The value of Sangha

EDITOR’S NOTE: After two months on retreat, Tuere will be returning to our Sangha tomorrow night. We hope you can join us in welcoming her back. Daniel will lead on the Parimi of Resolve.

We have been given three jewels – Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. 

You are my sangha. I may speak up during discussions, but otherwise I’m rather quiet. My quietness should not be mistaken for lack of connection. I deeply value our sangha and you are a source of comfort, wisdom, and strength for me these days. I’ve not been able to attend regularly because I’m spending a lot of time in Dallas with my family. My brother Ronnie was diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer in Oct. This was sudden and a shock to us all – he has been a healthy, competitive athlete for over 30yrs. The latest is that none of the chemo regimens have worked. At best they’ve slowed it, but nothing has stopped it. At this point, it’s about making him comfortable, controlling his pain, and helping him through to the end.

Ronnie is a runner. He’s been telling me stories of running, what it’s felt like, and how running has affected him mentally. It is his meditation. Everything he describes about his mental state while running says meditation. I think one reason he’s facing this with such frankness, clarity, and equanimity is that he essentially has 30 years of near daily meditation under his belt. He’s fully in his experience, his heart and eyes are open, and he’s accepting that his death will be here sooner rather than later. He’s been clear that he is choosing quality of life over longevity. His humor and caring have been in full bloom. His heart seems more open than ever while facing this head-on. I am grateful that he’s being true to the best parts of himself.

This experience asks me to be fully present with my brother, to keep my own heart open, and to be with my feelings no matter what they are. That’s where you all come in. What I have learned and experienced with you in our sangha has been a source of strength for me. I can have my feelings and not be consumed or distracted by them. I want to meet his openness and equanimity with my own. Julia, thank you for the lesson on loving-kindness. I’ve been using metta meditation throughout this process and it was wonderful to have that be the focus of the group. I learned from you all and it enriched my practice. It also helped me feel that I bring the strength of our sangha to my brother.

I wanted to share this with you all, so you know a bit of what happens as we carry our sangha out into the world, into our daily lives. In the same way the room we meet in is always there, whether we are in it or not, I feel our sangha is always connected, whether we are together or not. Thank you for being my teachers, my companions, my sangha.

-Stephen Bardin


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