My Refuge in Trying Times

During trying times, such as one that we currently face, I take refuge in my version of a Sangha, which are my friends. Although there is no teaching or teacher that we collectively follow, if I am allowed to redefine the Sangha as a community, then my Sangha is where I turn to for solace and relief. While I am not able to see my friends face to face, I keep in touch with them as much as I would if I were to be with them in person. It’s definitely harder to keep in touch with friends through digital communication because the level of intimacy and ease of access is not the same but I understand that we are all going through this crisis together so I try to keep in touch as much as possible. I believe everyone should have a Sangha that they turn to, whether it be family or friends. When in times of trouble, it is important to maintain human connections because suffering in isolation can lead to a lot of mental burden. While I don’t necessarily burden others with my issues, just talking and laughing with friends make my day a lot better than if I were to stay isolated, lost in my own thoughts. I am sure that it is also beneficial to those that you stay connected with because they are also facing trying times, so just reaching out can help make a positive difference in others.

2 thoughts on “My Refuge in Trying Times”

  1. Hi John, I really enjoyed reading your reflection. The physical and logistic and spatial difficulties of this crisis are so widely appreciated and reiterated; it’s important that the mental burdens of self-isolation, which feel equally significant, not go overlooked. After being exposed to an infected friend, I entered a strict quarantine. I limited all contact with the outside world – including with my parents and brother – and spent almost nine days confined to a single bedroom and bathroom. Like you, I quickly noticed how powerfully isolation weighs on the psyche, and I looked for an outlet to distract from my frustrating circumstances. I also turned to my friends, girlfriend, and family – all of whom were an enormous help – but I felt that my dependence on my community, or sangha, felt occasionally intrusive. My friends were struggling to move out of school, and both my parents have work-intensive jobs; I didn’t want to feel like an additional time-suck. So, I decided that I’d need to find a personal source of relief or distraction if I were going to stay sane in isolation.

    In reading the first chapter of The Bodhicaryavatara, there was one line that particularly struck me. In verse 15, as Santideva praises the Awakening Mind, he distinguishes between the Mind resolved on Awakening and the Mind proceeding toward Awakening. “The distinction between these two,” he writes, “should be understood . . . in the same way as the distinction is recognized between a person who desires to go and one who is going, in that order.” (6) For years, I’d identified hobbies or skills that I felt determined to pursue; and for years, I’d always found reasons not to pursue them. “I can’t practice the guitar right now,” I’d tell myself, “I have too much school work,” or “I never get the chance to read great books, because I spend my evenings with my friends.” I was, in the words of Santideva, a person who desired to go, but was rarely actually going. Self-isolation, and the diminishing class time and social interactions it brought, is giving me the opportunity to actually pursue the hobbies that, for years, I’d only viewed aspirationally. I hope that I can walk out of this crisis with a refined sense of self, a more eclectic group of interests, and a greater appreciation for the normalcy of life before COVID-19.

  2. Hey guys, I really enjoyed reading your responses and want to say that it gave me a good feeling to see how even in dark moments like these there are still opportunities to make the most out of it. I think that the biggest thing that I thought about while reading these is that I have also seemed to redefine my own version of my Sangha throughout these times. My family has been serving as a form of Sangha to me where I have been able to rely on them for relief. I think it is interesting to note that as time goes on and as we continuously transition from one place to another through life – it can be comforting to seek solace in the people who you can define as your own Sangha and how this group of people always changes through time.

    I find it remarkable how people have been coming together to support each other in ways I never thought imaginable, and I personally have been blessed to feel as if the friends and family members in my life have been extending their energy and kindness to all sorts of people. This idea of a Sangha has expanded to include so many more people who were not there before which is heartwarming to see. I hope I can definitely leave this quarantine with a more knowledgeable perspective on the humanity in people. Boom!

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