a bodhisattva votes

radical bodhicitta

img_20181106_123205_4654115151159827933340.jpgThis Election Tuesday is momentual for me personally as I get to support two amazing women in my life in their campaigns for office — my cousin Shauna Dunnings, who’s running for Probate Judge, and my friend from high school Elissa Slotkin, who’s running for the 8th District U.S. Congressional seat!

(I also went to junior school with a third woman who is a candidate for another local judicial office.)

Heartened and hopeful as I am, the reality is there are elected officials who still refuse to acknowledge the humanity of marginalized and oppressed communities and actively create policies that continue to jeopardize our well-being on every level.

So these words from adrienne maree brown are a timely centering prayer and the soulful lyrics from Jill Scott’s song My Petition (which I’ve been playing on repeat lately) captures a sliver of my current mood.






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walking the labyrinth | harvest party

September 24th

11 AM – 1 PM @ Moores Park

I’ll always remember my aunt telling me long ago that your friends are your assets.

I’m blessed to say that my good spiritual friends are my Harvest! 

So on Sunday, we’ll celebrate the Suchness of Sangha and all that we’ve learned and all the ways we’ve been stretched to grow this past season through our commitment:

to self-understanding and well-being;

to diligently taking refuge in the full embrace of sangha where we cultivate the sacred pause where, with silence and breath, we listen deeply, see clearly and learn to respond skillfully to all that arises as it arises;

to investing in collective wisdom and supporting the healing and transformation of one another.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

11 AM | Walking the Labyrinth

12 PM | Harvest Party

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

❤ Bring snacks to share, as you are able. I’ll provide napkins, cups and some cutlery. Consider additional plateware and serving utensils that your dish may require.

❤ Kiddos are welcome!

❤ IN THE EVENT OF RAIN: We’ll hold the practice and party at Heartdance Studio.

practicing through transitions

On Sunday, Sangha came full circle by closing our 7+ months of wholy happy hour in the same way that we opened our practice last fall — exploring the lessons of beginning anew as we shift from one season to the next.

Whether we experience this transition as tumultuous, glorious, or equal parts of both, we recognized that our changing selves require some fresh contents in our “medicine bags” to support who we are becoming on this stretch of the path.

So I returned to the query I put forth during our spring series on justice, liberation + healing and encouraged us to discern “What is your prayer, practice or process?” of releasing what no longer serves us and for calling in sacred strategies that honor who we are growing into. 

For me, it’s a continuous process of self-reflection in which I root into my practice of the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness to assess what is arising, enduring, changing, releasing in body, heart and mind. One poignant question that popped up in my meditation — what are my unmet needs physically, mentally, spiritually, creatively? — was a reminder of how crucial it is for me to take long walks three to four times a week to brighten and declutter my mind. Along with the benefits of movement, the silence, solitude, and moments of stillness I enjoy when I spread out a blanket to lay out in the sun or read (as in the photo below) help me catch up with myself to discern clear decision-making and sort out the tangle of creative ideas.

In the Satipatthana Sutta (and similarly in the eight limbs of yoga), honoring and tending to the body precedes emotions and mental formations. In these and other spiritual practices and healing modalities, the body is the gateway to illuminating, transforming and reconciling the other aspects of our being (feelings, thoughts, perceptions, beliefs, attitudes). Of course, it’s not a fixed sequence but an interdependent relationship so whatever is most compelling, what shows up first or makes itself known most powerfully, may be the access point for looking deeply at how it is impacting each domain.

So I come back to my body. Once established in the full awareness of sensations, I am able to renew the process of seeing clearly and responding skillfully to what needs tending. Grounded and aligned, I can embody the prayer that this transition and new season are calling in.

“Part of being more authentic means being willing to be seen as we pray and live in a spirit that seeks inspiration though is humanly imperfect…

Remember that prayer is a process that changes the pray-er.”

~ Jennie Isbell + J. Brent Bill, 
Finding God In The Verbs

summer 2017 practices

Our summer practice schedule begins June 11th.


| weather permitting |

walking the labyrinth @ moores park:
6/11, 6//25, 7/9, 7/23, 8/13, 8/27, 9/10, 9/24




monthly sit-togethers @ heartdance studio:
6/18, 7/16, 8/20, 9/17

| for updates + announcements, follow our community on facebook! |

the eightfold path: skillful effort, skillful mindfulness + skillful concentration

Sangha committed several months to the study of how we “live into community” and the purpose of gathering as spiritual friends to build our capacity for skillfulness and resilience. To that end, we’ve contemplated the Eightfold Path as a set of embodied practices that help us develop wisdom, ethical action, and various faculties that support our meditation.

The Eightfold Path is the fourth of the 4 Noble Truths:

There is Suffering.
There are Causes of Suffering (craving/attachment).
There is an End of Suffering.
The Noble Path is the End of Suffering.

Our journey on the Noble Eightfold Path winds up with three mental faculties — Skillful Effort, Skillful Mindfulness, and Skillful Concentration. With the development of our ability to regulate, shape, and direct the movements of our mind, we harness the power to cultivate and refine the first five “liberating” actions — our understanding, thinking, speech, action, livelihood — that help free us from cycles of suffering and discontent.

Skillful Effort refers to the quality of the energy we apply to our actions (both in meditation and in the world). Are we struggling, feeling sluggish, practicing half-heartedly and part-time, or wrestling with self-defeating patterns of doubt and worry that we’re not getting it right? Are we striving, approaching our practice ambitiously and overzealously, or straining ourselves with self-limiting habits of perfectionism or a goal-oriented mission for self-improvement?

Are we applying skillful understanding of how our brains and bodies function and of the conditions that create fluctuations in our energy so that we can be flexible, patient and gentle? Are we approaching our meditation practice and spiritual development with diligence — lovingly, compassionately, wholeheartedly, consistently, and creatively?

I highlight diligence here because in my study and practice of the 5 Spiritual Faculties, I discovered that, at its root (latin: diligere), it meanslove, take delight in.” Whereas in common usage, we erroneously associate diligence with painstaking, rigorous or arduous work. So this re-claiming and re-imagining of how we use our energy resonates deeply with me. It feels more aligned with the quality of skillfulness, where we take care with how we apply ourselves — balancing the amount of stimulus and ease based on the conditions present — so that we are not creating habit energies of pursuit, ambition, craving, clinging or avoidance, resistance and aversion. And when those do arise, we are able to (re)examine them, readjust and transform them without criticizing or condemning ourselves.

Skillful Mindfulness may seem at first glance like a redundant term because we generally associate mindfulness with being a beneficial or at least “neutral” ability to pay attention. However, as we learn to pay attention to what is arising in body, heart, and mind, there is a possibility of our awareness taking a hue of criticism or hyper-vigilance that becomes unskillful. We lose the quality of ease, non-attachment, and non-judgment when we begin to ruminate or fixate on sensations, thoughts, emotions, perspectives.

Thus, cultivating the energy of skillfulness within our mindfulness is an invitation to ground ourselves in The Four Foundations of Mindfulness. The Buddhist discourse “Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness” (Satipatthana Sutta) details this thorough and measured process of liberating ourselves by abiding with full awareness of body and breath, feelings, mental states, and objects/qualities of the mind:

“A practitioner remains established in observation of the body in the body, diligent, with clear understanding, mindful, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life.

…remains established in observation of the feelings in the feelings, diligent, with clear understanding, mindful, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life.

…remains established in observation of the mind in the mind, diligent, with clear understanding, mindful, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life

…remains established in observation of the objects of mind in the objects of mind, diligent, with clear understanding, mindful, having abandoned every craving and every distaste for this life.”

 — from Transformation + Healing by Thich Nhat Hanh

Skillful Concentration is  understood as the mental capacity to merge skillful effort with skillful mindfulness to direct our attention toward a single-point of focus in our meditation practice. For example, we can cultivate steady focus on our breathing, by chanting a mantra, counting malas, gazing at a yantra or into candlelight.

Unfortunately, the dominant conception of being an experienced  meditator is equated with being “successful” at concentrating and sitting stock-still for otherwordly periods of time. This idea is also upheld by teachers and practitioners who are fixated on being strict disciples of spiritual discourses written eons before science and technology would uncover the vast range of cognitive functioning. Lacking an understanding of neurodiversity, they promote a rigid “one size fits all brains” standard of learning.

As a homeschool educator and wife to a person living with a traumatic brain injury, I am keenly aware that favoring “concentration” as an optimal mental state and evaluative measure of progress in meditation (aka the flagstones of enlightenment) also presumes and privileges practitioners who have neurotypical development. So I’ve long been called to expand our perception and practice of concentration in order to minimize the anxiety and frustration that can arise in practitioners who have difficulty focusing. The invitation instead is to conjure the image of absorbing or being saturated with qualities we wish to embody like joy, equanimity, compassion, steadiness, nonattachment. We can then return to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and contemplate the phyiscal sensations,  emotions, thoughts, images, memories, narratives and experiences we associate with such attributes.

look deeply

The featured image is my sketch of the Four Exertions, which inform our efforts to: cultivate skillfulness by watering and maintaining what has arisen while arousing or awakening skillfulness that has not yet arisen; and to transform unskillfulness by releasing and not dwelling in unskillfulness that has arisen while guarding against and not fueling that which has not arisen.

other liberating actions of  the eightfold path

on skillful understanding + skillful thinking
on skillful speech, skillful action + skillful livelihood

when + where we enter | abiding in the practice

We closed yesterday’s daylong practice of discernment and self-inquiry by reflecting on how we aspire to show up and carry what we have learned about cultivating radical bodhicittawhat I call the heart and mind of justice, liberation, and healing — into our ever-widening circles of compassionate social action.

After everyone departed, I returned to the room to collect my belongings and stood for a few breaths to rest and revel in the full energy we had collectively generated. In that sacred pause, I looked down at my stuff scattered around me — realizing that I was embodying the wisdom that framed the final segment of our discernment. Have your heart be where your feet are. I had spent the day exactly where my heart had called me to be.

When we value and intentionally cultivate the sacred pause, we can amplify our capacity to listen deeply to the call of our hearts and see clearly the direction our feet will go.

when(ever) + where(ever) we enter, may our hearts be where our feet are. 


…we are in fact not where are feet are. We are not here. Or at least we are not all here.
The “where” that our heart is not so much a place but
a different time: past, and simultaneously, the future.
We are everywhere but in the now.
~Omid Safi
read Safi’s full column: Have Your Heart Be Where Your Feet Are

#marchmindfulness2017 | on women cultivating community rooted in liberation


“As women, we have been taught to either ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between and individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist. Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths.3jewels-lordequote2

For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”  Audre Lorde

Read the entire essay:
The Master’s Tool Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House

march mindfulness 2017 | on justice, liberation + healing


Each year I launch this campaign to uplift wisdom, values, teachings and affirmations that nourish our capacity for compassion, skillful understanding, and authentic connection.

Aligned with Sangha’s monthly contemplation and culminating with my upcoming workshop, When + Where We Enter, we’ll shine the light on and look deeply into practices of Justice, Liberation + Healing.

March Practice Schedule

on refuge + resistance | surviving to sustain skillful action

Revolution is not a one-time event.
It is becoming always vigilant for the smallest opportunity
to make a genuine change in established, outgrown responses;
for instance, it is learning to address each other’s difference with respect.
We share a common interest, survival, and it cannot be pursued in isolation
from others simply because their differences make us uncomfortable.

We know what it is to be lied to.
The 60s should [have taught] us how important it is not to lie to ourselves.
Not to believe that revolution is a one-time event,
or something that happens around us
rather than inside of us.
Not to believe that freedom can belong to any one group of us
without others also being free.
How important it is not to allow even our leaders to define us to ourselves,
or to define our sources of power to us…

Each one of us must look clearly and closely
at the genuine particulars (conditions) of his or her life
and decide where action and energy is needed
and where it can be effective.
~ Audre Lorde

Post-Women’s March Deep Refuge + Restoration Circle
yesterday, we marched.
today we rest, take deep refuge and restore ourselves in the full embrace of sangha
to rise up and take action again.
~t. scott-miller

sangha study schedule

Join us in February, as we complete our three-month journey along the Noble Eightfold Path with a study the faculties of Skillful Effort, Skillful Mindfulness, and Skillful Concentration. The following month, we’ll deepen our contemplation of Justice, Liberation, and Healing — the focus of our annual call-to-action, March Mindfulness — and close out our winter series with a special full-day workshop on the topic on 3/19. View: Upcoming Practice Dates.

on refuge + resistance | becoming a sanctuary

On Monday, I was overcome by emotion at the devastating stories of Muslim immigrants being cut off from their rightful homes — families, livelihoods, and beloved communities — here in the U.S. and of refugees, who had been promised entry on asylum, being sent back to waiting gallows. I became teary-eyed and shaky as I thought of my multinational clutch of friends, and of my family members, living and deceased, and ancestors, who have migrated within or emigrated from other parts of the world to this nation. The What-Ifs spiraled through my mind: What if friends I know are deported or denied re-entry? What if the ban extends to any immigrant who does not have full citizenship and my dad (who is not Muslim nor from a Muslim country) too becomes a victim of this gross xenophobia?

Angry and proud, I carried the flag of my father’s island into a city council meeting to show my support for a resolution to make our community an official sanctuary for all immigrants.

My family has crossed many borders and belonged to many nations.

My father is from Trinidad + Tobago and came to the U.S. with his steel pan band in the 70s. His father and his maternal grandmother island-hopped from Barbados to Trinidad. I’m told our people are scattered throughout the Caribbean. I have cousins from both islands who are now legal residents in the U.S.

My maternal grandmother is a 1st-generation U.S. citizen whose Canadian parents immigrated to Pontiac, MI. Her maternal grandmother was a Jew from Stuttgart, Germany who, at 17 years old, immigrated to NYC in 1880, then crossed the northern borders into Canada. Her maternal grandfather was a slave born on a plantation in Virginia. He enlisted in the Union Army, fought in the Civil War, and moved to Buffalo, NY following his honorable discharge before crossing into Canada.

My mother welcomed people of all cultures into our home and, when I was a child, even hosted two Belizean women as guests for a short stay. In her almost 40-year career in social work, she wholeheartedly served refugee and other immigrant communities. She bonded with them, kept in touch after their services ended — they invited her to dinners, baby showers, and birthday parties. She became a trusted friend who their children called Auntie or Gramma.

My extended family and friends come from many nations or are descendants of immigrants or are married/committed to and have built families with immigrants or descendants of immigrants.

My neighbors are from Vietnam and Cuba — I’ve watched their children grow up alongside my son.

There is no part of my life or my heart that has been untouched by an immigrant. 

My hope is that the #LoveLansing City Council acts in alignment with our mayor’s pledge to protect our refugee and immigrant community and resolve to declare my hometown a sanctuary city.

So ask me again why I am outraged? Why I’m sad? Why I feel threatened? I’ll gladly repeat it over and over and over: It’s literally in my DNA to give a damn!

Read our Mayor Virg Bernero’s pledge via Fox 47 News.