Noble Friends – What Supports Your Practice?
by Terry Gliedt
What supports your practice? There are some obvious things that come to mind:
- Daily sittings, however irregular
- Regular group sittings
- Readings – from dharma teachers (Kornberg, Boorstein etc)
- Listening to mp3 dharma talks
- Having close friends who also have a practice
Kalyana Mitta Groups
There is a more formal support for your practice which takes the form of groups, usually called Spiritual Friends Groups (where the phrase comes from a Pali word kalyana mitta). I suspect most of us just call it our Meditation Group.
I’ve been in such a group for over 16 years now and know many others who have their own group. My group has been enormously important in supporting my practice and has been the source of close friendships. As you might expect after so long we are very close. We’ve supported each other through a wide range of life’s bigger events – death, major illness, family issues, retirement, and times of doubt about meditating. Yet the group continues with love and support and skillful speech and skillful action – all the skills of the Eightfold Path.
These groups generally consist of:
- 6-12 people
- who meet regularly
- in each others homes (but not necessarily in everyone’s home)
The format of the gathering can vary greatly. Usually the meeting will begin with a sitting (20 minutes?) following by a check-in. Some groups will then have a member lead a discussion on some dharma-related topic or perhaps listen to a podcast and discuss it. Whatever follows is somehow dharma-related. Such groups are not intended as social groups. Obviously people do talk about what’s going on in their lives and there will be socialization.
Once started, the group must be self starting and sustaining. The group runs itself, deciding when and where to meet based on member’s schedules. Some people may leave your group and then the group makes a decision if and who to invite to join them. My group has lost three members over the years and invited two others to join us.
The format of the meeting is up to you. One group I know discusses dharma topics. Someone suggests a topic or reading for next time and leads the discussion. My group usually has a little snack after sitting where we ‘socialize’ for a few minutes – and then we put that aside and move to a long check-in for each person. We have never met for supper or done something as a group. Some groups stay together for many years, some disband more quickly. There is no guarantee of course.
My meditation group has been enormously important in strengthening my practice and my wish is that others have this same experience. To that end I’m offering to do for you what was done for my group so long ago – to help form a meditation group for you.
If you think you might want to be part of a meditation group, drop me an Email with your contact information. I’ll save your details and then every year or two, I’ll send an Email to everyone and invite you to ‘sign up’ to form a group. Yes, you can and should invite your other dharma friends to consider this when groups are being formed. There’s no commitment until you decide the group is what you want.