There is no right time or right way to develop your group. It will evolve according to the needs of its members. But if opportunities for the sangha to discuss its development don’t arise naturally, you might like to schedule one in to a meeting every now and then. Members may have wonderful ideas that they’ve been keeping to themselves!
Here are some simple suggestions you might like to consider — this list is by no means exhaustive…
Local groups might organise Days of Mindfulness as one-off or regular events. These will provide additional time for members to integrate mindfulness practice into their lives. It may also be possible to arrange for a Dharma Teacher or experienced Order Member to facilitate the day. Special days can be run for people with a special interest. For example, for beginners to the practice or for people wishing to study a particular teaching.
You may also wish to run a short local retreat. The idea can be daunting, but it’s not as difficult as you think. Several group members can share in the organisation, and this itself can be an interesting practice. Make sure that the cook is well-supported and the food simple and good, and you’re at least half way there! Please contact us if you would like us to send guidance on organising a retreat.
A study group can meet as an extension of the regular sangha meeting or at a separate date. There are many excellent books by Thay which are suitable for reading and discussion. A perennial favourite is his classic guide to Buddhist ideas and practice, ‘The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching’.
Other texts to consider might include Thay’s ‘Understanding the Mind’ on Buddhist psychology, or ‘Awakening the Heart’ which contains commentaries on core Sutra.
Volunteering together with solidity and compassion is a wonderful practice. And there will be many charities in your area in need of ‘bodies’. One or more of your sangha members may already have links to a refugee support group or a food bank, for example. The sangha can discuss who it wants to support and how.
A regular ‘bring and share’ meal or even snack (or picnic) can be eaten before or after a meeting. Some of the meal can be in silence to practice mindful eating: mindful eating together is another wonderful practice, as is the mindful clearing up afterwards.
If you have several regular facilitators, they might like to get together sometimes to discuss themes for meetings, challenges and opportunities etc. A bring and share meal usually ensures a constructive meeting.
It is also helpful for Sanghas to identify and share out the administrative tasks in the Sangha for agreed periods of time. Roles might include:
In some sanghas, these people meet periodically as a group to assist in co-ordinating the running of the Sangha. This group is often termed a Caretaking Council.
Many groups have set up their own website or Facebook pages. Have a look at the Heart of London Sangha’s site, or the Edinburgh Wild Geese Sangha’s site. Sites can be set up and maintained very cheaply, and your own can be as simple or complex as you wish, but it is great to keep the information up to date. It is also possible to use the group page on this site to add more information. Get in touch and we can discuss the best option.
Your sangha may feel inspired to share Thay’s beautiful teachings with more people. The Plum Village UK has developed an introductory course called Be Calm, Be Happy. You may find it helpful to direct new people to attend a Be Calm be Happy course before, or as well as, joining sangha.
We also offer training to sangha facilitators who have a deep understanding of Thay’s teachings and personal experience of the practice. Please contact the course coordinator, Lauri Bower if this interests you on firstname.lastname@example.org
Please contact us if you have questions or need more information about starting or developing your Sangha.
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