This week training elaborated on a concept we’d been looking at for some time. The idea was the creation of a sangha, which is a Buddhist communal space catering to people of like mind who wish to accomplish something. Much of this is geared naturally to Buddhist philosophy and practice but lay people have been known to attend sanghas for a whole host of reasons. In modern Pagan practice we tend to skirt around a committed idea of such a thing. We of course have the idea of sacred space and ritual Circles in order to create the temple space for the coven but my teacher’s been expressing his belief that there is a need to train people before initiation into the Craft about how such spaces work and so we’ve been exploring this and came to a more rounded (I won’t say complete as I think that’d be a false assertion at this point in my training) sense of what a sangha is.
The beauty of the sangha idea is that it doesn’t involve breaking of one’s Oath of Secrecy and yet it goes beyond the simple book-orientated learning. The image beside us here is of course Stonehenge and possibly on the solstice as pagans of all descriptors, Goddess-worshippers, new agers, and the humanists all gather so they can be around others that share in similar ideas and principles even arguing upon approaches and relevance when they deem it necessary or even entertaining! In a similar fashion this is what happens over here in Ireland at events like Féile Draíochta or the more recent Irish Goddess Conference (which due to a variety of reasons I missed out on). People like to gather with others often for the respite or even because it allows us to reset our brains in safety and comfort.
This week’s training started with a different feel compared to the last session. This week we sat down and worked on our deep-breathing, practicing everything from the traditional Fourfold Breath technique to looking at different breathing patterns. We meditated for a while offering healing and just the empathic acknowledgement that each of us was present in the room. This was interesting because following from the awareness of how breathing can affect the body I noticed that my body temperature did rise at moments when it felt like I was receiving energy from someone else and dropping when we began to balance out the Chi energy. Of course in retrospect we had to do this to heal ourselves before we started to look at the sangha principle.
A few years back while chatting to some friends of mine from the Grove of Sinann I was chatting to one of them about Ogham/Ogam and she was explaining to me her explanation of the ogam fíd, “Gort”, meaning field but more specifically cultivated space. As a linguist this, in her mind was a nod to the move towards agriculture and space. In Ireland we have the idea that, if possible, a piece of one’s field ought to be left for the “Good People” or the fairy folk. Now, the rational explanation is that a rough, unkempt space within the kept or cultivated space is a matter of good ecology and ensuring that vital nutrients aren’t dried out from the land entirely. Similarly, in creating a sangha one can over cultivate it and ensure that eventually what drew people to it no longer nurtures them or the future generations that may or may not require it. In a sense, our treatment of the sangha stands for our treatment of magical egregores in Orders/Traditions etc. Now I’m NOT stating a sangha IS an egregore but that in both spaces we have to be aware of our contributions and changes to both spaces to fully appreciate the delicate ‘eco-system’.
I should be clear this focus on the sangha principle has been present throughout my training and strengthened by the principle that is one trains half for oneself and half for one’s sparring partner then everyone benefits. Following on from our meditation we took to a Zen Walking exercise, in part to help walk of some food and also because my teacher and I have both formed the opinion that Witches are there for the community. Besides which as my Hairy Pagan friend pointed out how many students get to learn techniques of magic in a bustling, pre-Christmas environment as people are jostling about to and from work, college and school! Through our Zen Walking we’ve become used to meeting people in the community sometimes its just a smile or a hello and other times its a conversation leading people to meet different people and supporting new projects or initiatives.
Nearly everyone slowed down and was transfixed by the idea of us practicing mindfulness in the middle of the city and all this while battling a cold I might add! Later on I dropped into yoga class and found that the meditation which took all of 5 minutes helped a nice few people relax and become aware of their bodies and changed their attitudes significantly. When things like this happen I’m reminded of why I was drawn to meditation years ago as a teenager and found it so beneficial.
Namasté, I honour the place in you that when you are at peace and I am at peace we are both One.