Wednesday, January 24, 2018


I have been missing my sangha in Laguna Beach. A combination of scheduling conflicts and other demands in the past few months have made my attendance there irregular at best. I have been a member of this small meditation group for more than twenty years--hard to believe!--and it has been an important part of my life. On our regular Sunday meetings, we sit for an hour and spend a second hour in discussions that range from the finer points of dharma to how to cope with the dreadful things that are happening in Washington DC and in our country.

So... this past week I missed our Sunday session because Ellie and I were busy in Los Angeles on Saturday night and did not get back down to Laguna until noon on Sunday. I will miss the January retreat with our generous and dedicated teacher, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, scheduled for this coming weekend, because we are called back to Los Angeles, unusually, on Saturday. I have no end of excuses! But the upshot is that I feel truly sad to be such an inconsistent member of a group to which I owe so much.

But the sangha also has a Tuesday study-group session, which I am not usually able to attend because... well, you know: it's Tuesday. So I went last night, and was amply rewarded, both by the hour-long sit and the readings from the suttas and discussion that followed. I cannot claim to have learned anything new and startling, but it was good to think with others about things of importance, ethical and philosophical issues that affect our lives and the way we can best live them. On what grounds, for example, is it right and proper to make judgments on our fellow beings? Should we suspend all judgment as "politically incorrect"? What part do discernment, attentive observation, patience, play? The suttas offer wise and comprehensive answers to these questions, based on what disciples of the Buddha heard him say.

As anyone who has sat in meditation in a sitting group knows, there is a difference between solitary meditation--the daily slog, sometimes the daily joy!--and sitting with a group of fellow sitters. In part, it's the energy, perceptible even in silence and with eyes closed. In part, it's simple fellowship, of the kind that churchgoers feel in their congregations--an experience that we humans deeply need, and have needed since the days we sat around communal fires, or in kivas. In part, it's the exchange of thoughts and feelings in conversations that transcend the ordinary, as last night's, going deep into the psyche and the soul to find the common ground that binds us. So much of our busy lives are spent in conflict, argument, controversy, it's both gratifying and consoling to be able to return to the core of our shared humanity.

All of which I found last night in our discussion: wisdom and compassion, knowledge and curiosity, perception and eloquence, humor and insight... and a space in which to find calmness and respite from the world out-there. So these words come with a big thank-you to my sangha for the blessings I have received and a heartfelt expression of love.

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