By Cherry Zimmer
Not long ago I'd never heard the word "Sangha." I now know that I had built myself one with animals, plants, and minerals, though I did not know that this is what I had done until I was with a Sangha of people.
Sanghas are built because people—and animals, plants, and minerals—need one. If one does not exist, we form one. People Sanghas come to be when enough like-minded people come to know each other and realize that they need a Sangha. So, with much dedication, they bind together.
When we use the word ''build,'' we may expect that "built" will follow. This is not true of my nature Sangha. I must constantly tend to the needs of the animals, plants, and minerals. The annual flowers must be planted in the spring. The perennials which did not return must be replaced. All must be watered and fed. The plants grow in the spring and summer, but become compost in winter. Even the minerals require tending. We have clay, not soil, where I live and I must amend it so the plants can send out roots and worms fInd their way through. In a similar fashion, I think that a people Sangha is never "built." For a Sangha to flourish, it must be conscientiously tended.
Having just started to join with a mindfulness people Sangha (and one which is quite young), I see the many ways its members tend it. I believe, however, that the most important Sangha tending is the way I fInd myself and other newcomers treated. It reminds me of discovering a new variety of bird at my feeder or the fIrst daffodil of spring. Although I am unable to attend meetings often, when I come I am greeted with honest joy and excitement by all. When they say "It's nice to meet you" or "It's nice to see you again," I know that they mean it.
From my experience, I deduce that the most important task in Sangha tending is reaching out and loving people who need a Sangha, but perhaps don't even know what a Sangha is (just as I add plants and amendments to the soil). It is easy to give love and attention to those you already know; it is so much harder with new people. But this is the way to build, tend, nourish, grow, and stay alive.
Cherry Zimmer practices with the Breathing Heart Sangha in Atlanta and Athens, Georgia.