Sangha of the Month for February 2015: Wake Up Tampa
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How did Wake Up get started in Tampa, Florida?
Wake Up Tampa Bay was started in response to a realization that there was a need to offer more support to the younger practitioners in our community. With the purchase of a Practice Center two years ago, our Sangha was finding new growth with the older generations. However, the younger people who came usually didn’t return for a second sitting. The few younger members of the Sangha, namely myself and a young woman named Kate Baten, decided to start a group just for younger practitioners with the idea that the peer environment is really what the younger generations are thirsty for in their practice. The affiliation with Wake Up seemed a natural fit as our Sangha flows from the Plum Village tradition.
Although the growth of Wake Up Tampa Bay has been slow, I believe we have developed a solid core of younger practitioners and a solid format that can support any newcomers to the practice. With the creation of social media sites as well as other ways of getting the word out, I believe we will see our group blossoming in the upcoming year.
What kind of people come your Sangha?
We have a diverse group of individuals who join us for our sittings. Some come regularly and some when they have the chance. From college students, to professionals, to those with more creative lifestyles, I believe everyone feels welcome when they come to our group. We have members who have been practicing for just under a decade as well as some brand new practitioners and everything in-between. Our members are interested in the practice of mindfulness to apply to their lives in different ways; learning how to be present to the wonders of life, learning how to deal with stress and other emotions, learning how to nourish themselves and their relationships, to become Buddhas, or just to enjoy their breathing.
Where and when do you meet?
We meet in the Meditation Hall of the Florida Community of Mindfulness Practice Center in Tampa, FL. We meet every other Friday from 7:00 to 8:30pm for our normal gatherings. We also try to have a one social event every quarter of the year somewhere out in the community.
On average, how many people show up?
We have about 10 people show up on average. Although, that number seems to be rising now.
How are your gatherings?
Our main gatherings include 25 minutes of sitting meditation followed by 10 minutes of walking meditation.Then we introduce ourselves and read from a Dharma book of the group’s choice. After the reading, we practice deep sharing/deep listening where we share with the group how the reading applies to our lives or how we are applying the practice in general.
Afterwards, we hang out and discuss all sorts of things; enjoying herbal tea and snacks brought by members.
For our social events, we have had potlucks at members houses, gone for nature hikes, and even gone to an art museum together. We think it is important to touch those nourishing elements not just within ourselves, but within our community as well.
What makes Wake Up Tampa special?
What makes Wake Up Tampa Bay special is definitely the openness that everyone brings when they come. We started the group joking about how it would attract a different kind of 20-something because the only night we could meet was on Fridays. The assumption was that people our age like to go out and party on Fridays. That has proven to be entirely false. We get all kinds of people from different walks of life who are our age and have no desire to go out and party. What seems to tie us together instead is a unified desire for truth and improvement in our world. Our people are engaged-in their lives, their communities, and in the world. We seek interactions that have value, and connections that make a difference.
Another unique aspect of our Wake Up group is that we stem out of a very thriving larger Sangha and have close access to an authentic Dharma teacher. In addition to the peer support our group offers us, we also have much opportunity to deepen our practice with the programs that the Florida Community of Mindfulness offers. From weekly Sangha gatherings and mindfulness classes to Intensive practice periods, Days of Mindfulness, and even retreats, we are certainly not lacking in support of our practice. Also, we are fortunate enough to have the Florida Community of Mindfulness’ Dharma teacher, Fred Eppsteiner, join our group once a quarter to answer any questions we may have about the practice and how to apply it to our lives.
To get in touch with Wake Up Tampa, click here.