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Embracing the Sangha October 29, 2012

Posted by Living Abundance in Uncategorized.
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Recently I attended a meeting with other members of my sangha for sangha planning, and I wanted to record some of what I shared there with my friends about two things: having a sangha and dharma sharing.

Having a Sangha

I really appreciate being able to have sangha in part because I know what it is like to go without one. For the past two years while attending school, I was living in a city where a mindfulness sangha didn’t exist, and I found this challenging. I was able to attend a local Insight group, but there wasn’t as much emphasis on socializing, and it just didn’t feel the same as my mindfulness sangha to which I belonged before I moved. Not having a vehicle, I was at the mercy of others to offer me rides to other mindfulness groups, which I really appreciated. In a way, I feel that my current mindfulness sangha to which I belong, which was the first sangha I joined on a weekend retreat, is my home sangha.

I had the opportunity after finishing my school program to make a decision to go anywhere in the country, as I wasn’t tied down by partners, children, pets, or any other dependents for whom to care. I made the decision early on in my post-graduate planning to live in a city with an active meditation community, and I remained (almost completely) firm on a mindfulness sangha.

I could go into detail about why I find that the mindfulness tradition fits best with me compared to the other groups I have attended so far, but I won’t (and I’ll save it for another post). Instead, I will just say that when I am in these groups and on retreat, I have the distinct feeling of “I belong here” and “This fits for me, for who I am.”

The only way I want to explain my priority on sangha is that I have made spiritual practice a central part of my life situation. Over the past few years, it seems to me that the more I practice, the more all or most of the other aspects of my life situation benefit, albeit somewhat in unknown and mysterious ways.

Dharma Sharing

Dharma sharing is one part of sangha and weekly practice that I most appreciate, and this seems to have been the case as long as I can remember attending sangha. It seems that language and words are very powerful for me and provide me with a lot of meaning. When I can hear another person explain some aspect of the practice or the dharma in a different way (different words, phrases, examples, definitions, metaphors) it can provide a whole new world of meaning and perspective to me. Often I will think, “Oh, that’s how you can describe it,” “When you put it that way, it really makes it different,” or “I never saw it that way.”

I’ve read many meditation and dharma books since I started practice, and I can absorb a great deal of information just from text. Nevertheless, reading a dharma book with all of its ideas and concepts can be entirely different from applying that information to my own life situation. I have a unique life situation compared to other people, I have my own personality, personal history, job, relationships, friends, routines, obligations, duties, etc.

Also, authors of dharma books are usually either lifetime practitioners or prestigious scholars (or both!). The people that write the books are the “experts.” When I started practicing, I had feelings of inferiority, which created skepticism: “Oh, sure, you can tell me all about the dharma, but what does it mean for me?” To hear about practice from other people is quite rewarding when these people are “equal” to me. They are just regular, everyday people, too, living where I live, and they also have their own jobs, families, and personal responsibilities. So when I can hear an actual real live person speak about how different teachings and practices fit into their unique life situation, it opens up my awareness to new possibilities for how to apply these teachings and how to skilfully make adjustments for my own opportunities and limitations.

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