The Sanskrit word “sangha” refers to the creation of community, and is one of the pillars of Buddhist practice. I am so blessed to be a part of a beautiful Ashtanga community here in Denver, but my responsibilities as a mother, wife, and householder prevent me from being active in a Buddhist sangha. This feels like an absence that must be corrected someday, but for now I am content with the lively company of my family; their raucous presence are a constant reminder that silence and peace exist in the most surprising of places. They exist, indeed, everywhere, even when one is attempting to meditate and a little girl comes to speak loudly about her doll.
Occasionally the house falls into stillness. At these moments I can feel the river that flows between my body and my external world. This river is what guides one toward the realization that the boundaries we create between ourselves and “outer” reality, whether it’s other humans or the environment or even the hard lines of war we wage against ourselves, are an illusion, the product of a mind whose thoughts and “storylines” never cease.
Then of course the sense of the river fades, and I am thrown back into separateness. But every once in a while, the stillness presents this understanding, presents it like a precious jewel box that must be protected. But not too much….
The other night, my sangha included my sweetly sleeping middle child and my gorgeous white cat, who was exhausted from a day of play (or, more probably, vicious hunting) outside. In the room next to me I could hear my eccentric, always naked first born rustling the newspaper as he searched for stories about Peyton Manning. My husband was downstairs exercising and the baby was entering the deep slumber of infancy in her little crib. I sat in silence, my spine straight, my breath soft, and felt an almost crippling gratitude come over me. The luck of my life, the love within the home, blessings all. I wished that same love for all beings, and felt the tenuousness of that wish: everywhere, suffering. Everywhere, loneliness, poverty.
Somehow, we must all create a sangha, whether it’s in a homeless shelter (which my friend Ann helps to do, coming week after week to feed and help house hungry women) or in a school or simply in one’s own family. And then we might each of us, even for a moment, feel the river that flows between us……