4.6

Community Sucks.

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?

“People.”

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

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Patteecee Feb 22, 2014 9:32am

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.

Parisa Nov 8, 2013 2:56pm

I needed this today. Thank you!

CLB Oct 5, 2013 2:15pm

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.

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Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & 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. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view. His dream of 9 years, the Elephant “Ecosystem” will find a way to pay 1,000s of writers a month, helping reverse the tide of low-quality, unpaid writing & reading for free online.