Though these lockdowns are largely a disaster for social interaction, in many ways, the sudden thrust into the online world facilitates a greater reach with more opportunities. My experience of Buddhism, for instance, only leapt from academic books to meditation practice after one particular group went online. Brighton LGBTQ Meditation Group, a part of Bodhi Tree Brighton, a group I would otherwise have never been able to attend (due to it existing 5 hours away from me), has been a comforting sanctuary for me in these troubling times. It was only through this experience that my understanding of Buddhism has been able to flourish. Though I would be cautious in calling myself a Buddhist (or anything else for that matter), I would certainly consider myself a strong admirer of the Buddha.
The group meets weekly, and attracts a fair number of individuals, possibly between six and twelve. I am unsure whether everyone in attendance identifies as Buddhist, but it appears that a lot of them have been practicing for a while. Most of those who attend do so on a regular basis, and have been for several years. The group has been running since 2002, other than Sheila (the convenor of the group), I think the next record is fifteen years of practice. Most of the individuals identify as women and I often find myself welcomed as the token gay man!
We usually 'check in' at the beginning and provide a reflection of our week and current state of mind. This is important - it helps you consider why you're meditating, and what you aim to achieve from being there. Then there is half an hour of guided meditation, which includes focussing on the breath, positioning yourself within the world, and comprehending the various support systems around you. The idea of support (whether internal, external, or both) is an important staple for these sessions. Despite being online, the group works very successfully in its aims, providing an important space for participants to share their feelings with unique vulnerability and trust.
From time to time, the group offers sessions with other Buddhist practitioners - for instance there was a recent weekend event with Lama Rod Owens, who spoke about his new book Love and Rage. The talk was an emotive discussion of Queer practice and lived-experience. In the weekly sessions, a similar discussion follows meditation - usually Sheila will provide a reading or talk as a conversation starter. I was honestly surprised by the responses of the group members - these are individuals who are genuinely interested in the issues being discussed (perhaps I had felt isolated in my studies!). A lot of the members have a far better grasp on Buddhist ideas than I do, which makes for interesting discussion. I have learned a lot about Buddhism (particularly the lived experiences of Queer Buddhists) from this group.
In truth, I am almost not looking forward to the groups inevitable transition to the real world again (although I am looking forward to this nightmare being over), as I sadly wouldn't be able to attend. I am however grateful to the group for their consistent warmth and kindness, especially during this strange and worrisome year of our lives.
Nath H. Clarke
Student of Buddhism and Sociology
University of Nottingham
Anyone who might be interested in the group can find details here: