Triratna Resources

How to Engage your Sangha with Home Retreats

On Mon, 8 June, 2020 - 15:20
aparajita's picture
aparajita

As part of The Buddhist Centre Online’s response to the pandemic, they have been offering Home Retreats, and these continue each month.

Whilst our Centres are closed or restricted, these are an excellent way of giving your Sangha something substantial yet flexible to engage with, and are a whole lot less work than doing it all using your local team! In fact the support you need to offer could be quite minimal - some email or WhatsApp, a discussion group or two.

Any doubts, questions, ideas: contact support [at] thebuddhistcentre.com

The next 2 Home Retreats will have a meditative emphasis:

  • June 12-19 Tejananda (Chair of Vajraloka) will explore a body-based (somatic) approach to our entire system of practice (more details here)
  • July 10-17 the Taraloka team will lead us into a thorough-going exploration of mindfulness practice based on the Satipatthana approach (details to follow on the Dharma Toolkit)

Home Retreats offer both the opportunity to gather some of your Sangha in a common Dharmic pursuit whilst also connecting to the wider Triratna world. 

Ideally you would participate ‘live’ ie the week it is happening and contribute your presence/engagement but all material stays online (including the recording of any live events) so you can use the materials at whatever time suits.

If you’re wondering how it might work in practice, here’s two examples:

From Vidyasakhi + Arthasiddhi of the Cambridge Buddhist Centre…

THE VISION

The home retreat was a solution for us to deepen Sangha locally with limited resources and also introduce people to our wider movement. 

Since entering the lockdown phase we have been really encouraged and inspired by the responsiveness of our local sangha to provide as much online opportunity for connection and contact as possible, given our limited resources in the context of furloughing members of the Centre Team and other considerations connected to adapting to lockdown. 

We saw from our zoom Sangha night experience that we could deepen Sangha online. We also saw that what people most needed now was not a course but a home retreat in which more people could transform house arrest into an opportunity - a home retreat. We didn’t however have the resources to pull one together.

Zoom is great for providing an intimate space (given the situation we find ourselves in) for Sangha connections; but we have become aware that there’s a lot of high quality content being developed at The Buddhist Centre Online and it would seem a good use of resources to take advantage of that; so we have launched a week-long CBC Sangha Home retreat on the back of Sadayasihi and Kusaladevi’s lovingly put together Being Divine Online community toolkit.  

SETTING IT UP

We made it an event on our website and took bookings and publicised via our mailing lists, social media, and announcements at our Sangha and Meditation evenings. We chose to offer it on a dana basis and so far have raised £750 which we’ll share with TBCO.

50 people signed up, mostly regulars/mitras/some newcomers from the Cambridge locality, but also from Istanbul and the Netherlands.

USING + SUPPLEMENTING THE BUDDHIST CENTRE ONLINE RESOURCES

We’ve offered a 50 minute morning meditation for every day of the retreat (including in that time very brief, suggestive talks orienting our community towards making the most of the material on TBCO), created home groups on WhatsApp, and set up hour-long zoom check in sessions on the Saturday, Wednesday and Friday of the retreat. We pulled together a team of order members and gfr mitras to organise the technology and manage the home groups and WhatsApp groups. 

Ratnavandana’s Q and A session was a brilliant opportunity to open a window for our community on the existence of the wider context of the Triratna movement, at the same time creating a consciousness that Cambridge is a small but significant element of that big picture. And she was marvellous, very impressive at the same time as being easy to connect with.  We’ve also tailored our Sangha Night and Thursday Meditation classes to be part of the retreat programme. 

THE FRUITS + LEARNINGS

Attendance at all of the sessions we’ve offered so far has been gratifyingly good.  People are really enjoying it and participating fully. The ‘Being Divine online’ material is excellent. Some of it is very advanced and perhaps a bit undigested from the perspective of a number of our participants (terms such as mandala, Bhante, jina etc are unfamiliar to many of our participants and they are not really explained or introduced) - but the quality and the potential of the material for transforming your life inside or out of lockdown is tangible, and our retreat community are obviously being inspired and stimulated by it.

It’s proving to be a great way to maintain a sense of continuity in our Sangha at the same time as opening our eyes to the possibility of wider engagement in these more emphatically digital times. Things will never be the same again - and I can imagine that we’ll be doing more of this kind of thing in the future.

Read More from Vidyasakhi here.


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From Jvalamalini, of the Bristol Buddhist Centre…

THE VISION

I’ve been leading one of two pop-up groups for Bristol women doing the ‘Being Divine Online’ home retreat offered by TBCO this week. The inspiration arose as an ‘in-the-shower thought’ in Satyalila’s creative mind 2 days before the retreat started and she suggested it to me.  I’d been in need of more engagement with the sangha and I was delighted to revisit and re-promote Ratnavandana’s excellent teachings recorded on a wonderful retreat at Bristol Buddhist Centre five years ago. The Brahma Viharas have been important practices for me, and surely what I and the world need now is more positive emotion.


SETTING IT UP

We emailed Bristol mitras, a few regular friends, and dharmacharinis asking whether they were doing the retreat, suggesting a few things we might offer, and asking what they might find helpful.  As I had 22 replies, I was delighted that Suryadaya joined me and we put the women into two retreat groups.

As I didn’t know everyone I emailed inviting them to write a bit about how they’re finding the lockdown, what their life is like as a context for a home retreat, something about their meditation and metta bhavana experience, and what their heart wishes and retreat intentions are. 


USING + SUPPLEMENTING THE BUDDHIST CENTRE ONLINE RESOURCES

We offered a Zoom meeting for each group after Ratnavandana’s Q&A on Sunday, and on Thursday afternoon at the end of the retreat, a WhatsApp group for each group to keep in touch during the week, and individual email dialogues with Suryadaya or me.
This has suited me well.

Having the Dharmic content and structure already provided by TBCO left me available for deeper 1:1 engagement and a couple of small group sessions - and it was only for a week! 


THE FRUITS + LEARNINGS

Another time I’d be clearer about what was on offer, rather than inviting everyone to say what they wanted and responding to that (I hadn’t anticipated so many replies!) and I’d be clearer that it’s all optional as some women felt overwhelmed or that they weren’t doing well enough to keep up with everything offered. Doing this with an existing mitra group would be an even simpler thing to set up and lead.

People have been deeply affected and grateful to Ratnavandana and for the retreat generally. I’m sure the opportunity to participate as a local group brought the retreat to their attention, made more links in the sangha, and strengthened their resolve. I’m grateful too to TBCO for curating the material so beautifully and making it easy for me.

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