Leading an Introductory Session

Below is a suggested outline for SnowFlower Introductory Sessions, whose primary purpose is to warmly welcome newcomers, familiarize them with SnowFlower and inform them about available support.

  1. Begin on time! Assure participants that they will have ample time to prepare to get situated in the meditation hall.
  2. Introductions: Short, uninterrupted introductions including optional responses to: What brings you to SnowFlower? What is your experience thus far with SnowFlower and meditation/mindfulness or any other contemplative tradition? What specific questions might you have? Craft the introductory session around what you have learned about the participants (5 minutes)
  3. Background (up to 15 minutes)
    • Buddhist Tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh
      1. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Monk with practice centers across the globe, but his main seat is Plum Village in France
      2. Also known as Thay, which is the affectionate, Vietnamese term for teacher
      3. Practice in the Zen tradition combined with insights from other Mahayana traditions, methods from Theravada Buddhism, and ideas from Western psychology. Thay also is credited with introducing “Engaged” Buddhism, which is a movement that promotes the individual’s active role in creating change.
      4. The three jewels: Buddha (Historical Buddha and all buddhas-to-be), Dharma (the teachings), Sangha (the community)
      5. The Five and Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings
      6.  SnowFlower
        1. Our organization has a number of experienced practioners, including one dharma teacher. Sangha members share responsibility for leading The Sangha meets four times a week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
        2. History: SnowFlower assembled around 1991 after a Midwest retreat in Illinois led by Thay, and experienced significant growth following a 2003 retreat in Green Lake, Wisconsin, also led by Thay. SnowFlower has grown to over 100 active participants and many friends near and far.
        3. Governance: In addition to the Steering Council there is the Scheduling Council and the Finance Committee.  Each year we hold an Annual Meeting.
        4. The place of icons, bowing, rituals and ceremony in SnowFlower (Buddhist statues, bowing, photo of Thay)
        5. Sister Sanghas across the globe including Milwaukee, Fox Valley, Minneapolis and Chicago
  4. Sangha Typical Format (up to 10 minutes)
    1. Sit-walk-sit, discussion
      1. Sitting (two 20 minute periods): The purpose is not to clear your. Rather returning to the breath with kindness and without judgment as a means to bring ourselves fully into the present. We sit solidly on a cushion or in a chair. The simplest form of practice is returning to the breath. However there are many other meditative and mindfulness practices that members incorporate personally, some of which the leader of a Sangha gathering may teach and practice with those assembled.
      2. Walking (10 minutes): Combining mindful breathing and walking in community
      3. Dharma Discussion: Speaking from the heart and listening deeply. Cross-talk is not permitted. Bow if you wish to speak and others will bow in recognition. Bow again when you are through (the bow is a “lotus”).
      4. The bell brings us back to our present moment and marks the segments of the evening.
      5. Announcements (mention donations and the visitors notebook)
      6. Closing circle: Putting people in the circle of support followed by continued silence until a final invitation of the bell for those who wish to leave in silence.
  5. Sangha Supports in Practice (versus in times of need as in CTC)
    1. Mentors
    2. Kalyana Mitta
    3. Half days and retreats
  6. Additional Question and Answer: Some questions may be addressed outside of the introductory session. (10 minutes)
  7. End by 6:55 or sooner so that people can join the Sangha