Photo by Virginia Bergman
Every day the stories in the media become more heart-rending: jobs have been lost; mortgages have been foreclosed; and not just individuals, but entire families have suddenly become homeless, trying to survive by living in their cars and using the public restrooms in parks.
Then comes Tom Edsall’s article in the Huffington Post declaring the affluent the big winners in the stimulus package. That’s all we needed to hear, right?
In my judgment, we all need a time out from rancorous politics; the depraved moronic behavior of Wall Street barons and Corporate CEOs; and a pandering media.
In the year 2000, Jack Kornfield, Buddhist monk and clinical psychologist, wrote words that have validity today:
“We live in disordered times, complicated, distracted, and demanding, yet to sustain a spiritual practice demands our steady attention. The first task, then, in almost any spiritual voyage, is to quiet ourselves enough to listen to the voices of our hearts, to listen to that which is beyond our daily affairs…we need to step out of our usual roles, out of the busy days on automatic pilot.”
Mindfulness meditation can help break the habit of living our lives on automatic pilot, but it’s hard to do alone.
Yesterday I responded to an impulse that’s been begging me to act for several months; I issued an invitation to neighbors, friends and acquaintances to join me in forming a Sangha or spiritual community.
We’ll gather regularly to read and discuss writings by spiritual leaders such as Kornfield, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama. We’ll set aside time to share our personal spiritual journeys, and we’ll conclude our time together by practicing mindfulness meditation.
We’ll hold our meetings in one of several community rooms in my apartment building here in the Twin Cities. I envision our gatherings as an opportunity for spiritual growth in a peaceful and nurturing environment.
I will also keep in mind Thich Nhat Hanh’s question in his book Being Peace: “What is the use of practicing meditation if it does not have anything to do with our daily lives?”
Thay also said:
Aware that the essence and aim of a Sangha is the practice of understanding and compassion, we are determined not to use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit or transform our community into a political instrument. A spiritual community should, however, take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.
This does not mean that we must be silent about injustice. It just means we should do it with awareness and not take sides. We should speak the truth and not just weigh the political consequences. If we take sides, we will lose our power to help mediate the conflict.
It’s my hope that our Sangha will heal and energize its members that we might transcend politics to speak the truth and take leadership roles in making peace in our families, our neighborhoods, and in the wider world.