Hi, everyone. I hope this finds you all happy, healthy, safe, and (this year) warm as 2013 draws to a close and we make plans for 2014. It’s been a productive and interesting year for the Secular Buddhist Association in a number of ways.
We’ve benefitted from the audio mixing talents of Anthony Dominello. Anthony not only produces the audio files for The Secular Buddhist, but for the new podcast Present Moment, as well as Stephen Schettini’s new podcast for The Naked Monk. Anthony’s efforts greatly improve the sound quality we enjoy on each episode for which he lends his expertise, and frees other resources for additional activities for the SBA.
A long-time participant in our Discussion forums, David Chou, has also been generous in providing his time and energy filling a gap we’ve had for a long time. Thanks to David, the podcasts are starting to have transcriptions available on the episode pages within a few weeks of publication. People who would rather read the interviews can do so, either as text on the episode page itself, or as a PDF file linked on the page. You can read more about Anthony and David on our Directors and Staff page, and we’re very grateful to them both for their kind contributions of their personal time to help make things better.
Mark Knickelbine has done an excellent job managing Practice Circle, our online group that meets every other Sunday. This has been an invaluable resource for people seeking regular support for their meditation practice, as we use Adobe Connect to see and hear participants through streaming video and audio, have break out sessions in virtual rooms with a partner, and come together again for group discussion. We have over a hundred people now registered, with a solid attendance of over a dozen people committing to having ongoing practice and dialogue with others, learning together regardless of experience or location.
Mark has also become a certified meditation teacher by The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. This enhances his own credentialing, and provides benefit to the SBA as Mark makes his generous and significant contribution of time with Practice Circle, and his ongoing participation on the Discussion forums and as a regular blogger on this and the Present Moment Mindfulness site.
Doug Smith has continued to share his knowledge, understanding, and insights as our Blogging Director. Doug’s posts are a mainstay of the Secular Buddhist Association, and are also in demand as they begin to be cross-posted on the New York Insight Meditation Center blog. Doug is an invaluable resource for us, especially in light of his participation in the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies‘ Integrated Study and Practice Program (ISPP) with Andy Olendzki, and his ongoing commitment to critical thinking in our exploration of the dhamma.
We had our first and second Practice Challenges in January and March of 2013. These challenges provided FaceBook, Twitter, blogging, and Practice Circle support for the development and sustaining of a daily meditation practice for anyone interested.
The Secular Buddhist now has 189 episodes, with a regular base of over three thousand listeners tuning in.
We’ve shifted The Secular Buddhist from a weekly podcast, to every other week, without a drop in listeners. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a podcast to listen to every week, however, as a new podcast has been created in 2013 called Present Moment: Mindfulness Practice and Science. The new podcast isn’t part of the SBA umbrella, but offers the same kind of programming with interviews and open dialogue about contemplative practices. And as The Secular Buddhist appears in the Religion section of iTunes, Present Moment appears in the Science section, opening the door to practice for those from a non-traditional background.
There are now a dozen partner websites openly associated with Secular Buddhism, spanning nine countries. Many of them have in-person practice groups and activities, and there are many other groups becoming more open about their non-traditional approach to Buddhism.
We were very fortunate to be invited to participate in a Secular Buddhism Colloquium at Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in March of 2013. This was an amazing gathering of about thirty teachers and researchers, all engaged in a participatory exploration of what secular Buddhism means, our hopes and concerns, and what the future may hold. We are actively partnering with BCBS and film-maker Adam Eurich to release content from that event to the public in 2014.
We also attended our usual suspect list of conferences this year, including Buddhist Geeks in Colorado, and the 11th Annual International Scientific Conference from the Center for Mindfulness in Massachusetts.
Throughout all of this, the SBA has continued to grow, with over three and a half thousand subscribers to this website, more than tripling in size from this time last year. We continue to bring new content in the blogs, discussions, and podcasts, all in keeping with our mission to cultivate understanding, community, and ongoing leadership for a secular Buddhism. That will progress into the new year, and we look forward to seeing you in 2014!