We encourage our members to attend “in the flesh” Zen meetings in their communities whenever they can. It is wonderful to sit under a roof with others, able to share that kind of interaction. However, it’s just not possible for so many. What is more, Taigu Turlur (the other teacher at Treeleaf) and I have been surprised at the rich, intimate, nurturing environment that can be established in a so-called “online” Zen community. Certainly, there are some things we miss, beginning with the simple ability to hug a member during a life emergency or adjust posture by touch. Yet, our structure offers benefits too, especially in comparison to many non-residential, once or twice weekly or monthly Zazen groups where people come to hear a short talk, then sit silently before heading home, with little chance for social interaction beyond a few minutes before and after. In contrast, our Treeleafers communicate any day, every day, as much as they wish, with fellow Zennies who become real friends over time. People share the twists and turns of their lives, support each other during the ups and downs. We often see people who are more inclined to reveal themselves and share their lives over the internet (given the relative anonymity it can provide), and to drop the masks and facades that sometimes people wear dealing “face to face”. People do open up, often about events in their lives that they have told no one else. We have various video opportunities to chat with each other (including two way video Dokusan), but much of our Sangha’s communication is by written word in our “Forum”. While intonation and body language are unseen, our very diverse, mature, literate, gentle, lovely members are generally superb communicators by writing, and the written format allows a richness of expression, taking of time, depth and thoughtfulness that can be missing from casual oral chat-chat. Our discussions on the Dharma, on Practice and all life are serious business. It is a bit like the story of the blind man who, deprived of his ability to use some senses, learns new paths to richly contact the world through his remaining senses in ways the sighted often ignore. Although “Leafers” are denied aspects of physical contact and communication, they laugh and cry together, support each other, give each other a kick in the pants when needed, are truly Sangha brothers and sisters. At least, as much as any lay Sangha I know.