Dear Sangha,

This month marks the 10th anniversary of Winding Path Sangha. In those ten years we have collectively experienced joy, laughter, inspiration, frustration, and concern. Our community members have offered generosity, dedication, and compassion as we’ve supported each other to practice the way of the Buddha. As I look back over the years, I am particularly struck by how aptly our name “Winding Path” has captured the journey of our sangha.

Picture, if you will, a well-traveled footpath winding its way through the hills and valleys of the landscape. This trail has been cleared by the teachers and practitioners from a 2500 year-old tradition. They have worn down this path over time, clearing away overgrowth and adding blazes, signs, and cairns to mark the way. This path is lined with ancient and modern teachings and practices, trail caches of inspiration and guidance. 

Walking along this path, we can see numerous sangha members who have joined us over the years. The path stretches straight ahead for a bit, as a core group of community members travels together. Eventually, we see the path bend again as someone ventures off on a side trail. Moments later at another trail junction, someone new meets up with the current group and walks alongside them.

A few of us have been meandering down the center of this path together for 8, 9, and even 10 years. Others have traveled with the group for several months or years and then turned off at a side junction, continuing their journey in a slightly different direction. There are also several sangha members traveling on somewhat parallel winding paths: our trails converge for miles at a time and then split off, only to reconnect again months or years later. If we gaze through openings in the vegetation lining the path, we might also catch a glimpse of people walking a nearby trail. These are people we haven’t yes met in person but who have been following our journey through monthly newsletters or social media.

From our vantage point walking down the middle of the trail, this weaving in and out of people, forming and reforming into new configurations may sometimes appear slightly fragmented. It may feel that we are splintering off. In constant change. However, if we zoom out far enough, gazing down on this path from above, eventually those intersecting trails, spurs, and parallel paths actually merge into one. Collectively we are striving to reduce suffering. We travel together toward liberation.

This idea of one path taking many different forms is at the heart of Ekayana (one vehicle) Buddhism. We recognize the benefit of various teachings and practices for different practitioners in different moments of their lives. In this vein we simultaneously value the 1200 year old Tendai Buddhist traditions and have curated and adjusted our forms to match our transforming community. As we move into the next ten years, we aspire to continue this winding journey, offering community and practices for those who have been studying together for years and for those who are just setting foot on the path.

We have arrived at this ten year anniversary during a time of particular challenge for our community and nation. In addition to March marking the ten year anniversary of the founding of Winding Path Sangha, this month brings us to the one year mark of meeting remotely as a community. While the declining COVID rates in Massachusetts suggest that we might be able to meet again in person sometime in the next few months, returning to in-person gatherings won’t suddenly reverse all of the challenges we are facing as a nation and world. This is one more place the symbol of the winding path can help us. 

In addition to being a visual description of our community’s journey, the image of the winding path can offer us comfort in this current moment. On a winding path we can’t necessarily see what’s over the next hill or around the next bend. We are forced to pay closer attention to the moment we are in. This path is an invitation to lean into the uncertainty of the future and the reality of the moment. When we are fully present in the now, we may notice beauty and joy that are invisible to us when we are walking too quickly or focused too much on what lies ahead. We may also notice deep sorrow, anger, or other more challenging emotions. Those are also important to embrace and examine as part of this moment. If we find ourselves getting lost in those emotions, losing our awareness, we can pull back and find comfort in the nature of impermanence. This impermanence is reflected back in the shape of the path winding: up over rocky ledges, down through valleys, weaving in and out around boulders and trees. It is the combination of beauty and challenge on the path that makes it fulfilling.

Thank you to all who have been part of Winding Path Sangha over the years. I offer gratitude to our ancestors and teachers who have laid out the path before us. I offer gratitude to every sangha member who is traveling together now and to every sangha member who has traveled with us over the past ten years. And, I offer gratitude to those whose paths we will cross in the future.