Cedar Sangha


"There is no way to peace; peace is the way." 

Sitting Meditation

Sitting meditation is our chance to give full attention and care to our bodies and minds.  Sangha members regularly comment on the benefits of such a practice.  Sitting mindfully creates spaciousness in our hearts and our minds, allowing for us to recognize the conditions that exist within and without us that bring us peace, joy and contentment, as well as the conditions that are contributing to our suffering.  By recognizing and embracing all these myriad conditions with our practice, the joyful ones are nourished and the others are transformed.

Sitting meditation is a simple practice.  There is no need to strive to attain insight or to struggle with the formations we are looking at.  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. Observing 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.

To begin we sit in a comfortable position either on a cusion, bench, or on the floor.  We try to sit in a way that requires minimal effort from our muscles so that we can be completely relaxed.  We find that an upright posture with a straight back is best because it allows for the weight of the body to be supported by the frame of the skeleton and also allows for the chest and abdomen to expand during breathing.  If you choose to sit on the floor in a lotus or half lotus position, it helps to find a cusion which is high enough to let your pelvis tilt just a little so that your knees rest firmly on the floor.  This creates a strong and stable base giving the practitioner the sensation of being supported by the earth.  If you select a chair, sit with back upright and both feet planted on the floor.

During sitting meditation we use our breath, as with many other mindfulness practices, to help us maintain awareness and to dwell in the present moment.  When we breath in, we are aware that we are breathing in.  And, when we breath out, we are aware that we are breathing out.  It might be helpful to silently say "In", feeling our abdomen rise with every in breath, and to silently say, "Out", feeling our abdomen fall with every out breath.  By training our awareness on our breath, we bring the mind back from its habitual wandering and dispersion and reunite it with the body.  With the reunion of body and mind, we arrive at our true home, which is the present moment, able to see ourselves more clearly.




Walking Meditation 

Walking on Earth

Is a miracle

Each Mindful step

Is a step on the path of happiness

For many sangha members the practice of walking mindfully proves to be the most transformative.  How much of our lives are spent walking from here to there?  How many steps do we take in forgetfulness, missing out on all the wonders of life?  Walking meditation is the practice that introduces mindfulness into our daily lives.  If we can maintain awareness and concentration while walking, then we can do it while driving or while working.  It is our chance to take every step in peace and in joy, transforming the habit of rushing from here to there, and in so doing, healing ourselves, our society and our planet.

To practice walking meditation we can employ our breathing to aid concentration.  In the sangha, we practice slow indoor walking taking one step with each in breath and one step with each out breath.  As we breath in and our foot lands on the floor we can silently say, "In" and as we breath out and our other foot lands on the floor we can silently say, "Out" maintaing mindfulness of our breathing and the contact between our feet and the vast earth.  Or, instead of saying "In, Out" we can recite a gatha like the one above.  The first line is meant for the first step and the second for the second step, the third for the third step and the fourth for the fourth step.  By practicing walking in such a way, we arrive at our destination with every breath and every step.  Our destination is our true home, the here and now.  If we make a habit of walking mindfully everywhere we go then we find that our minds are much more calm.  We have more clarity and joy.  We actually enjoy walking! 

During our daily life it is not necessary to take one step with each breath but more like three or four, so long as our mind stays focused on our breath and our steps.  To practice this way we can count how many steps land in each breath.  On the in breath in might be "1,2,3," and then on the out breath, "1,2,3."  Or, we can say "in, in, in,' "out, out, out."  It may take some practice before our breathing becomes even since we are not use to walking this way.  If we become short of breath then it is okay to adjust either our breathing or our steps.  The form is not important.  What is important is that we maintain mindfulness and enjoy our walking.

Dharma Sharing 

Dharma Sharing is the opportunity to communicate with each other in a way that is rarely experienced in mainstream society.  Structured according to the principles of Deep Listening and Loving Speech, it is our chance to share our experiences with our sangha as well as learn from the experience of others.  Each sharing is a unique offering to the community of practitioners and as such is not a time for idle gossip, debate, problem solving, or intellectual discourse, but rather a personal sharing from the heart.  When we practice mindfulness of speaking we are aware that our words can have a deep and lasting effect on people.  Because our words have the capacity to create either happiness or suffering, we try to speak words that contribute to the Sangha's peace, joy and liberation.  Equally important as the act of speaking is the act of listening.  As listeners in the Sangha, we understand that the person sharing with us is opening his or her heart to us and possibly speaking from a place of vulnerability, from a place they've been reluctant to share with others.  With this awareness, it is the listener's responsibility to listen from a place that is also open, uninhabited by bias or preconceptions.  We can do this by maintaining mindfulness of breathing.  This helps us to stay present with what is being said and to not get carried away by our own thinking.  If we are firmily established in the present moment, by means of mindful breathing, we can note when a particular comment has an effect on us without being either attached or adverse to it.

The Sangha has developed a simple format, which we follow to ensure that communication is beneficial to everyone.  Sitting in a circle, we remain silent until someone is inspired to share with the group, which he or she indicates by bowing.  Bowing not only serves as a signal to the group that they are about to hear a sharing, but also as a reminder to the speaker to keep in mind the principles of Loving Speech.  Then, the group will bow in return, signifying that they are ready to listen.  The speaker is afforded as much time as he or she needs, without interruption or crosstalk.  When there is nothing left to be said, a bow is given to the group, which is reciprocated, and the Sangha sits in silence until the next sharing.  To be sure there is enough space for everyone to share, it is helpful for each person to only share once.

This practice has the potential to transform our relationships with family, friends, coworkers, even strangers on the street.  Though in our daily life it may not be possible to adhere to the format described above, we sooner or later learn that Deep Listening and Loving speech can be practiced in a fluid and organic way, making us a place of refuge for ourselves as well as others.


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