I have been meditating for about 15 years. About 4 years ago, after a decade of attempts to become more comfortable in my childhood religion, I realized that I am an agnostic/atheist. I could no longer countenance trying to make this square peg fit in the round hole of my "homechurch" dogma.
I sorely missed the spriritual life however. I did some looking and began attending a few Buddhist events. I tried out different paths and did some reading. I realized that the suttas I read in the Pali canon resontated strongly with my rational approach to sprirituality.
I have since tried to find a "home group" in metro Phila. There are a lot of Zen centers here, and a few Tibetan centers. The only Theravada organizations here are Cambodian and Vietnamese temples with few English speakers. The spiritual directors and monks are very busy helping their communities (southeast Asian immigrants) and following the monastic life, and seem to have little interest (or training?) in teaching serious Western lay students.
I have joined a Tibetan center run by the longtime personal attendant to the Dalai Lama. He is an excellent teacher and the Sangha seems very friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. The center proclaims that they are "nondenominational," but there is a heavy "Vajryana" flavor. I am not a Tibetan Buddhist at heart. The teachings seem at times very far removed from the philosophy and ethos of the Pali canon. I am not comfortable summoning up "gods" and chanting inscrutable texts in foreign languages holds no charms for me. I am more pragmatic than this.
I am looking for support and community from Western followers of the Buddha. I am seeking guidance in following the eight-fold noble path within a modern Western context. I seek the bare-bones Buddhist path--abandoning the three poisons, cultivating virtues, and training the mind.
I am also looking for advice on daily practice. Can I do more than sit on the cushion, be kind, and read suttas? Is there a collection of practices I can add to my "quiet time?"
Sorry for the long-winded introduction. I am glad to be here!
Larry D. Blackwood, NJ (about 25 minutes from Philadelphia).