Yesterday, Sunday February 23rd, our Be Here Now sangha hosted a day of mindfulness. It was a lovely day of community building and strengthening of practice. We had a small varying group of 8-10 people. Throughout the day intermittent snow fell softly.
Our theme for the day was cultivating joy and we wove it into our program through guided meditation, deep relaxation, a mindfulness teaching talk, movement exercises, and a creative project in which we made mindfulness verses. A mindfulness verse (also called a gatha) is a short saying that we can post around our home or office to help us remember to come back to the present moment.
Our day started at 10:00am with sitting and walking meditation. I then gave a talk on cultivating joy. While I have given talks on the mindfulness trainings before and have taught classes on meditation and mindfulness over the last few years I considered this talk to be my first real teaching talk. I am a dharma teacher in training (in the mindfulness tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing) and this talk for me was a step in the direction of becoming a teacher down the road. Lately I have been transforming from the thinking of, “Who am I to become a dharma teacher? What do I have to offer?” into the realization of, “Who am I not to become a dharma teacher?” I want to nourish and support others along the path of practice and I, like all of us, have something to offer.
After I gave my talk we had a sharing circle followed by our mindfulness verse making project, during which we also got lunch ready. We had various colors of construction paper, colored pencils, printed verses, stickers, feathers, decorative pictures, glue, tape, and scissors all spread out for people to use. The creative energy of everyone crafting these verses was so lovely.
We had planned a more “formal” type of lunch where we’d eat in silence together for 10-15 minutes after circling up and reading a meal blessing (called the Five Contemplations in this tradition) but in light of everyone getting so wonderfully involved in the creative project we opted to go with the flow and simply have people eat lunch as they were ready. We had a delicious vegetarian meal of homemade dhal soup, pasta, and salad along with apples, carrots, rosemary bread, and cookies. How wonderful it is to have such a plethora of food available to us and to share it together as a community!
After cleaning up lunch and the craft table we had a guided deep relaxation followed by joyful movement exercises and a sharing circle and closing circle. We ended our day together around 4:00pm. What a great way to spend a Sunday!
As Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) says, sangha building is the most important thing we can do. Sangha means community. When I look deeply I see clearly that I am always surrounded by community. Whether it is my family, friends, meditation group, at work, while volunteering, at the airport, in the grocery store, or simply driving around town, the opportunity to build community is always available to me. There is a very large emphasis on nurturing our brotherhood and sisterhood in this tradition and the more I practice the more I understand how crucial this really is. Our family, our community, our world needs us all to come together. To connect, and to water the seeds of joy in ourselves and in those around us. We do not exist by ourselves alone. Each of us are a beautiful manifestation of a culmination of conditions which unite us all.