buddhasAs the Dhamma is studied, there are frequent references to the importance of the Triple Gem—taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. This is foundational for practioners, and there is major emphasis on the importance of friendships. Friendships are equally important to the Orlando Insight Meditation Group (OIMG).  Our Sangha—our community—continues to evolve through these friendships, and it’s worth pausing to reflect upon this as we near the end of 2011 and move into the opportunities of 2012.

OIMG was formed in the early to mid-1990s with meetings, meditations, and Dharma talks in a living room and eventually evolved to where we are today with the meditation hall in Peter and Paula’s back yard. OIMG’s core mission through all these years has been to share the teachings of the Buddha—the alleviation of suffering and sincere pursuit of awakening.

OIMG continues to focus on this simple mission by offering various opportunities, including introduction courses (Loving Kindness, the Eight Fold Path, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness), periodic 3-day and 7-day retreats, Dharma talks on most Wednesday evenings, 2-hour Sunday sits, and intensive study groups. Our retreats are always offered in the tradition of our Buddhist past regardless of one’s ability to pay. OIMG also supports other local Buddhist organizations by sharing communications, occasionally having teachers share Dharma talks, providing presentations to organizations when requested, and occasionally taking road trips to participate in retreats, talks, etc. with other Sanghas. There are many venues in which to share the Buddha’s teachings—both conceptual through courses and Dharma talks and experiential through retreats. It is through these efforts that our friendships have grown allowing our practices to flourish. These friendships play a substantial role in the viability of our Sangha.

There are many reasons to be grateful for our friendships—our fellow Sangha Brothers and Sisters—as we practice together. Our presence together supports that sense of safety, love, and compassion that constitutes why a Sangha is a “refuge.” We all need a place to go, to share, to practice, and to grow. There is always something to learn. There is always something to practice. We all need love and compassion from fellow human beings. Some volunteer their time and talents to support OIMG’s sharing of the Dhamma by actively helping with OIMG’s website, email, audio/electronic support (including iTunes), housekeeping at the meditation hall, teaching, financial support, and retreat logistics. Supporting these activities amongst friends becomes possible as one’s heart opens up to the Buddha’s teachings. It is these interconnected friendships that makes OIMG what it has become so far—and we are grateful for these collective efforts.  There is so much to be grateful for!

OIMG’s hopes for the future are simply to continue sharing the Dhamma. We will continue to have our traditional introduction courses, Wednesday night Dharma talks, and Sunday morning sits. An effort is forming to share teaching guidance for those who are interested in sharing the Dhamma. We have another 3-Day retreat in June 2012 at the Franciscan Center, and we’re also working on scheduling another 7-day retreat sometime in early 2013. Our teacher—Peter Carlson—is going on a 3-month retreat in September of 2012 and we’re looking to find ways to continue sharing the Buddha’s teachings while he’s on retreat. There is growing interest in finding ways to open a local off-site meditation hall. These opportunities are only possible through our friendships and support of the Dhamma. If you’re interested in sharing your talents, time, and/or resources to help us, please contact Peter Carlson and/or Tommy Harrison.

Our friendships—our community—our Sangha—and the refuge within the Sangha make this all possible. Thank you for being part of this journey. Your practice and support make these things possible.