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“Gratitude for Sangha” by Lorna Simons

Posted 6/13/2013

My profound gratitude for the Bright Way sangha arises from the long periods in my life when I was trying to practice meditation and learn about Buddhism without the support of a group. I first became aware of and interested in Buddhism as a graduate student. After that I read quite a bit about it, finding the works of Phillip Kapleau and Robert Aitken. It remained an almost entirely intellectual interest until the 1990s, when I first encountered Thich Nhat Hanh and found someone who spoke to my heart and soul and encouraged me to deepen my involvement. But I still was only meditating on my own, sporadically. 

Then while living in Japan I encountered a young Tibetan monk who was living there with his American wife, and was fortunate enough to study with them for a couple of years. Buddhism gradually began to penetrate more deeply into my life and bring about some noticeable changes in my way of being in the world. I began to let go, a little, of old patterns of judgment, fear and resentment. And I began to develop a little understanding of emptiness, no-self and equanimity. But when these two precious people moved to the U.S. two years later, I reverted to my solitary practice and extensive reading.

Once I returned to Portland in 2008, I cast about a bit (admittedly, not very energetically), and even attended Bright Way for a while when I was living in Beaverton – but once I returned to Hillsboro, that lapsed. My take is that (partly because I was just going through the worst of the mourning around losing my father) I was not ready to commit to regular Zen practice.

Fast forward to June 2012, when a one-day workshop at Dharma Rain about Zen reawakened my longtime fascination and longing to know more. But I continued to feel that "all" the Buddhist centers in Portland were on the East side, not easily accessible for someone limited to public transportation. Then I suddenly "remembered" something I had conveniently "forgotten" – there was a Zen group meeting, on the West side, and I had even been there before. Eureka!!!

So now I am a member of Bright Way Zen, and have been coming for about nine months. I’ve been able to have a practice session with Domyo, attend two one-day retreats, experience the move to a dedicated zendo, and observe a jukai ceremony. I am sometimes grateful to the point of tears for the sangha and how my practice is better because of it. Sanzen helps me stay on track in my practice. Sitting meditation with the group is a wonderful opportunity to step outside my normal life and multiple distractions and touch into what’s important. Dharma talks help me better understand the meaning and context of core concepts and my practice. And sharing within the group and the comments and feedback I hear and get teach me more than I could ever learn in isolation.

So, in deepest gratitude for at last having a group to practice with, I say "Thank you" from the bottom of my heart!