By Michael Trigilio In 1997,1 was ordained in the Tiep Hien Order. I was twenty-two and feeling so happy and supported ... but also a little bit isolated. I noticed that nearly every layperson around me was my parents' or grandparents' age. I had so many wonderful opportunities to share and learn from my dear friends of previous generations. But I also experienced a feeling of marginality—perhaps similar to the discomfort often expressed by people of color, women, gays and lesbians, or disabled people when they find themselves in the minority of a group practice setting.
In the Fall of 1999, a friend and I began working to develop a Sangha for young adults in the San Francisco Bay Area. And in January 2000, six practitioners in their 20s met at the Community of Mindful Living for the first time. We practiced sitting and walking meditation, chanted the Refuge Chant, and had Dharma Discussion. Since then, our Young Adult Sangha has grown to more than twenty people, ranging in age from 18 to early 30s. We meet three times a month to practice together and discuss our practice of mindfulness and the Mindfulness Trainings as we grapple with issues specific to young people.
The Bay Area Young Adult Sangha offers a safe, nourishing space for young people to practice, where the culture of our generation in the United States is shared and directly understood. Many of us have been in Sanghas where we are the only people of our generation, and where we felt not entirely comfortable. In larger gatherings, our Sangha members often hear the refrain, "You practice so deeply for being so young." Together we recognize that this kind of comment is meant as praise or flower-watering, but we acknowledge that it often feels condescending.
Recognizing the need for intergenerational practice and the invaluable wisdom of our elders, most practitioners in our Sangha also practice with a second Sangha in their local area. The Young Adult Sangha, then, is more like a special place to practice and discuss issues that are, at times, specific to our lives as young people in the year 2000. We are so happy that our Sangha has grown so beautifully and are thankful for the opportunity to support the practice of young adults in our area.
Michael Trigilio, True Birth of Peace, is the Program Coordinator at the Community of Mindful Living. To learn more about the Bay Area Young Adult Sangha, e-mail Michael@iamhome.org or call (510)527-3751.