Wonderfully Together


Yesterday we had a lovely day of mindfulness (which is basically like a one-day retreat) on the theme of silence at the Open Way Mindfulness Center, led by Dharma teacher Rowan Conrad, with the support and help of various other sangha friends and OI (Order of Interbeing) members (those who have been formally ordained and received the 14 Mindfulness Trainings in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition). We had around 30 people in attendance, which was a great turnout – especially considering the ones we’ve held over the last 2-3 years have only managed to draw in 6-10 people, for reasons we can only speculate about. But yesterday we had a nice, full room.

I feel very fortunate that in the past 3 weeks, since I’ve been back from my month-long retreat stay at Deer Park Monastery, I’ve had the opportunity to attend not just one but two local days of mindfulness, the other one having been one week after I got home and designed for OI aspirants, OI members and their spouses from around the state.


Our day of mindfulness schedule (pictured above) included: periods of sitting and indoor walking meditation, a Dharma talk by Rowan,  silent lunch, a guided deep relaxation (which I led), and a dharma sharing circle. We also had some time before lunch for people to optionally go outside for self-led outdoor walking meditation or remain inside for an additional sitting meditation session or indoor walking. In the past we haven’t typically included outdoor time during our days of mindfulness so it was a new and wonderful addition. Our Open Way Mindfulness Center sits on the corner of a busy street in town but is the only building on the whole block. Situated behind the center, taking up the rest of the block, is Rose Memorial Park, which honors our veterans and those who have died in war, especially those having taken place since WW II. During the time before lunch many of us opted to go outside. I really enjoyed spending time in silence with my fellow sangha friends as we self-guided ourselves slowly around the park. As we offered our focused attention to the large pine trees, plethora of rose bushes in their state of winter dress, and the war memorial plaques and monuments I felt a very sweet connection to those around me.

DSCN1327                                                         Open Way Mindfulness Center, Missoula Montana

I love spending time in silence with others. I’m not a huge talker in general and I’m often on the quieter side of things in social settings. I greatly appreciate the connective energy that can be generated in the midst of silence with others. It’s an intimate bond that transcends the confines of having to come up with something to say. Silence can be powerful and very precious.

DSCN1329                                                   Buddha statue behind the Open Way Mindfulness Center

In the large meditation hall at Deer Park there’s a binder with all of the known sangha listings from around the states, that are rooted in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. There were around 400 in total. What a wonderful thing to think about! Communities wanting to generate the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood all across the world are meeting and coming together, in this tradition and many others. The spirit of sangha, both literally and figuratively, is all around us no matter where we go.

Thumbing through the pages of the binder I took special notice of certain sangha names that I found particularly pleasing. Names such as: Communidad de la Paz (las Flores Sangha) in Mexico, One Earth Sangha in Woodville Ontario, Singing Bird Sangha in Tucson Arizona, Spacious Heart Sangha in Boulder Colorado, Wild Ginger Sangha in Kamuela Hawaii, Accidental Buddhist Sangha in Downers Grove Illinois, Peaceful Action Sangha in Millbridge Maine, Desert Blossom Sangha in Las Vegas Nevada, Lilac Breeze Sangha in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Be Free Where You Are Sangha in Moganville New Jersey, Mind Tamers Sangha in Barrington Rhode Island, Hopping Frog Sangha on Vashon Island Washington, Metamorphosis Meditation Sangha in Grapevine Texas, Bubbling Heart Sangha in Akron Ohio and the Prairie Wind Sangha in Oklahoma City Oklahoma.

It’s a comforting and heart warming thought that there are open and supportive groups spread all across our continent, and that pick right up on the far flung sides of the sea. What a gift it is to be part of both a local and global mindfulness community!


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