I am coming to my fourth year at Stone Creek and have some observations I would like to share. I am hoping in doing so to encourage others to address their experiences and thoughts about our Sangha. While I have had many of these perspectives in my mind for a long time, Korin’s mentioning the idea of expanding the website and the newsletter gave me the nudge I needed to actually sit here. I hope to set a precedent.
What would I say to someone if they asked me to give my evaluation of our Sangha? Actually, it has happened many times. I say that it is a good place to practice and has a wonderful community that is mostly free of the kind of tensions that plague many groups. If you are waiting for a “but,” there isn’t one.
Taking refuge requires trust. Actually, as I see it, there is a strong correspondence between truly taking refuge and the psychological concept of “safe attachment.” I know on the surface that attachment sounds like a Buddhist no-no, but as my friend John Amodeo argues, the opposite may be closer to the truth. We often confuse our natural wish and need for connection with clinging and grasping. Many of you will remember the Buddha’s chastising Ananda: “Don’t say that, Ananda, friendship is all of the Dharma.” I don’t really want to argue the point, but would like to look at where we as a Sangha support “safety” and where we either undermine it (not often, I think) or just don’t do enough to create it.
The early Sunday morning service is beautiful; lots of bells and bows and readings. It is my favorite time at Stone Creek. After the service, we eat breakfast together. It is a time when I can talk about hiking places and movies with Joko. I get to see Jisho relaxing, hear stories from Burt and puns from Eric. If you have never gotten up early enough to make it, try to come just to feel the interactive richness. Even the clean-up time after breakfast oozes camaraderie.
I point to the early Sunday services because for me they epitomize what feels like sangha-building. They create an atmosphere where we can all experience our wholeness. We bring our practice, our personhood, and our need for interaction. As I see it, all that helps create the “safety” required for refuge.
A couple of years ago we created a Film Night to encourage this kind of mixing. Turned out that it was too labor-intensive and it fell away, but I feel like more of those kinds of opportunities really make a difference in how much connection people feel to our Sangha. I feel like I know a lot of people in the Sangha in a surface way. I like them, but don’t know much about them beyond where they unusually sit on Sunday mornings. I often know their smiles. Like most, I think, I tend to spend time with people I know well.
I have just one other observation that I feel inspired to add. Much of the openness that most of us experience at the Zendo, as I see it, is Jisho’s legacy. Her demand that all of us be heard, all can be said out loud, and all of us have a place at the table, has created our sangha’s inclusiveness.
Thanks for listening.