Mindfulness Community of Hampton Roads

no mud, no lotus...

People who come to practice regularly are members of the Sangha (a community of practice). Being with the sangha can heal our feelings of isolation and separation. By practicing with others we can experience a feeling of love, acceptance, and inter-connectedness.

The sangha is a garden, full of many varieties of trees and flowers. One flower may bloom early in the spring while another flower may bloom in late summer. One tree may bear many fruits while another tree may offer cool shade. No one plant is greater, lesser than, or the same as any other plant in the garden. Each member of the sangha also has unique gifts to offer to the community. We each have areas that need attention as well. When we can appreciate each member's contribution and see our weaknesses as potential for growth, we can learn to live together harmoniously.

         "The jewel of community, the Sangha, is to be held equal to the Buddha and the Dharma.  Indeed, the
             whole of the holy life is fulfilled through spiritual friendship."  - The Buddha

Practicing With the Sangha

"When we say, “I take refuge in the Sangha,” it means we put our trust in a community of fellow practitioners who are solid. A teacher can be important, and also the teachings, but friends are the most essential element of the practice. It is difficult or even impossible to practice without a Sangha." - Thich Nhat Hahn

"A Sangha is a community of resistance,resisting the speed, violence, and unwholesome ways of living that are prevalent in our society...  A good Sangha can lead us in the direction of harmony and awareness."- Thich Nhat Hahn

Guidelines for the Practice of Dharma Sharing:

1.   We practice deep listening

Topics should emanate from our life and our practice.  We avoid discussing issues that are theoretical, but, rather, share based upon our own experience.
Even though we have the intention to listen deeply, our mind may wander.  Perhaps we are agreeing, disagreeing, feeling agitated, or wanting to respond.  If we are mindful of our thoughts
and inner dialog, we can choose to come back to being present with the person speaking.  

2.  We practice mindful

Speaking from the heart about topics that emanate from our life and practice involves speaking with awareness in a way that could be of benefit to others as well as ourselves.  It is good for the atmosphere of the Dharma sharing when participants take three breaths before speaking to allow time for the previous person’s words to be received fully.  We neither interrupt, nor engage in dialogue with another person while someone is speaking.

3.   We share with the whole group

Whatever we share is for the benefit of all those present.  We do not engage in cross-talk with another participant.  If we ask a question, we ask the whole group, and if we answer a question, we speak to the whole group and not just the person who asked. 

If we ask a question, we should not expect an answer right away.  Another topic may be addressed after the initial topic, and only when someone feels ready might the previous question be addressed.  If towards the end of the sharing the question has not been addressed, the facilitator
may choose to respond.

4.   We refrain from speaking for a second time

We don’t speak again until it appears that everyone who wants to speak has spoken.  This ensures that everyone can share and provides a space in which all can benefit from the Sangha’s wisdom.  We are encouraged to speak mindfully, not taking too long given the number of participants in the group.  Near the end of the sharing, the facilitator may offer an opportunity for those who have not spoken to do so if they wish, and may address any unanswered questions.

5.   We avoid giving advice

It is helpful to use the word “I” instead of “you”.  Speaking from our own experience eliminates the opportunity to give advice.  If someone asks for advice it is fine to share our experience.

6.    All that arises is confidential

Confidentiality secures the safety of the group.  After the dharma sharing, if we want to talk to
someone about what he or she said in the group, we must first ask if it is okay.  Sometimes a person does not want to talk more about what he or she said, and this is a respectful way to honor that.

These guidelines are offered for the good of the entire Sangha. Thinking of these guidelines as trainings, and learning to apply them skillfully in all of our interactions, will help us to cultivate compassionate communication wherever we are.