I’ve really come to realise lately how important it is to have a community of like minded people around you. The word we use for this is sangha, which is a Pali word meaning community of practitioners, people we share our lives with. It is our network where we find others on a spiritual journey similar to our own. Thich Nhat Hanh would say, it is more than a community, it is a deep spiritual practice.
Our path to sangha often begins by starting a mindfulness course. A new group of people begin their journey together in the first weekend where they all meet, often not knowing each other and at the end of the weekend you find deep connections and friendships are made. I have just taught an afternoon of silent mindfulness practice with a group of men and women who just finished an 8 week program. The sense of community was strong after 8 weeks of teaching, transformation and deep sharing with each other. It is so important after any training to remain amongst this type of community. I felt this recently after teaching with Heather and Ian at Samye Ling on a foundation level one weekend. So many connections were made with each other throughout the weekend, I could just feel the nervousness at the start of the weekend that transformed into excitement by the end. One of the great thing about being in a group is the ability to transform together, but in our own way at our own pace. Throughout our courses and especially when they finish, it is essential to keep in contact with people that have trained and continue to practice as it helps us maintain our own practice.
I am lucky to teach mindfulness regularly and have a growing community of people around me now. Why is this important you might ask? Well, a few weeks ago, I met a group locally, we meet monthly and each time we get together we practice and then spend the rest of the two hours talking about mindfulness, listening to each other’s opinions and thoughts, and share what we are currently teaching. It is a way of supporting each other, sharing ideas and opening dialogue with people that really understand. It can help to generate new ideas, decide on new ways forward and expand knowledge. As I was leaving the last session, I really felt a sense of how valuable these sessions are to me and making time to meet regularly to chat in this way.
Without sangha, it is really easy to lose your way with regular practice especially if you are new to mindfulness and finding a group helps us to maintain this. If you don’t have a group locally why not start one and see who might be interested in your area. You might be surprised who is local and would be willing to meet at your house. You can share where you meet, our host had made a beautiful lemon sponge, not compulsory of course! It just takes one person to begin the process, why not let that be you.
The great thing about the Mindfulness Association, as it is growing, is that is it offers weekly Thursday sits where you can bring sangha into your own home and feel the community around you without leaving the house. Every week there is live practice and once a month teaching. Every week you have the opportunity to ask questions, hear others and share your thoughts. There is also the new Monday members sits too. By doing this you feel supported which then helps to maintain your practice. Good luck, find a community to tap into, it’s so worth it.
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