Some common questions & answers:
Q. Where do you meet?
A. Empty Mountain Sangha and The Tucson Mindfulness Practice Community meets at our Sangha Hall, 148 S. 4th Ave, right next door to Tucson Yoga.
Q. What is “sangha?”
A. Sangha is a Sanskrit word meaning, “community,” but it’s a special kind of community in that it is intentional. Our intention as a community is to support each other in the cultivation of mindful living. The Empty Mountain Sangha and the Tucson Mindfulness Practice Community are non-hierarchical, open, and consensus-driven communities. All are welcome!
Q. Are Sangha practice sessions classes?
A. Sangha practice is not a class, but, as stated above, we are a community of practitioners of all levels of experience to gather in order to support one another in the practice of mindfulness meditation. Our Sunday practice sessions are more informal opportunities to simply gather as a community to share the practices of mindfulness meditation and discussion, in the spirit of critical inquiry. The Wednesday zen service is a bit more formal, more time devoted to practice as well as a dharma talk offered by Poep Sa Frank Jude Boccio. Beginners, as well as those with previous experience, are all welcome to join us anytime!
Q. So what exactly does everyone do during Sangha? What will happen if I show up?
A. Those gathered for Sunday evening practice sit in a circle. There is a seated meditation of 25 minutes, followed by walking meditation, again in a circle, for between 10 and 15 minutes. After that there is usually a reading offered by a facilitator; the first two Sundays of each month the reading is from books chosen by members of the Sangha at the quarterly Community Planning Meetings. The third Sunday of the month is called “Facilitator’s Choice,” and whoever is facilitating that evening shares from any reading they find inspiring. The fourth Sunday the Facilitator offers a short talk, and whenever there is a fifth Sunday, we have a more informal “tea party” where we share tea and snacks along with poetry, songs and whatever else practitioners would like to share. The final portion of the evening is an open forum for discussion where everyone has the opportunity to share thoughts on the reading or to talk about how their individual meditation practice is going.
Those gathered for Wednesday evening zen practice sit in rows facing each other. There is a 30-minute sitting meditation, followed by walking meditation and a short chanting service. After the chanting service, there is another seated meditation session of 20-minutes, followed by a dharma talk and some time for questions and comments.
Q. Is this a religious thing?
A. In many ways, this depends upon one’s definition of “religion.” If by that term you mean holding to a particular set of beliefs (a creed), including a belief in god and the supernatural, then no. For further explanation, please check out the “About Zen Naturalism” link under the “About” menu.
Q. Do I need to know anything about Meditation in order to attend Sangha? Is it okay if I’m meditating for the first time?
A. You don’t need to know anything about meditation to participate in Sangha. The Sangha welcomes everyone, and basic meditation guidelines are usually offered before we begin and certainly are offered upon request.
Q. I would like to learn more about meditation, but I am not sure what I think about it yet. I might not want to commit to a meditation practice or to participating in the Sangha on a regular basis. Is that okay?
A. Sure! If you feel this way, feel free to bring your curiosity and questions with you. Keep in mind that we’re all just people in that circle. Most, if not all of us, had or still have curiosity, questions, and difficulties regarding meditation and mindfulness practice. The Sangha is a space for being real with ourselves and making room for everyone, exactly as they are.
Q. If you had to define mindfulness or explain what meditation means to you in one sentence, what would that be?
A. The practice of radical acceptance and friendship with oneself in order to understand the causes and conditions behind beliefs and behaviors in order to consciously choose how to respond to the contingencies of life.
Q. Okay—I’m interested. What do I need to bring with me? How does this work?
A. Just bring yourself. We have blankets, meditation cushions and bolsters as well as several folding chairs for sitting meditation. You are also welcome to bring your own meditation cushion or seiza bench. We ask that if you are attending a Sunday practice for your first time, that you arrive by 5:25 PM. The door is locked at 5:35 PM. If you are attending a Wednesday service, please arrive by 6:25 PM as the door is locked at 6:30 PM.
Q. Is there a fee or suggested donation?
A. There is no fee or suggested donation for participating in Sangha, and everyone’s mindful presence is genuinely appreciated. We operate according to the concept of “dana,” which means generosity or sharing. People do this in different ways, but the most common way is to place whatever amount of money it gives you joy to give in a little bowl that is on the reception table to the left of the water dispenser.
Granted, the practice of dana is an unusual way to do things in our capitalist society. The tradition of dana is itself a mindfulness practice. Just keep in mind that this is not a fee-for-service kind of gathering; we are not offering a commodity for sale. The practices are shared with all those wishing to partake in them as an act of dana, and the financial offerings of the practitioners is a sharing to enable the continued offering to others. Please keep in mind that everyone is truly welcome, and that the spirit of dana is to give what it gives you joy to give.