Our Sunday evening meetings take place at the Buddhist Vihara, 5017 16th Street NW, Washington DC.
The First Half of Our Evening
The meditation period begins when the bell inviter sounds the big bell three times. You’ll see that everyone sits facing outwards, towards the walls of the meditation hall. Sit on a chair or a cushion, as you prefer. And sit with your eyes open or closed for the sitting meditation periods, again as you choose.
Our friends at Plum Village monastery describe sitting meditation like this. “Sitting meditation is like returning home to give full attention to and care for our self. Like the peaceful image of the Buddha on the altar, we too can radiate peace and stability. We sit upright with dignity, and return to our breathing. We bring our full attention to what is within and around us. We let our mind become spacious and our heart soft and kind. Sitting meditation is very healing. We realize we can just be with whatever is within us - our pain, anger, and irritation, or our joy, love, and peace. We are with whatever is there without being carried away by it. Let it come, let it stay, then let it go. No need to push, to oppress, or to pretend our thoughts are not there. Observe the thoughts and images of our mind with an accepting and loving eye. We are free to be still and calm despite the storms that might arise in us.”
At the end of the 25 minute sit, the large bell sounds twice. When the small bell sounds, please stand and face your cushion. The bell inviter will sound the small bell a second time, and we then bow to each other and begin the walking meditation.
Thay advises us how best to approach walking meditation. “You don’t have to make any effort during walking meditation, because it is enjoyable. You are there, body and mind together. You are fully alive, fully present in the here and the now. With every step, you touch the wonders of life that are in you and around you. When you walk like that, every step brings healing. Every step brings peace and joy, because every step is a miracle. The real miracle is not to fly or walk on fire. The real miracle is to walk on the Earth, and you can perform that miracle at any time. Just bring your mind home to your body, become alive, and perform the miracle of walking on Earth.”
After two sits and two walking meditations, we finish the first half of the evening by bowing to each other and to the statue of the Buddha.
The Second Half of Our Evening
We begin with a recitation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, the Refuge Chant, or Beginning Anew.
We then usually listen to a portion of a recorded dharma talk by Thay. Several times each year, we invite dharma teachers in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh to join us and give a dharma talk. At other times, we watch a longer video of one of his dharma talks. This dharma talk - however delivered - is followed by a dharma discussion, triggered by the talk, your practice during the past week, or by your experience at applying the dharma in your daily life during the week. Dharma discussion is sharing, from our own experience and from our heart; it’s an opportunity to speak and to listen mindfully.
We close with three small bells. At the first, we stand; at the second, we bow in gratitude to each other; at the third, we bow in gratitude to the statue of the Buddha.