Who We Are

The Winding Path Sangha (originally named the Iowa City Sangha) was founded on January 20, 2016, and is located in Iowa City, Iowa.

Our Sangha (or "community") of lay practitioners follows the tradition of Vietnamese Buddhist teacher and peacemaker Thích Nhất Hạnh, who says there is no path to peace; peace is the path.

Because we know that path can be winding and sometimes challenging, and to support peace within ourselves and in the world, our Sangha gathers weekly to meditate, hear from teachings by Buddhist teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh and others, share about our practice, and discern together how to live fully in the present moment at home, at work, and in our community. We also meet regularly for outside walking meditation, book discussion, and social events.

Everyone is welcome, regardless of beliefs or experience with meditation, Buddhism, or mindfulness practices.

Whatever spiritual path has brought you to us today, however winding, you're welcome here.

Our Lineage and Practice

Zen is based on the practice of sitting meditation, on direct non-conceptual awareness of our everyday lives, and on a belief that we all have “Buddha minds” that are clear and perfect just as they are, if we will only drop the veil of thinking and delusion that obscures them.

Introduced into China about 1500 years ago by the Indian monk Bodhidharma, “Zen” comes from the Chinese “Ch’an,” which in turn is based on the Sanskrit word “dhyana,” meaning sitting meditation. Zen is practiced in Japan, China, Vietnam, Korea and now in many western countries as well. Despite Zen’s reliance on direct experience rather than a more theoretical study of Buddhist sutras and writings, there are many wonderful Zen stories and anecdotes of teacher-student dialogues and wordless interactions resulting in sudden enlightenment.

Zen is a form of Mahayana Buddhism, as is Tibetan Buddhism. “Mahayana” is a Sanskrit term meaning “the great vehicle”; its practitioners do not seek enlightenment and liberation only for themselves, but they seek it for all sentient beings. The Mahayana wisdom teachings emphasize the inter-connectedness and unity of all things--called “interbeing” by Thích Nhất Hạnh--and the non-existence of a separate self. Thus, our practice includes selfless service. We practice for one another and for all beings, to diminish suffering and increase happiness for all, including ourselves, but not putting ourselves above anyone else.

Thích Nhất Hạnh and his monastic community have incorporated many of the Mahayana teachings into the Five Mindfulness Trainings, based on the five ethical precepts of the Buddha, as expanded and applied to today’s world.

Although we do not have a residential teacher in Iowa City, through retreats and Days of Mindfulness our Sangha members have periodic contact with teachers in a lineage that has handed down the Buddha's teachings--the Dharma--in an unbroken chain since the lifetime of Shakyamuni Buddha more than 2,500 years ago. These teachers teach in the tradition of Thích Nhất Hạnh, whose lineage goes back to the ninth-century Chinese Chan master Lin Chi (known as Rinzai in Japanese) and ultimately back to the Buddha.

Our lineage emphasizes consciously integrating daily life and spiritual life so that our practice of mindfulness meditation and the development of wisdom and compassion can permeate and transform all aspects of our lives and relationships.

What We Do

We meet at 7 p.m. every Wednesday for meditation, sometimes in-person, and sometimes online--more information below. Other Sangha activities throughout the year include:

  • Men's and Women's Sangha groups.

  • Reading of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings following our meditation gathering, on the second Wednesday of every month.

  • Walking Meditations in Hickory Hill Park on the first Saturday of every month, and at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area on the third Saturday of every month, both at 10 a.m.

  • Book discussion groups.

  • Participation in weekend retreats and Days of Mindfulness throughout the Midwest.

Our Meditation Gatherings

Our weekly meditation gatherings at 7 p.m. Wednesdays take place in-person at Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, and online via Zoom the second, fourth, and fifth Wednesdays of every month. Each gathering typically last about an hour. The format we follow is:

  • Welcome and invitation of the bell

  • Introductions (attendees share their names and provide a brief internal weather report, if they'd like)

  • 20 minutes of silent sitting meditation

  • A reading, typically from one of Thích Nhất Hạnh's books

  • Dharma sharing, a chance to speak from the heart about your practice, especially as it relates to the day's reading

  • Sharing the Merit, an opportunity to offer any benefits from the night's practice to those who are sick, dying, or otherwise in need

  • Sending and invitation of the bell

  • Immediately following these meetings on the second Wednesday of each month, Sangha members are welcome to stay to read the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings together.

How to Support Us

  • On weeks when we meet in-person, e offer regular attendees and opportunity to contribute dana (a free-will offering) to help support ongoing expenses, including rental of our meeting space, website and domain costs, flower purchases, printing, etc. We ask newcomers and guests not to donate dana.

Stay in Touch!

To keep apprised of our latest activities, view our Calendar page or our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/windingpathsangha.

To contact the Winding Path Sangha, email us at windingpathsangha@gmail.com.

"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." Thích Nhất Hạnh