A typical Eastside Sangha gathering (from 7pm to 9pm) has the following format:
- Twenty Minutes of sitting and walking meditation;
- Once a month recitation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, a short
discourse, or a passage from one of Thich Nhat Hanh's books;
- Tea and Dharma discussion.
"Mindfulness frees us from dispersion and allows us to live fully each
and every minute of our lives."
Thich Nhat Hanh
We sit on cushions, chairs, or directly on the floor. We practise mindfulness
of breathing when doing sitting meditation. It is like returning home to give full attention to and care of our self. The
purpose of sitting meditation is to enjoy and to relax. We do not try to attain anything through the meditation.
us find it uncomfortable to sit for an extended period of time. We learn to adjust our postures, or even stand up slowly and
sit down again when ready. As long as we follow our breathing and movement, we do not lose our concentration.
Walking meditation indoors or outdoors is a very precious practice. We walk
slowly, in a relaxed way, with our heads upright and smiles on our lips. We take one step breathing in, and another step breathing
In everyday life, we often move awkwardly, unaware of what we are doing, compelled by nervous energy, stress, or even
anger. In practicing walking meditation, we practise stopping - we walk in peace, supported by our breathing and the
earth beneath our feet. In doing so, we are able to transform that very same nervousness, stress and anger into calm, peace,
"Breathing in, I calm my body
Breathing out, I smile
in the present moment
I know this moment is wonderful."
While doing sitting and walking meditation, we also practise mindfulness
of breathing. We inhale through nostrils, and notice the abdomen expand. When exhaling, we notice the abdomen return to normal
size. The calm, ease, and release which can arise in the midst of this simple practice enables us to look deeply at the impermanence
and interrelatedness of the sensations which arise our body, our feelings, our mind, and the world around us.
Recitation of the Five Mindfulness Training
Thich Nhat Hanh, our Thay (teacher), has expanded the Buddha's Five Precepts
into the Five Mindfulness Training. This makes Buddha's teaching more accessible and relevant to contemporary lay practitioners.
It is not difficult
to understand the teachings in the Five Mindfulness Training. It can be more challenging, however, to integrate them
into our lives. The practice of meditation and the practice of the Five Mindfulness Training support each other. After
sharing an hour of sitting and walking meditation, the calm and insight that we experience in meditation help us to look deeply
into the heart of each training.
Sangha gatherings conclude with a group Dharma discussion. We share our insights
about mindfulness practice and what they offer in our daily lives. The discussion is also a way to share Sangha wisdom. We
bring our insights and questions to one another without pride or pretense, inspired by a desire to offer each other support.
The Eastside Sangha practice is based on the "Plum Village
Chanting and Recitation book" by Thich Nhat Hanh, and the "Sangha Practice" by Jack Lawlor. Both books are published by Parallax Press, Berkeley CA.
Links to Supplementary Practices
The Five Mindfulness Trainings
The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings
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