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Posts from the ‘sangha’ Category

Teacher and Sangha

Today a dear student pondered, “Sometimes I wonder why I pay to attend a class where I come to rest”.

She paused for some moments and then shared.

“Community.  I have experienced the importance of sangha”.

She shared that she appreciates sitting with like-minded (hearted) people who aspire to meet themselves in a sincere and profound way.  The support in the room is palpable for her. When her curiosity fades or her attention ruminates, the collective energy of the group catches her and brings her back.  She said that there is something unique about group energy that she does not feel at home.  It strengthens her intention for practice, and she connects to a shared experience, something beyond herself.

A large part of meditation practice is in meeting the workings of the ego.  Ego, as I use it here, is the collective pattern of thinking and perceptions that we take ourselves to be.  This student also described that being able to surrender to the guidance of a trusted teacher helps her ego personality to rest.  She no longer needs to be the one leading, planning and doing.  Instead she can listen and feel her way back to what she “naturally” is and has been.  These last words were beautiful, pointing to something beyond her ego and her person-ness; what many describe as spirit, being, presence, wholeness.

The dialogue continued for some time, and I listened as she uncovered her own answers.  It was sweet to witness.

It is essential that teachers entrusted in these kind of spaces do their own work/practice; that they check their humanity and ego often so that space is held with integrity and clarity.  While the ego can at times make it complicated, the teacher’s work is simple; to point the students back to themselves.

Alongside community, one’s home practice is also important so that practice continues even when circumstances change, as they will.  Most of my practice happens at home, in solitude or amidst my family for now.  And I look forward to retreating with two of my teachers in the new year; being held and guided, ego checked in and heart open.



Retreating Home.

I am back home from retreat and feeling grateful to have had the opportunity to slow down.

The container of the retreat was held with such care, attention and love.  Silence not only evoked an inward intimacy, but an intimacy with community that is rarely experienced when the spaces are so quickly filled with dialogue. Without the dialogue, there was a sacred, raw, almost naked quality to the experience.  Some of the layers of masking fell away along with the words, while the heart and being began to feel more than words can ever hope to relay.

In this space, I began to meet myself again.  Without the roles and responsibilities of daily life, I reacquainted with all that lies beneath them.  Slowly, I was able to abide within, to feel and see that which I continue to carry and all that I have always been and continue to be.  A disguised belief, often buried beneath defenses, came forward as a messenger.  With silence as my companion, I was able to be with it, without agenda, without defending, without pushing it away or believing it to be true.  Only the heart has room to hold in this way.  When met and seen fully, the beliefs dissolved on their own for a time, not by will, but by grace itself.  Perhaps they will return, perhaps they won’t.  I will never really know, but can only hope to ride the waves of life as they come.

While life can feel short, and at times our stories solid and limited, presence is timeless and vast.  So much of life is happening in the spaces around the stories.  I hope to be taken there often.

Thank you to all who made the retreat possible, the staff at Santa Sabina Retreat center who made nourishing food and took care of the spaces.  Thank you to the teachings, the community and Stephanie Lopez for being such a warm and wise guide.

And thank you to my family, without whom this would not be possible.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.