Notes from the Buddhist Insight Network Conference

Denise explores a Santa Cruz cemetery

The Buddhist Insight Network Intersangha Conference was a great opportunity to meet and talk with members of sanghas of many different locations and sizes. There was a lot of sharing of ideas and experiences, of what has worked and what hasn’t. This year’s conference was at the Insight Meditation Retreat Center near Santa Cruz and was attended by Kathy Schwerin and Denise Barclay.  What follows are some notes and reflections on what Denise heard and learned.


1) BIN did a survey to get an idea of who makes up the body of the sanghas and shared there findings with a slide presentation. The average age was 53, with women outnumbering men, and the vast majority being white. In a way it was a relief to see that we all are grappling with the same issues of how to bring in the youth population and add diversity to our sanghas. Tracy, a self-proclaimed queer brown woman, and Gabriel from Common Ground in Minneapolis gave a presentation on what their sangha has done and is doing to become a culture of inclusivity and diversity. I kept hearing them emphasize the importance of sitting with the questions and being patient for the answers.

The following is a list of actions that has worked for them:

a) Include the larger community in the conversation. Look at our own aggressions and bias and not depend on comfort as a refuge.

b) Increase our capacity to be with uncomfortable situations, including conflict.

c) Invite guest teachers that can help with this process.

d) Pick books that reflect these topics ie. Larry Yang’s “Awakening Together” to read in sangha.

e) Find intersections with our differences and share stories.

f) Have conversations of the harm that comes out of complacency.

g) Don’t be afraid to lose people with a culture shift.

h) Formal committee or policy on diversity.


2) Another presenter talked about the erosive nature of Technology. Through the manipulative and addictive qualities of technology it feeds our greed, hatred and delusion and undermines our practice to incline the mind in a different direction. This issue is of grave concern to the guiding sangha of Spirit Rock and other Dharma Leaders and they are working to find a way to deal with this ever deepening problem.

Here a list of possible actions that were presented:

a) Generating awareness – Include the community in the conversation. Watch Tristan Harris Ted Talks.

b) Look for Insiders at Tech Companies and advocate from the inside.

c) Policy/Lawmaking

d) Humane Design that aligns with humane-ness in the mind.

e) Guided meditation with phones on. Notice how it feels each time there is a notification of a message, etc.

f) Not plugging your phone in by your bed.

g) has a more comprehensive list of how to relate to technology.

h) Don’t pick up phone immediately, insert space.


3) Some helpful shared strategies from other sanghas on various topics:

a) Volunteer buttons on the website

b) Service as practice. Present as service rather than volunteerism.

c) A luncheon for volunteers each year.

d) Quarterly meal for a disadvantaged segment of the population.

e) Written directions for volunteer tasks.

f) Small meeting with volunteers with a guest teacher (as a thank you for your service.)

g) 6-8 week introductory course

h) Repetition is key!

i) Volunteer Coordinator – Convoy for email reminders to coordinate volunteers.

j) Community meetings – annual/biannual

In conclusion I think it is very helpful to have a presence and be present for this annual meeting. It inspires, clarifies and creates a connection with other sanghas nationwide. I would definitely encourage others to attend and would attend again myself in the future.

Respectfully submitted,

Denise Barclay

One Comment:

  1. Some great ideas here. Thanks for sharing
    Especially liked:

    Small meeting with volunteers with a guest teacher (as a thank you for your service.)

    Guided meditation with phones on.

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