Bodhilila’s Notes October 2021
I am really enjoying the opportunity to practice in our shrine room, with our lovely Burmese Buddha, alongside other people in the same room. Meditating together, making offerings to the shrine, chanting mantras with other voices blending together or just having tea together sitting on a sofa in the reception area….These are all things I used to take for granted before the first lockdown and now they are precious experiences. It is such a joy to be back leading the weekly Saturday morning meditation class. I’m so happy reconnecting to people who used to come to the class before we closed, meeting in person people I’ve been practising with online and once again having people come along for the very first time.
I am also really valuing meeting in person with fellow team members and having some periods working together at the centre – it makes such a difference after a year and a half working from home and only connecting via phone or zoom. It feels a strange time, re-opening the building, running some in person classes, courses and study groups but with reduced opening hours and a much reduced programme. The numbers attending are less (though that is something I’m enjoying as sometimes there is an added intimacy and intensity to practising with a small group) and I imagine it will take a while for these to grow. There’s been a sense of coming home but that it’s not quite the same, so much has changed since we first closed the centre and there is still so much change and uncertainty going forward.
One thing that I am sure of is that the West London Buddhist Centre sangha is very special and it has grown even more so during this difficult time. Moving our events online meant that people who could not attend classes and coursers at the centre have been able to join us and have become valued and committed members of our community. I feel deep connections with people from around the world who have been coming to our online events and I know I am not alone in this. Our sangha now contains people who can only attend online, people who only attend in person and some who continue to do both.
As we have begun offering in person events, it is clear that for the centre and sangha to flourish we need to shift the balance so that over the next months we offer more in person events while continuing to run an online programme as well. I look forward to the time when our beautiful Buddhist centre building is once again a hub for our local spiritual community. Up until now, all the drop-in classes we are running at the centre have been focused on meditation. Starting in November, Dharma Night will be in person, with the next session focusing on devotional practice and a deep dive into the Sevenfold Puja. However, I want to reassure members of our online sangha that we really value you and will keep on offering an online programme in the longterm.
In the meantime, the early morning meditations every weekday, the Saturday morning Buddhism in the City class, the Wednesday lunchtime meditation class and the Thursday evening Meditation Space with Paramananda will continue online, as will our rolling programme of online Going Deeper courses on Wednesday nights. The next of these, Freeing the Heart and Mind, starts 3 November and will be led by Maitripushpa and Bodhilila.
Going forward we will be offering retreats both online and in person (I am delighted that I have just confirmed 3 weekend retreats at Othona in 2022 so save these dates; May 6-8, July 15-17 and October 14-16). Next up we have our Mandala of Joy retreat at Vajrasana 5-7 November, the first in person retreat the West London Buddhist Centre has run in over two years. Later this year, Prajnanita and I will be leading another online retreat over the New Year period, from 29 December – 1 January.
I hope you can make one or both of these retreats. I was co-leading a retreat at Vajrasana a couple of weeks ago and it is so beautiful right now. We have a fab team – Sudurjaya, Prajnanita, Ratnadeva and I will all be there and we have Michael Jones as our lead cook (he will also lead some Tai Chi based mindful movement sessions before the morning meditations). So come and join us if you can and experience the joy that comes from practising as a retreat community. We will be offering bursaries for both the in-person and online retreats and would love to have you there.