Welcome to SnowFlower Sanga!

Newcomer Resources

A sign showing the words "I have arrived, I am home" in the calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh.

©Delia Unson. Used by permission

We are pleased you found us and look forward to seeing you at one of our weekly gatherings. Our sangha welcomes newcomers of all identities; we hope you will find a safe and welcoming home for your practice.

We have gathered these resources that we hope you will find useful:

If you have any questions, please e-mail us at questions@snowflower.org

What Is SnowFlower Sangha?

We are a “sangha,” a Sanskrit word meaning “a community of practitioners” who come together to support one another in the practice of mindfulness.

“Mindfulness practice” refers to training ourselves to be fully and consciously present in the current moment, free of concerns, self-judgments about the past and worries or plans about the future.

Our practice is in the spirit of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk, poet, and peace activist, originally from Vietnam. We often refer to him as “Thây” (pronounced ‘tie’), a term of endearment and respect that means “teacher” in Vietnamese.

Our sangha offers four weekly gatherings for meditation and discussion, and we endeavor to engage our mindfulness practice as fully as possible throughout our day. By making the effort to bring mindful and respectful attention both to sangha and to daily activities, we nurture mindfulness in ourselves and support it in each other.

Gathering Times and Details

SnowFlower is fortunate to host four gatherings weekly:
Tuesday – 7:00-8:30 p.m. Friends Meetinghouse, 1704 Roberts Court, Madison
Wednesday – 1:30-3:00 p.m. in people’s homes
Friday – 7:00-8:30 p.m. Friends Meetinghouse, 1704 Roberts Court, Madison
Sunday – 10:00-11:30 a.m. in people’s homes

To support the intentions of those who come to our weekly gatherings, we ask that you arrive a few minutes prior to the start time. Enter quietly; take a seat with as little disturbance to others as possible. Maintain silence unless the leader invites others to speak.

If you cannot arrive on time for the start, or if you need to leave early, please come anyway, but to minimize disturbance to others, we ask you to choose a place near the entrance.

What Happens at a SnowFlower Sangha Gathering?

A sangha gathering includes sitting and walking meditation, a short presentation by the person leading (a different volunteer each time), group discussion, announcements, and closing.

At the start of the gathering, the leader welcomes and calls the community to attention by inviting (ringing) the bell. After a brief introduction, people are asked to introduce themselves by stating their first name.

The leader then invites the bell three times to open the first 20–25 minute round of sitting meditation. The bell is invited once at the end of the period. Then, there is a walking meditation for 10-15 minutes of walking meditation (a short explanation of the walking meditation may be given if there are newcomers), followed by a second round of sitting of 20-25 minutes.

After the second sitting meditation, the leader offers a short talk, a guided meditation, a reading, poem, or other personal insights that are related to Buddhist teachings.

This is followed by an opportunity to share thoughts or feelings related to practice. Sangha members bow before and after speaking. This enables the person to speak without interruption and facilitates deep listening. Speakers should avoid responding to individuals and should try to share only once so others have time to speak.

Sharing is followed by announcements, and “Sharing the Merit.” We close by holding hands in a circle, where we offer well-being for others who are suffering.

A small basket is placed at the door for voluntary contributions (usually two dollars) towards the rental fee for the Meetinghouse and scholarships to make sure all our members can attend our retreats.

Why Do We Gather in a Sangha?

Thây has said that it is difficult if not impossible to practice well without a sangha. Teachers and teachings are important, but a community of friends who support our practice is ‘the most essential ingredient. The main concern is to build a happy sangha – to take care of each person, his pain, her difficulties, his aspirations, her fears, his hopes, in order to make everyone comfortable and happy.’

Does This Replace Other Spiritual Paths?

Mindfulness practice can be done in a secular manner, in a spiritual context, or as a complement to a religious practice. For many who attend, mindfulness practice is their major spiritual affiliation. For some, sangha supports other religious or spiritual practices.

You do not have to be a Buddhist to enjoy and benefit from attending SnowFlower.

How Do I Meditate?

Generally, our meditation practice involves focusing our attention on the breath. As our mind wanders, we gently return our attention to the breath. In this way, we can practice leaving behind our busy mind and be more in the moment.

You may sit either on a cushion on the floor or on a chair with both feet firmly planted on the floor. In either case, sitting erectly supports you and others near you and helps us remember to concentrate on our breath and to be fully present. Should you feel a need to lie down, please choose a spot away from the altar.

Sometimes, we use mindfulness verses (called gathas) during meditation to help us remember this simple process. A commonly used gatha is:

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. (In)
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. (Out)
Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. (Flower)
Breathing out, I feel fresh. (Fresh)
Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain. (Mountain)
Breathing out, I feel solid. (Solid)
Breathing in, I see myself as still water. (Water)
Breathing out, I reflect things as they are. (Reflecting)
Breathing in, I see myself as space. (Space)
Breathing out, I feel free. (Free)

Or:

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. (In)
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. (Out)
Breathing in, I feel my breath becoming deep. (Deep)
Breathing out, I feel my breath becoming slow. (Slow)
Breathing in, I calm my body and my mind. (Calm)
Breathing out, my body and my mind are at ease. (Ease)
Breathing in, I smile. (Smile)
Breathing out, I release all tension in my body and mind. (Release)
Breathing in, I dwell in the present moment. (Present Moment)
Breathing out, I know this is a wonderful moment. (Wonderful Moment)

Other Resources

We welcome newcomers of all identities at any of our gatherings, and we want everyone to feel safe and welcome. That doesn’t mean we will always succeed in this goal for whatever reason, including our own lack of understanding, so please introduce yourself or ask questions or let us know what you need to make SnowFlower a good fit. Please note that we also offer a monthly introductory session (check our calendar for details).

E-mail List

To stay informed of our events and activities, subscribe to our email list by sending an empty message to snowflower-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.
To post to the list once you are subscribed: snowflower@yahoogroups.com
To unsubscribe: snowflower-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com

Newsletter

SnowFlower also publishes a bi-monthly newsletter, The SnowFlower Sun, which you are welcome to read.

Calendar

For a full list of SnowFlower’s events, please visit the calendar. The calendar includes the topics for the meetings, the names of volunteer leaders, and information on activities and retreats.

Lending Library

At our meetings on Tuesdays and Fridays, SnowFlower offers a lending library of resources by Thich Nhat Hanh and other authors “on the path.” Feel free to check out these materials.

Growing with SnowFlower Sangha

Mentoring Program

SnowFlower Sangha Mentoring Program

Kalyana Mitta

SnowFlower Sangha Kalyana Mitta