20 Mar 2019

By Plum Village UK

Sangha Spotlight: Family Sangha London

We interview Noah Walton on his experience of helping form Family Sangha London. Family Sangha London is a regular all age sangha that meets once a month, facilitated by Claudia Hernandez, Hannah Rapp and Noah Walton.

What inspired you to start the family sangha?

The idea was originally Claudia’s. We met at one of Plum Village’s Stourbridge retreats. That was four years ago in 2015. She was passionate about creating something for her children. She saw what was being offered at that retreat, and really wanted to create that space more regularly as part of a community. Hannah and I realised we had enough experience from the journey that we had had as part of Wake Up London to help her to facilitate it. Hannah had experience working with children and I had experience from the Quaker youth groups that we blended together with Claudia’s experience of being a parent. That was the start of it. We were all quite new to it. Hannah and I offered to help with the first couple of sessions. Here we are four years later and it’s been a wonderful journey.

What are the biggest challenges of family sangha?

It can be challenging to organise. People who have different needs due to their age and what they are going through in life. A baby or toddler has different needs to a young child, who has different needs to a teenager, who has different needs to an adult. However, the differences are also where so much of the richness comes from as well. I wouldn’t change it for the world. We have gradually evolved a format over the years, and it now works for us really well. We enjoy mindful activities such as movements, gratitude sharing, eating, walking and singing together, as well as space for the different age groups to spend time apart in parallel spaces. It’s taken us a while to get to this point. We started with just the three of us facilitating and now there are seven or eight of us who take turns to facilitate different activities.

There’s a real richness of seeing a six year old express gratitude and pass the pebble to a sixty year old, and for them each share something equally profound.

Noah Walton

What are the biggest joys of family sangha?

I love it. It has surprised me in way that I didn’t realise.  There are the simple joys of being in a community: seeing children and adults grow and change over the years, and that’s very beautiful. Some of the young children practicing with us now were babies when we started. Forming friendships across the ages is also a really beautiful thing. As someone who doesn’t have children, we wanted to create a true all age sangha. We don’t like to think of ourselves as just a sangha for families. We joke about calling it Intergenerational Sangha London, but I think it would be too much of a mouthful! But yes – we’re a big intergenerational spiritual family, and that feels very real and beautiful. There’s a real richness of seeing a six year old express gratitude and pass the pebble to a sixty year old, and for them each share something equally profound. It is something I really love. I can see that many parents want to have a space where they feel supported to share their values and be part of the same spiritual community as their children. I remember growing up as a Quaker, there was a really strong intergenerational community there. It’s something I can see the value of so clearly now. A spiritual community with people across the ages is such a gift. It has been really nourishing for me and I hope for other people too.

Any advice for people setting up a sangha for families?

Yes go for it! I would welcome people to join us sometime and get a feel for it. We’ve found that there are so few intergenerational communities around, that people are really interested. Sometimes people have come from Brighton or Bristol to join us for the day.

We found that running something every week wasn’t quite realistic for families, so we tend to run a day of mindfulness once a month instead. It seems to be something that busy families can commit to, and that gives the sangha a more regular community of people joining each time.

Please do get in touch with us, we’d love to support you to do that and really happy to talk and share our resources with you. We just had one of our community move to Missouri in the United States and they are now setting up a family sangha there. There are a few others popping up around the world and we talk to each other, so talk to us and let us help you, we’d be really delighted to. And please do come and join us someday.

For more on Family Sangha London and their resources see their website here. To get in touch with Family Sangha London see their contact form here.

The 2019 Being Peace Retreat at Stourbridge 27th-31st May for families and all ages to come together and practice mindfulness meditation, led by Sister Annabel and Brother Phap Lai is now open. More information and booking is here.

Do you want to share about your sangha? Let us know by emailing hello@plumvillage.uk.