Explore our growing library of discussion guides
and learning resources to help you start and
sustain a Namchak Learning Circle
What is a Learning Circle?
Welcome! We are so glad you are here. On this page you will find a variety of resources to start and sustain a Namchak Learning Circle. But, first things first! You may be asking yourself, “What is a Learning Circle?” At Namchak, we believe that meditating with others is key. When we explore meditation in community, it becomes a richer experience.
Learning Circles are small, intimate groups who meet regularly to practice meditation, share and study together. Learning Circles use Namchak materials such as eCourses, books including Why Bother?, Wisdom & Compassion (Starting With Yourself), guided meditations, and blogs from the website to engage and deepen their meditation practice. Explore our open Learning Circles or use this form to get started with your own circle. Keep in mind, Learning Circles are completely free, there are no costs for joining, attending, or participating.
For the complete Learning Circle Guide, check out our Learning Circle Toolkit below.
Tips for Getting Your Learning Circle Started
Below you can learn the benefits of joining or starting a Learning Circle,
tips for getting started with a circle, and much more. Follow along using our Learning Circle Toolkit!
Why You Should Start or Join a Learning Circle?
There are three components within the heart of Buddhism: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Together, they are known as the three jewels.
- Buddha refers to the enlightened mind of the Buddha that is brought forth through meditation and practice.
- Dharma refers to the teachings of the Buddha: the “map.”
- Sangha refers to a community of like-minded people who are pursuing their journey together.
While all three of the jewels are essential on the Buddhist path, at Namchak, we bring a special focus to the jewel of the sangha, or community, providing tools for people to come together, form groups, and relate to one another in a deep and harmonious way.
We provide Learning Circles with the support and tools they need to create truly fruitful learning environments, apply spiritual insight in a group-oriented and practical way, and ultimately, make the world a better place by beginning with the world of sangha.
Setting Your Learning Circle Intention
In the flurry or excitement involved in starting a new project or endeavor, it’s sometimes easy to overlook setting intention, which provides our essential motivation, or “why.”
Begin with some basic questions:
- Why are you interested in starting a practice group?
- What do you hope to gain?
- What do you hope to bring to others?
- How will you exercise your role?
In many spiritual traditions, teachers often ask students to set an intention at the very outset of a practice. In fact, the Dalai Lama says that the very first thing he does each morning is “check motivation!” In the case of initiating a Learning Circle, it’s important to clarify the “why” in your own head before you get rolling. Then, circle back to logistics. What do you think others expect? How will you structure the meetings? How many people do you want to attend?
Consider using the Guiding Questions (see Appendix B of the Learning Circle Toolkit) at your first meeting.
What is Shared Leadership?
At Namchak, we believe in a new leadership paradigm – that of shared leadership. In this model, leadership of the group is shared by all members, not just one person.
What Does Shared Leadership Look Like?
- The group rotates roles each week, month or quarter, so that all members are contributing in some way to the success and flow of the circle.
- Roles can include facilitator, recorder, reminder, snack provider, community connector, and more.
Why Shared Leadership?
- Some of the benefits of shared leadership include taking part in an exciting new pioneering adventure, ownership in the group, and sustainability of the group.
Learning Circle Logistics
From scheduling your first virtual meeting, to learning how to communicate with your Learning Circle. We’ve outlined some tools and suggestions to help you start, sustain, and grow your circle.
Utilize our Sample Spreadsheet for grounding your Learning Circle meetings and staying organized.
Learning Circle Guides
Our guides were created to help you grow and deepen your Learning Circle experience.
Discussion Content and Questions
You have several options for the study or discussion part of your meeting. Reading together, watching together, and much more.
Our Community Commitments
Utilize our Community Commitments for creating a brave, inclusive, anti-oppressive, and learning-centered space.
How to Run a Great First Meeting
Curious how to kick-off your first successful Learning Circle meeting? Use the outline, tips, and ideas in this article to structure your first meeting.
Creating True Connection
Anytime we humans meet as a group to discuss a topic, manage a project, plan an event, or even just informally talk, group dynamics come into play. Each of us has a distinct personality. Some of us are comfortable in larger groups and have no problem speaking up about our feelings or ideas.
How Do We Keep Our Circle Organized?
10 Tips for Creating a Thriving Learning Circle
Created by our Community Steward, learn tangible ways to help your Learning Circle deepen, connect, and ultimately thrive.
How Do We Handle Difficult Conversations?
How do we stay grounded in our truth, with compassion in our hearts, and spacious in our minds to hold the good, the bad, and the growth that is possible in moments of uncomfortable opportunity? Let’s explore this topic in our own lives and within our Learning Circle Communities, so we can ultimately bring more skillful awareness to these pivotal moments for growth, healing, and connection.
Reflecting on Intentions
As your group continues to meet, it’s important to return on a regular basis to your intention—the reason you came together.
Engaged Bodhicitta – Taking Your Practice into the World
Deepening Your Meditation Practice
At Namchak, we encourage students to contemplate how they feel called to bring their practice into their relationships and the world—and put those thoughts into action. Learn more about other organizations, campaigns, and initiatives that are actively working to change the world.
The AWE program provides an opportunity to join a small group of other committed students embarking on the Vajrayana path of Tibetan Buddhist practice, gaining tools to cultivate greater wisdom and compassion. Learn more about the AWE program today.
The best way to learn a new language is total immersion; the best way to make new habits of mind is also total immersion. Retreat allows that.
The Namchak Retreat Ranch in Montana is currently under construction and will be completed in 2023. We will host short retreats each year (on each U.S. coast) until the ranch is ready.
Namchak Learning Circles lean on Lama Tsomo’s books for learning more about Tibetan Buddhism and Namchak meditation practices. Begin your learning journey with Book 1 in the Ancient Wisdom for Our Times Series, Why Bother? and deepen your Vajrayana knowledge with Book 2, Wisdom & Compassion (Starting with Yourself).
If you’re looking to set new goals and establish a daily meditation practice you can learn more about our Taking a Breath Meditation journal which includes tangible, step-by-step instructions for practicing Shamata, Clearing the Stale Energies, tips for creating new habits, and more.
Our new offering, “Walking the Path (of Calm Abiding and Profound Insight)” is a two year program which brings a developmental and interactive approach to the way we practice meditation.
Throughout the program there will be ample opportunities to have regular check-ins with Namchak Khen Rinpoche to clarify your meditation practice. Learn more.
Connect with others and practice in Sangha daily with our Morning Meditation series. Each weekday we provide an opportunity to meditate with others. Practice Vipassana, Tonglen, Shamata, or any meditation practice you’re feeling called towards. As the Buddha said, “Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine.”
Testimonials & Learning Circle Experiences
I can’t speak for everyone, but the benefits I experience are coming together once a week and sharing different things about the teachings and meditating together. We are a good support for each other, and I think we all feel that very much. We support each other in our dharma practice and also in our daily lives. Right now, we are taking one of the Lojong maxims and really exploring it each week. I can’t speak for others, but I have found in Joyful Presence Learning Circle the sangha that was always missing in my life.
Member of the Joyful Presence Learning Circle
“Joining an online sangha has been enriching for my practice and my sense of connection to other like-minded people. Being able to connect with others who are exploring Buddhist practices is valuable— we each bring our backgrounds and knowledge to the practice, and can share and discuss what we are experiencing and learning. We rotate roles for each session, and I really enjoy the different meditations or readings that the group members bring to the session. The care for each other is high, and I feel there is genuine curiosity for each other’s well-being and growth. It’s great to have an international flavour too!”
Member of the International Group
Namchak Community Blog
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