A practice community, sometimes known as a sangha in Buddhist circles, is a group of people that support you in your chosen lifestyle. Most often this support comes as a result of a shared set of values or ethics that need not be spoken about, but that you have all decided on for yourselves as a beneficial or healthy way of life, for example the Yoga Sutras. A practice community doesn’t have to be formally affiliated, and sometimes you even find yourself within such a network without having had the intention of joining or being part such a group.
Living ‘on the path’ of consciousness, towards enlightenment or awakening or even just with the intention of putting health and wellbeing before money and materialistic goals isn’t always easy. In many ways it feels as if you are swimming against the tide. Modern society has been built, to a large extent, on the premise that we all want to make a lot of money and spend it, while still thinking anxiously about what comes next. So if this isn’t your goal, if you’re working on a life of contentment, of being present and accepting of each moment as it shows up, then inevitably there will be times that you find yourself at odds with people around you or with processes that you are expected to participate in. This is when it helps to have other people that have similar goals or intentions to you that can help you remember what works for you, what is authentic for you, what helps you find happiness and health.
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Humans, by nature, are social animals. From birth we rely on others to validate and confirm our existence. We watch the behavior of others to learn and seek out the support and comfort of others when we are sick or hurt. But we don’t always make the best choices for ourselves. And, just like with food, ‘we are what we eat’, or in this case, who we hang out with. This doesn’t mean we judge or look down upon those who live a different lifestyle than we do, but just begin to think about who you spend your time with and what you do when you are together. We have limited time here in this body, a finite period in which to experience life as a human being. If each minute were a dollar, how much would you pay to spend time with the people you choose to be around? Are these people your friends?
When you actively join a practice community, such as a yoga class or meditation group, you not only gain support for your lifestyle but you also take on responsibility for supporting others. Be considerate in the way you interact with those in your practice community. Remember to give what you would like to receive, share love and happiness rather than gossip and negative attitudes. Practice being happy and joyful for others, compassionate, grateful, non-judgmental and above all else, be a good friend to those in your practice community. Know when to set your ego aside and be present for others.
Do you have practice community?