Going as a River

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Dear Still Water Friends,

This week is community week at the Still Water MPC. The Working Group is hoping that in each of the morning, afternoon, and evening groups we can reflect on the community we have and the community we would like to have. Are we flowing as a Sangha?

This past week I was at Deer Park Monastery for a gathering of Dharma teachers. While I was there I talked with the monastics about community. For them, community life is an essential practice. Living so closely together, and working together on projects, each one’s inner nature becomes apparent to others. As one monk explained, they are like rocks being tumbled together – eventually they smooth and polish each other. There is another side to it, too. In that close community one realizes that the happiness and sadness of each of those one is close to is one’s own happiness and sadness. If one has this understanding, one become proactive, taking steps to nourish the happiness of all. At the same time a spiritual change is occurring. As a monastic learns to live together with other monastics in harmony (or as any of us learn to live harmoniously with others), the tight, protected ego relaxes. Not only are there fewer barriers among those we live with, there are fewer barriers anywhere. We more deeply and joyfully experience life in all its manifestations. And as we transform , those around us transform.

Flying back from California, I was in a plane with 180 other people. Although we traveled through time and space together, we weren’t much of a community. As we flew and after we landed we were absorbed in our individual lives and concerns.

Three hours after I landed, I attended the Sunday night Still Water practice in Columbia. After the meditation period, we talked about Still Water as a community and then sat in silence for a few minutes as we considered what we received from the Still Water community and what we wanted in our lives. As people shared, it become apparent to me that while we are not monastics, we are also not airplane passengers. I believe what is special about our community and our groups is that there are ongoing nourishing connections among us, discernible as people greet each other. Eyes light up and smiles appear. We know each other from sharings in Dharma discussions, retreats, and classes and workshops. Over the past 11 years many of us have developed true friendships in the community. We know each others’ families and each others’ joys and fears. We talk with and support each other when difficulties arise. Because of the underlying relationships, when we come together for a meditation, a dharma discussion, or a picnic, there is an ease and an intimacy that is perceptible to us and to visitors. Our daily lives are different from monastics, but like them we share a spiritual tradition and we are polishing and nourishing each other.

We invite you to be with us this Thursday evening to share with us your experience of community at Still Water. We also invite you to share about community when you attend any of our other Still Water groups this week, and to attend our Spring Awakening Party this Saturday, where we will celebrate 11 years of community. If you can’t be with us (or even if you can), we invite you to send your reflections on the Still Water community or on any other community to us at info@StillWaterMPC.org.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher