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13th-15th May this year saw Adhisthana host the first ever weekend retreat for Triratna’s gender diverse sangha. Kamalanandi was there. (Apologies for an email mixup which has delayed publication of his report.)
“The retreat was led by a team of four Order members, some of whom had been instrumental in establishing the Triratna Gender Diverse Buddhists’ Facebook group, from which this retreat emerged.
Our theme was “Mind body bardo” and we had a few short talks about the experience of inhabiting bardos both bodily and socially; of not fitting societal norms, within the context of our Buddhist practice.
All the retreatants had an experience of gender that differed either fully or partially from the gender they were assigned at birth and everyone found it was an incredibly supportive situation for communal practice.
It was interesting to observe how Bhante’s early ideas of single-sex activities, such as retreats or study groups, being more conducive to spiritual development applied very much to this context too; that by separating off from cis-identified people collective practice felt easier, simpler. (‘Cis’ means to identify with the gender that you were assigned with at birth.) One retreatant was heard to say, ‘Sangharakshita had it right about the single gender thing, but the problem is that we now know there aren’t only two genders!’
Adhisthana were great hosts, negotiating with us new ways of assigning sleeping accommodation, bathrooms and toilets, and altering their online booking form so that instead of the traditional male/female tick box they now have a text box in which retreatants describe their gender as they wish to.
As it was so successful we have already got another, slightly longer, retreat booked for next year!”
Below are comments from some of the retreatants about their experience.
“It’s quite something to realise that after 25 years of practice and going on retreat, this was the first ever retreat on which I didn’t feel ‘on alert’, or that I was in some way concealing myself. Very liberating but also quite sobering, and this really reinforces my sense that what we’re starting here is meeting a vital need in Triratna, and it’s by no means only a new need.”
“This was the most comfortable retreat I have been on, both inside and outside of Triratna.”
“Somebody said ‘It’s not a retreat; it’s an advance!’ and that kind of summed up my experience. Or that it was both! The flavour of the retreat was buzzing, community and creating connections. It was very nurturing to be in a space where my gender was seen, valued, supported, and felt like part of a bigger picture.”
“It really was a wonderful experience, amongst beautiful people. The strength and depth of connection I felt was far beyond that of the many other retreats I have been on. My meditation was deep and vivid, with moments of archetypal connection and I felt able to really be myself, openly and honestly. It felt like I finally had supportive conditions for spiritual development and deepening spiritual friendship.”
Watch Parami’s interview with the retreat organisers.
Read more about Triratna’s Gender Diverse group.
+Follow the Triratna Gender Diverse Buddhists on Facebook.