Sangha of the Month for July 2015: Wake Up Bangkok
What does Wake Up mean to you?
- Wake Up is a group of people who already “wake up” and we get together to nourish our practices.
- Wake Up is the name to call our group.
- Wake Up is the meaning of the “Buddha”, the “Awaken one.”
- Wake Up is a way of practicing which leads us to enlightenment and to have the awareness of oneself, which the practicing adapted to the lifestyle of young people well.
How would you describe Wake Up Bangkok?
A group of friends who casually hang out together in mindful and meaningful ways. We always welcome new friends who are into Plum Village’s ways of practice. We can all become friends naturally.
What do you feel is your greatest benefit from Wake Up?
- True friendship and intimacy.
- It is a bliss to have a space and people to share deeply about what’s happening inside our hearts and we know that we have true friends who are really there for us to listen and support. Wake Up allows us to truly be ourselves.
- Wake Up friends are of similar ages, similar interests so we are able to understand and go along together as a river. We can truly be at present for each other.
Do you organise activities together outside the Wake Up Sangha sessions? If yes, what kind of volunteer work do you do and how is it nourishing you and your Sangha?
Yes, many times we have activities outside the sessions. We love to be informal. Whenever we are together (that is the Sangha), we don’t need to only come to the Sangha sessions to be in the Sangha.
We have helped facilitating children’s groups in the Family Retreat, went together to make practice booklets for retreatants and went to a local floating market to support community tourism. We also helped the monastics at Thai Plum Village to organise the Day of Mindfulness for teen prisoners at the Youth Training Center in Chiangmai, visited teenage boys in the Compassion House (house for young boys who committed crimes) and made Wake Up T-shirts and New Year greeting cards to send to Wake Up retreatants for New Year gifts.
The work helps us to come together, keep us together and remind us to practice. It always involves sitting meditation, singing meditation, mindful eating, total relaxation, walking meditation, etc. Doing volunteer work is also a great chance for us to deepen the practice and the Dharma. Every time we think we are the giver, we realize that we actually are also the receiver at the same time. Each activity allow us to discover ourselves at a deeper level, as well as develop loving kindness and understanding with others.
What has been your happiest Wake Up moment?
- There is no happiest moment. Every moment is a happy moment.
- Every time we are together as a Sangha, we breathe together and walk together, it is a happy moment.
- “This” is a happy moment.
What does being part of Wake Up in Bangkok involve?
- Attend the Wake Up Retreat and/or attend the Wake Up Sangha session and/or other activities.
- Having the Wake Up spirit within you.
- The involvement includes bringing everyone together as a Sangha in the community, both physically and online, in order for one to able to nourish and support another by using loving speech and understanding. Together as a Sangha, it doesn’t require a lot of conditions, but a willing heart and energy are the keys that maintain great relationships with the whole community.
How does Wake Up Bangkok build friendship and community?
We often get together after the retreats, Days of Mindfulness, and group chats on mobile applications e.g., Line, Facebook Messenger. We have Wake Up Bangkok group and Wake Upper group on Facebook as the main channel of communication between us, the Order of Interbeing (OI), and new friends. We try to meet up as much as we can on weekends and after working days to have vegetarian meals together and watch good movies. We visit Thai Plum Village when the center has events, e.g. Vietnamese New Year celebration, Ordination ceremony and retreats. Every activity we’ve done together helps our friendship getting stronger. Our Wake Up community is now bigger, but we feel a lot closer these days.
Is it possible to be part of Wake Up without going to the monastery?
Yes, we have many activities going on outside the Pak Chong monastery and new friends are very welcome to join us. Many of the Wake Up friends haven’t gone to the retreats, but they have attended other Plum Village Sangha groups before knowing us and joined us. However, the members have mostly joined Wake Up retreats and we love it so much that we come to our group so that we can carry on our practice easier.
Is everyone in Wake Up Bangkok Buddhist?
No, not everyone is Buddhist. We have non-religions and Christian friends too.
What have been the challenges for you in your involvement with Wake Up?
We have members with a wide age-range and occupations, so these are some challenges they’ve shared:
- “Consistently coming to the Sangha because sometime my schedule gets quite busy.”
- “To find a date and time that fit everyone, or most people.”
- “Finding a location to meet because Bangkok has bad traffic, so the meeting place should be in the city area where we can take public transport easily. If we meet outside the city area, we will manage carpool.”
- “I want to hang out together longer after the session finishes, but I get home late and my parents don’t always understand.”
- “Try to be available as much as I can for the Sangha activities.”
- “Making the Wake Up monastics understand why we can’t always invite them to join us and why sometimes setting the same specific day every month to meet up doesn’t work.”
- “Encouraging some friends who don’t participate much in activities these days to come to join in more.”
- “English language!”
Have you had any difficult moments? What were they?
- Before we became as one Sangha body like this, there were times that very few members joined the Sangha sessions.
- Being a part of Wake Up is surely a great place to get spiritual support from friends. However, it takes personal commitment in order to maintain such great energy as well. One could easily lose the track of practicing if the person isn’t strong enough, and sometimes it could affect the whole Sangha. We need to make sure that we are taking care each other at a point that he/she needs support the most.
- We had a member who wanted to take the Wake Up into a commercial/business organization, so we tried to make the person understand that the real purpose of the Wake Up group is to support our practice and nourish good seeds in each other.
Have you needed more support? What kind of support?
- We are planning to make a Wake Up Bangkok blog here. Maybe we can share content from Wake Up International? 😉
- Since the early days of our group, we need to train group facilitators to lead practices of the group. We take turn to be the leader in activities, for example, bell master, activities’ schedule planner, and we ask our members to bring along the bell, practice books, audio records of guided meditation, songs sheet, snacks, tea, food, etc. and we are ready!
How are you building relationships with the Order of Interbeing (OI) community?
We had a 3-day workshop together in April. The Wake Uppers and the OI trained together to do better volunteer work and build closer bonding between the core members. As the team gets bigger and we become very close, it helps a lot in working together to organize retreats and other Plum Village events to support the monastics. Also, when we organize Wake Up retreats, apart from the monastics who play a big part in organizing them, the OI always come to support us. As for the family retreats, which the OI are the key organizers for the monastics, we Wake Uppers come to support the OI.