Information for Newcomers

We hope you find everything you need here to orient you to the Saturday morning practice at the Buffalo Peaceful Heart Mindfulness Community. 

We invite you to participate with us at whatever level you choose. We do not require that you have a particular religious affiliation; we only ask that you have the desire to practice mindfulness. It is our hope that you will find the Peaceful Heart Mindfulness Community a supportive and nurturing place, assisting you in your efforts to be mindful and awake.

Protocol for the first half of session

[Note: Do not worry about trying to remember these protocols. They are included here only so that you may know what to expect. The group is often prompted about what's coming up next; or you can just follow along. There is no right way and wrong way. Be at ease; you are among friends.]

The meditation period officially begins when the bell inviter sounds the bell three times. During the meditation periods, we sit in a comfortable, upright position on cushions or chairs. You may sit with eyes open or closed for the sitting meditation periods.

During this first meditation period, we generally listen to a recorded dharma talk by our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Please sit quietly, moving only when necessary. Be mindful that any movement will disturb the settling of your own mind and may be a distraction to your neighbor as well. Please also be mindful of the needs of your own body; we do not advocate pain, we believe in sitting comfortably. Often discomfort will pass with a few breaths, but sometimes adjusting the posture is needed. When movement is needed please simply do it slowly and mindfully. 

At the end of the first sitting period, the bell sounds once, at which time you may take a few moments to stretch or massage our legs while remaining seated. When the next bell sounds, please stand facing the center of the room. Another bell will sound and we then bow to each other and turn left. The next bell signals the beginning of walking meditation. 

During walking meditation, you are invited to synchronize your steps with your breath - one step with each inhalation, one step with each exhalation. Please keep pace with the person in front of you so there is not a pile up behind you. When you hear the bell, continue walking without hurry until you reach your own cushion or chair.  At the next sound of the bell we bow to each other and again take our seats. The second sitting period begins as the first.

After the second walking meditation, we finish the first half of the session by bowing to the Buddha. We are then greeted by the bell inviter, who will announce and facilitate the second half of the evening.

Protocol for the second half of the session

We begin with a recitation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings or by enjoying another practice activity taught by our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. This is  followed by a Dharma discussion. 

Dharma discussion is sharing, from our own experience and heart, responses or experiences arising from the session's dharma talk or from our practice. Dharma discussion gives us an opportunity to speak and listen mindfully. If you would like to share, please bow (or "offer a lotus") to let the group know you wish to speak, which the group will acknowledge with a bow; when you are finished, please bow to let the group know you are finished, and the group again acknowledges this with a bow.

We close at approximately 12 noon with one bell to rise from our seated position, a second bell to bow to each other and face the altar, and a final bell to bow to the buddha within ourselves. 

Donations (Dhana)

The community is invited to make an optional donation to our hosts, the Unitarian Church of Buffalo. Feel free to place your donation in the small basket that is kept on the floor near the door of our meditation space. Three to five dollars is a common range. This is strictly voluntary.

On mindfulness

The core of our practice and tradition is mindfulness. For the beginner (and we are all of us beginners!), the best way to establish mindfulness is by concentrating on the breath. Following the breath builds concentration, which is essential for mindfulness; it also helps calm the body and mind. In our tradition, this is essentially what we do during sitting meditation: we follow, and enjoy, our breath. When you notice that you have become distracted, simply return your attention to your breath gently and unhurriedly. If you have difficulty remaining concentrated, you can count your breaths, from 1 to 10 and back to 1, starting the count over again each time you are distracted.

When you sit, be present to each moment. When you notice that you are carried away by your thoughts (or memories, perceptions, or emotions), notice without judgment and let it be, neither trying to stop it nor run off with it. Then return to your breath, and stay with it as long as possible. At least twenty minutes a day of sitting meditation is recommended in order to help us grow in mindfulness, calm and equanimity

Eventually we learn that we carry our meditation everywhere we go, that everything we do is an opportunity for practice, as mindfulness permeates our daily life. We try to maintain mindfulness as much as possible throughout every day in every activity. Our breath is always available to us as our anchor, every moment of every day, during any activity, particularly when we are feeling distracted or distressed.

"Enlightenment, peace and joy will not be granted by someone else. The well is within you, and if we dig deeply in the present moment, the water will spring forth."
     —Thich Nhat Hanh


The Buffalo Peaceful Heart Mindfulness Community

The mission of our small but growing community is to nurture mindfulness, love, and understanding among those who participate in its activities and in the larger society.

Members come together to meditate, to deepen their understanding of the practice of mindfulness, to encourage and inspire each other through dharma discussions and mindful actions, to support each other through difficult times, and to celebrate the joys and wonders of life.

Photos courtesy of Emily Whittle and Plum Village Monastery
Text adapted from the Washington Mindfulness Community