Practicing in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh in Orono, Maine
Dharma Sharing Guidelines
Dharma Sharing is an opportunity for the sangha to share thoughts, feelings or experiences that arise from hearing a Dharma reading. The sharing doesn't constitute a conversation so much as independent expressions of our individual spiritual insights, things we have learned or been touched by while walking the Path in our everyday lives. By sharing these experiences, the sangha is strengthened and its members supported in their Practice.
Many of the guidelines below are recited prior to Dharma sharing. When practiced mindfully, they provide a safe and accepting atmosphere conducive to spirtual growth and support.
We bow before sharing and bow when we finish sharing
We place our hands together to form a flower or lotus bud and bow to indicate we would like to share. The sangha bows back to acknowledge our request. We then 'hold the floor' for our dharma sharing. We may speak uninterupted for as long as we prudently wish, realizing that others will wish to share as well. When we finish sharing, we bow again to indicate our sharing is complete. The sangha bows back to ackowledge our sharing.
We practice deep listening, allowing a few breaths between sharings to fully receive each sharing
The practice of deep listening is more than being aware of a speaker's words. We also aspire to establish an openess of mind that is free of judgement and distraction so we may fully take in and appreciate what is being shared. We strive to set aside our own random thoughts and varied opinions, just for a few moments, in order to be mindfully present for the speaker, to offer the gift of being heard.
We practice loving mindful speech, sharing from our heart and from our personal experience
We share from the direct experience of our spiritual practice, things that have moved or touched us as we walk the Path. Perhaps we have seen into or through some wrong view we've held. Perhaps we've had some experience of realization or insight. Perhaps an understanding or teaching is helping us transform ourselves so that we may better transform the world. Sharing feelings and experiences like these can be of great benefit to the sangha.
We practice confidentiality, we do not repeat what arises during Dharma sharing outside the sangha
Our commitment to confidentiality helps establish a safe and supportive atmosphere for Dharma sharing. Knowing that what is shared with the sangha will stay within the sangha allows us to share deeply and without reservation.
We refrain from sharing again until all have had a chance to share
The sangha benefits from sharing and hearing many experiences and points of view. Mindfully sharing with an awareness of others who may also wish to share is a gift to the sangha. One should never feel compelled to share however, as all things arise only when conditions are sufficient.
We share with the whole sangha, not directing our sharing to any individual
While we may feel that a particular sangha member could benefit from our experience or sharing, loving and mindful speech should be offered to the sangha as a whole.  This helps maintain a sense of safety and support while staying true to Dharma sharing as a collective spiritual process of the entire sangha.
We avoid giving advice, even if it's asked for
Some sharings may contain rhetorical or actual questions. By relating only our own experiences or insights when we encountered similar questions or situations, we can support the sangha in a loving and ego-less manner. This also allows the space for sangha members to take on only what may be helpful.
We check in with sangha members before pursuing conversations about a sharing
Sometimes a sharing is all a sangha member wishes to say about a subject. We should always make sure a sangha member is comfortable talking further about a sharing before engaging in a conversation about it later. This helps maintain Dharma sharing as a safe environment.