Teaching of the Month. Sangha.

The most learned Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes that in our society much of our suffering comes from feeling disconnected from one another. That we do not feel a real connection even with people we live close to, our neighbours, our coworkers, and even our family members. Certainly the advent of the computer has played a large part in this feeling of separation and isolation, where we spend hours each day face to face with a machine. Many of our family members are spread out over long distances, and we see them not often enough. Maintaining friendships/relationships requires work – the effort of trust, compassion and real listening. And the offering of the most precious gift of all – your presence.

To flourish in our lives, we need connection with others.

Recently our studio yogis have been practicing a Buddhist technique which has made quite a change – and a big difference in our lives. We thought to share it with you this month during which time ‘change’ is often thought about, but rarely embraced whole-heartedly.

Whenever people of like minds come together, this is called a Sangha. Sanghas can be everywhere - in our families, in our workplace, in our neighborhood, in our studios…wherever people come together for similar or like purpose. It’s important to note that Sanghas are like gardens – with plants, flowers and trees of different species, heights, colours, times of bloom, big, small, etc….just like people! One plant (person) is simply a plant or a person – by itself, alone. Two plants (people) become a garden. Yet every plant in the garden is special and unique unto itself – yet connected…to each other….to form a garden…or in the case of people, a community – a Sangha.

Each person in our Sangha has unique gifts to offer, and also unique needs. When we can appreciate these gifts, and also the areas that need attention, we can help the others to feel special, and to feel cared for. We can help our garden to flourish.

Here’s our practice. The name of this practice is called Second Body Systemas described by Thich Van Nanh. It can take as little as a minute, or as long as you like.

Your First Body is your self. Your Second Body is another person who you look after as an extension of yourself. If you are my Second Body, then I am your Caring Friend. Everyone sits in a circle, and has the person to their immediate right be their Second Body. In this way, everyone has someone to look after, and everyone is looked after by someone else. We try to feel very connected to our Second Body, as if he/she is a part of ourself, and we want to pay attention to and care for this person. So if your Second Body is not well, we find out how we can assist him/her, often just by offering your undivided presence. Often just by sitting together, by breathing together, or by simply Listening with your Whole Heart. Sometimes a few words of kindness are needed, and at other times, dwelling in your own island of conscious breathing is the best support for your friend.

This practice of Second Body helps us to stay connected with those around us, and also helps us to clearly understand how all people of Earth are part of our garden/Sangha.

All One.

"Unity is the reality; separateness the illusion. The nearer we come to reality, the nearer we come to unity of heart. Sympathy, compassion, kindness are modes of this unity of heart, whereby we rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep."
From the book Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - by Charles Johnston.