Dear Still Water Friends,
This week is community week at Still Water and in our meditation groups and evening gatherings we have the opportunity to talk about what community, and especially the Still Water community, means to each of us.
I have been impressed and humbled by the affection people have for our simple practice. In our groups we offer time, encouragement, and support for two things:
to go within: to calm and listen to ourselves, to find our hearts, and to become aware of subtle emotions and mind-states.
and to share with others: to focus on an aspect of practice, to speak the truths of our hearts, and to listen to others share their experiences and insights.
When we are able to do these two things, we create a bond and connection that has great power. During our sharings last year, practitioners talked about the trust they feel in the group. They feel “at ease,” “at home,” “with family.” One person mentioned it was “Family 2.0,” a calmer, steadier, wiser family than the one he grew up with.
As I reflect on our Still Water gatherings, I realize that as with families, there is always a history. We never come together completely as strangers. The experiences and conversations that have taken place at previous Still Water events are still present with us. New people who come for the first time enter into this community of shared experience. Over the weeks, months, and years, the collective sharing accumulates and is alive in us both when we are together and when we are not.
In a community of practice such as Still Water we nourish a steadier, deeper, way of being with ourselves, and also, a steadier, deeper way of being with each other. Parker Palmer writes in A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life:
A strong community helps people develop a sense of true self, for only in community can the self exercise and fulfill its nature: giving and taking, listening and speaking, being and doing. But when community unravels and we lose touch with one another, the self atrophies and we lose touch with ourselves as well. Lacking opportunities to be ourselves in a web of relationships, our sense of self disappears, leading to behaviors that further fragment our relationships and spread the epidemic of inner emptiness.
In Creating True Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh identifies joining with others in a Sangha, a spiritual community, as an essential mindfulness practice:
The Sangha River is a community of friends who practice the way of harmony, awareness, and compassion. In the sangha we practice mindful walking and breathing. The sangha radiates a collective energy that can support us and make us strong. The sangha is a boat that transports us and prevents us from sinking into the ocean of suffering. This is why it is so important that we take refuge in the sangha. Allow your community to hold you, to transport you. When you do, you will feel more solid and stable and will not risk drowning in your suffering. Taking refuge in a sangha is not a matter of belief. “I take refuge in the Sangha” is not a statement of faith; it is a practice. As a river, all the individual drops of water arrive together at the ocean.
We invite you to join with us this Thursday evening. After our meditation we will reflect on our yearning for community, the community we have, and the community we would like to have. Are we flowing as a Sangha?
If you cannot be with us, you are invited to send an email with your reflections to info@StillWaterMPC.org.
You are are also invited to join us this week for a brief orientation to mindfulness practice and the Still Water community. The orientation will begin at 6:30 pm. If you would like to attend, it is helpful if you let us know by emailing us at info@StillWaterMPC.org.
Settling into Silence: Still Water Practice Retreat. Friday, May 4- Sunday, May 6, at Charter Hall in Perryville, MD.
Touching Life Deeply: A Day of Practice. Sunday, May 26, at Blueberry Gardens in Ashton, Maryland.
Lotuses, Food, and Mindful Friends. Sunday, July 15, 2012, at the the National Park Service’s Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens.