Sangha of the Month for October 2016: Wake Up Rotterdam
Wake Up Rotterdam – from seed to garden
Wake Up Rotterdam was born about seven years ago. A couple of friends decided to start a Sangha in Rotterdam on their way home from one of the first Wake Up retreats in the Netherlands. The seed for this idea was planted even before that retreat. There had been meetings at a friend’s little garden house in the South of Rotterdam. Even though this was a different tradition and slightly different composition of people, these gatherings offered fertile ground for Wake Up Rotterdam to sprout and grow from. Some of the people who witnessed those very beginnings are still active Sangha members today.
During this first period, Sangha evenings took place in the friend’s place mentioned earlier. After he left the city, the gatherings began to travel and changed location weekly. Several people offered their homes to welcome the Sangha. That way, we continued to grow and flourish. Another more stable phase started more than two years ago, when two friends decided to ‘go monk’. For one year they lived as urban monk and nun, following the 10 precepts for novice monastics. Their urban monastery was a beautiful abandoned building in the city centre, which they could rent as long as it wasn’t sold to a new owner. Even after their urban monastic year, they stayed in this house. Here, we found a new stable home for our Sangha to become even stronger, bigger and warmer. Today, we are on the threshold to new changes again. But let us first give you an impression of what our Sangha evenings look like.
Sangha evenings in Rotterdam
The Sangha evenings have several elements that return each time. Often we start with a short meditation to calm down and arrive in the moment – we call it a landing meditation. Followed up by a check-in where we all tell in a few words what’s going on inside us on the moment, other elements are a longer sitting meditation (guided or in silence for 30 minutes), movements (e.g. walking or dancing meditation, yoga, or chi-gong), or a deep relaxation. Furthermore we share inspirations in the form of a Dharma talk recording by reading the 5 Mindfulness Trainings or a poem, or doing a creative (e.g., writing, drawing) improvisation.
During the break we drink tea, enjoy some fruits, or homemade goodies we brought, and we sing! Music is such a strong way to connect, to open up our hearts, and to let ourselves be heard. We love to use all kinds of instruments, such as guitars, ukulele, harmonium, drums, percussion, and of course, our voices. Now and then, the jamming continues after the Sangha evening officially finished, preferably around a campfire on the balcony. During the last hour or so, we enjoy sharing and listening from the heart during Dharma sharing.
Besides these elements, the atmosphere and collective energy can also be different each time. In this circle, everything that is present receives the space and loving attention it needs. Deep silence and lively sharing, laughter, and tears – all depending on what we carry with us. In addition, something very prominent in our Sangha, or maybe in Wake Up in general, is hugging! As a form of greeting or saying goodbye to each other, but really, any occasion is suitable for hugs and cuddling if you ask us.
Retreats, sister circles, no waste dinners, and more
Besides the Sangha evenings, we organise other events as well, such as small retreats in the Sangha house and national Wake Up events (e.g. about loving kindness or permaculture). For some time we also organised morning meditations, followed by movement and breakfast together. This took place partly unofficially with some of the friends, and partly in the form of the event Good Morning Rotterdam, one week of starting the day together. During these events and Sangha evenings, people from all over the country like to participate. Interestingly, several people living in other cities in the Netherlands consider Rotterdam their home Sangha rather than their local one.
The Sangha is also a great source of inspiration for other ideas. One example is the Sister Moon Circles that we initiated earlier this year. It is a women-only gathering during full moon loosely based on the Plum Village tradition combined with our own explorations and expressions of spirituality. Apart from organising events and activities, we also love to hang out with each other in other settings. Many of us have been or become friends also ‘outside the Sangha.’ We meet to make music together or go to barefoot dancing events, have potluck picnics in the garden or no-waste dinners. Last weekend, some friends went to the cinema to watch Walk With Me – On The Road With Thich Nhat Hanh together.
Impermanence and no coming, no going
As mentioned before, we are currently experiencing another time of change. After two years of weekly Sangha evenings in the temporarily abandoned building, impermanence strikes again. The house is sold after all, and by the first of this month the inhabitants are off to new adventures. Last week, our final Sangha evening in the old house took place—a special evening with change and transition as prominent themes. It was amazing to see three friends facilitating the evening for the first time, while the more frequent facilitators were able to lean back and enjoy.
We shared memories about the building and ideas of what the Sangha means to us (love, friendship, openness, vulnerability, growth, coming home, family, transformation…). There was also space to share about possible unease with the changes that are ahead of us. At the same time plans were made for next week: one friend offered her living room as a location, and others offered to facilitate. We concluded the evening with a group hug that turned into a cosy cinnamon-role (you can see the result in the picture above).
We are curious about the Sangha’s development during the months to come, and we are also optimistic. Even though the location, people, or habits may change, the Sangha is still there. It keeps on flowing and moving, like a river. We are confident that more Sangha members will offer their space and time to host and facilitate weekly meetings and other events. As one of our friends put it last week: the Sangha is neither this building, nor is it the facilitators. All of us together embody the Sangha; all of us feed it with our love and energy.
Click here if you would like to contact Wake Up Rotterdam. 🙂