Offering a New Year's Day of Mindfulness

By Brandy Sacks Every year, at the end of December, Spirit Point Sangha offers a Day of Mindfulness. It is a very special day and different from all the others. We begin with a walking meditation in the garden. Our path passes by the sculptures, the rosemary and lavender, around the labyrinth, and past the Peace Pole.

We discuss what we were mindful and appreciative of on our walk. For me this meditation is an opportunity to slow down. No matter how many times I walk in the garden I am always amazed at what I see. I notice the plants that I am sure were not there a week ago l I also hear bird song. When I go about my daily life in the city I never hear birds. I am sure they are singing, but I am not listening.

The Day of Mindfulness is a time of Sabbath, or a Sabbath time. A time to smell the flowers, walk, breathe, and enjoy eating with friends. It is a sacred practice - sacred in all traditions. Thay has given us the gatha, "I have arrived, I am home, in the here and in the now." The Day of Mindfulness helps me to get in touch with the here and the now. I am also in touch with myself and the Sangha.

The Sangha feels like family to me. It is my spiritual, nurturing fancily. Simply by being in the presence of the Sangha I am strengthened. If I waver, the Sangha is there to support me. It is not something spoken, it is just there - like breathing.

Following walking we have a period of sitting meditation, by the fire. After practicing eating meditation (in silence) we gather outside on the lawn. We all circle up and join hands around a small tree. I begin by reading the story about the Elm Dance. Joanna Macy taught me this dance of intention and peace. During the first half of the dance we step around moving to the music. We pause in the center, with our linked hands raised and sway like elm trees. During the second half of the dance we call out names of people, places and situations in the world that we want to include in our healing.

We return to the fire in the living room to practice a meditation offering peace and happiness for ourselves and others. I tell the Sangha, "Before we learn to practice loving-kindness meditation on behalf of others, we will learn to do it for ourselves." The first step is to open our hears so that we have something good to give. So begin by bringing back the memory of a holy moment, a time that your heart was open to nature, to a child, to a pet, to beauty. Now imagine that your are sitting, facing yourself. Look into your eyes and see the beauty of who you are, and the pain that keeps you out of touch with that beauty. Since your can only experience love and joy by giving it away, this meditation is a form of wise selfishness. It will make you happy.

Next, bring a loved one to mind and imagine any pain, confusion, illness or unhappiness they might be experiencing. Continue to do this for a few minutes until you feel a sense of completion and also see the happiness they are capable of experiencing. After this we chant "Offering incense and praising the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara," which can be found in the Plum Village Chanting Book available from Parallax Press. We spend some time contemplating and writing about our purpose in life and our dreams and goals for the year. We each take a sheet of paper, write at the top, "my purpose in life," and then create areas to write in our dreams and goals for body, mind, spirituality, service, family, work, vacations, play, etc. We spend some time filling these out and in Sangha meetings throughout the New Year we will talk about what we have envisioned. After reciting the five Mindfulness Trainings the Sangha closes with a sitting meditation. Our Day of Mindfulness is a wonderful way to finish the year and prepare to begin anew!

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Point Sangha in Escondido, California. Brandy is responsible for updating the website for the Community of Mindful Living, including the worldwide Sangha directory.

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