The Be Here Now Sangha will be turning 10 years old this month! To help document and celebrate our journey I thought I would write about the evolution of our wonderful Missoula community.
I’m from the east coast originally, born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. I moved out to Montana in 1998 to attend the University of Montana. Well, I loved it so much I settled in and now call it home. I met my husband, a native Montana farm boy, and got married in 2000. After we got married we moved to Alaska for a year and then traveled around in our beloved old Ford van named Humphrey. We ended up on the east coast with my family for a few months working and living in our van. While we were there we came across our first sangha. They met in a unitarian peace church and were in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh (TNH). Once a week we would go and sit with them. It was our first encounter with a sangha and was something we looked forward to each week. Practicing silence and meditation, mindfulness and connection with a community of folks was very nourishing and healing.
We made our way back to Missoula, MT in 2002 and I wanted a sangha to practice with. Open Way is a longtime Missoula TNH sangha but at the time I was unable to sit with them on the night that they met. So at 23 years old I started my own sangha with very little idea about what I was doing. I picked one of the first names that came to mind, something that was easy to understand and summed up the practice of mindfulness, Be Here Now! I bought a simple meditation bell at a local store, booked the free meeting room at the public library, put up some posters and voila, Be Here Now was born!
I borrowed the format from our east coast sangha. a 20 minute sitting meditation followed by 2 rounds of walking meditation around the circle of cushions, a shared reading, an open sharing circle and a closing round of gratitude and healing. The first book we read at Be Here Now was the same book that started me on the path of mindfulness, Being Peace by TNH. Well, the library turned out not to work so great for our meetings. We weren’t able to schedule more than a month out and the meeting room filled up quickly with reservations so we couldn’t meet every week, which was not ideal. And oddly enough it was quite noisy outside the meeting room with kids running by. One day one of our regular attendees of the group mentioned that I should meet with Rowan over at the Open Way Mindfulness Center and see about meeting there. After only just meeting me Rowan (our local dharma teacher) offered up the wonderful space at the center for us to use for free every Monday night. It was a generous, unexpected, and ever joyful turn of events for Be Here Now. We now had a secure meeting spot in a beautiful meditation center. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Be Here Now (BHN) is a wonderful example of how starting a community of practice doesn’t have to be complicated and over involved. When I started BHN all I really had was an intention of being diligent about showing up every week, no matter how many people came or what was going on in my own life. I was there every week without fail, which is one of the most important parts. I facilitated the group for about 7 years by myself. I turned the lights and the heat on, put out the cushions and gently guided our evening of sitting, walking, reading, and sharing. I kept it simple, authentic, welcoming, and un-buddhatized. We now have other facilitators that rotate and an average of 10-25 people a week, depending on the time of year. And we have new folks that join us pretty much every week.
Some weeks I don’t feel up to going to sangha, but I go anyway because I know that every Monday when I leave I am always grateful I went. The Be Here Now community waters my seeds of support, joy, ease, transformation, mindfulness, authenticity and togetherness. I am forever grateful to all of the folks who have sat with us over the years and continue to come every week.
When I started Be Here Now 10 years ago I had no idea that it would bloom into such a wonderful flower in the garden of practice. Heck, I had no idea it would still be going 10 years later! How wonderful that my lack of knowing what I was doing 10 years ago resulted into this vibrant community :)