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 in the St. Francis Chapel of Trinity Episcopal Church, 320 E College Street, Iowa City (map). Chairs are available; if you prefer to use a zafu (meditation cushion), please feel free to bring one. We usually conclude around 8 p.m.
Other Sangha activities throughout the year include:
- Reading of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings following our meditation gathering, on the first Wednesday of every month.
- Walking Meditation in Hickory Hill Park, followed by coffee and conversation, on the first Saturday of every month.
- Book discussion groups.
- Joint activities with other Buddhist and meditation groups in Iowa City, under the name One Dharma.
- Participation in weekend retreats and Days of Mindfulness throughout the Midwest.
Our Meditation Gatherings
Our weekly meditation gatherings at 7 p.m. Wednesdays 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 first Wednesday of each month, we collectively read the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings
How to Support Us
- Each week at our meditation gatherings we offer regular attendees and opportunity to contribute dana (a free-will offering) to help support ongoing expenses, including rental of our meeting space, Meetup page subscription, flower purchases, printing, etc. We ask newcomers and guests not to donate dana.
- Additionally, we maintain an account at the Stuff Etc. consignment shop. You can make a donation and ask them to put any proceeds from its sale to the Winding Path Account, #41638.
Stay in Touch!
To contact the Winding Path Sangha, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.