Sanghabuild Arrives in Athens

November, 2017

Dear Beloved Community,

Greetings from Athens! It is with tremendous joy and dedicated hearts that we write to you from our blooming residential practice community in Greece: Wαkε Up Athεnα!

Over the past month, over a dozen of Wake Uppers have descended from diverse European countries and North America with the aspirations to live and practice together, listen deeply and learn, and serve the beautiful people, animals, and land here.

As many of you know, during the past several years, Greece has been a doorway for millions of migrants seeking refuge from war, persecution, and economic distress. They have risked everything: their homeland, savings, family members, and even their own lives, while hoping for a new way of life. The stories they are sharing with us reveal both the ever-resilient and tender loving heart of humanity, as well as the depths of human sorrow and tragedy.

We have come with a deep faith in the power and resiliency of our own beloved community and practice to support us in responding both communally and compassionately to this ongoing situation. First and foremost, we come here to learn, listen, and appreciate the strength, wisdom, and joy that has kept them alive and persevering through untold hardships. They are our teachers here, no doubt.

Beholding Athens, in all its glory and challenges

We also believe that as a community of practice, we have something to offer to the people, animals, and land here – that by our practice of deep listening and mindfulness in daily life, we may respond in ways that offer true friendship and support.

So far, we’ve been 15 practitioners strong, representing Germany, Ireland, France, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United States, and England. We are serving in refugee camps, community centers, and NGO’s in Athens, and in diverse capacities such as art therapy, physiotherapy, assistant cooks and staff in soup kitchens, mental health practitioners, legal support, construction, English and French language instruction, animal care, community gardening, and more! In coming weeks and months, we will also be offering mindfulness practice sessions for staff and volunteers in NGO’s around Athens who have requested our support. Some of us will be staying for one month, others two to four months, and still others indefinitely.

We begin every day by holding each other in meditation, words from our root Teacher, and a quiet communal breakfast. Most mornings we have a check-in sharing together, and every evening, we share a communal dinner in mindfulness to support our collective harmony and joy. We maintain a vegetarian diet and freedom from alcohol or other substances in our houses, and continuously support conscious communication with each other. Every week, we do something super fun in Athens to refresh our spirits and grow our wonder at the beauty of this land. We’re continually reassessing our weekly and daily practice together to better support each other and the Athens community.

Every morning, we gather in silence and joy, preparing our minds and hearts for whatever the day asks of us.

We have been blessed by the gracious support and abilities of our Sangha sister Leonie Meester, who has been living in Greece for two years already, and opened up the door for all of us to live together in two Sangha houses in Athens, located next to each other. We live in a migrant-rich neighborhood, allowing us to live in the same neighborhood with those we aspire to learn from, serve, and build relationships.

Perhaps our greatest lesson thus far is that we are most effective, receive and offer the most, through the simple yet priceless beauty of friendships we have been making, both with each other and with the diverse people living here. This is where our deepest joys and gratitudes have been manifesting so far.

We welcome people’s questions, encouragements, and support for our Sangha living and service experiment.

Bowing before the three jewels,

David Viafora, representing Wake Up Athena

To learn more, visit us on Facebook: Greece Sangha Service Project

The Abbot of Upper Hamlet in Plum Village, Thay Phap Huu offered us this calligraphy to support and encourage our efforts as a community of practice in Greece. It has been our prevailing mantra throughout.