Every Sunday, my family would put on their “church clothes,” rush around the house to get ready for church, and somehow make it in time to Sunday mass. We didn’t have a choice. The choice was church. We were Roman Catholic. My father was a former Benedictine monk, and my aunt was a Benedictine sister. And, come to find out St. Frances Cabrini is a distant relative. I think somewhere in the family tree there are a few priests too. Church was in my lineage. It was an obligation. I complied at a young age, and then fought the very fact that I had to go to church on Sunday. If I was out late the night before and not feeling so pleasant in the morning, my father would drag me out of bed to go to church. I began to reject my families religion, which led to many arguments and debates.
I didn’t care for organized religion, and didn’t like being forced to believe in a religion that somehow was making me feel bad about myself. I wondered where was the spirit, why would “God” make you earn happiness or heaven, why would you be punished for simply being human, and why did everyone have to make you feel so guilty. (On a side note, I still pray daily to the Mother Mary. She embodies the divine goddess after all.) However, I later found that Buddhism gave me what I felt was missing from the religion I grew up with. Buddhism provided practical teachings for how to live life in harmony with myself and others, and that heaven/light was right here not in some lofty land up above. This I could connect to.
At first, it took me awhile to gravitate to the notion of sangha. Admittedly, I still don’t get high on having to participate in a group meditation. I don’t go to regular meditation, and haven’t found a group that I connect to here. The sangha you do decide to sit with is a little like choosing a family. The energy has to be like synapses connecting instantaneously. I have found this to be true for me.
Well, I’ve abandoned the anti-sangha ship. Sangha is important. I didn’t know just how, until I realized how much community is in my life. It’s where I find support, love, and sustenance. Sangha is the community we create with our friends, family, yoga class, and in our own homes. It is not limited to four-walls. Sangha is the collective energy we create with love.
I feel that we are deeply missing community in our society and everyday lives. Community brings love, support, guidance, and a deeper connection to ourselves, and that in turn creates peace in our communities. There is so much violence happening in our world, because so many feel disconnected from a community and a place that they can go home to.
May we all cultivate peace and love.