Community Sucks.

Via Waylon Lewis
on May 2, 2012
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Grow up. There is no perfect community. Make friends with one of ’em:  Yoga, Buddhism, Christianity, Slow Food, Cycling, Coffee, Academia, Climbing…

Yoga Community is No Better
than Your Community.

In Buddhism, it’s called the “Three Jewels.” 

They’re pretty much the three most important things on the path to enlightenment, or “waking up” (Buddha means, simply, “awakened one.”). The three jewels are “Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.” It’s said that everyone has an easy time relating to the first two jewels—the wonderfulness of Buddha—the principle of teacher, someone who gets it. Everyone has an easy time relating to the holiness of Dharma—the teachings of wisdom. But “Sangha”? It’s like the odd cousin you don’t want to hang with at the family barbeque.

Well, you’re an a*****le. Hang out with the weird cousin.

In Affair to Remember, one of my favorite movies, Cary Grant’s lady asks, shaking her head, “why is life so hard?” Cary’s one word answer?


Recently, I had the honor and, ahem, pleasure of attending several yoga conferences. I’ve been at dozens, now, over the years.

As a lifelong Buddhist, I have little illusion that Buddhists are any better than any other community. They’re effed up, nuts, wonderful, kind, mixed up, speedy…you know, just human. I’ve also been in and around the climbing community. The climbing community is tight, they travel, they’re beautiful…and they’re clique-y, competitive, aggro, whatever. They’re just human. I’ve been around the running community, I’ve been active in the local political culture, I’ve been around cyclists and do-gooding social entrepreneurs. There is no one sane, kind, enlightened community. We’re all effed up.

But on the outside, the yoga community seems kinda special. Despite knowing better, I’ve held out high hopes for them. They’re fit, they’re happy, they’re spiritualish. But there’s more. They’re genuinely caring and involved in the world. For years, I’ve really appreciated this community. It brings together internal and external in a way few communities do.

But the last few conferences have reminded me: Yoga people might smile and wear flouncy scarves and TOMS shoes and little fedoras, but their smile is often a bit too tight. They don’t know how to work with their confusion or desires or anger any better than anyone else. Yoga teaches us to breathe through stress, to open up, to relax. But it doesn’t particularly teach us how to work, directly, with our minds. Buddhism does that, but as we’ve already discussed Buddhists are still a bunch of backbiting ambitious horny bastards.

But all of this isn’t bad news. It’s good news. It’s, finally, my realization of non-theism. There is no external community that is wonderful. Stop looking. Stop shopping. It’s all a work in progress. So jump back in to your messed up local community. Community is the third jewel. If we can’t work with our fellow brothers and sisters on a path of goodness, we can’t begin to change the world, let alone our spouses or ourselves, for the better.

And that, the Buddha says more simply and eloquently, is the goal of all those who would be genuinely happy in this life.
Yours in working (and playing) to create enlightened society,

Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis
editor-in-chief, host, Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis

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About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


32 Responses to “Community Sucks.”

  1. __MikeG__ says:

    What? A bunch of people practicing gymnastics on rubber rectangles does not make a better community? That was not in the brochure.

  2. Jessica says:

    Don't look for Nirvana amongst a bunch of humans and you won't be disappointed. Not an easy lesson to learn – so see you on the path. Love you.

  3. Waylon says:

    Hah. Well, to be serious, I did think the ancient, timeless practice of synchronizing body, speech and mind with one another and harnessing them to the present moment might have some positive bearing on the interactions beneath the surface within said community.

    But, not so much.

  4. nkw says:

    I believe Yoga is a mental practice, that uses the vehicle of the body to get to the mind & spirit. I don't think the practice of Yoga needs a bad rap just because of the yoga practitioners at these conferences. Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience.

  5. Kathy says:

    That is why I love my yoga community and every other community that I am a part of (family, work, school). I am surrounded by people who are trying – just trying. I love people who try, who fail and who try again. For the most part it means you are with people who care about something. Maybe not the way I care, but they care. These are the people I want to travel through the rest of my life with – people who care.

  6. Donna says:

    Wonderful article, Waylon!

  7. Viriam Kaur says:

    Thanks Waylon! I do think the Kundalini Yoga Community (Sikhs) have it going on though, they are truly amazing, selfless, serving humanity, working deeply on their issues. Maybe the 4-6:30am Aquarian Sadhana & the cold shower everyday make everything else seem easy! Sat Nam 🙂

  8. Waylon says:

    Thanks, Ms. nkd. Or is it Mr.?

    Not sure where I you see threw the baby out of the bathwater—the various communities I've flown in (Aesop's bat) all have wonderful practices/paths. Doesn't mean loving the people, let alone ourselves, is any easier for the fact. That was the point of this little screed.

  9. Pancho Lobo says:

    Resist applying the "high-and-mighty" TRIP from one thing to another.

    I absolutely LOVE ZAZEN
    because I've finally moved BEYOND
    what I thought ZAZEN really was.

    Shamatha-Vipassana? <—-see ZAZEN.

    FUCK LABELS. It's all awareness.

    If we really want to know what all of that is about? Try Aikido.

    You really want to know what that is about? Take a Salsa class.

    You really want to know what that is about? Smoke a cigar.

    You really want to know what that is about? Make wild passionate love.

    You really want to know what that is about?

    Sit by a river and enjoy the sound.
    Smell the wind.
    Drink ginjo sake.
    Fade back…fade back…fade back
    to one's own breath.

    It all starts there.

  10. SOFLY_Anna says:

    The goal of yoga is to quite the mind to comprehend reality more clearly. Yoga is a science of the mind…body needs to be healthy to be fit for meditation. Asana (physical practice) & pranayama (breath extension) are just preparatory steps to meditation. Yoga is deeply rooted in philosophy. A student who follows the path is usually supposed to study the text, do the practice and try to understand the "Self".
    Whatever "doesn't particularly teach us how to work, directly, with our minds…" is not really yoga…

    Anna Shei…..

  11. Linda V Lewis says:

    People are people. The Sangha is the rough jewel, but without it, how can one practice patience and all the rest of the paramitas? It is like a family, no better and no worse perhaps–but one has a chance to talk through conflicts a bit better in that there is usually some inspiration to remain open, or at least not to shut down. But as you point out, there are no guarantees!

  12. love your post, so, so, so true… Sangha is the hardest one in life.

  13. emily alp says:

    Thanks Waylon! Essential you usually share!

  14. Vishvanath says:

    Great Post.

  15. Sheevaun says:

    Ah Waylon you've got such a wonderful point. I've been a practitioner of yoga, teacher of it and now only an occasional practitioner of it because it's the inner yoga that isn't matching with the outer asanas. Coming from the Western world yoga is going to eventually get an infusion of the blend of inner and outer yoga for real transformation.

  16. […] You can’t take care of anyone if you’re not first taking care of yourself. Simple advice, I know, but man it’s hard to follow. Harder than one would think. But lately, I’ve been thinking about self-care in community. […]

  17. […] fact is, wisdom and goodness are inherent. There’s no need to seek a cool club out there. Joy is never external. If it is, it’s not “integrous,” as John would put […]

  18. Alex says:

    Yeah. It gets much easier when you just realize the grass is brown everywhere.

  19. shelley says:

    Loved your post! Once you get past the expectations that people no matter what group they belong to will have their own issues to work out, then you can just enjoy the show.

  20. […] Yoga Community? Bah. They’re ambitious, putting money ahead of integrity, rather than the other way around. They’re backbiting, while posting happy things on facebook cheering one another on. They’re alternately drinking kool-aid (ie, sychophantic) or haterade (less interested in facts and learning from mistakes, not repeating them, than emotional gossipy kicking of others in comment forums). There’s got to be a middle way between haterade and kool-aid. […]

  21. Ben_Ralston says:

    This is really good, and reminds me of a post that I started writing a while back and didn't finish – in the same vein as this one.
    There is no such thing as YOGA community. Any time the word community is prefixed with another word, it's a nonsense! Community means people together, that's all. If it's exclusive, then it's not together. And then it's really becoming the opposite of real community (togetherness, acceptance, compassion, patience, growth, support)… then it's becoming inward looking, outward judging.
    I might just go and finish that post…

  22. SwamiMike says:

    Oh, I like this article. It applies to the church community so well. When I was first ordained the bullshit I witnessed behind the scenes in church life, and sometimes in full view, left me completely disillusioned. I'm still disillusioned, but I've come to a similar realization that we're all wonderfully effed up humans.
    There's an old joke wherein someone asks a pastor what she would say to someone who told her that they don't attend services because the church/temple/sangha is full of hypocrites. The pastor replies with "I'd tell them there's always room for one more.

  23. […] Yoga Community Sucks. ( Rate this:Share this:TumblrFacebookStumbleUponMoreEmailPrintDiggLinkedInRedditTwitterPinterestLike this:Like2 bloggers like this. […]

  24. elephantjournal says:


  25. elephantjournal says:


  26. juliette says:

    thanks for the realness of your article! i feel i am in a "yoga community" only when I am practicing around or teaching other people – hearing them breath, struggle, sigh- reminding myself that i am part of the human race 🙂 – otherwise once the final namaste arrives and the mats roll up, it's just like i am leaving the gym – not sitting and having tea and scones speaking closely with one another. nope, not even in boulder.

  27. Auki says:

    Yes, participation in any kind of community is just damn challenging and there is no getting around that fact… sigh… And what other choice do we have but to keep working on ourselves in the context of our various communities?

  28. onlyone says:

    An article that long needed to be written or maybe I just needed to hear. Sometimes I feel like I'm missing the community and get frustrated wondering what I'm doing wrong. Maybe I'm not missing out on so much. It's good to have open eyes now going into things. Thank you.

  29. CLB says:

    I so wish you were wrong, but you SO aren't. Sucks. I went to a poolside yoga event for a cause last night. My husband took one look at the scene of it all and bolted. We practiced to an amazing dj, under the stars, with great teachers. It was blissful, really. And I was with a friend. But I was up at 3 am feeling bad about myself…like I am somehow not enough. WTF? WTF yoga people? I have never seen so much botox and so many boob jobs housed in spiritual yoga wear. It is all so weird to me. But I get so much from yoga on and off my mat. It continues to change my life. I totally can't effing do a handstand and I have actually, recently stopped trying. And I am OK with that. I am after grace. I am after my own kooky expression of the poses and the fluid feeling in my body and mind. I just started a dance class with eight 60 year olds. I am the baby at 41. We do modern dance and I feel the yoga pouring through my limbs, my neck, my spine. I am after Sthira Sukham in every way in my life. And even though the little spot in my brow, right between my eyes, has a wrinkle it, I am not injecting anything in it.. I might even look grumpy when I'm not, but isn't that the story wrinkles tell? We squinted into the sun. We laughed for years and years. Life happened to my face. I am enough. I am just going for ease and effort: grace. Yoga is so profound in so many ways, but I have never seen so much ego in one place at one time! And guess what? I struggle with ego, too. Thanks for your contribution.

  30. Parisa says:

    I needed this today. Thank you!

  31. Patteecee says:

    The sangha is the only effective way to put our practices into action. We avail ourselves of the yoga mat, meditation, self study and spiritual inquiry so that upon entering into the world (our sangha or The Big Sangha) we have the opportunity to walk the "talk." Enlightenment occurs more profoundly in life experience than these personal practices. I constantly am reminded how far I have to go! I keep moving in the groove of thankfulness that this way has been revealed to me. Amen to that.