Sangha Reflections and Insight


Saturday, January 13th: “We accept this food so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, build our sangha, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings”

On Saturday 13th January, we gathered in the Library at the Quaker Meeting House in Leicester to enjoy our shared practice.

After guided, walking and silent meditation, we shared our reflections on the Fifth Mindfulness Training, published on the website last week. These included an awareness that we eat as we do to benefit all beings.

One sangha member told us how, watching the BBC programme ‘Big Cats’ she had turned away from a lion hunting a giraffe but had not minded so much when a caiman was caught and eaten.

Each time we share what we notice in this way, something new opens up; in this case, we reflected on how the mind rapidly makes this kind of distinction, on how all of the practice addresses our preferences and asks us to examine them.

Do we mind less if the animal suffering isn’t ‘cute’ or ‘majestic’ or has scales rather than fur? What if we are encountering the suffering of a person who, we admit, we see as ‘in the wrong’ or just plain ‘different’? Can we see all the suffering, not taking sides?

Someone quoted Thay’s poem, ‘Call Me By My True Names’.

So, though our morning began with eating, sangha reflections led us to examine non-discrimination, non dual mind – Interbeing!

Here is the poem:

Call Me By My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

By Thich Nhat Hanh.

The link takes you to a recording of Thay reading the poem.



Core Practice

Mindfulness of … Consuming

Rather than New Year Resolutions…

Thich Nhat Hanh offers us Five Mindfulness Trainings as a guide to diminishing suffering – and not just for ourselves. By reflecting on the trainings, and keeping them in mind, we gradually begin to address old habits – what we do day to day when we are unaware and ‘on automatic pilot’.

So, as we begin a new year, full of good intentions, we might benefit from knowing we are all sharing a supportive practice about what and how we consume.

As our culture and growth economy are largely built on encouraging us to be ‘Consumers’, we are very much swimming against the tide by practising this training.

And it is a training; we need to remember to be kind and maintain a sense of lightness and humour!

Constantly bombarded by adverts as we are, we need to be compassionate to ourselves (and others) when we (or they) slip into less mindful ways of consuming, while still reminding ourselves that we CAN, with patience, create a gap between our ‘urge’ to consume and actually going ahead with (over) eating, (impulse) buying, and generally consuming for distraction or comfort.

Mindful consumption leads to nourishment and healing.

On Saturday  January 13th , as we settle into our sitting and walking meditation, we hope to be at our most mindful by the time we serve ourselves lunch. This is a benefit of shared, formal practice.

In the coming week, we might want to consider how the Fifth Training breaks down into a series of six parts, encouraging expanding awareness, commitment, looking deeply and contemplation – perhaps a more effective way of sustaining resolutions for the new year than imposing ‘SHOULD’ and ‘MUST NOT’ on ourselves – it doesn’t usually work for very long.

If the whole training is just too much at once (and it is for life not just New Year) we can  make a start somewhere and experiment.

Enjoy your practice!

The above is adapted from ‘The Mindfulness Toolkit’ by Thich Nhat Hanh. Published by Parallax Press.

The Fifth Mindfulness Training: Nourishment and Healing

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practising mindful eating, drinking, and consuming.

I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition*, and consciousness.

I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programmes, films, magazines, books, and conversations.

I will practise coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing, and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear or craving pull me out of the present moment.

I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety or other suffering by losing myself in consumption.

I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy and well-being in my body and consciousness and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society, and the Earth.

* volition = our aspiration, our deepest desire – a powerful source of energy. If this is to help save our planet, it is good nourishing food. If it is to have more money, fame, power, sensual pleasure, this is toxic food leading to taking what should go to others.

Links:  – offers all Five Mindfulness Trainings and, in the bookstore, ‘The Mindfulness Survival Kit’


Core Practice

Sharing Our Practice: Remember!

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” Sharon Salzberg

I hope you will be joining us to share mindfulness practice on the second Saturday of the month (as listed on our ‘events’ page). During each of these Mindful Mornings, we will be supporting each other to remain in the present at every opportunity.

Each time we meet, we will be able to add to our resources – practical ‘reminders’ that Thich Nhat Hanh has made available to bring us back to the present moment.

Though each session is ‘stand alone’ and can be enjoyed as a ‘drop in’, over time we will gather a range of reminders to be mindful and we will start to notice a real difference in our daily lives. These practices will be posted on the website.

This website can also be enjoyed independently of face to face practice with the sangha. Whether or not you join us on Saturdays, you may start to enjoy visiting the website weekly as a way of further supporting your own efforts at home. You know you will be in the company of others in Leicester who value the peace and joy we access when we DO remember to practice mindfulness!

On Saturday, 9th December, we looked at Gathas – short verses which we recite to ourselves. They invite us to stop, focus, enjoy our breathing and be fully present for our chosen object or activity, uniting body and mind. The beauty of these verses is that they can apply to everything we do. I hope they prove a useful reminder for the start of a new year.

You may like to choose one from the short selection below and use it every day for a week. Enjoy your practice in 2018!


Waking Up

Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.

Walking Meditation

The mind can go in a thousand directions.
But on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, a gentle wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.

Drinking Tea

This cup of tea in my two hands –
Mindfulness is held uprightly
My mind and body dwell
in the very here and now.

The Gathas are taken from “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” – Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living,  by Thich Nhat Hanh.

 Defining Equanimity

“Neither a thought nor an emotion, it is rather the steady conscious realization of reality’s transience. It is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love. While some may think of equanimity as dry neutrality or cool aloofness, mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will.”

Gil Fronsdal – Wikipedia (accessed 22 Dec 2017)


Dharma Talks

Parting the Clouds

“Live the moment that life is offering you. Sit down quietly and meditate to look deeply and sweep away the wild imaginings, the prejudices, and the wrong perceptions of the past. Part the clouds and uncover the brightly shining moon in the vast sky; dissolve the mist to find the dazzling flowers and fresh new buds.”

Inside The Now – Thich Nhat Hanh



How old are you ?

Child’s Question: How old are you?

Thay: Well, how old are you first?

Child: I am six, almost seven.

Thay: Listen, I am going to give you a good answer. I am the continuation of the Buddha, so I am 2,600 years old.

Child: Oh!

Thay: I am also the continuation of my father, so I am 110 years young. I know that you are my continuation and I feel that I am in you, so at the time I am six years old also. That is true, because I have been reborn in that child. He will carry me into the future. So I am quite young. I am six years old. If you look around, you see me a little bit everywhere. I have different ages. Okay?”