(Stage direction: cue the slow opening of the curtains to a stage shrouded in darkness)
After a dramatic pause, a deep strong voice (not unlike James Earl Jones) says, from beyond the darkness:
14 years ago. (insert another dramatic pause) A community was born.
(Cue loud pounding drum noise)
The voice comes in again:
They called it: BE…HERE….NOW
(Cue the sounds of more loud pounding drums)
(Stage direction: bright lights are turned on, sudden and fast, revealing a stage crammed full of people on every possible inch of the stage – and the clincher: they’re stacked into a gigantic human pyramid)
I’m not sure when I penned my last Ode-to-Be-Here-Now kind of post but with this time being right around when I started the group in 2002, I figured it was high time to regale you all in another installment.
Let me paint you a picture. It was the end of summer, 2002, when my husband and I moved back to Missoula, having spent the previous 12 months traveling on the road and living briefly in two different states: Arizona and Pennsylvania. We encountered our first meditation group in the latter state. For 2 or 3 months we sat with them every week (The Night Sky Sangha, as they’re called, which continues to meet, though in a different tradition I’ve been told, at Pebble Hill Interfaith Church in Doylestown). They were rooted in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, who at the time I only knew of through the one book I had read of his called Being Peace. At the time of our involvement with Night Sky we were living in our van, working during the day to save money in order to return back to the place we realized was home for us: Missoula, Montana. Having a sangha to sit with every week became a wonderfully grounding opportunity for us to experience that “at home” feeling in the midst of our temporary, and often stressful, living situation.
When finally we made it back to Missoula, I longed to have a group to sit with every week. At this point in the story my memory fades out into murky waters. Version one, of what happened next, is that I decided to start my own group because I was unable, due to a scheduling conflict each week, to sit with the other Thich Nhat Hanh group already existing in town, the Open Way Sangha. Version two is that I wasn’t even aware of that other group and just started my own. In any case, that’s what I did. In order to support my own practice of sitting meditation, which I wasn’t equipped/ready/able to do on my own, I formed my own weekly group, with very little idea about what I was doing or what would result. I came up with a name that would help to relay what we were all about in the simple title of our group, decided to borrow the same format from Night Sky, reserved the large free meeting room at the public library, put up some posters and voila! Instant sangha!
And now here we are 14 years later: a vibrant, thriving, fun, active, awesome community, still meeting every Monday night. So, what’s changed over all these many years being wonderfully together, you may wonder. Well, I’ll tell you:
- We now meet at the Open Way Mindfulness Center, home of the Open Way Sangha.
- I now know a little more about what the heck I’m doing.
- And somewhere along the way, Be Here Now became this amazing community of friends, and the most important and valuable investment of my time and energy.
Over the years hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people have sat with us: long time Missoulians, temporary residents, university students, people passing through, visiting friends and family members of those who regularly sit with us, young kids, teenagers, grandparents, friends-of-friends-of-friends. Whether folks sit with us one time or for months or years at a stretch, every single person who has offered their presence at Be Here Now has made it what it is today.
And for every single presence, I am deeply moved and grateful.
P.S And if you’re ever passing through Missoula on a Monday evening, please be sure to come and see us :)