by Interim Executive Director Sonia Marcus
I found myself reminiscing about the early days of the pandemic today. It doesn’t somehow seem kosher to use the term “reminisce” in regards to any moment of this awful time in our lives, a time with so much death and suffering, and so much injustice.
But the truth is that, through it all, there have been blindingly bright beams of light shining through every crevice in this broken world. In the Jewish wisdom teachings, this brokenness is captured within the concept of “tikkun olam” which describes our social justice work, metaphorically understood to be the work we do to repair the shattered vessels of existence which hold the divine light.
So I reminisced about the time last year when everything still seemed like a science fiction movie. Because it was then that I came to (re)discover that my people were Good People. People who took care of themselves and others, understanding that we’re all inextricably interconnected. People who offered food, shelter, and other supplies to those in greatest need. People who were serving on the front lines of our emergency services, health care facilities, and schools. People who deepened their meditation practice and recommitted themselves to the Eightfold Path, in whatever form that takes for them. People who cared for sick and dying family members from a distance, unable to touch hands. People who continued to cry out and stand up for justice, even when it was inconvenient and uncomfortable to do so.
Who are “my people”? I was raised in a largely secular Jewish American household, but I don’t know that I would say that secular American Jews are “my people”. Half of my family members including my mother were raised in France, but I would never say that the French are “my people”. I’ve been calling myself a Buddhist for about six years now (after many years of hesitation about that term and its associations), but I don’t know that I would say that the Buddhists are “my people”.
I believe I found the answer during our most recent retreat, which was the New Year’s retreat with John Orr and Ronya Banks. At one point during the chanting on New Year’s Eve, when John was in the Meditation Hall leading us through “All I Ask of You (Is Forever to Remember Me as Loving You)” on his harmonium, he looked right into our eyes and said “YOU! You, you, you. You.”
You. You are my people. The great, kaleidoscopic, many tentacled, multi-cultural, multi-generational, confusing mish mash of a beloved community that Southern Dharma has brought together for over 40 years. And all the people that you all are connected to. And all the people that they are connected to. And so on, and so on, and so on. That glorious and wondrous web of human experience stretching backward and forward in time — the suffering and the joy, the birth and the death, the dark and the light — that forms the fabric of our lives.
With the living Dharma as the thread between us, seen and unseen.
On this Imbolc Day, when some believe that the groundhog rises to gaze upon the earth once again, we too can see this place, this life, this precious retreat center as something magical and new. A frosty, silent space, warmed by Brigid’s sacred fire, providing refuge and insight to generations upon generations of yogis and teachers.
May Southern Dharma continue to connect all of us and every living being, past, present and yet unborn.
May our community continue to find ways to support each other through our most difficult times.
May the light of the Dharma continue to illuminate our journeys.
And may we all be well.