Seven years ago, three 20-30 somethings from the Washington DC area meditated at a silent retreat in Barre Massachusetts. “Go forth and create sanghas in your cities” the teachers urged. The strangers heeded the call to action and started a spiritual friends group.
Why… because it is said that when the Buddha was on his deathbed he was asked which of the three was most important; Budha – the belief in enlightenment, Dharma – teachings of the middle way, or Sangha – community. The Buddha responded ‘Sangha’.
Sangha offers spiritual community. There are large Sanghas such as the greater IMCW community and the greater spiritual community of the Washington DC area. Within that, there are smaller Affinity Group Sanghas as well. Each catering to a different subset of one’s possible identities. The Young Adult Sangha is one of these communities where the initial connection comes from our stage and age in life. Within that, all other identities are welcomed.
The origins began on our couches, backyards, and meditation cushions. A small group capped at 8 people met every 3 weeks for the first 3 years. Demand for this experience outpaced the size of our city apartments. We identified a location in Mt Pleasant to host a monthly gathering that did not just include meditation and sharing but also social time and creative interpersonal activities. Bonds formed and the community of young adults processed our lives together. The Young Adult Sangha affectionately became known as YAS.
YAS caters to an identity steeped in a special time of life – the blossoming between teens and mature adulthood. From childhood to adulthood, high school to college, college to career, job to job, old and new friend groups, goals and aspirations adapt and get honed, single to couples and/or family – the young adult experience can be summed up as inner and outer transition and transient lifestyle. While transition is a fact of life, there is a different support level once you reach adulthood and a need to build your own resources amongst the change with an acceptance of all parts of yourself. Even the ones that you don’t like, don’t understand yet, and/or are changing as well. At YAS, we use meditation, mindfulness and other contemplative practices combined with sharing in community to deepen our own personal spiritual practice and live life choosing from the heart and our own truth.
Our group meetings flow from meditation to mindful discussion and an activity. These activities actively engage one in the mindful way of being through partner or small group sharing, learning of new techniques to use in our practice, art projects, journaling, and mindful movement. There is also time for everyone to offer other meet-up ideas and suggestions as well as an unstructured social time to continue to build community.
The members of YAS described community as; a place of safety, vulnerability, deep connection being home with others and self, support, deep friendship and connection.
As a way to share the essence of the Young Adult Sangha with you we created an acrostic poem:
Adult Sangha is a
Special, supportive, and safe place to find serenity, synchrony and sharing of vulnerabilities where one is
Accepted, activated, and appreciated, in a space that is amicable and in an alive atmosphere with
Non-judgement, where needs are met, is not nihilism, and there is a sense of sadness that we do not get to see folks every week because of the
Gracious generosity, gratitude, and growth mindset, that is shared with great smiles even on webcams where you can feel considerable
Happiness and a sense of home, inside and out, because honorable people are here and now, holding space for all parts of you and to be helpful in whatever way that means for you. Basically, it’s
Awesome, alive, amazing, self-actualization, and affirming!
The sangha has and continues to mark occasions of the calendar together: Interdependence of the food we eat on thanksgiving to intentions going into a new year. Familiar faces and new friends smile year after year to support each other’s spiritual practice. Through personal life transitions and global events, this group continues to build spiritual friends with ties strong. Join us.
By Ashleigh Enriquez and Amy Ouellette.