July 29, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all Online on Friday Evening
July 30, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Dear Still Water Friends,
During this COVID-19 Pandemic, it felt to me like we had all been away quite a long time, traversing an unexpected path. I have been thinking about what has been nourishing and sustaining while being confined at home, often in lockdown situations and restricted to immediate family circles. I have felt deep gratitude for online Sanghas, the community of practitioners who continued to practice and support each other via Zoom. In addition to my local Honolulu Sangha, this has included the Thursday/Friday evening Still Water gatherings. These groups have aided me in keeping mindfulness alive in my daily life.We have shared the practice together, remembering stopping, calming, breathing, and mindful walking to heal individually and collectively. Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) writes in Friends on the Path:
If your society is in trouble, if your family is broken, if your church is no longer capable of providing you with spiritual life, then you work to take refuge in the Sangha so that you can restore your strength, your understanding, your compassion, your confidence.
Taking refuge in Sangha during COVID has meant sharing the challenges of losing loved ones, changing work, reorganizing priorities, and reordering ways of doing things. We celebrated our joys in new ways with online graduations, modest wedding/anniversary celebrations, and new babies welcomed into the world. This past May, our Honolulu Mindfulness Community held a Zoom baby blessings celebration for a young couple who had just welcomed their first born. We regularly remind each other during Sangha check-in of the daily miracles and happy moments like seeing a fleeting rainbow or a blooming golden shower tree, or hearing a songbird’s morning cry.
In Understanding Our Mind, Thay advises us that neither a teacher nor a sangha needs be perfect for it to work:
We need only a committed group of ordinary people in order to receive great benefit from it. When the individuals in the group take refuge in the Sangha, it will grow strong and beautiful. When we smile and take a conscious breath, our whole Sangha is smiling and taking a conscious breath with us. In a Sangha, there is mutual helping. When we fall down, there is always someone who can help us up. When we practice walking meditation, we are serving our Sangha. The techniques for building a Sangha are the half-smile, walking meditation, stopping (samatha), and abiding in the present moment. When we build on these foundations, we can help others. Most important is that the Sangha be happy, nurturing and stable.
- How are you nourished, sustained, and blessed by your Sangha?
- How do you sustain and nourish your sangha?
- Which mindfulness practices do you regularly use to stay present and care for yourself and others in the community?
Please join us this week.
Below is an another excerpt on Sangha-building by Thich Nhat Hanh.
True Mindfulness of Peace
Upcoming In-person Still Water events:
- Friday, October 8 – Sunday, October 10, Still Water Fall Practice Retreat, Charter Hall Retreat Center, Perryville, Maryland. Mark your calendars. More information soon.
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by Thich Nhat Hanh from Understanding Our Mind
The best way to help build such a Sangha is to be a wholesome element in your own practice community. A Sangha is where you can receive and participate in the tradition. But it does not just spring up on its own. It is what we ourselves make. There are those who want to take refuge in the Buddha and the Dharma, but not the Sangha. Others want to take refuge only in the Sangha of great cosmic bodhisattvas such as Shariputra, Maudgalyayana, Samantabhadra, and Manjushuri, not in the ordinary practitioners living in their own community. We take refuge in the Buddha as a result of having confidence in the teachings and practice. The Buddha is mindfulness. He shows the way to go. But taking refuge in the Sangha is not a matter of mere belief. It is an expression of our confidence based on our experience of practicing in a community.Transformation takes place in our daily life. Taking refuge in and practicing with a Sangha is very important. Don’t wait to build a Sangha. Learn to live in harmony and happiness now and build your Sangha right here in the present moment. Practicing without a Sangha is difficult. Not only monks and nuns but all practitioners need a Sangha for support. When you practice with a Sangha, the fruits of the practice are easily obtained. When you take refuge in a Sangha, the work of transformation will be realized.
We should also understand Sangha as environment. Transformation and healing are not easy without an appropriate environment. In a good, healthy environment the positive elements in us will be touched and will manifest, and the negative elements will diminish and will recede to the background. This principle is applied to both mental and physical conditions. In the light of interbeing, a seed is made of all the seeds, and a gene is made of all the genes, embracing within itself all wholesome and unwholesome elements, like a computer that has the capacity of accessing all the information on the internet. When one type of information appears on the screen, all other information will have to be latent, in the background. We can choose to keep the manifested materials as long as we wish and prevent other information from coming to the foreground. A good environment is so crucial for the work of transformation and healing. A good seed or a good gene can be planted, but if a good environment is not there, then the good seed or gene will not be able to stay long in the foreground. This is why Sangha-building and the setting up of healthy environments should be seen as the most urgent task in our modern society.