A local community of mindfulness practitioners who gather to meditate, to share their joys and difficulties, and to encourage each other on the path of practice, is traditionally called a sangha.
We encourage everyone to join a sangha near you, to sit and share regularly and deeply. In this way you can profit from the collective energy of mindfulness, peace and joy. You can search for a sangha in your area by clicking on this link.
Through readings and other people’s sharings we can be inspired to explore different elements of the Plum Village practice. For many people, their practice group has become a deep source of support and friendship.
“Without a sangha you lose your practice very soon”. Thich Nhat Hanh
In addition to being part of a local community, we also recognise the wisdom and need of being in safe spaces for affinity communities, such as our Colours of Compassion Sangha for those who identify as people of colour. These sanghas have become increasingly more accessible as most of these groups meet online.
At the moment we have practice spaces for People of Colour / Black Asian Minority Ethnic / BPoC/ Mixed Racial Heritages – Colours of Compassion Sangha, for those who self-identify as LGBTQIA+ – Rainbow Sangha UK, sangha members who have been socialised as/identify as ‘white’ – White Awareness Sangha, inter-generational, with special programme for children and teens Family Sangha and a community of young adult practitioners (under 35s) Wake Up.
The groups supported by Plum Village UK are run by volunteers who are keen to help provide people with a place to practice mindfulness.
For most groups sessions are run by facilitators who are dedicated and enthusiastic mindfulness practitioners but are not necessarily ‘teachers’. They offer a space for people to practice together and not a class, yet there is likely to be people willing to give advice and pointers to people new to mindfulness. Our Be Calm, Be Happy courses offer a grounding in mindfulness in the Plum Village tradition.
As our groups are volunteer-run, there will be a variety of styles and formats. Although they all have Plum Village practice at their heart, but each will have their own flavour.
Mindfulness practice should be enjoyable. If we are new to mindfulness or the group sits for longer than we are used to, it might feel a little uncomfortable at first, just as learning to ride a bike can feel awkward when we are first learning. If our practice continues to be a struggle we should seek advice from others about how we might be able to practice with ease and joy.
Groups may have their own instructions, but in general it is likely that these considerations will apply:
There are some terms you might hear at a Plum Village group that may be new:
Sangha – the traditional word for a community that practices meditation together.
Dharma – the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, later referred to as ‘The Buddha’ which provide the source of Plum Village mindfulness practice.
Thay – The affectionate name for Thich Nhat Hanh, literally translates to ‘teacher’.
The heart of mindfulness is to be present in each moment. We do not need any particular form to practice mindfulness. Some elements of traditional form are used within the Plum Village practice. For example, people often bow to each other. This is a way to signify the body (one hand) and the mind (the other) coming together, a reminder to be present. If bowing or any other form, does not feel appropriate for us, we do not need to do it.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings are at the heart of Plum Village practice. They are an updated and expanded version of the Five Precepts which were first offered during the time of the Buddha, they represent a concrete way to bring mindfulness into every aspect of our lives. Many groups will recite the trainings and many people have ‘received’ the trainings, meaning they have committed to bringing them into their lives. They are not presented as rules or dictats, rather ways we can reflect on our actions and their consequences so that we can create more happiness and reduce suffering for ourselves and for others. People are free to use the trainings in whatever way feels useful and relevant.
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