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Schedule | Protocol | Mindfulness | Mission | Location | Thich Nhat Hanh

Welcome Newcomers!

We hope you find everything you need here to orient you to the Sunday night practice evening at the Washington Mindfulness Community. You are warmly invited to join us for Newcomers Orientation on the last Sunday of each month, 6:30 p.m. in the lower level of the Vihara (But it is not required to attend an orientation in order to sit with us. Just come a little early and grab someone who looks like they're in charge, and get a quick orientation that way).

We invite you to participate with us at whatever level you choose. We do not require that you have a particular religious affiliation; we only ask that you have the desire to practice mindfulness. It is our hope that you will find the Washington Mindfulness Community a supportive and nurturing place, assisting you in your efforts to be mindful and awake.

Starting time:

Meditation starts at 6:30 p.m.  If you arrive late, you can sit in the hall outside the double doors, until the bell sounds, ending the first sitting period, around 7:00.  Then the greeter will invite you to come into the meditation hall for the first walking meditation. The second sitting period, and walking meditation, will follow.  The front door is locked at 7:30.

Evening Timetable:

6:30-6:55   First sitting meditation
7:00   First walking meditation
7:10-7:25   Second sitting
7:30   Second walking
7:35   Transition
7:40   Recitation (Five Mindfulness Trainings, Refuge Chant, or Beginning Anew)
7:55   Introductions
8:00   Announcements (unless the group is small in which case after Dharma discussion)
8:05   Listen to a portion of an audio tape from Thich Nhat Hanh
8:25-8:40   Dharma Discussion

8:40-9:00   Social Time (downstairs)

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Protocol for the first half of our evening

The meditation period officially begins when the bell inviter sounds the big bell three times. During the meditation periods, please sit facing outward, towards the walls of the meditation hall. You may sit with eyes open or closed for the sitting meditation periods, which last 25 minutes.

Please sit quietly, moving only when necessary. Be mindful that any movement will disturb the settling of your own mind and will be a distraction to your neighbor as well. Please also be mindful of the needs of your own body; we do not advocate pain, we believe in sitting comfortably. Often discomfort will pass with a few breaths, sometimes adjusting the posture is needed. When movement is needed please simply do it slowly and mindfully. If you canít stop coughing, please quietly leave the room to sit on the outside cushions.

At the end of the 25 minute sitting period, the large bell sounds one time, at which time you may take a few moments to stretch or massage our legs. When the small (walking) bell sounds, please stand and face your cushion, inward towards the center of the room. Another small bell will sound and we then bow to each other and turn left. The next bell signals the beginning of walking meditation. 

During walking meditation, you are invited to synchronize your steps with your breath - one step with each inhalation, one step with each exhalation. Please keep pace with the person in front of you so there is not a pile up behind you. When you hear the bell, continue walking without hurry until you reach your own cushion. Then stand facing your cushion. At the next sound of the bell we bow to each other and again sit facing outward. The second sitting period begins as the first.

After the second walking meditation, we finish the first half of the evening by bowing to the Buddha. We are then greeted by the bell inviter, who will announce and facilitate the second half of the evening.

Protocol for the second half of our evening

We begin with a recitation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, the Refuge Chant, or Beginning Anew, all written by Thich Nhat Hanh. We then have an opportunity to introduce ourselves and hook up with a ride if needed. Following that, there is an opportunity for announcements. Then we listen to a portion of an audio tape of Thich Nhat Hanh, followed by a Dharma discussion. 

Dharma discussion is sharing, from our own experience and heart, reactions or questions arising from the tape or from our practice. We then have dharma discussion, which gives us an opportunity to speak and listen mindfully. If you would like to share, please bow (or "offer a lotus") to let the group know you wish to speak, which the group will acknowledge with a bow; when you are finished, please bow to let the group know you are finished, and the group again acknowledges this with a bow.

We close with a small bell to bow in gratitude to each other, then a second small bell, bowing in gratitude to the Budda.  Then, until 9 p.m. there is an opportunity to socialize with other practitioners downstairs and to peruse the literature on the literature table. There you will also find a library, a donation box, and a signup sheet for getting the newsletter, or to get on the WMC email announcement list. We must be out of  the building by 9:30, because the resident monks go to bed at that time.

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On mindfulness

The core of our practice and tradition is mindfulness. For the beginner (and we are all of us beginners!), the best way to establish mindfulness is by concentrating on the breath. Following the breath builds concentration, which is essential for mindfulness; it also helps calm the body and mind. In our tradition, this is essentially what we do on the cushion during sitting meditation: we follow, and enjoy, our breath. When you notice that you have become distracted, simply return your attention to your breath gently and unhurridly. If you have difficulty remaining concentrated, you can count your breaths, from 1 to 10 and back to 1, starting the count over again each time you are distracted.

When you sit, be present to each moment and not be lost in thought, thinking about the past or the future, problems or goals. When you notice that you are carried away by your thoughts, notice without judgement and let it be, neither trying to stop it nor running off with it. Then return to your breath, and stay with it as long as possible. At least twenty minutes a day of sitting meditation is recommended in order to help us grow in mindfulness, calm and equanimity

Eventually we learn that we carry our cushion everywhere we go, that everything we do is an opportunity for practice, as mindfulness permeates our daily life. We try to maintain mindfulness as much as possible throughout every day in every activity. Our breath is always available to us as our anchor, every moment of every day, during any activity, particularly when we are feeling distracted or distressed.

"Enlightenment, peace and joy will not be granted by someone else. The well is within you, and if we dig deeply in the present moment, the water will spring forth."
—Thich Nhat Hanh

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Mission of the Washington Mindfulness Community

The Washington Mindfulness Community, formed in 1989, is composed of men and women inspired by the teachings of Buddhism and of Thich Nhat Hanh, a contemporary Vietnamese Zen Master, peace activist and writer.

The mission of the Community is to nurture mindfulness, love, and understanding among those who participate in its activities and in the larger society.

Members come together to meditate, to deepen their understanding of the practice of mindfulness, to encourage and inspire each other through dharma discussions and mindful actions, to support each other through difficult times, and to celebrate the joys and wonders of life.

Recognizing that each person's peace and happiness are interwoven with the peace and happiness of others, the Washington Mindfulness Community offers activities that welcome the children, families, and companions of members. The community also organizes retreats, lectures, and other public events; supports communities and causes in accord with the Community's mission; and works with groups that relieve suffering through compassionate actions.

The WMC is now incorporated as a Maryland non-profit religious institution, and all gifts are tax-deductible. The governing structure of the community includes a Practice Council, which makes decisions impacting community mindfulness practices and community life, and a Board of Directors.

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Typically, we are hosted on Sunday nights at the Washington Buddhist Vihara, 5017 16th St. NW, Washington DC (between Farragut and Gallatin Streets).

For directions, you may call 202-723-0773 (please call between 9 a.m. & 7 p.m. e.s.t.).

Our mailing (and emailing) address:

Washington Mindfulness Community
PO Box 11168, Takoma Park, MD 20913

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Washington Mindfulness Community
PO Box 11168, Takoma Park, MD 20913.
tel: 301-681-1036.