When I was in Maui I stayed for a week with my dear friend who used to be a Buddhist monk. I loved the energy in the house as he would do his practices in the morning for hours. I would sit in my room and meditate, write, pray and just feel the energy of peace present. It made me so happy to be near someone practicing with such dedication. It was so clear his practice benefited not only him, but me, and all beings everywhere.
In Buddhism they talk about taking refuge in the three jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Sangha is so important. When we take refuge in the Sangha, we focus our energies on building a community that dwells in mindfulness, harmony and peace. It is our spiritual community. And sometimes it’s just the presence of another person striving towards enlightenment, towards embodying greater love, compassion and insight.
Thich Nhat Hanh says “Sangha is the community of monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen, as well as the other elements that support our practice – our cushion, our walking meditation path, the trees, the sky, and the flowers. Practicing with a Sangha is essential; it can be difficult to continue without the support of friends. When members of a Sangha live in harmony, their sangha is holy. When a community sits, breathes, walks, and eats together in mindfulness, holiness is there.”
This kind of support is as simple as walking on the beach mindfully with a dear friend who is aware of her breathing, her steps, her surroundings, and emanating peace. It is as simple as silently watching the sun set and the moon rise with a friend and being totally present and in awe of creation. It is simple as discussing the teachings of emptiness and inherent existence and feeling closer to the truth. It is as simple as melting into a song about letting go and feeling the heart’s liberation. It is as simple as breathing in peace and the wonder of this snow swirling wildly outside my window right now.
I realize when I give programs that one of the things people seem to be so hungry for, and grateful for, is the reflection of another person striving to be awake, to deepen in love and understanding. To deepen in living a life of beauty, wakefulness and goodness. And I realize how grateful I am for the reflection of this anywhere I go. Just someone being kind, loving and considerate to me, it gives me strength, support and energy to keep going.
I look forward to graduating this June from this Interfaith Seminary I am in. It has been a deepening and educational two years. I look forward to stepping into a spiritual community as the spiritual leader and shifting my service in the world from serving sanghas in many places, to focusing on serving one sangha regularly. I will still travel but perhaps less. I will trust I will be guided to the perfect place to step into this new chapter.
I leave you with this reminder of three jewels in our life that we must keep our eye on:
Taking refuge in the Buddha in myself, I aspire to help all people recognize their own awakened nature and realize the mind of love.
Taking refuge in the Dharma in myself, I aspire to help all people grasp the way of practice and walk together on the path of liberation.
Taking refuge in the Sangha in myself, I aspire to help all people build communities and encourage the transformation of all beings.
(from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching ~ Thich Nhat Hanh)