I need community. I don’t trust it.

Last summer, a friend sent me a book* on how the rise of depression in modern society is likely related to a decline in deep personal relationships. The author did a lot of research, talking to experts in depression around the world, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

Separately, a steady thread of discussion in therapy over the last months has been about how I berate myself for not ‘standing on my own two feet.’

I’ve got this inner voice (I think it’s mostly from my dad, but it’s also something we hear constantly in the swamp of toxic masculinity and toxic American individualism that we live in) constantly telling me that I just need to pull myself up by my effing bootstraps. To stop feeling sorry for myself and to just get over myself and get my head on tight and and and and and…

Separately, I’ve been reading a bunch of introductory books on meditation and secular Buddhism** and I came across the idea of ‘sangha,’ a word for a community of Buddhist monks or nuns, and often used in the West more broadly to describe the entire community of practicing Buddhists.

Gradually, the idea started forming in my head that there’s a good reason communities of practice exist all through human history. Keeping on a path requires a lot more than just stern resolutions to do the work. We need support. We need people to bounce ideas off of. We need friends to call us on our bullshit.

I think I need a sangha for my non-starting meditation practice, and I think I need a sangha for my BPD recovery process.

But I’ve not had a great history of playing well with groups. I’ve either thrown myself too much into them, giving up too much of my personal power and integrity, or I’ve split on them (both in the Borderline sense and in the old 20th century sense of leaving abruptly).

I suspect that having a good community around me would do me a lot of good, but I don’t know if I can do the whole trust thing right now, in either direction.

And, of course, I have no idea how to find people doing either meditation practice or BPD stuff.


*Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari.

**Some of the books I’ve been reading on Buddhist topics:

  • The Monkey Is the Messenger: Meditation and What Your Busy Mind Is Trying to Tell You By Ralph De La Rosa
  • Breath by Breath by Larry Rosenberg
  • At Hell’s Gate: A Soldier’s Journey by Claude Anshin Thomas
  • Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield
  • The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics by Robert Aitken
  • No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners: Clear Answers to Burning Questions About Core Buddhist Teachings by Noah Rasheta

2 thoughts on “I need community. I don’t trust it.

  1. Non-starting meditation practice. BAHAHAHA. I have the SAME practice! See, community already! NSMP….who wants to join?
    Seriously now, I have a similar history/issue with community. I desperately want to belong to a spiritual community – to be with like minded people working together for personal and spiritual etc growth. The problem is that there needs to be no doctrine no leaders no expectations . Deep meaningful relationships with no commitment. I need to be invisible yet I need to be important . I am a Jew but not a Jew, a pagan but not a pagan even a “jewbuh” but not a jewbuh. Siddha yoga, kadampa Buddhism and more. Been there, NOT done that! will dabble here and there and then leave never to return.
    Side note: Do you remember reading The Kin of ATA? One of my favorite and all time most inspirational books
    I am sure there are plenty of online and even some currently yet-to- be- discovered nearby groups with which you will connect when the time is right. Have faith not only in the therapeutic process but also in the wisdom of The Universe
    Meantime I do WHOLEHEARTEDLY believe that the meaning of life is found in our relationships. As much as I theoretically would love to be a Buddhist monk living in a cave on a mountain in meditational bliss being one with the universe. for people like us, who, when left to our OWN devices self destruct, the Way of the Lonely Warrior is just not for us .

    Keep on reading, writing, discovering your Self. Please keep on reaching out and sharing. You have no idea where this will all lead but you know it can only get better!

  2. I feel you (and the previous commenter.) Finding a Sangha is tough – too much new age bullshit in this one, that one is too far away, the people in the other one do stuff that I don’t think belongs in Buddhism…

    I had a decent one when I lived out in Los Angeles, but it took me nearly four years to find one that I could live with here in Boston. And I really mean “live with” initially – it falls into the category of “That’s not real Buddhism!” I’ve only been going for a month or so, but it feels like it may be a good fit. Of course, I *did* skip out halfway through a day long retreat yesterday… progress not perfection.

    When it comes to the personal practice – I’m gonna be that guy. One minute a day. That’s it. And that’s all I’ll say about that (for now.)

    Thank you so much for this post. It resonated with someone who doesn’t have a BPD diagnosis, so this comment may or may not be helpful. But thank you.

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