“To me, sangha is a central support in meditation practice. Sangha is a community outside the realm of our work life and our everyday life, a place where we refrain from competition and one-upping each other. It’s also an opportunity to put the brakes on people-pleasing behaviors. Rather, we tell each other the truth of our experience.” ~ Pema Chodron
Gathering in a group is so wonderful, so meaningful, so supportive, and so…..difficult.
From time to time, it dawns on me how brave people are who are willing to do The Work with others.
It’s not easy.
The Work asks us to expose the worst thoughts we have about situations, the things we should hide. And we better keep them hidden. Right?
We have the thing we’re thinking about with concern–it’s aggressive, painful, aggravating. Something happened, it felt so terrible.
Ugh. What would people think?
And then, on top of our sadness or irritation….we’re also guilty and ashamed.
The last thing we want to do sometimes is call it up, talk about it, write about it, or set our minds to inquiring.
Can’t we do something else?
(Oh, you mean like eat, drink, smoke, spend, game, internet? Sure! Won’t be fun though).
Those Judge Your Neighbor worksheets are so frightening sometimes. What if someone read them? What if he knew I was writing this? What if she found it?
(I’ve had many people leave their worksheets at my house in a secret file, and come back to keep working on them each week or month).
It does take a ton of courage to express yourself honestly in the childish, hurt, cutting, bitter way we feel. We’re judging ourselves simultaneously while sharing our feelings at the very same time.
Something screams “Don’t say that! OMG, she’s saying it.”
And yet….who would we be without the belief we shouldn’t reveal this embarrassing situation, or that awful thing we did, or the terrible words that person said to us and we’re now thinking about them? Who would we be without the belief that we have something to hide?
Turning the beliefs around: it’s wonderful to reveal our innermost thoughts and judgments, it’s NOT terrible to share what happened to us, it’s powerful to say what we did. We have nothing we need to hide. Safety is here. Acceptance. Love.
Could these be just as true or truer?
All I know is, the greatest healing and peace, unconditional love and gratitude I have ever felt is when I’ve shared very personal, revealing, difficult things about myself, about my childhood, about my life….and been heard, witnessed and accepted.
Reading Judge Your Neighbor worksheets out loud to at least one other has a way of admitting and owning: “I am here” and “I am human”.
I know I feel honored and full of appreciation when someone tells me something they’ve been festering over that they haven’t spoken of before.
And it’s extra special powerful when we get to do that in groups, with supportive, kind people who are all gathered to do The Work together. We’re meeting because we want to be free of our secrets or inner turmoil of judgment. There’s something incredible about finding out other people think the very same thoughts we do.
Wow. We are not alone.
We can all support each other, and ourselves, to write down our judgments–the most nasty hateful fearful thoughts we’ve ever had–and take them through this process called The Work. In doing this, we discover alternative ways to see, new possibilities.
Who are we all without our stressful stories?
Loving, sharing with each other. Getting support. Not doing it while suffering, alone.
We’re a sangha.
I hope if you’re thinking about coming to retreat, you’ll do it in May. It’s such a wonderful time of taking off the dark blankets that have been hiding our pain, shame, embarrassment, anger, or grief.
In spring cleaning retreat, everything’s blossoming, especially our inner spirits, as we become part of the tribe called human.
You can do this with any circle gathered together to do The Work. Find a Meetup near you, google a retreat in the area, join a study group, get a partner on skype or the phone, take a class, work with a facilitator, have a friend facilitate you, and you facilitate them.
It’s remarkable to live with nothing to hide.
Join me on retreat in Seattle at our beautiful retreat house. A few rooms left for those who’d like to stay onsite (ask about the fees for rooms). Register.