Dharma Sharing is, very simply, an opportunity to practice the 4th of the 5 Mindfuless Trainings: Deep Listening and Loving Speech. As a speaker, it is an opportunity for us to share deeply our experience of applying the practice of mindfulness in our lives. It is a time for us to share our happiness and also share our difficulties. It’s a safer space where we can share freely whatever is real for us, whatever is on our heart, perhaps even things we have never felt able to share before.
But most of all it is an opportunity for us to listen to each other. How many times in our lives have we felt that no one is really listening to us? And how many times have we not really been able to listen to our friends and our loved ones because our mind is occupied with other things (or because we’re busy texting)?
In a session of Dharma Sharing, we learn to listen deeply to each other, offering each other our full presence, not allowing ourselves to be carried away by judging or reacting to what the other person is saying. We listen deeply by focusing our attention on our breathing, again and again bringing our mind back to our body and letting go of our thinking. Thich Nhat Hanh says that deep listening has the capacity to heal.
When we share, we share to the whole group. We try to avoid crosstalk, and we definitely don’t give anyone advice. We get enough advice already. The best way to protect the space for everyone is to keep our sharing to our own experience. When we all share our own experience, the wisdom of the group manifests, and we are able to touch true brotherhood and sisterhood.
Also, something we practice in the Wake Up San Diego Sangha, is our vow of confidentiality. Whatever we say in Dharma Sharing is to be kept in confidence, so that we can truly create a safer place for trust and intimacy. In addition, if someone shares something that we would like to discuss with them afterwards, we first ask the person permission to discuss what they shared; this gives them the opportunity to say yes or no.
We also try to be mindful of the time allotted for Dharma Sharing, and how many people are present so that everyone who would like to share would at least get the opportunity. So when there are a lot of people or little time, we try to keep our sharing brief (unless someone is really struggling with something and needs the extra time to be fully supported by the Sangha). When there are fewer people and ample time, we tend to share a bit longer and perhaps more than once. It is always nice to plan enough time so that everyone has the chance to share at least once; but of course no one is obligated to speak, and remaining silent with a supportive peaceful presence along with deep listening is very nourishing.
When we practice in this way we begin to become increasingly skillful, and this practice carries over into our day to day interactions with family, friends, co-workers, bosses, teachers, coaches, clients, etc. When we filter our thoughts through our heart and listen with our true presence, we can truly heal one another one word at a time.