Yesterday was a work day at the Palolo Zen Center. I had the easy job of cooking while everyone worked and I took the opportunity to look around and reflect about the sangha (community) and my practice.
It’s been three years since I started practicing here and I’ve made friendships that are important and deep. There is a high level of trust I have with sangha members. Practice brings about a special connection. There are all kinds of differences between us, but the bond of practice is strong.
I remember a couple of instances that stand out for me. At the end of Hele Malie (a back-packing sesshin) last year, we gathered for the end of sesshin (Zen retreat) meeting. When it was Michael Kieran (my teacher)’s turn to speak he said that “you’re the people I want to die with.” Without putting words in his mouth, I understood what he said to mean that he wanted to live his life until the end with the sangha. At another sesshin, in dokusan(interview with the teacher), I was whining about something to Nelson Foster (Diamond Sangha teacher). He said something that stuck with me: “Trust the sangha.”
As I looked around yesterday, it was clear to me that love is what I felt for everyone there. Ginger was sweating and dirty weed-wacking around our banana patch that she loves. Brian was shooting photos with his new 5 mega pixel camera between pounding stuff and pulling nails. Julia worked away in the yard in a hat bigger then her and Ann worked in loud shorts she pulled out of the resident’s hall closet. Argon banged away in the zendo (meditation hall) in protective gear looking like someone from ghost busters. In dirty, ragged jeans Susan and her nephew, Keola, came in. It was so much fun watching Keola chase Sammy (the cat) and Sammy chase Keola. What we do without Susan’s spirit and laughter? Anna: quiet and strong: Roland: not-so-quiet, also strong. Carolyn is always so hard working and someone that can be counted on. Mr. Kim: my husband, Kris said about Mr. Kim: “He doesn’t speak much English, but he’s so easy to communicate with.” It was good to see Joan – little in stature, but a powerhouse. Our dear Roshi (Robert Aitken) presiding at the supper table, telling stories, always teaching.
People can come and go in the sangha – no guilt, no blame. Whether we’re working or playing, we have this. How lucky we are!