No Mud, No Lotus

Shoan Victoria Montanez

It is Monday, 6:00 pm. Alex, Zach, and I are all joining the zoom meeting for our weekly No Mud No Lotus Sangha. I want to discuss a recent conflict I got myself into at my yoga studio (who does that?) and see what Alex and Zach have to say. As usual, the exchange creates more spaciousness to hold different perspectives and offers a good laugh. As Junpo used to say, if you are not laughing, you are not getting the joke.

Our basic meeting structure is a bit of zazen, check-in, and discussion. A check-in about the ups and downs in life, about practice in the real world: our jobs, our bosses, our partners, our parents, our triggers, our lessons, our emotional koans, our shadow states, our books, our aspirations, and intentions, you name it. Where else can you connect with like-minded individuals who support you on the spiritual journey? Where else can you be comfortable and safe as you open up? Where else do you cultivate awareness, understanding, acceptance, and harmony about real-life events? Where else do you learn about mushrooms? Where else can you discuss the Matrix?

As Zach and Alex say, it is high engagement, no shaming, and safe. We are not big on saying “you should” either, and we are ready to share our readings, experiences, and learnings. There is no cryptic ritual and no need to memorize anything. It is a place where I can work through what happens in life and stop pretending I have my shit together.

A little bit about ourselves and about how we started. Alex is Canadian and lives in Montreal. According to the enneagram, he is the “Challenger” (type eight) and is famous for his curiosity; he typically asks difficult questions which are simultaneously delightful to answer. Zach lives in the Bay Area, California, and is an enneagram nine and a natural peacemaker; he embodies kinship and is our resident enneagram expert, and has a spiritual quote for pretty much every situation. I (Shoan) am based in Chicago and was born in Lima, Peru. I am a recovering perfectionist (type 1), so I usually bring my triggers up for discussion. We participated in a small Cyber Sangha in May 2020 (Cyber sanghas are a Hollow Bones Program). After completing the program, we decided to organize a “reunion” that keeps going on every week. Our gathering has become an elastic habit that we flex as life unfolds. For example, we give ourselves a break when we travel or during holidays. We often write to each other when something interesting unfolds, and life is always interesting. Most recently, Alex wrote about visiting his parents during the holidays, the ultimate practice.

As social beings, we all most probably want to connect and belong, and I am here to tell you that there are many opportunities to practice with Sangha. In other words, there are plenty of Alexes, Zachs, and Shoans eager to connect with you – if you decide to take the initiative. You are not alone and have never been alone. Your sangha is here for you and with you. Other self-organized groups meet in the morning for formal practice and a check-in; other brothers and sisters check in daily by text. The insight is that there is empowerment in Sangha, full of possibilities and pregnant with potential for liberation. Lastly, a quote shared by Zach:

“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”

– C. G. Jung

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