Newcomer Resources


Welcome to Four Lakes Sangha! We’re so happy you’re here. Please know that our community holds space for you to take refuge, and if you are able to join with an open mind, open heart and a willingness to practice deep listening and loving speech, we joyfully welcome you. We are a community made up of a diverse set of individuals from many walks of life, families, children, and those at all levels of their mindfulness practice. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to practice. As we practice together you will learn to breathe and to be more alive and at ease. Everyone can practice because everyone can breathe. If you are new at this, we welcome you and we will all benefit from your presence. Don’t worry, there are no rules to break and nothing wrong to do.

What happens at Sangha?

Sangha gatherings will be facilitated by a rotating member of Four Lakes Caretaking Council. There is no “leader”, and the emphasis is our communal practice. Every gathering will always have sitting and walking meditation, as well as Dharma Sharing (visit the Core Practices page for more information on the various meditation practices). There is often singing, chanting, sutra recitations, formal ceremonies, deep relaxation and more (visit the Gatherings page for more specific gathering schedules and content). We will try our best to explain the various forms, but please do ask us after the formal practice sessions if you have questions about anything you’ve seen or participated in.

The Bell

The bell guides the Sangha through much of our time together, and is a beloved sangha member and a good friend on the road of practice. The Sound of the Bell is the voice of the Buddha calling us home. Home to our body. Home to our life. Home to the present moment. It also invites us to sit, to stand, to bow, to come back to our breath, guiding us through our practice. As a note, we don’t say striking, hitting or ringing the bell in our tradition; we say inviting the bell – both peaceful and respectful. 


Thay has often said to his students, “To bow or not to bow is not the question. The important thing is to be mindful.” When we greet someone with a bow, we have the chance to be present with that person and with the nature of awake-ness, of Buddhahood, within us and within the other person. We do not bow just to be polite or diplomatic, but to recognize the miracle of being alive and the Buddha-nature in the other person.

Putting our hands together can represent bringing body and mind together in the present moment. Seeing others bowing can be a reminder for us to be mindful.

Touching the Earth

Sometimes we will practice “Touching the Earth,” also known as bowing deeply or prostrating. This practice helps us return to the Earth and to our roots, and to recognize that we are not alone but connected to a whole stream of spiritual and blood ancestors. We touch the Earth to let go of the idea that we are separate and to remind us that we are the Earth and part of Life.

To begin this practice, join your palms in front of your chest in the shape of a lotus bud. Then gently lower yourself to the ground so that all four limbs and your forehead are resting comfortably on the floor. While touching the Earth, turn your palms face up, showing your openness to the Three Jewels — the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. When we touch the Earth, we breathe in all the strength and stability of the Earth and breathe out our suffering – our feelings of anger, hatred, fear, inadequacy and grief.  This is a wonderful practice.

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