You do not have to practice intensively—just being in a sangha where people are happy, living deeply the moments of their days, is enough. Each person’s way of sitting, walking, eating, working, and smiling is a source of inspiration; and transformation takes place without effort. – Thich Nhat Hanh from “The Fertile Soil of Sangha” (Summer 2008)
Plum Blossom Sangha meets weekly on Sunday evenings. During our time together on Sunday evenings we do very much the same things that we do when we are at home or elsewhere – sitting, walking, drinking something, or having a discussion – except of course we do them in an atmosphere that is (if we all practice!) supportive of cultivating more mindfulness, concentration and insight. In coming together and practicing with others regularly in this way, we not only are rejuvenated in our own personal practice but we also help build a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood amongst each other and thus help move our society in the direction of collective awakening.
Our usual meeting format on Sunday evenings is as follows:
5:00 pm – 5:20 pm Sitting Meditation
5:20 pm – 5:40 pm Walking Meditation
5:40 pm – 6:00 pm Sitting Meditation
6:00 pm – 6:10 pm Mindful Tea Drinking
6:10 pm – 6:45 pm Dharma Discussion
6:45 pm – 6:55 pm Healing/Loving-kindness Circle
6:55 pm – 7:00 pm Announcements, Closing
Sitting meditation, or simply sitting, is a time to enjoy our sitting! The main form of sitting meditation practiced in this tradition is mindfulness of breathing, as described by the Buddha in the Sutra on Mindfulness of Breathing and the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. We practice returning home to ourselves to give ourselves the full attention and care that we deserve. We sit with the community in a comfortable way and return to our body, our feelings, our perceptions, our mind and our consciousness. We observe what is going on within us and around us and we let our minds become spacious and our hearts soft and open.
Sitting mindfully in this way can be very healing. We may realize that we can just be with whatever is within us – our pain, anger, and irritation, or our joy, love, and peace. We are with whatever there is without being carried away by it. We let our thoughts and feelings come, let them stay, and then let them go without trying to push them away. We observe the thoughts and images in our mind with accepting and loving eyes.
In between sessions of sitting, we also practice walking meditation, or simply walking. We walk together as a community, freely, with nowhere to go, simply enjoying our steps. We walk with the awareness of our movements, our breathing, each other, and of the Earth. With every step we can arrive in the present moment. Whenever we are not standing, sitting or lying down, we are walking, so this practice has the potential of transforming much of our daily lives.
Mindful Tea Drinking
After our sitting and walking we enjoy a cup of tea together. The time we spend eating or drinking can also be a meditative practice so we take some time to fully enjoy our tea!
Mindful sharing and discussion of practice
Each week we also spend time sharing our insights, experiences, our joys, our difficulties and questions relating to the practice of mindfulness. We practice deep listening (without reacting, judging or offering advice) while others are speaking, helping create a calm and receptive environment. By learning to speak out about our happiness and our difficulties in the practice, we contribute to the collective insight and understanding of the Sangha. We base our sharings on our own experiences of the practice rather than abstract ideas and theoretical topics. Sitting, listening and sharing together, we recognize our true connections with one another. All that is shared during the discussion time is confidential and we recognize that those who share during discussion time may not want to continue the discussion outside of the formal discussion circle.
We invite you to review the full Dharma Sharing Guidelines.