A Community of Mindful Living Located in Charlottesville, Virginia
Sangha is the Sanskrit word for community. The Cloud Floating Free Sangha is a community practicing meditation and mindfulness in the Plum Village tradition of the Venerable Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, led by lay members of Thich Nhat Hanh’s International Order of Interbeing (known as the OI).
We practice sitting meditation and walking meditation; we have dharma (which is the Sanskrit word for teachings) readings and dharma sharing. All of which promote the practice of mindful awareness in every aspect of daily life. We welcome all levels of practitioners from the beginner to the advanced.
Our Wednesday evening meetings from 6:25-8:30 PM and our Sunday morning meetings from 10 AM-12 PM both begin with one hour of meditation, which includes a guided sitting meditation, a walking meditation, and a silent sitting meditation. Our second hour together is comprised of the practice of dharma reading and dharma sharing from our hearts and our own experiences. Here is where we learn the wonderful practices of deep listening and loving speech.
On the first Wednesday evening and the third Sunday morning of each month, we have a “semi-formal” recitation of The Five Mindfulness Trainings followed by a dharma sharing.
An early arrival of at least 5 minutes to allow for getting settled is appreciated. Newcomers should arrive 10 minutes early for a short welcoming orientation.
There are no fees required. However, a donation (dana) is greatly appreciated. Donations will go toward costs for supporting the practice centers and for scholarships to retreats and days of mindfulness for individual practitioners as approved by the sangha at large. And if there is any extra at the end of each year, we will make a donation to one of the good causes of our practice. The DONATION button is available to you via PayPal only. The button will not accept direct credit card deposits.
Be Free Where You Are by Thich Nhat Hanh
Published by Parallax Press, www.parallax.org
For me, there is no happiness without freedom, and freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. I will share with you how we get greater freedom for ourselves. During the time that we sit, walk, eat, or work outside, we cultivate our freedom. Freedom is what we practice every day.
No matter how or where you find yourself, if you have freedom, you are happy. I have many friends who spent time in forced labor camps and because they knew how to practice, they did not suffer as greatly. In fact, they grew in their spiritual lives, for which I am very proud of them.
By freedom, I mean freedom from afflictions, from anger, and from despair. If you have anger in you, you have to transform anger in order to get your freedom back. If there is despair in you, you need to recognize that energy and not allow it to overwhelm you. You have to practice in such a way that you transform the energy of despair and attain the freedom you deserve – the freedom from despair.
You can practice freedom every moment of your daily life. Every step you take can help you reclaim your freedom. Every breath you take can help you develop and cultivate your freedom. When you eat, eat as a free person. When you walk, walk as a free person. When you breathe, breathe as a free person. this is possible anywhere.
By cultivating freedom for yourself, you will be able to help the people you live with. Even though you live in the same place, with the same physical and material conditions, if you practice, you will be a much freer person, a more solid person. Watching the way you walk, the way you sit, and the way you eat, people will be impressed. They will see that joy and happiness are possible for you and will want to be like you because you are your own master, no longer a victim of anger, frustration, and despair. The practice that I have taken up as a Buddhist monk is the practice of freedom. When I became a novice, my teacher gave me a little book entitled Stepping into Freedom: A Manual for a Novice Monk.
To be able to breathe in and out is a miracle. A person on his or her deathbed cannot breathe freely, and he or she will soon stop breathing altogether. But I am alive. I can breathe in and become aware of my in-breath; I can breathe out and become aware of my out-breath. I smile at my out-breath and am aware that I am alive. So when you breathe in, be aware of your in-breath. “Breathing in, I know this is my in-breath.” No one can prevent you from enjoying your in-breath. When you breathe out, be aware that this is your out-breath. Breathe as a free person.
For me to be alive is a miracle. It is the greatest of all miracles. To feel that you are alive and are breathing in is to perform a miracle- one that you can perform at any time. Feeling that you are alive and that you are taking a step is a miracle. Master LInchi, a well-known meditation teacher who lived in the ninth century, said that the miracle is not walking on water, but walking on the EArth.
Everyone walks on the Earth, but there are those who walk like slaves, with no freedom at all. They are sucked in by the future or by the past, and they are not capable of dwelling in the here and now, where life is available. If we get caught up in our worries, our despair, our regrets about the past, and our fears of the future in our everyday lives, we are not free people. We are not able to establish ourselves in the here and now.
According to the Buddha, my teacher, life is only available in the here and now. The past is already gone, and the future is yet to come. There is only one moment for me to live – the present moment. So the first thing I do is go back to the present moment. By doing so, I touch life deeply. My in-breath is life, my out-breath is life. Each step I take is life. The air I breathe is life. I can touch the blue sky and the vegetation. I can hear the sound of the birds and the sound of another human being. If we can return to the here and now, we will be able to touch the many wonders of life that are available.
Many of us think that happiness is not possible in the present moment. Most of us believe that there are a few more conditions that need to be met before we can be happy. This is why we are sucked into the future and are not capable of being present in the here and now. This is why we step over many of the wonders of life. If we keep running away into the future, we cannot be in touch with the many wonders of life – we cannot be in the present moment where there is healing, transformation, and joy.
You Are a Miracle
When I eat an orange, I can eat the orange as an act of meditation. Holding the orange in the palm of my hand, I look at it mindfully, I take a long time to look at the orange with mindfulness. “Breathing in there is an orange n my hand. Breathing out, I smile at the orange.” For me, an orange is nothing less than a miracle. When I look at the orange in the here and now, I can see it with my spiritual eyes – the orange blossom, the sunshine, and the rain going through the blossoms, the tiny green orange, and then the tree working overtime to bring the orange to its full size. I look at the orange in my hand and I smile. It is nothing short of a miracle. Breathing in and out mindfully, I become fully present and fully alive, and now I see myself as a miracle.
Dear friends, you are nothing less than a miracle. There may be times when you feel that you are worthless. But you are nothing less than a miracle. The fact that you are here – alive and capable of breathing in and out – is ample proof that you are a miracle. One string bean contains the whole cosmos in it: sunshine, rain, the whole Earth, time, space, and consciousness. You also contain the whole cosmos.
we contain the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land of the Buddha, in every cell of our bodies. If we know how to live, the Kingdom of God will manifest for us in the here and now; with one step, we can penetrate it. We don’t have to die to enter the Kingdom of God; in fact, we have to be very much alive. Hell, too, is in every cell of our body. It is up to us to choose. If we keep watering the seed of hell in us each day, then Hell will be the reality we live in twenty-four hours a day. But if we know how to water the seed of the Kingdom of God in us each day, then the KIngdom of God will become the reality we live in every moment of our daily lives. This is my experience.
There is not a day I do not walk in the Kingdom of God. Whether I am in this place or somewhere else, I am always capable of walking mindfully, and the ground beneath my feet is always the Pure Land of the Buddha. No one can take that away from me. For me, the Kingdom of God is now or never. It is not situated in time or space; it is in our hearts. You have to develop mindful walking and touch the Earth as if it were a miracle. If you know how to go back to the here and now, if you know how to touch the Kingdom of God in every cell of your body, it will manifest to you right away in the here and now.