Why I Don’t Socialize with Sangha

Good morning, everyone!
A wonderful thing has happened in my life over this past year, which is that I’ve been given the opportunity to facilitate three local and in person meditation groups, here in North Carolina. Two are located up here in the mountains (one in West Asheville on Sunday evenings, and the other north of Asheville near Burnsville, on Monday nights), and one is down in Winston-Salem. I join the latter group just occasionally, because of the distance. Someone who attends one of these groups recently noticed that I don’t participate in the social aspects of the group, and asked me why. You may be interested in my reply, and so I’ll put it below for your consideration.

Be well, friends! I wish you a good day and a strong practice day.

In peace,

Here is that reply:

“I have a sort of policy to not socialize with sangha. Part of the reason for this is that I feel that it’s useful to keep my relationships with the people I practice with simply as practice relationships. There certainly is nothing wrong with social relationships, of course, but there’s something to be said for keeping practice relationships within the realm of practice. My experience is that when practice relationships become social there is a dilution that happens that undermines the intent we share when we come together to practice, and dissipates the focus that we’re seeking in practice. I’ve set up the meditation groups that I’m in charge of such that the relationships within those communities are not social, for this reason. Over this past year, as I’ve begun to facilitate for local groups here around Asheville that are not social, I have operated within that context without complaint. I would not set it up for these groups to be social, however, if I were in charge, simply for the integrity of the practice offered and for the good of those who participate. Again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with social relationships. It’s just good to have a place where people can go where they don’t have to be social and the focus is primarily on practice.

I’ll tell you also that for the same reason I don’t choose to have social relationships within my own personal life. I do choose to have a personal and social relationship with one woman, because this is something I want for myself and that takes care of me, and of course I want very much to foster my relationships with family. but otherwise I don’t maintain personal friendships or social relationships of any kind. This comes out of all those years of silence at the monastery, I suppose. I want to devote my life to spiritual practice, only, and I want the relationships I have with people to be practice relationships, only. I have a great many relationships with people, and I enjoy the wonderful privilege of having deep, intimate relationships of a sort with many of these people, but none of them are social, in the sense that we get together in order to be our personalities with each other. This is an uncommon choice to make, of course, but I have an uncommon ambition in my life, which is to end suffering as best I can in this lifetime, and so I choose to live within an environment that best supports that ambition. I see myself these days as an ex-monk, not as a monk, but this is largely a technicality. I continue to live with the same intention as I did all those years at the monastery, which is to devote myself to spiritual practice with as much dedication and energy as I can, even as I engage with the world in ways that were not permissible during the years of my formal training.”