Heading into lockdown I’d just started a course on mindfulness. Because of Covid-19 it was sadly put on pause and whilst I carried on using online mindfulness resources, I struggled to make dedicated time for myself. (Don’t we all?) It wasn’t quite the same as sitting with a group, discussing practice and being led in real-time.
Then Southsea Sangha was suggested to me. And what a beautiful community I’ve found!
‘Sangha’ is a Sanskrit word that can translate as a few things but mainly ‘community’. Run by volunteers and meeting at Coastguard Studio, when not on lockdown, the Southsea Sangha gang have adapted by moving online and creating a series of free, guest teacher lead sessions each Sunday at 6pm – ‘Dharma in Times of Covid’.
I was a little apprehensive heading into my first gathering. I’ve had a relaxing lie down in shavasana on-screen in some of my yoga classes, but not full-on meditation. Fortunately, only hosts and teachers are visible, with a member of Southsea Sangha providing a very warm welcome before handing over to the teacher leading the session. The rest of the community use the chatbox as well as a Q&A box. Honestly, I’ve been surprised at the sense of community and kindness through my screen even though I can’t physically see anyone except the teacher. For those who are nervous or hate being on video, it’s perfect!
Each teacher in the Covid series has brought their own flavour to the 1 ½ hr gathering and come from all over the world, including the USA. My first foray into the world of Southsea Sangha was a guided yoga / mindful movement practice with Sara; a meditation and yoga teacher. I then came back for Dr Stacie Graham’s session ‘The Art of Surrender’ which started with guided meditation before an interesting discussion around the topic of control and surrender in these times, but also generally in our lives. Katie Loncke hosted possibly my favourite talk so far and opened up for us to have our own practice, followed by a chat about the variety of practices people had undertaken in the 30mins. This sparked a lively discussion about Rinzai – a kind of shouting/martial arts-based practice – it was a lot of fun hearing Katie chatting about her experiences and answering some deeper questions. Last week we explored ‘10,000 Sorrows and 10,000 Joys’, which was powerful with the very cool Mary Stancavage.
I hope this gives you a flavour of the broad variety of topics Southsea Sangha are hosting. If something interests you, go along! There’s nothing to lose and plenty to learn. Sessions are free but run on ‘Dana’ (the virtue of generosity/donation in this instance) if you would like to support the running of Southsea Sangha, as well as the teachers who are providing their time.
This coming Sunday is their 6th birthday and the Sangha gang are hosting Lama Rod (everyone seems quite excited!) as well as poetry with Salada Jackson and music from Captain Lovelace. Not only is this a celebration but a fundraising opportunity as half of the Dana (donations) made will go to The Intensive Care Society; an independent charity providing specialist psychological, ongoing support for ICU support staff in the NHS.
I will say I am not Buddhist and have approached this from a purely non-spiritual viewpoint, but I have an interest in meditation, mindfulness and community. Southsea Sangha welcome anyone and everyone with compassion, being Buddhist is not a requirement for joining in.
I hope I can go along in person when restrictions are safely lifted. Until then, I’m really enjoying my Sunday evenings and find it’s giving me a bit of compassion, connection and focus during these really difficult times.
Finally, more info on the birthday celebration is here – come along!
By Danny / Sea Wolf Studios