Last weekend I participated in a small panel on Buddhism, where a Buddhist student in the audience asked me how I incorporate Buddhist practice into my everyday life. I gave her a fairly lame response along the lines of, “I meditate daily and—gosh, Buddhism practically permeates my life!”
Here is my attempt to give her a slightly better idea of how I have been engaged with the Buddhist community, along with the types of opportunities she likely will have in the Buddhist community after graduation.
On a personal level, Buddhist practice is weaved into my day with meditation, prayer and reflection. I try to meditate every day in the morning after waking up and in the evening between the time I get home and go to bed. But I’m involved quite a bit beyond my day-to-day work life.
I am also involved in my local community. Recently, it’s easy to forget this, as the last six months have inundated my schedule with work. When I’m not beholden to pressing deadlines, I participate in a local meditation group, volunteer with a local temple youth group and make occasional trips to temples and monasteries farther afield—sometimes as far as an eight hour drive!
In the past, I’ve also attended a number of meditation retreats. There are free retreats, such as the Vipassana retreats, which I highly recommend. I was in fact expected to participate in a short-term temporary ordination program, but I bowed out due to work obligations.
Of course, beyond these bits of involvement, I blog here and also here.
So if you’re a young Buddhist college graduate who’s moved across the country and looking to participate in a community, start simple. Figure out how you would like to get involved in your community. If you’re interested in meditation, you could find a meditation group. If you’re more interested in social action, you might want to find a local chapter of Tzu Chi or the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, for example.
I would also encourage you to blog and/or tweet about your Buddhist struggles and experiences in the community, especially if you find yourself in a place without many Buddhists. There are millions of Buddhists online, and they likely be more than happy to reach out and let you know that you’re not alone. If you’re worried about snarky bloggers (like me!) then turn on comment moderation—or turn off the comments altogether!
You might even find that through a deeper involvement in the Buddhist community, you look toward monastic ordination. There are many opportunities for ordination—many more opportunities today for young Buddhists in the West than there were just ten years ago. Or you might even explore becoming a Dharma teacher or academic.
There are many opportunities to be engaged in the community, but a key piece is to take your time. Much of my involvement in the Buddhist community has come about through opportunities rooted in friendships that I’ve made over the years.
I’m interested in thoughts from readers—what are some other ways someone new to Buddhism could get involved in the community?