By Wonp'ung (Miyo Wratten)
As the summer months quickly approach, and I pass my anniversary of having taken refuge in the Three Jewels (that was at last year’s celebration of Buddha’s birthday!), I find myself contemplating how much has happened in that year.
Back in July of this past summer, I was lucky enough to join the Five Mountain Zen retreat that took place in Oneida.
As the July retreat closed, one of our members handed out a very nice gift to us - a tile with a Chinese character engraved in it. There were four different characters from which we could choose.
The tile I chose was one for the character representing “friend.” This choice was a no-brainer for me. Since joining Lotus Heart Zen, and especially after attending the July retreat, the importance of Sangha was brought home to me.
Like many from our North American culture, I was brought up in a home where independence is valued. Asking for help from others was thought of as weak--and certainly, sharing with anybody outside of our home any of the details of what happened within the walls of our family was a big no-no. In my adolescence, I remember being shunned by my mother for weeks because I had tried to confide in my best friend some of my worries about what had been going on in my family at that time (nothing serious, but they caused me concern at that point in time).
Constant messages we received while growing up included: Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! Make your own way in the world! Make your own destiny! Climb the ladder, step over people if you need to!
Through a few circumstances in my adult life, I’ve thankfully started to learn the value of opening up, sharing what’s troubling me, and seeking help from others. Reaching out can still feel like a difficult thing to do--especially as a mom and a wife, the message that we need to be all things to all people at all times, is pervasive.
Watching people in this Sangha offer, ask for, give and accept support has been truly humbling. Last year’s July retreat showed me the importance of this together work that is done when we are in a group, and when we are practicing.
This “friendship” tile is my constant reminder that progress is rarely ever truly made alone--and we as humans weren’t meant to function in isolation from one another. It holds a special place on my altar as I meditate and chant daily--with gratitude in my heart for the Dharma brothers and sisters I have acquired over the course of this year.
I am looking forward to seeing old Dharma friends return in July, and am hopeful to make some new ones as well.
Photo credit: Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay
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