Let’s face it, practice requires continual attention, intention, meditation time, and much of it is not easy. Learning about Buddhism is also challenging, especially since most books are not written for a secular viewpoint. Of course, that is why we created the SBA site, to provide you with information on secular Buddhism, and to make it possible for you to talk with others on various topics of interest.
As this community grows, it’s very encouraging for all of is. We get more information, meet a lot of new people through vibrant conversations, and find some of the support we need.
Having a large community to turn to is wonderful. But it can also seem a little intimidating, and all of the discussions are public facing. There may be topics we don’t feel comfortable bringing up, and perhaps there are only a few people we’d like to share certain issues with. To really dig into our practice and get down to the nitty-gritty, we need a sangha (community) and closer dharma buddies.
Here on SBA, you can talk with others through Comments to articles or podcasts, or you can chat and bring up topics of your own in the Discussion forums, and you can attend Practice Circle for a regular virtual sangha where you actually see people!
All of this is great, but something I have found profoundly helpful in developing my practice was having a few very close dharma buddies. When I was in Second Life, I met Linda Blanchard, Mark Knicklebine, Jan Ford, Ted Meissner, and a few others. These were people I saw only online in the beginning, as their avatars. But over the years, we exchanged personal information. These dharma buddies were crucial to my practice. I could talk to them about issues of my practice or life in private, topics I just didn’t want to air publicly in Second Life or on Facebook.
It occurred to me that the discussions we’re having here are SBA are helpful and wonderful, but some of you may need more, a way of getting closer to certain SBA members without making your emails public, or giving out personal information before you are ready. So, I added a feature to the site that you can use if you need it, or ignore if you don’t.
Every one who is registered on this site now has a Private Message box. You can send any other member a Private Message. I’m hoping this will enable some of you to create closer bonds with dharma buddies who can support your practice on a more personal level. Your email remains private, unless you choose to give it to someone.
You can get to your Message box in several ways:
- Login to the site
- Go to your Profile by click on your name up in the right corner
- In the left navigation from within Profile, click Messages
- That opens to Inbox, Outbox, Send
- Also, if you have messages, you’ll see an alert near the main Login box in the right navigation of the site
If you want to send someone a private message, click on Send. Then where it says To begin typing the username of the person you want to send a message. It should auto-fill for you. When they get the message, they can respond. All your messages are private. You get 20 messages per box, so be sure to delete them when you no longer delete them so the Inbox doesn’t fill up. If someone does not respond, it could be they don’t feel comfortable with private messages. Please respect that.
You can practice on me if you feel unsure. I’m happy to respond and help you out if you need it.
If none of this appeals to you, there is nothing for you to do. Simply ignore the feature. But I hope some of you will take the time to send your favorite people messages.
It was through a similar private message system that I learned Jan Ford was in the same state as I was. We exchanged emails, and Facebook Friends, and then I drove to Santa Barbara from time to time to visit with him in person. That was one of the most valuable friendships I’ve had in my life, and to my dharma practice. I hope you’ll meet dharma buddies who you become such close friends with.