The Secular Buddhist Network (SBN) held a half-day, online meditation retreat on 4 February 2024. Over 20 people from several countries participated. This was the first retreat that SBN has organized since the website went public in Fall 2019.
Unlike most traditional meditation retreats that are led by one or several teachers, who give meditation instructions and dharma talks, SBN's retreat was peer-led, with three people providing brief introductions for the silent meditation periods.
There were two periods of sitting meditation. One focused on mindfulness of the body and the other on ‘interbeing’ or interconnectedness, using a meditation on the four traditional ‘elements’ (earth, air water, fire) to help us loosen the sense of self and facilitate our deep connections with each other and the rest of nature. There was also a period of mindful walking meditation.
After each period of meditation, the participants discussed their meditation experience in breakout groups. The conversations were lively and meaningful.
The retreat ended with a metta meditation and a final discussion. The metta phrases reflect a secular and socially engaged notion of sangha:
May we be held in loving kindness, surrounded by warmth, care, and friendliness.
May we be safe and protected from harm.
May we have moments of peace and equanimity.
May we be kind to ourselves and others.
May we accept ourselves and others just as we are.
May our words and actions reduce suffering and promote the flourishing of all.
Tim Raine, Colette Descent, and Sharon Tobias organized the retreat.