Each of our Sangha meetings follows a particular format. This format is called a “ceremony.” Hearing the word “ceremony” may sound a bit intimidating, but it’s simply a series of practices or rituals that, when done in community, help to reiterate the purpose of our personal practice and can, in many way, help to keep us accountable.
The word “gatha” may also be unfamiliar to you. A gatha is a short verse that helps get us centered. A gatha may be used at any time and for any reason. For example, Thay has a lovely gatha for brushing your teeth: “Brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth, I vow to speak purely and lovingly. When my mouth is fragrant with right speech, a flower blooms in the garden of my heart.” You may want to make your own gathas and repeat them to deepen your practice.
Below is the basic ceremony we practice each Sunday. There will be some slight variations depending on whether we are meeting in person or on Zoom. If we are meeting in person, we can provide a handout if you would like to follow along. If you are joining us on Zoom, you might like to have this page open and available.
6:30 Opening, Candle Lighting, First Gatha
- We use this time to quiet ourselves before our 20-minute sitting meditation.
- Gatha: The one who bows and the one who is bowed to are both by nature empty. Therefore the communication between them is inexpressibly perfect. Our sangha is the net of Indra, reflecting all Buddhas everywhere. And with my person in front of each Buddha, I go with my whole life for refuge.
6:40 20-Minute Sitting Meditation
- Begin sitting meditation by finding a comfortable position. You may sit in a chair or on the floor, lie down, or use whatever cushions or supports you need. Focusing on your breathing or scanning your body for any tension can help you come into the present moment. When your body is calm, your mind is calm. When your mind wanders, you can note that you have drifted and, without judgment or self-criticism, gently bring your mind back to your breath or to a brief scan of your body. If you become uncomfortable during meditation, you are welcome to shift or adjust your body. Over time, as your thinking mind calms, you learn to open your present moment awareness to all of your body sensations, all of your feelings, attitudes, and acts of will, to your thoughts and ideas, and also to the people and the world around you.
7:00 Walking Meditation
- In walking meditation, we walk slowly, deliberately, and mindfully. Our bodies are upright and relaxed, our eyes softly focused just ahead of us. When our mind drifts to the past or future, we gently guide it back to the present moment where we are mindful of our breathing and our stepping. We can use gathas to concentrate our minds. For example: The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, a cool wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms. Walking meditation is an important part of our practice as we take our mindfulness off the cushion and out into the world for the benefit of all beings.
7:15 Greetings and Introductions
7:25 Dharma Reading or Recitation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings
- We are currently reading Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet by Thich Nhat Hanh. If you are unable to purchase your own copy, please let us know and we can purchase one for you.
- The recitation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings is always done on the first Sunday of each month.
7:35 Dharma Sharing
- To learn more about Dharma Sharing, please visit the Plum Village website and scroll down to Dharma Sharing.
- Gatha: May the fruits of our practice be of benefit to all beings and to the Earth.