Open Sangha Progress
By Al Jigong Billings
The once a month meetings of the Bay Area Open Sangha continue to occur every month. We have had a little bit of an off and on again start since the weekend meditation retreat this last November, missing a month in March because of changed in scheduling.
As of this last month, there is an all day open sit on the first Sunday of every month. In this, we normally have six sessions of 40 minutes of sitting and 15 minutes of walking meditation. Other than that, there is a little discussion during lunchtime usually and then a little more discussion after the last session. The schedule looks like this:
- 9:00 AM: Participants arrive.
- 9:20: First session or sitting meditation (40 minutes).
- 10:00: First session of walking meditation (15 minutes).
- 10:15 – 11:10: Second meditation session.
- 11:10 – 12:05: Third meditation session.
- 12:05 – 1:00 PM: Lunch and informal discussions.
- 1:00 – 1:55: Fourth meditation session.
- 1:55 – 2:50: Fifth meditation session.
- 2:50 – 3:45: Sixth meditation session.
- 3:45 – 5:15(ish): Discussion period for participants.
Most people have found the sits either by knowing me personally, from the Saturday Night Sangha group that meets nearby, or from the meetup group. In regards to meetup, I've found that in both Open Sangha and for Ace Monster Toys, it has had a phenomenal impact on getting the word out to folks. Almost all of the recent new people find Open Sangha through meetup (and over half of the new people coming to AMT).
I've debated having a more regular sitting group, such as meeting for a couple of hours once a week but it isn't clear whether it would fulfill a need or even be successful. As Michael, one of the regulars, stated, there is already a group for every night of the week and I might be better off just going to someone else's sangha to sit. I've actively been thinking of going to Empty Gate now that I no longer work in Mountain View on Wednesday nights, which is their biggest weekday night when their guiding teacher does his talks.
That said, if I knew that I could get at least four or five people to attend, I'd probably arrange for a weekly sitting group where we could sit for two sessions and maybe chat and have tea afterwards.
I have finally set up the meetup entries for the monthly sit as a reoccurring event so I should be able to avoid the issue of people not having a lot of forewarning of which weekend we're meeting. Attendance has varied between as many as ten people and as few as three. I am hoping to grow this to something like twelve regular attendees but it is really up to people being already interested in sitting all day. Frankly, if you do not already have an interest in practice, the above schedule of six sessions is both going to be daunting and not seem very exciting. Since meditation sessions are not "exciting" in a traditional sense of providing distraction, this is fine but probably not terribly good marketing.
I am also looking to find a co-facilitator who will share some of the load so when I go out of town or just cannot make a monthly event, there will be someone to keep time and arrange for things to continue.