Starting a community

FacilitatorsRetreat04.014_15

I’ve been a monk for 65 years, and what I have found is that there is no religion, no philosophy, no ideology higher than brotherhood and sisterhood. Not even Buddhism.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

If you have felt nourished by the practice of mindfulness in the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition, you have realized that you need others to help keep your practice alive in your daily life, you get what Wake Up is about and you like it, and there isn’t a Wake Up community where you live….

….then please continue reading and get in touch to let us know how we can support you. You can also fill out this form to let us know where you live so we can let you know when there is someone else nearby also interested in starting a Wake Up community.

We highly recommend attending at least one retreat in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh and practising regularly with an established community open to all ages before starting a Wake Up community, particularly if you are quite new to this practice. It can be very beneficial to practice with others who are experienced in this tradition as well as with building a community.

Please visit the UK all ages community directory.


go as a river go as a sanghaWhat is “sangha”?

We also use the term ‘sangha’ to refer to a Wake Up community, as well as the wider community of Wake Up UK, and Wake Up International. It simply means ‘community’ in Pali, the language used around the time of the Buddha. Everyone who comes to practice is a member of the sangha. Even if we come to a meeting once every few months, our presence and our practice can contribute to the vitality and harmony of the sangha.

Read more on sangha here.


Basic requirements of a Wake Up community

An active Wake Up community (or sangha) meets the following three basic requirements:

1. Mindfulness: We practice the 5 Mindfulness Trainings in the Plum Village Tradition.

The 5 Mindfulness Trainings are the foundation of Wake Up. Sanghas incorporate the 5 Mindfulness Trainings into their gatherings by reading them together, reflecting on them during sharing or by any other creative means they come up with.

2. Inclusiveness: We create conditions for interested young people to find the practice.

By listing yourself as a sangha, you are inviting others to come join you in practice. Anyone within the age range who comes to a meeting is welcome. For this, we recommend hosting gatherings in easily accessible places so that new people feel comfortable in joining. Group meetings are free, but donations can be collected to support space rental if necessary. Facilitation works best when the responsibility is shared.

3. Consistency: We meet at least once a month.

No matter how small your group is, as long as you meet regularly, it will grow.

If your community meets these requirements, let us know and we’ll put you on the map.


What do we need? 

First, it takes a personal aspiration to sustain mindfulness practice in your daily life and help others do the same. Second, it takes an availability of a quiet room where people can sit in meditation and share.  Third, a facilitator or two to help hold the space and guide each meeting.

To be more concrete:

dsc_08791A room

A safe, quiet place to meet each time and regularly. Ideally it should be easily accessible so that new people can feel comfortable in joining. Examples could be the living room of someone’s home, a rented room of a Yoga studio or Quaker Meeting House or a booked room of your university/college. Indeed some people believe it is better to start by hiring a local room or hall from the very beginning of a community to provide a neutral space.

If an all-ages community practices nearby, maybe they could help you find a space. For example, Wake Up London meets just after the Heart of London sangha (for all ages) meets in the same physical space.

Cushions & chairs

Provide attendees the options to sit on the ground or a chair if possible. People usually sit in a circle on the ground or on chairs. Cushions can be actual meditation cushions, or ones that are part of the home furniture or even rolled up blankets. You can improvise. You can even ask attendees to bring something to sit on if the venue does not provide cushions. If the floor is uncarpeted, then you may want to ask attendees to also bring a blanket or a yoga mat too. If there is no access to cushions, using just chairs is also fine.


1606244_592574994149982_1487719197_oPeople

It only takes two people to form a community. You may already know some friends who would be interested in meditation. There are many ways to find others nearby:

  • People you met at a Wake Up event, on retreat or at a practice centre.
  • Young adults practising at the local all-ages community
  • People who practice meditation in other traditions

If you’re looking for more friends to join you, you can fill out this form so we can keep your details and let you know if there are others nearby also interested in starting a community.

DSC_0480Facilitators

One or two facilitators at a meeting will help to ensure the activities flow and are on time. They invite the bell throughout the meeting and offer a few introductory words for each practice. Even if you have never facilitated before and don’t feel qualified – have a go! Doing it with another person would be even better and more fun.  The more you and others in the community do this, the more you will all learn and grow from these experiences. Volunteering to facilitate is such a generous gift to others and can deepen your own mindfulness practice. If there is a local community for all ages – it would be helpful to get in touch with the facilitators to ask for some guidance in facilitating.

1922298_10151993381704226_1721027648_nA bell

Such as these ones which you can buy here in the UK (scroll down when you open the link). The sound of the bell will help to bring the group’s attention to the present moment, as well as indicate the start and end of each mindfulness practice. If you are unable to locate a bell, you can even play one on your smart phone, by downloading an app – such as the Insight Timer app.


FacilitatorsRetreat04.014_24 What do we do? 

Wake Up meetings usually consist of doing a few mindfulness practices inspired by the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition. The duration can be up to you – many Wake Up communities meet for about an hour, or 1.5 hrs, or even 2 hours to 2.5 hours!  There are different styles of get-togethers and groups depending on whatever feels like a natural way to hang out and practice mindfulness.

Simply sitting quietly, walking together, sharing deeply and hanging out –  being really present for one another – can be nourishing, supportive and refreshing. Your Wake Up community can be as informal and dynamic as you like.

It’s good to start with just a few basic practices that everyone is comfortable with, and expand from there.

See sample schedules from other Wake Up communities.


Any other practical tips to know about? 

Find a consistent meeting space and time.

Having a consistent location and meeting time to practice together is an important way to maintain and grow the community. Many new communities decide to meet once every other week; see what frequency is realistic and comfortable for you. In the Netherlands, Wake Up Nijmegan meets weekly most of the year, and then less often during the summer when most people are away.

Set up a rota for facilitators.

Sangha practice is democratic in spirit, and planning and facilitating meetings works best when the responsibility is shared. Having multiple facilitators ensures support when issues arise and is helpful for basic things like people going away on holiday.

It may be useful to set up a rota online for you and other facilitators to access and sign up to upcoming Wake Up meetings. This may not be necessary if there is just a few of you at first. Wake Up London uses a shared Google spreadsheet as their rota, with dates of upcoming meetings a month ahead, and columns for facilitators and other necessary volunteers to add their name into. You can see an example here.

Create a centre-piece.centre peace

Adding a few natural objects in the room brings beauty and freshness to your meetings. These could simply be a few pebbles, cut leaves and flowers from a garden, on top of a piece of material, like a scarf.

Start an email list.

An email list is one of the easiest and effective ways to keep your community updated and reminded about your meeting times and locations. Keeping a mailing list could simply be started off as a distribution group created in an email account.

You could create a new email address or use your personal one if you prefer. Wake Up International offers new sanghas a  new email address “name@wkup.org” for you to communicate from – get in touch with us so we can help with that.

When sending out an email, it’s best practice to place all the emails into the Bcc. address fields. Please be careful with handling people’s email addresses. Be sure to not make inappropriate use of the emails or make them publicly available, as that’ll result in lost trust.

If your community email list eventually starts to grow to a few hundred email addresses – then you may want to think about using a mailing list service – such as Mailchimp.com. Using this kind of service has benefits such as helping your emails to bypass the spam filter in people’s inbox and managing unsubscribers.

Share the tasks.

Once you find others who are interested in starting a Wake Up community with you, you can decide upfront if you’d like to try out different roles. SharingEveryone in the community, both experienced and new to the practice, brings their own talents, skills and wisdom.

Roles don’t need to be defined in advance, but it may be helpful to think about the following basic tasks:

  • Facilitating the meetings – holding the space and introducing the practices.
  • Co-ordinating a rota to assign facilitators and other volunteers for upcoming meetings.
  • Maintaining an email list or two – one for everyone in the community and one for more core community (i.e facilitators). Emailing updates when necessary. For example – sending weekly reminders about Wake Up meetings times and location to the whole mailing list. Sending out emails to the core community whenever a space for facilitation needs to be filled.
  • Handling donations – you may be asking for donations at the end of each meeting to help cover the rent of the room or other expenses, or some other community initiative. Decide how this money will be stored and recorded. A community account with an ethical bank might be needed if your community grows and you receive donations regularly.
  • If there is an all-ages community nearby, it may be useful to have a point of contact within the Wake Up community for them

How do I spread the word?

While it is natural to want more people to experience the gathering, it is critical to focus on the quality of the experience, in place of the quantity. YouOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA shouldn’t feel pressure to have lots of people right away; starting small and with joy is a great approach. With that said, here are few places to inform others:

  • Let us know about your community and we’ll put you on the map (if it meets the basic requirements).
  • Create a space online with details about your community – such as a website. There are many free websites you can use and they’re relatively easy to set up. If this is not possible, we can set up a webpage on our website for you.
  • Use social media – Many Wake Up communities have either created a Facebook page or a Facebook group and have found it really effective. Some also have a Twitter accounts. Here’s some social media tips <to be developed>.
  • Creating a group on MeetUp.com could be an option too (however there is a fee to use this service).
  • Flyers – creating a simple flyer detailing where you meet and when, a description of who you are and any weblinks can be a good way to spread the word – especially at student’s freshers fayres, any local events related to mindfulness, meditation, compassion, well-being, peace and happiness..and at any like-minded cafes or shops.

 


Useful resources for sangha building and facilitation 

‘Blooming of a Lotus’ by Thich Nhat Hanh for guided meditations

Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation’s New Sangha Handbook

Mindfulness Bell magazine – Special issue on sangha building – Summer 2009

Books by Thich Nhat Hanh on sangha building: ‘Friends on the Path’ and ‘Joyfully Together’

The Community of Interbeing has a very comprehensive online manual explaining many Plum Village practices, like how to invite the bell, lead sitting meditation, practising tea meditation, hugging meditation, the Peace Treaty, Beginning Anew, etc.

Peaceful Presence – a library of files, including videos, guided meditations and talks

Local Wake Up communities in UK
Supporting