Foundational Agreements for online and in-person Practice Groups
All practice groups (online and in-person) that are listed on the HAF website are asked to commit to the following Foundational Agreements:
- That practice groups are aligned with Rob Burbea’s teachings
- That practice groups are conscious of and acknowledge when materials/practices used in groups are not Rob Burbea’s teachings
- That practice groups incorporate ethical standards appropriate to the group, the sangha and the teachings
- That practice groups are appropriately ‘held’ sangha spaces
- That the role of a practice group ‘facilitator’ is clearly distinguished from that of ‘Dharma teacher’
In addition HAF has written the Guidelines below as a support for online Practice Groups listed on the HAF website. The guidelines were distilled from a survey of sangha members with experience and involvement in online Practice Groups. They are not a rigid blueprint but designed to provide a helpful, supportive framework for all facilitators and Practice Groups who wish to use them. We would expect that the specific working practices of groups will vary and will emerge from the particulars of each group.
Please note that sangha members are of course free to set up groups without HAF involvement – these agreements and guidelines are for those groups who wish to be listed on the website.
If you wish to list a new, establishing or established online Practice Group on this page, please contact us at email@example.com with ‘Online Sangha Practice Group listing’ in the subject line, and a short description of the group. Someone will be in touch with you to talk about the listing.
Supporting guidelines for online Practice Groups
Ten Guidelines + a list of possible practice tools and activities.
Please name as clearly as possible your intentions for the Practice Group you wish to establish so that those interested have a good sense of the purpose of the group and whether it is a fit for them. With the common acknowledgment that intentions may change over time, and that if this happens they may be reformulated by the group.
- Dyad or small group practices to share Soulmaking images around climate activism
- No specific intention other than to come together and to connect around the teachings with sensitivity and within an ethical framework
- Discussion of philosophical ideas/thinkers who resonate with Rob’s teachings
HAF encourages prerequisites for Practice Group members to a degree which is matched to the intention and level of the group. Facilitators seek to ensure that group members have the appropriate prerequisites.
- For a Soulmaking practice group: to have a good working knowledge of energy body, metta, ability to tend to one's emotional responses in a group and to have attended a soulmaking retreat or course.
- For a group exploring Soulmaking and Activism: to be involved in some kind of activism in the world, and to have a regular Soulmaking practice.
3) Facilitator experience in holding space
HAF suggests that the experience of the facilitator/s of Practice Groups be appropriate to the area of practice being offered.
We acknowledge and welcome the wide range of sources from which appropriate space-holding experience can come.
- A natural capacity to attune to groups and hold space
- Formal training in any arena
- Personal experience of being in held spaces
Facilitator experience in holding space may look like:
- Facilitating a discussion sensitively
- Striking a meditation bell, keeping time and operating the zoom breakout rooms
- Introducing a practice giving clear instructions or inviting what is welcome
- Welcoming new members
4) Facilitator experience of practices and content
HAF suggests that the practice experience of the facilitator/s of Practice Groups is appropriate to the area of practice being offered.
We acknowledge and welcome the wide range of sources from which experience of practice and content can come.
- Independent practice, study or work
- Practice with sangha
- Guidance from teachers
Facilitator experience of practices and content may look like:
- Working familiarity with metta practice, samadhi practices, Images, three characteristics, Brahma Viharas, opening to current of desire etc
- Theoretical understanding of Soulmaking Dharma logos, emptiness, dependent origination, ‘ways of looking’ etc
- Personal experiences of ‘translating/implementing’ teachings in everyday life
HAF suggests that facilitators consider what commitments they will make to the group that are appropriate and supportive for the group as a whole.
- To honour what has been offered: eg a monthly 2 hour discussion space. If facilitators are unable to fulfil this commitment to take due care to find appropriate alternatives or to give a sensitive explanation and apology to attendees.
- To consider rotating roles with others facilitators if helpful
We suggest that facilitators consider and formulate a set of commitments that group members are asked to agree to.
- Arrive 5 minutes before the session starts and stay at least until the first break
- Attend all 6 weekly closed practice sessions
- Read Chapter 1 of Seeing That Frees before the first discussion group
6) Belonging and Inclusion
HAF encourages facilitators to seek to cultivate and foster cultures of welcoming, belonging and inclusion, and to take time to consider how this can be achieved in ways that match the space being offered and allow for new members to join.
- When advertising a Practice Group give a contact person with whom inclusion matters can be discussed
- Think about timezones so that meetings are accessible to as many as possible
- Ask about and make room for diversity. For example, where a member is visually impaired ensure instructions are also spoken
- At the start of each group, welcome all the diversities.
- When facilitating discussion/conversations actively invite space for all voices, and ask members to be aware of their tendencies when speaking in groups.
7) Designing content for Practice Groups
It is usually beneficial for more than one person to be involved in the ‘design’ of a Practice Group. The input of more heart-minds allows for a diversity of ideas, experience and wisdom.
- One person designing content/format and seeking feedback from others
- More than two people sharing decisions at some or every stage of the ‘design’
- Seeking teacher advice and guidance about specific points
- With appropriate permission borrowing previous formats that have worked well
8) Feedback for facilitators
HAF encourages Practice Group facilitators to be open to feedback and be willing to make adjustments where appropriate. We see the intention of feedback as a kindness which serves the care of the space, the facilitator, its group members and the teachings.
- Facilitating a space at the end of session for the group to share any impacts
- Use of anonymous feedback forms (click here for an example) https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfZmIEvGZhFDvyfn1-wVkFIRJ3XsvbCPucikn0BR7lh1yhxwA/viewform?usp=sf_link
- Holding a separate and sensitive space specifically to invite or share feedback
- Inviting members to give feedback via email
- Informal conversations with group members
9) Relational Field
i) We encourage facilitators to give attention to ways in which the ‘relational field’ (all aspects of the web of relationships within the group) of the practice group is cared for - attending to both the ‘design’ and ‘holding’ of the space.
- Collaboratively written opening prayer or intentions
- Participation guidelines set by facilitators - for example https://docs.google.com/document/d/19Mw3QOWLB-wKCxR1850zfdX_Qkjxt1F_U4hvdk8gSLo/edit?usp=sharing
- Facilitation approach which is invitational - expressing welcome to diverse voices and experiences
- Confidentiality agreements
ii) We encourage facilitators to pre-empt possible areas of sensitivity or tension that may arise in the course of a particular session.
- In an ‘Activism and Soulmaking’ group, acknowledging and welcoming the diversity of styles of ‘activism’ and anticipating that strong emotions may arise.
- In a multi racial practice group with a potentially charged theme such as Race and Soulmaking, expecting, allowing and caring for the tensions that may arise between people of different racial identities.
iii) We encourage facilitators to think about how they would most skillfully tend to conflict in the group and to seek external support if necessary, for eg through the HAF Relational Supporters.
10) Running costs
There may be costs associated with the running of a group. Where this is the case we encourage that these be clearly and transparently stated in advance
- Splitting the subscription for a Zoom account
- Sharing the cost of food for in-person groups
- One group member may choose to cover all costs for room hire for eg
Some practice tools and activities
- Any practices that teachers who are endorsed by Rob Burbea have taught
- Silent meditation
- Peer guided meditations
- Listening to talks and recorded teacher guided meditations
- dyad/triad and small group exercises/practices
- Sharing images in a soulmaking group
- Exploring the work of philosophers/thinkers who contrast or are congruent with Rob Burbea’s teachings
- Relational practices