Yoga Sangha

“When we say “I love the members of my own family, the people of my own religion or country or color” bias limits our affection. But with proper practice, from an ordinary level of affection we can develop an unbiased universal love, in which we don’t care what other people’s faith is, their nationality, or social status – so long as they are human beings, they are our brothers and sisters. “
-Dalai Lama

I have to go to my Sunday morning yoga class. It’s at my friends farm, only a couple of miles from where I live today. That may change soon because I am going through a divorce. But meanwhile I have to go to yoga. My body needs to stretch and move, and I need to chat with my fellow yoga students. I also crave the Amish donuts or other delicious breakfast foods that our gracious hosts serve after the class. They ask for nothing in return for this generosity. Sometimes a student brings an edible offering, like cupcakes or cucumber juice.

We meet at about ten minutes to 10 AM and chat a bit as everyone arrives and parks their vehicles, and then we all shuffle up to the barn loft, where we take off our shoes and unroll our yoga mats on the plywood floor. Then we stand on the mats and start the class. When we start, I have a small moment of panic. Am I going to make it all the way through? My body feels worn out, drained dry of vigor. I grit my teeth and continue.

My body is like a wound up mechanical bird – I compress downward and spring up. My bones are rusted out. I can feel muscles bunching and tensing and my blood is pumping at high pressure through my veins. Maybe I will have a heart-attack right here and die on the floor. What a gift to the class that would be.

But I continue. I move into Downward Dog, then Upward Dog, then Forward Fold, and finally I raise my arms over my head, a little dizzy. My mind is fully focused on how to arrange my body correctly. I don’t even remember to breathe unless our teacher tells me to do so. It feels good to focus on something as basic as movement, instead of the troubles that are clouding my mind these days.

Highland cattle graze peacefully out in a field beyond the open southern door of the loft. A soft moo drifts through the air. There is a gentle breeze that carries a scent of fresh hay and manure. Then it rains hard, a burst of watery bullets pummeling the steel roof. A cacophony outside that mirrors the clamor inside. But I continue, and twist my body into a pretzel.

The twists make me sick. My blood feels thick with toxins. Like I am trying to wring battery acid out of my internal organs. I almost quit, but I don’t. I know if I keep going, I will feel better, I will feel strong again. I have to stoke the prana inside me, to clean out my sluggish nadi. I am told what to do and I do it. I let go of all the grasping in my mind, and simply move.

Toward the end of the class, with sweat beading, hearts beating, and muscles aching, we are guided through slower, gentler poses, ending up on our backs in Savasana. Even as a corpse I am tense. I try to force my body to relax. Finally, sometimes, I give up and simply lay there. Like a fractal, the yoga hour mirrors my whole life.

It dawns on me that I have found a Sangha, a fellowship of friends attempting to create an island of peace in the chaotic seas of our day to day lives. As a Buddhist I’ve sought shelter within the Buddha and the Dharma, but never really within a Sangha. Now, joining this loose collection of neighbors to do yoga one morning a week, I realize how important this practice is for me.

The hot mess within me bows to the hot mess within you.

 

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