The spiritual communities that sustain us…

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COVID 19 has not been pleasant. It has been a tremendous period of uncertainty, struggle, death and transformation in the lens with which we view our lives. Nothing can ever be the same, surely! It has also brought some unexpected blessings into our lives. Perhaps, a slowing down, or a pause from the frantic pace at which we drive ourselves. Or forced time with loved ones. Solitude or togetherness in unexpected ways. A deep immersion in compassion, because how else can we get through this?

One of those unexpected blessings for me, is a reconnecting with my mindfulness community. I have been part of this sangha (buddhist word for spiritual community) for over a decade, and my teachers have influenced my path and my practice in indescribable ways. Since I became a mom, I have struggled to attend the sits regularly. I have tried and given up several times during the course of the past decade. The evening times seem to coincide exactly with when my child needs me for homework, piano lessons or when I am making dinner. I love my routine and giving up my evening routine and dinner with my family felt too difficult.

After reviewing the stress it caused me, I came to peace with my decision that I would forego the weekly sits, and try to attend the weekend gatherings whenever possible. I still managed to pop into the weekly sits once every few months thanks to spring break or summer break. But for the most part, my sits with my community and teachers happened during a Saturday or Sunday retreat. That said, it didn’t seem to matter how infrequently I sat with my sangha; every time I showed up, I was greeted with the same benevolence, kindness and enthusiasm as if I were coming every week!

During COVID 19, the sits became live on zoom and my teachers led sits virtually. And what a blessing! Sitting again with my sangha regularly, with people who share the love and passion for the Dharma, has been like dipping my feet again in the soft sand by the shore line. So beautiful and exactly perfect! And always such a pleasant surprise to feel the connection when we sit with beloved spiritual friends. The sit usually lasts about 30-40 minutes followed by discussion on the text or talk we have been reading/watching. So, on Monday evenings, when I can enter the refuge of my meditation room, I take a pause from everything else in life. Life resumes as normal after the sit, but as always, we are changed, transformed by the gifts of mindfulness and loving-kindness. The lens becomes just a bit clearer!

Another life-line for me has been Jurian Hughes’ kripalu yoga. I met Jurian at Kripalu last summer at the Dance into Joy workshop, and immediately felt a connection to her teachings and her presence. Kripalu is too far away for me to see her regularly and I missed the yoga, so I leapt at the chance to practice with her when she started teaching via zoom. Her Wednesday morning gentle yoga is just a perfect way to re-enter the week. She also sends a recording of the yoga class which is valid for a week, so that I can practice with it multiple times if I need. And what makes Jurian’s classes so enjoyable is her warmth, groundedness, chanting and the energy she brings into the practice and into our lives.

I feel so grateful to be part of a rich spiritual community where we can support each other with the practice of mindfulness, movement and compassion. With a bow of gratitude to all our teachers, who influence us, inspire us and keep us going on this path to liberation!

I leave you with these words from Rumi:

So the sea-journey goes on, and who knows where?

Just to be held by the ocean is the best luck

we could have. It is a total waking-up.

Why should we grieve that we have been sleeping?

It does not matter how long we’ve been unconscious.

We are groggy, but let the guilt go.

Feel the motions of tenderness around you, the bouyancy.

Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)

Have you experienced any unexpected blessings during this time? Have the teachings of loving-kindness and mindfulness spoken to you in new ways? I would love to hear about your journey, through any comments you leave me.

With love and a bow, S.

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