A Family and More
what community means to me
by Sw Jivan Paresh
ntil recently I had never felt a need or a desire to be a part of any community. If anything, I had spent most of my youth avoiding the confining and sometimes suffocating Jewish community I grew up in. Being an anglophone in Montreal precluded me from full acceptance into the French community. So where did I stand? In the cold it would seem. Montreal in the dead of winter can be dreary, depressing and about as comforting as a frozen hockey puck.
In 1992, in the dead of winter, I decided to drop out of the rat race for a few months and headed for warmer climes. In India, while ostensibly en route to Goa to spend a few weeks mingling with the international hippie jet-set beach community, I discovered that there was a place called Poona and an ashram with thousands of westerners. I hesitated at first, but my prying curiosity took over and I soon ditched my beach plans and settled into the Green Plaza Hotel near the ashram. In a natural way, and despite my skepticism, the world of Osho opened to me as did my first glimpse into meditation. I fell in love with myself (a little), and became an inner tourist and a part of a very unique international community: the Osho sannyasins.
My return to a sedentary life after this profound journey was like a slow, steady free-fall from space. I felt cushioned and somehow buoyant inside. Back at work in corporate Canada, I was relaxed, centred and playful. People at the office wondered what had happened to me. Where was the aggressive and full-on sales-pit-bull they had come to tolerate and admire? Some weekends I went up to Lac Carré with sannyasin friends to participate in meditation and therapy groups. We worked deeply on our individual hang-ups and childhood traumas. We shared our intimate fears and emotions, often from a very vulnerable space. Back at the office on Monday mornings, I sometimes had a feeling of existing in a kind of mist, a part of me still lingering in the intensity and warmth of the weekend.
At my first sannyasin Valentine's Party, without looking for trouble, I fell in love. It had been more than ten years since I had let someone get close to me. I was stunned. From that first evening I felt something beautiful open inside my heart. We were synchronized and I was scared witless. For most of my adult life I had been an independent, invulnerable seeker. Always restless, never quite satisfied with myself, never allowing anyone close to me, I was miserable. Most of the time my shield was up and the inner Saturn was at work creating yet another "no." The work I was doing to open up helped me to trust myself again. It connected me to my anger, rage, shame and pain and then enabled me to trust that these feelings were OK.
By early spring, my lover and I had decided to leave our careers in Montreal, pack up the car and emigrate to Vancouver. We had a magic journey through the US of A. Each mile westward seemed to uncover deeper layers of closeness between us. We inevitably fought a little, but for me, even the tiffs were significant. I was actually trusting enough to allow myself to fight in a relationship with a woman.
When we arrived in Vancouver we rang up a couple of sannyasins whose phone numbers were provided by friends of friends in Montreal. We were plugged in! During the next few months I struggled to find some work in the film industry. I became progressively more anxious about money, career and eventually our relationship. I had difficulty sustaining my desire to stay with my partner in the face of this crisis. I was at the beginning of a long spiral downward into the belly of the beast of my pain and unworthiness. I watched as if trapped in amber as she withdrew from me.. I saw it coming like a sand storm on the horizon, but was too paralyzed by the weight of my own misery to make a move. Poof. She was gone. I struggled to make some sense of my reality. I imagined a huge finger pointing at me as if all the blame in the world was aimed at me. Things got worse. My money ran out, my back started hurting me again and I was alone. A victim of my own mindfuck.
I frantically sought support from the community. Some days my skin crawled with the pain and the feeling of abandonment. I feared the worst. For the first time in my life I contemplated ending my pain for good. A friend came over in the middle of the night and cradled me in his arms while I cried convulsively. My body was racked by waves of intense feeling as if insects were teeming all over me. In sharing circles I cried and screamed and was soothed and comforted by beautiful friends whose gift was to receive me as I was; broken, confused and terrified.
What is a community? For me it's been a family of seekers who are there especially when I most need them. It is a giant mirror; a kaleidoscope of the myriad of feelings, projections, petty judgments and bullshit that I carry inside me. Like family, there are members to whom I feel less drawn, less supported by, even members whom I dislike. What I appreciate in this community are individuals who have shown me a vast inner world where it's OK to be who you are, even at your worst. On the other side, I have experienced great joy and freedom. I have been able to let go at a dance or a party, on a beach or in a sharing circle, knowing from deep experience that these people, my community, accept and acknowledge me as I am.
Letting go of the interwoven threads of my broken relationship has been the most difficult task I've confronted. The sannyasin community and friends of Osho have shown me what community really is.