advice to offer there. I think you’re doing fabulously already!

    Sandra Pawula

    March 20, 2014

    • Thank, dear Sandra. I don’t feel so brave… just trying to listen to inner guidance. Any time I’ve ignored it in the past hasn’t turned out so well! xox

      Maia Duerr

      March 21, 2014

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