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Q: Many of us activists are dedicated to the cause of peace, but we see so little progress we get discouraged. How can we avoid burnout?
A: We have to know our limits. We have to organize our lives in such a way that we can continue to get the nourishment and healing that we need. The solution is in your community. If you work with a community that practices together, a Sangha, you receive the collective energy of support. When you begin to feel exhausted by your efforts, the other brothers and sisters in your community will help with the work so you can take the time to restore yourself and continue. You must also have the courage to say no, or you will lose yourself very soon, and that will not profit the world. Learning to say no is difficult, but it is not impossible. You have to serve in a way that you can preserve yourself. Doctors, nurses, psychotherapists, and teachers have to do the same; they have to preserve themselves in order to last longer for the benefit of other people. To preserve yourself is to preserve the opportunity to serve others. Preserving yourself and your compassion is the answer. And that can be done easily within a community of practice.
From Answers from the Heart (2009) by Thich Nhat Hanh. With permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California. www.parallax.org