One of the insights from the last Ango period was the importance of a community and a teacher for one’s practice. In a community (as well as in relationships of all kinds) we have a chance to test what comes up for us in our practice. I took a look at my own hang ups coming from earlier sometimes quite emotional experiences of joining a spiritually oriented community.
Here are some of the traits that I noticed a group could develop that can take it into a different direction than the one intended from the start:
- Being nice – syndrome: Socializing can take over and overshadow the initial purpose for which the group is created. People start getting to know each other, get comfortable with the ideas of others and themselves, develop friendships and …new attachments. To help each other grow we need to be open to fuelling our practice by dealing with whatever comes up when the Pandora’s box is open. Conflicts? This, too. I believe a teacher can help in a situation like that by rattling the cage now and then and bringing in the element of discomfort and uncertainty.
- Rubbing the wounds – syndrome: Groups can help us notice our neuroses and work through them; they can help us heal. Groups can also amplify our neuroses by sustaining our ego and feeding it. We can get stuck in exchanging our stories rather than moving beyond them.
- Us vs them – syndrome: While the underlying intentions of a particular group/community might be those of integration and inclusion, the vocabulary used in a group and the sense of sharing something that is unique to this group can contribute to creating the us and them – attitude: us Buddhists vs them non-Buddhists, us evolutionaries against everybody else, us men vs women in men’s groups, etc.
For the next few months I commit to practise with a few groups, some only for the duration of the specific course and one rather freshly started local interfaith group for hopefully a longer period of time. This time I bring questioning and my own filters with me as well as my own awareness of those traps. What do I have to offer? Once again Dogen-zenji’s words come to mind, “To give is non-attachment”. By being non-attached to the ideas of what the group should be like, what I have to offer and how, etc I am actually giving already. Just showing up for whatever comes up can be enough. In fact, this is all we ever need to do.
How do I know when it is not my attachment that wants to speak up but my heart’s truth? For now I use the simple question to help me see the difference, “Will this create a sense of separation or inclusion and expansion?”.