Practicing Together from a Distance

Photo by Paul Davis

When we say, “I take refuge in the sangha,” it is not a statement, it is a practice.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

We are fortunate to have access to technology that allows us to continue to be there for each other, even when we are not able to gather in person. Starting March 29, Plum Blossom Sangha will offer our weekly sangha gathering remotely, creating our own virtual “Dharma Hall” using the Zoom video conferencing platform. We hope you will join us!

Using Zoom Software

You do not need a Zoom account to practice with us online. You may join us from a computer, smart phone or tablet (such as an iPad). If your device has a camera, you’ll be able to join with both video and audio features. It may ask you to download the Zoom software onto your device if you don’t already have it:

If this is your first time attending a Zoom meeting, give yourself at least ten minutes to set things up. You may want to check your sound and video out with a Zoom Test Call. If you run into trouble, check out the Zoom Help Center Getting Started Page.

If you prefer, you may join us via telephone (audio only) by dialing the phone number and meeting ID provided.

Joining the Weekly Sangha Gathering

In the email invitation about our weekly practice, we will include the necessary information for joining the virtual Dharma Hall (a hyperlink for those joining online, and a telephone number and meeting ID for those joining by phone).

Joining from a desktop or laptop computer

    • Go to the invitation email and open the highlighted link under Join Zoom Meeting. 
    • If this is your first time using Zoom, you will be prompted to download the Zoom Desktop Client. The download will take just a few minutes.
    • Once it has loaded, click on the launcher or client to enter the meeting. You may be prompted to type in your preferred username.

Joining from a smart phone or tablet

    • Download the Zoom Cloud Meetings application in the usual way you download applications on your smart phone or device.
    • Go to the invitation email and open the highlighted link under Join Zoom Meeting. 
    • Choose to open the meeting through the Zoom app on your phone or device.
    • Type in your preferred username if prompted. (You can also sign in using your Google or Facebook login.)
    • Allow the Zoom app to access your camera and microphone for conferencing.

Joining from a telephone

    • Dial a U.S. Zoom number, such as 346.248.7799, which is the Houston number.
    • When asked, enter the Zoom meeting ID provided in our weekly email invitation.

The two most commonly used controls to adjust video are:

    • Start/Stop Video (bottom left)
    • Enter Full Screen Click (top right)

Other common controls:

    • Chat: connects listeners with the moderator — we will not be using this function initially.
    • Participants: allows attendees to see who else is in the online zendo.
    • Gallery View vs Speaker View (see information below).
    • Note: Please, do not click “share screen”

Guidelines for Practicing Beautifully Together

When we are together in person, there are certain actions we take to create a sacred space and support each other’s practice. Similarly, there are things we can be mindful of as we enter the online Dharma Hall to practice beautifully together:

  • When we enter the virtual Dharma Halll, and during dharma sharing, we can use Gallery View to see and smile to our friends. To select Gallery View, look for an icon that looks like a tic-tat-toe square (On computers, it is in the upper right corner of the screen). Click on it to change your view from Speaker View to Gallery View. During the meditation period, you may wish to switch to Speaker View to view the main facilitator’s screen which may show the altar or an image. 
  • When we enter the online meditation hall, we can begin the practice of Noble Silence by muting our microphones. We ask that you keep your mic on mute at all times unless  you are actively speaking. If you are using a computer, at the bottom left of the screen you will see icons for microphone and video. On a tablet they may be on the upper left. By clicking on the microphone, you can mute or unmute it. The image of a microphone with a slash indicates mute. Volume is controlled by the regular controls on your device. During announcements or activities that involve discussion, please unmute while “bowing in” and again mute when “bowing out.” Please be aware that the facilitator for our practice may mute all microphones to support our practice.
  • We can each create a beautiful visual space for our practice by being mindful of what appears behind us on our individual screens and, therefore, what we bring into the Dharma Hall with us.
  • Being able to see each other is part of the benefit of practicing together online. Note that, if there is too much light behind you, we may not be able to see you as well. Please feel free to experiment to find the right place in your home that supports your practice and your participation in the online experience.
  • Just as we know to turn off our cell phones during meditation, you will want to close all other programs or applications to eliminate distractions and interruptions.