To practice right mindfulness we need the right environment, and that environment is our sangha.”Thích Nhát Hanh
These first days before we get into the 40 days of “practice” will cover some fundamentals. It all starts with community! A sangha is a community of supporters together practicing shared values. Not a perfect group, just a committed one. There is strength in numbers, and extra good energy when unconditional love and support is at the center.
I have a sangha of sorts; we call ourselves sister wives. We took a rustic week long family rafting trip together (not all glamour for the matrons in charge) and talked a lot while we floated and hiked. Now, together, occasionally in person and often by text, we navigate the dramas of our life experiences. We listen to one another, and find solace in our stories. Sharing our joys and concerns is essential. Another more formal sangha I’m in meets monthly to study the teachings of Thích Nhát Hánh and others. My weekly meditation is with a group at Community Church in Lake Forest; if local, please come! http://www.thecommunitychurch.us/community-contemplation.html
We’ve all experienced the power of community, even if it is over the internet in something like Caring Bridge or PostHope. Technology provides some shadows, but a bright spot is its ability to build community despite geographics. There is great power when love, values and accountability are at the core. The key is right intention, along with love, support and belief systems. Teams, clubs, even greek organizations can be lifeblood, so long as accountability and shared values are respected. AA is a powerful sangha.
Martin Luther King strived for the Beloved Community, a respectful but diverse community that holds non-violence and peace at its center. Jesus and the Buddha had communities of imperfect householders like ourselves~ that they taught, supported and embraced. The disciples in these sanghas made mistakes, but were loved and welcomed back to the group nonetheless. Thích Nhát Hanh says;
“In my tradition they say that when a tiger leaves the mountain and goes to the lowland, it will be caught by humans and killed. When practitioners leave their sangha, they will abandon their practice after a few months. In order to continue our practice of transformation and healing, we need a sangha. With a sangha it’s much easier to practice, and that is why I always take refuge in my sangha.”
I need the reminder that embodying mindfulness is not just about going inward, it is also about contributing. It’s a balance between inward contemplation and outward action. So we start the 47 days with community. If you’re getting Ashes today or looking at others who did, might that also serve as a reminder that the idea of community is held sacred in every faith tradition.
An idea to be mindful of, even meditate on, today is simple: What sangha(s) do you have? How can you contribute to one today? Maybe it’s by sharing this peace, or just reaching out to someone you are or have been in community with. Reflect in on this today. And then reach out.
Feel free to share your thoughts/experiences below!