Fire & Sangha: Seeking refuge in the warmth of community
During this last winter my friend and I decided to explore the elements in a freeform, guided meditation. When we meditated on fire we both came up with similar ideas and imagery. For us fire was about change and transformation, but also about warmth, sustenance and community. Many images came of communities gathering around a fire circle for a ritual or the hearth of a home, and even around the stove in a kitchen. How many parties have you been to where the little kitchen is full of people and the spacious living room is empty? Humans are drawn to community, connection and contact. By our nature, we are not solitary beings. Science has shown that without contact with others our physical and mental health suffers greatly.
Community and connection is paramount to our well being, and not just any community, but our sangha. Sangha is a Buddhist term, which refers to our community of kindred spirits, like-minded friends or our spiritual community. Your sangha is the community where you can be yourself, relax and find support. For some this is at work or school, for others it’s in your own family or even at the local watering hole.
There are many people who may feel isolated from that sense of community. They may feel like outsiders because of their beliefs or a particular disability. I want to acknowledge that it can be a struggle to find a sangha for some. To those people, I would encourage your to not give up and keep looking. I also offer two other options, the first being the internet. In this day of social networking we can meet people from all around the world, and we are bound to find other kindred spirits out there. The second possibility is the internal sangha, for those with a spiritual practice or believe system. In prayer and meditation we can find a multitude of support networks through a pantheon of gods and goddesses, angels, spirit guides or mythical figures. Even our imagination can create a rich center of support, perhaps by reading uplifting stories or sagas of great heroes who have discovered strength in their wounding.
We seek out these communities when we feel good and want to connect, but also when we want to take refuge from our struggles and difficulties. And even though our community may not have the answers or solutions, we feel better simply because we can rest in that connection with our people.
– Nick Venegoni, MA