Sunday, November 29

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I hope you holiday was full of love and gratitude.

This Sunday, November 29th is an auspicious day for those of us in the USA practicing in the Plum Village Tradition. It marks the beginning of the Winter Rains Retreat. It’s a time to come back to ourselves, to look deeply and strengthen our spiritual roots. It is the only retreat of the year that is primarily oriented for monastics and the residential community and those participating do not leave the grounds and often do not go online. As lay practitioners we have many responsibilities in the world but can take advantage of visiting Deer Park on days of mindfulness or staying for a week or weekend if able.

We can also make this a deeper practice period for ourselves and are also invited to come back to ourselves, to look deeply, and to strengthen our spiritual roots by setting an intention for the period. This might be to practice sitting meditation every day, even if only 10 minutes, visit the monastery, listen to Dharma talks each week, etc. Last year Phap Ho offered long time practitioners this schedule as a suggestion and many OI’s will be following it again this year. Do not feel obliged to take on more than is comfortable but please do be encouraged to look deeply and set a real intention. Embracing the path of healing and transformation in this way helps us all heal. By observing the retreat period we genuinely honor Thay, all of our spiritual and blood ancestors, elevate the Sangha and create conditions for peace and harmony in the world.

In the spirit of this I will offer a reading from Phap Hai’s new book “Nothing To It” this Sunday. It is based on a series of 10 talks he gave at a prior Winter Retreat and covers the heart of Buddha’s teachings with his usual insight, encouragement and inspiration. It's a wonderful book and if members of the Sangha are interested we can buy 10 or more copies at a 50% Sangha discount at Parallax Press.

In other news, we now have an Earth Holder Sangha web site and are encouraged to get involved with the People’s Climate Prayer “Contemplation and Action” November 29 – December 11, 2015. I hope the Sangha can join the Climate Marchg again this year and consider other ways to participate. The Earth Holder Sangha offers some good suggestions: http://www.earthholder.org/what-you-can-do

Wishing you well,

True Ocean of Joy


Sunday, November 15: The Art of Resting

Dear friends,

Our teacher, Thay, says "Resting is a very important practice. We have to learn the art of resting...The problem is that not many of us know how to allow our body and mind to rest. We are always struggling; struggling has become a kind of habit. We cannot resist being active, struggling all the time. We struggle even during our sleep.At this time of year, as the days become shorter, the weather cooler, and as the holiday season approaches, it is a wonderful time for us to practice the art of resting and mindfulness of body. This Sunday, we will explore and practice this art together as a sangha.

May you enjoy some rest between now and then :-)

(who will be facilitating :)


Sunday, November 8

Marge will facilitate using the topic “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment,” and she will be joined by Stephanie and Tree who will guide parts of our practice. As our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, said: "We can smile, breathe, walk, and eat in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment."

We will take more time for Dharma sharing at this gathering, so sangha members may share with each other ways that they are able to stay in the present moment, enjoying each wonderful moment.


Sunday, November 1

Dear brothers and sisters:

Sunday, November 1 is Dia de Los Muertos, and what better day to contemplate impermanence? This is from the National Geographic website: "Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones."

I will share some readings from Brother Phap Hai's book, "Nothing to It" and we will practice the Five Remembrances.





Sunday, October 18

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we will be reciting the Five Mindfulness Trainings. This is especially timely as the retreat next week at Deer Park offers an opportunity to receive a transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, possibly even for those not attending the retreat. We will look deeply together to explore the question, “What is the deepest fundamental insight and gift of the Five Mindfulness Trainings.” I look forward to being with you.

Smiling with love and gratitude,

Universal Emptiness of the Heart
True Enlightenment Garden


Sunday, October 11

Join us this Sunday, Thay's continuation day, as Dmitry leads us in Deep Relaxation and Touching the Earth. We invite you to bring a blanket to lie down on the floor. We will meet downstairs in Bard Hall.


Sunday, Oct 4

"Love is a living, breathing thing. There is no need to force it to grow in a particular direction. If we start by being easy and gentle with ourselves, we will find it is just there inside of us, solid and healing."
-Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Love

Dear friends,

This week at Open Heart Sangha we will have the chance to get in touch with the love that is inside of us. Together we will explore some of Thay's teachings and practices around love (from his recent book How to Love). I (Stephanie) will be facilitating.

Bowing and smiling,

Stephanie :)


Sunday, September 27

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Join us this Sunday for the Recitation of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, which will include some of the ceremonial chanting (Incense Offering, Opening Verse, The Three Refuges, Closing Verse) in the Plum Village tradition.

It is also the day of the full moon Mid-Autumn festival, so if you have a lantern or something autumnal to add to our center alter, feel free to bring it (and maybe I'll make moon cakes).


Sunday, September 13th: Right Diligence

Loretta will facilitate the eighth right practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, Right Diligence.


Sunday, September 6: Right Livelihood

Dear brothers and sisters:

As we continue to explore the Noble Eightfold Path, this coming Sunday brings us to Right Livelihood (and on Labor Day weekend, too!).

If you would like some "homework" before sangha, please consider the following exercise. Take a few quiet moments to stop and look deeply at your work/livelihood. What emotions come up? Write them down--there will probably be more than one. For example: enthusiasm, fulfillment, frustration, excitement, boredom, anger, disengagement (just working to pay the bills)? How do you feel when you leave for work? How do you feel when you leave work for home? For those no longer working for a paycheck, how do you spend your time, and what are the rewards?

Enjoy your breath!