Letter from the Editor

photo courtesy of monastic Sangha

Dear Thay, dear Sangha,

Before moving to California in the spring of 2016, I lived in several countries and practiced with several Wake Up and all-ages Sanghas. In every Sangha, we wanted a safe space to be ourselves, time away from busy schedules to slow down for an hour or two,

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photo courtesy of monastic Sangha

Dear Thay, dear Sangha,

Before moving to California in the spring of 2016, I lived in several countries and practiced with several Wake Up and all-ages Sanghas. In every Sangha, we wanted a safe space to be ourselves, time away from busy schedules to slow down for an hour or two, and a place to practice with like-minded people.

At the same time, impermanence arises—Sangha core members move to another city, practitioners no longer come to the Sangha, conflicts arise between members, or even facilitators stop hosting Sangha sessions. Such situations can be challenging and affect our well-being. To support us in such difficult situations, this issue focuses on how to nourish ourselves and our Sanghas. It’s a joy to read how Sanghas worldwide nourish their bodhicitta. We can learn from their insights and share them with our own Sanghas in person or online.

This issue’s guest editor, David Viafora, practiced over the past year with many Sanghas and Plum Village communities around the world. David is also an Order of Interbeing member and part of the Mindfulness Bell caretaking council. Thanks to David’s outreach, several international practitioners shared their experiences on nourishing their Sanghas.

Our teacher’s Dharma talk, “Practicing Mindful Consumption Together,” focuses on young people’s practice, mindful journalism, and nourishing our joy and happiness. The section, “Tending Beginnings,” offers reflections on starting a Sangha, spreading the Dharma beyond the Sangha, and dealing with difficulties in a Sangha. In “Mindfulness Centers” and “Coming Home,” various practitioners share about living in community, practicing in a pop-up mindfulness hub, and building a new Plum Village monastery for monastic brothers and male lay friends near Paris, France. “Joining Together” reflects on the connection between young practitioners and all-ages practitioners. “Virtual Connection” includes sharings from practitioners who take refuge in online Sanghas, and “Young at Heart” focuses on mothers’ stronger bonds with their children thanks to the practice.

May these offerings bring you peace, joy, and inspiration.

With gratitude,


Conscious Aspiration of the Heart

Dear Sangha,

Last year, my partner Vanessa and I completed a yearlong voyage, visiting and documenting lay mindfulness practice centers in our Plum Village tradition in over a dozen countries around the world. We discovered that our community is so much broader, more talented, and more beautiful than we had even imagined. From urban Wake Up houses in London, California, and the Netherlands to larger centers tucked into rural nature wonderlands, such as Sugar Plum Sangha in the rolling hills of Northern California, Avalokita in the Italian Alps, Intersein in southeastern Germany, MorningSun Community in the lakeside forests of New Hampshire, and Dharma Gaia on the subtropical coast of New Zealand, our mahasangha is flourishing in many corners of the world.

What important things did we learn on our voyage? First, how strangely delightful it was that no matter where we went, at each new center, we continually found ourselves arriving right at home. Our Plum Village culture of practice, songs, Thay’s calligraphy, gentle spiritedness, and the openness and authenticity of Dharma sharing permeated every cell of these centers. We have a true community refuge in so many areas of the world.

We also learned how unaware and disconnected most centers were from the others and how much we could learn from each other. Each Sangha is slowly growing a mountain of experiences, wisdom, and skills that can benefit others—how communities cultivate harmony, reconcile conflicts, and practice Beginning Anew; how they manage finances and fundraise to build facilities and support programming; how to support Dharma teachers in their livelihood; how to attract young people and embrace diversity; how to envision individually and collectively their highest aspirations as a community; and how Sangha meetings and decision-making can empower and uplift every member of the community. Let’s be honest, we have so much to learn from each other!

We had an opportunity to put what we learned into practice. We had a persistent aspiration to volunteer in Greece’s ongoing refugee crisis and wished to have an impact only a community could offer. Knowing how challenging this work would be, we didn’t want to do it alone. During the Wake Up retreat in Plum Village, we invited hundreds of young people to join us in establishing a Wake Up residential community in Greece where we could live, practice, and be supported to volunteer with refugees together. Fifteen Wake Uppers joined us. For almost four months, we lived our aspirations to practice deeply and offer a true refuge for ourselves, many migrant friends, other volunteers, and Greek residents. Whether we worked in camps or soup kitchens, or we started small social entrepreneurship projects to employ refugees, our Sangha boat carried us along the way. The practices of collective deep listening, flower watering, daily meditations, Dharma sharing, and weekly joyful outings shined through us brilliantly. The fruits of our practice? We made amazing spiritual friendships with each other and many migrant friends. Now, I wonder if there is anything that we can’t realize more successfully with the support of our beloved community.

Each community we visited or helped to build offered us a handful of gems that we tossed into our backpacks and carried with us. This issue offers a pile of such gems, from the explosive chat-based Sangha building in Mexico to the nine-year creation of Avalokita center to Plumline Sanghas growing in the clouds to Florida’s expanding mindfulness center in Tampa Bay. Fortunately, we can take this tour of Sanghas around the world without even leaving the comfort of our own cushion and cup of tea!

While this issue features Sanghas in several different countries, we know we can expand much more broadly. The Mindfulness Bell has historically been printed and largely focused in North America. Now, electronic versions are allowing us to reach our rightful home with greater international readership and contributors. The aim of the Mindfulness Bell and its Care-Taking Council is to witness and share the glories of Sangha building more globally. Lastly, it has been a treasure for me to read, learn from, and grow with each article submitted for this issue. Our young, brilliant, and still newish managing editor, Hong-An, has overseen three issues so far, and I am already the fourth guest editor! Hong-An has a remarkable capacity of tapping into the strengths and bodhicitta of those around her in a true spirit of collaboration and creativity that allows the Mindfulness Bell to blossom in all sorts of new and colorful ways. I have learned from her how one person can help channel the aspiration of many, and I am thankful that our collaboration and work together has allowed us to deepen our friendship.

David Viafora

True Zen Mountain

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What is Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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