January’s Learning Resources
January Theme: The Gift of Community
Having spent the dark winter months reflecting on our personal practice, we now embrace the new year with an appreciation for both self-compassion and compassion for others, focusing on our interconnectedness and what it means to live in community.
📚Suggested Resources and Activities:
- Discuss: What gifts do I have to offer in community? How am I sharing those gifts? What traits do I want to cultivate and bring to Sangha? What am I looking for in community? What makes a community stronger? What are we trying to accomplish?
- Read: Spiritual Friendship Is the Path by David Viafora (lionsroar.com)
- Watch: The intergenerational wisdom woven into Indigenous stories (ted.com)
- Namchak Blog: Starting a Learning Circle
- Lama Tsomo’s book recommendation: Why Won’t You Apologize by Harriet Lerner* From Lama Tsomo: “This is a great book! Lerner expands on what makes a good apology, how people avoid apologizing, and how we contribute to their apologizing resistance. She is clear, specific, and readable. I highly recommend this book. It provides tools to use when we are involved in a hurtful situation, which is inevitable in any healthy Sangha. Beyond that, Lerner’s message it important for ALL of our intimate relationships.”
- Podcast: Priya Parker – Remaking Gathering: Entering the Mess, Crossing the Thresholds (On Being with Krista Tippett, onbeing.org)
- Guided Meditation: Tonglen with Lama TsomoA Circle of Two
ONE COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES
Honoring of the life of Thich Nhat Hanh
Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, is a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered around the world for his pioneering teachings on mindfulness, global ethics and peace. He passed last week on January 22, 2022. In honor of his life and the abundant dharma teachings, offerings, and Bodhisattva work he has given to our world, we will weave his teachings into our agenda tonight.
Share poem from Thich Nhat Hanh:
This body is not me.
I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
and I have never died.
Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
manifestations from my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass,
sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek.
So laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say good-bye,
say good-bye, to meet again soon.
We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.
Opening, Community Commitments, Check-Ins (25 min):
- Invite a moment of silence and give rise to Bodhicitta.
- Read Community Commitments.
- Is there anything you would like to share around the impact of Thich Nhat Hanh’s passing and/or teachings in your life?
- What is one gift that you have found through or in community?
Framing for Tonight’s Theme (5 min):
In community, we have the opportunity to put our meditation practice into action with people who are on both similar and different paths. We can gain awareness of our reactions and learn to respond in more skillful ways WITH others. Alone, this can seem like a daunting task. Together, we have the honor of accompanying and witnessing one another as we learn, grow, and face life’s inevitable challenges.
There’s a reason why Sangha is one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism. Because it’s conflict-free and always full of light? Nope. Because it’s a necessary part of the path to waking up. Like a living, breathing ecosystem, we need one another to complete the journey.
Tonight, I am inviting us to lean into this part of sangha that can sometimes feel daunting or uncomfortable. As I just shared, sangha is not always conflict-free. Many times our deepest fears, wounds, and triggers can come out in our sangha gatherings, our interactions with family members, loved ones, friends, neighbors, co-workers.
Read Excerpt from Article Together (5 min):
Read excerpt of “The Sangha Isn’t Perfect” from “What is Sangha?” – an article by Thich Nhat Hanh published in Lions Roar and Reprinted from Friends on the Path: Living Spiritual Communities (2002) by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Journal Reflection (5 min):
- Where do you find yourself getting polarized and divided in your life, and what are the results?
- How do you tend to handle conflicts, disagreements or differing opinions and viewpoints within your relationships and communities?
- Where (if at all) in this handling, do you feel you get stuck or lose access to the compassionate, centered, and wise part of yourself?
Watch Video (17 min):
- Given the conditions of the world today with all the conflict and polarizing ideologies we are surrounded and influenced by, in tonight’s gathering, we will explore the gift of community that is present when we can understand how we handle and are impacted by conflict and polarizing beliefs in both the individual and collective psyches. We will explore how to find our shared values, use our practices of mindfulness and compassion, and tap into the wisdom of interconnectedness to bridge the gaps instead of contributing to a greater divide.
- We will now watch a video entitled “Overcoming Polarization” by Doha Debates with Nelufar Hedayat who will explore how polarization comes to be, and how we might be able to overcome these divides. You are invited to take any notes throughout this video on any points that stand out to you, aha moments, insights, questions, or curiosities.
Journaling (5 min):
- Take a few minutes to journal further by answering any or all of the following questions.
- What were your greatest takeaways from this video? Did you have any insights, questions or curiosities around what was shared?
- How does this video deepen your understanding of polarization and how it may be playing out in your life, relationships and communities?
- What are some solutions to polarization that you resonate with from this video? Do you have any ideas for other solutions?
- How can our meditation practices and understanding of interconnectedness be helpful tools when dealing with conflict and polarization?
- What personal commitments would you like to make to help bridge the gaps in the places where you feel most divided in your life?
Breakout Rooms (10 min):
Break out into partners or groups of three and share what you have just journaled about in response to the questions presented and anything that stood out to you from the reading, the video, or this gathering so far.
Group Share (5 min):
Come back as a large group and find a non-verbal way to thank you partner over this screen. Feel free to add a couple words or a phrase in the chat that sums up and/or reflects a theme from your sharing with your partner.
Meditation and Reflection (10 min):
- Now we will practice a very fitting meditation for tonight’s theme – Tonglen for Troublemakers with Lama Tsomo. (8 min)
- After the mediation is over, invite sharing about how that experience was for Learning Circle members.
Closing and Dedication of the Merit (1 min):
By the power of this compassionate practice, my suffering be transformed into peace. May the hearts of all beings be open and their wisdom radiate from within.
Embracing the contemplative dark months of winter as a time of reflection and renewal, looking back on the year past and beginning to plan for the new year. Looking at the past and future as a way to inform present personal, community and action in the world.
Whether you are spending time alone, with family, friends, or communities of origin this holiday season, this time can bring up an array of emotions. Our experiences can range from the comfort of familiarity and tradition to the discomfort of feeling triggered and reverting to old roles and behaviors. We can reframe the stories we believe about ourselves and others by exploring the impermanent nature of reality and believing in our inherent goodness. This holiday season, we invite you to try something new: to build upon the foundations of mindfulness, and embrace the freedom that comes with clear seeing.
Most likely we have all heard the metaphor of putting on your own oxygen mask first before helping others. It’s a great metaphor, but how does that look in real life? Perhaps we can begin by getting cozy, of course, and asking ourselves some questions like, “What am I doing to take care of myself?” “How do I feel when I am taking care of myself?” “What are some signals that I need to care for myself better?”
Learn to ground yourself in the present moment by gaining full awareness of the experience of being embodied or being connected to your own body. To do this, we start by paying attention to the sensation of breathing, subtle movements in the body, and other somatic experiences as techniques to help bring awareness to our emotional landscape and ease anxiety.