Why sangha? Sangha means community in Sanskrit. It is through community that we heal. We have a biological need to be around other people: for friendship, for love and to simply feel safe. Feeling a part of a community increases our immunity, our serotonin levels, gives us boosts of oxytocin (especially after a long hug) and raises our endorphins – all the chemicals we need to feel happy. Yet we isolate ourselves in our suffering, our ego telling us we are alone and that no one can understand what we are going through. This is simply not true.
The Sangha Story
At the beginning of 2005 and three weeks before my 30th birthday I was alone, vulnerable and with a heartbreak so vast it consumed every fibre of my being. My six-year relationship had just ended. And while it had started off full of love and promises for the future, it ended with me a mere shell of the person I used to be. We started dating shortly after I graduated University, I was also in my early 20s and my world revolved around raving and clubbing and with that an enormous network of friends (and this was long before the days of social media and everyone having cell phones). But through the years, bit by bit, to save the fight or make him happy, I began to extricate myself from that world and lost touch with my friends. I turned, as always, to work and at the time I was running my first business (Greenbaum Clothing Co., women’s street/office wear) which was the very best distraction to that inner voice that kept trying to tell me this wasn’t right. When we finally broke up, and I have to say – he ended it, I had no confidence, no voice, and four friends (one of whom was my sister, so I don’t even think it counts). I was broken.
In the beautiful and strange ways of the universe, I had however three months previously found just a sip of courage to quit my corporate job which I hated and jump on the opportunity to go into fitness full-time – which I loved. So, while the world seemed to fall apart around me, a tiny lifeline was there. It was with a new group of co-workers at a brand-new boutique style women’s only club, where the power of community began to help me heal. We worked together, spent hours talking together, went to parties together and long-lasting friendships were formed. Those 6am shifts at the gym, bleary eyed and chugging coffee was where I met my best friend Sarah who would listen to me ramble as the caffeine kicked in, and who has since introduced me to many more friends including my friend, Andrew who has become a brother to me. It was at this same time of hustling to get my fitness career going that I randomly met another very important person in my life. I arrived late to a training (shocking I know!), taking the last seat available at the front and sat beside Catherine, my future best friend. I helped her get a job at GoodLife, she helped me by building out a whole new community of what was then “steppers” to now my dearest friends in the world. To say these two groups of friends saved me is an understatement. We went out every weekend. We talked, we danced, we laughed, we drank (yes lots of that too) and by simply being together, I became me again. Someone who loves the sweetness of life, has a ton of friends and is inspired, creative and motivated to make the world a better place through friendship.
As adults, it becomes harder to make friends. We may find ourselves in jobs where we don’t have a lot in common with our co-workers, we spend less time going out or finding ourselves in places to meet others on common ground the way we did at school or the community groups and sports teams of our youth. We may have little ones at home where all our time is devoted to our family and just keeping up. Life is busy, modern life is isolating despite all of our social web accounts, but we need each other. We need our friends to give us our reality checks, to remind us we are important and loved, to laugh uncontrollably over inside jokes or to share our dreams and aspirations and just a big warm hug. We need each other as an integral part of our health, wellbeing and connection to life.
This has become my driving force, whether I properly understood it until now I’m not sure. Sangha – the healing power of community. (Sangha means community in Sanskrit). When I first met my husband, the continuous joke between us was how many best friends I actually have, and him trying to keep track of all my groups of friends and who was connected to who, related to who and never mind names! This makes my heart swell. My friends are probably what I’m most proud of in this world. When I look back at my time in my last business, as Director of a Yoga Teacher Training School, what always made me happiest was watching new friendships form between staff and between students. The space we created together to make this happen. This last year has been a bit of a sabbatical for me, trying to figure out my why, what my path is, what my next big project will be, and what it all keeps coming back to is the power of community. The power of friendships.
THIS IS MY WHY! This is my dharma. Creating space to bring people together to heal. This is what Sangha is to me. So, in a small for now, but who only knows what we can do together way, I am happy to share my next venture with you. Combining all the things I love and hold dear. Sangha Wellness Retreats. Retreats big and small, all over the world where we come together as a community. To eat, sleep, play, exercise, meditate and share. This is the vision. The one thing I have learned is with a little patience, by following your heart the universe will provide. I am following my heart. Every day, in everything.
Let’s build this together. A place to go away from it all, to fill our cups, to support each other, to solidify friendships and make new ones. To create memories through shared experience and sangha.
Namasté, Lisa Greenbaum, Founder – Sangha Wellness Retreats
Lisa Greenbaum holds her E-RYT 500, YACEP and C-IAYT Yoga Therapist Certifications. An award winning presenter, celebrated writer and part of Optimyz Magazines top 100 Health + Fitness Influencers 2017-2020. She was the Director of an International Yoga School managing over 150 events per year in Canada and Australia for nearly 10 years. When not traveling, Lisa enjoys teaching Yoga in her home city of Toronto and cuddling her three cats. For more info visit: lisagreenbaum.com