Dharma sharing is an opportunity to benefit from each other’s insights and experience of the practice. It is a special time for us to share our experiences, our joys, our difficulties, and our questions relating to the practice of mindfulness. By practicing deep listening while others are speaking, we help create a calm and receptive environment. By learning to speak out about our happiness and our difficulties in the practice, we contribute to the collective insight and understanding of the Sangha.
Please base our sharing on our own experience of the practice rather than about abstract ideas and theoretical topics. We may realize that many of us share similar difficulties and aspirations. Sitting, listening, and sharing together, we recognize our true connections to one another.
Please remember that whatever is shared during the Dharma sharing time is confidential. If a friend shares about a difficulty he or she is facing, respect that he or she may or may not wish to talk about this individually outside the Dharma sharing time.
Dharma Sharing Guidelines
Practice deep listening and loving, mindful speech
Even though we have the intention to listen deeply, our mind will wander. Perhaps we are agreeing, disagreeing, feeling agitated, wanting to respond, or drifting. If we are mindful of our thoughts and inner dialog, we can choose to come back to being present with the person speaking.
It is best to avoid discussions that are theoretical. Instead, we speak from the heart about topics that emanate from our life and practice. This involves speaking with awareness in a way that could be of benefit to others as well as ourselves; speaking with kindness, in a voice that is clear and loud enough for everyone to hear; connecting with others by making eye contact; and perhaps smiling from time to time. We all benefit from hearing each other’s insights and direct experience of the practice.
It is good for the atmosphere of the Dharma sharing for participants to take three breaths before speaking to allow time for the previous person’s speaking to be fully received.
Before speaking we may wish to make a flower with our hands and bow. When we bow, we are signaling that we would like to share. The Sangha bows back, acknowledging that we are ready to listen deeply. When we are finished we let the Sangha know by bowing again. Knowing that we will not be interrupted creates a safe and harmonious environment.
Avoid giving advice, even if it is asked for.
In general it is helpful to always use the word “I” instead of the word “you.” Speaking from our own experience eliminates the opportunity to give advice. If someone asks for advice and a practice that we have worked with comes to mind it is fine to share our experience.
All that arises is confidential
“What is said here stays here.” Confidentiality secures the safety of the group and helps avoid gossip. Also, after the Dharma Sharing time, if we want to talk with someone about what they said in the group, we first ask if it is okay. Sometimes a person does want to talk more about what they said and this is a respectful way to honor that.
We are encouraged to speak mindfully, “not too much and not too little” for the number of participants. This ensures that everyone can speak and provides a space where we can benefit from all of our Sangha wisdom. Near the end of the time the facilitator may offer an opportunity for those who have not spoken to do so if they wish and may address any unanswered questions.
Share with the whole circle
Whatever we share is for the benefit of all those present. We do not engage in cross-talk with another participant. If we ask a question we ask the whole group and if we answer a question we speak to the whole group and not just the person who asked. If we ask a question we should not expect an answer straight away. Another topic may be addressed first and only when someone feels ready will the question be addressed. However, if towards the end of the sharing, the question has not been addressed the facilitator will do so to the best of his/her ability.
We might invite the bell now and then for us to pause and create space especially when intense feelings arise (judgment of self or others, frustration, impatience, exclusion, anger, etc.). This can be done at the outset of a sharing or spontaneously as needed.
We begin by practicing the love meditation on ourselves (“May I”). Until we are able to love and take care of ourselves, we cannot be much help to others. After that, we practice them on others (“May he/she/they”) – first on someone we like, then on someone neutral to us, and finally on someone who makes us suffer.
“May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit. May I be safe and free from injury. May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear and anxiety.
May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of of understanding and love. May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself. May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day. May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free. May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not indifferent.”
When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings. Hugging with mindfulness and concentration can bring reconciliation, healing, understanding, and much happiness. The practice of mindful hugging has helped many people to reconcile with each other – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, friends and friends, and so many others.
We may practice hugging meditation with a friend, our daughter, our father, our partner or even with a tree. To practice, we first bow and recognize the presence of each other. Then we can enjoy three deep conscious breaths to establish ourselves firmly in our body, in the very here and now.
We then open our arms and begin hugging. We hold each other for three in-and-out breaths.
With the first breath, we are aware that we are present in this very moment and we are happy.
With the second breath, we are aware that the other is present in this moment and we are happy as well.
With the third breath, we are aware that we are here together, right now on this earth, and we feel deep gratitude and happiness for our togetherness.
We then may release the other person and bow to each other once more to show our thanks.
When we hug in such a way, the other person becomes real and alive. We do not need to wait until one of us is ready to depart for a trip, we can hug right now and receive the warmth and stability of our friend in the present moment.
Hugging can be a deep practice of reconciliation. During the silent hugging, the message can come out very clear: “Darling, you are precious to me. I am sorry I have not been mindful and considerate. I have made mistakes. Allow me to begin anew. I Promise.”