allied media conference 2017 | deep listening: an embodied meditation

 

3jewels.deeplisteningamc2017

Learn more about the 19th annual Allied Media Conference: alliedmedia.org/amc

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. 

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…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

on refuge + resistance | today we march

Reclaim. Resist. Rise Up! For Justice. For Equity. For A Future To Be Possible. #MarchOnWashington #MarchOnLansing #SisterMarch

#WhyIMarch

For those who came before me — for their sacrifices, suffering, and will to survive.

It’s in my DNA to give a damn!

embody privilege and risk as an educated cis-hetero black woman who is the daughter of an immigrant, a mother to a multi-ethnic child, a wife in an interfaith, inter-racial marriage to a survivor of gun violence who lives with a disability.

I cannot, do not, will not co-sign craziness.

For my beloveds and for all the beloveds in generations to come to inherit an Earth that has been restored to wholeness and where integrity, compassion, wisdom, creativity, and deep listening are society’s leading values .

To call out unmitigated and unexamined whiteness, which in its denial of privilege and  refusal to take accountability for oppressions and inequities, creates a toxicity that corrodes what unites us.

Because corruption and complacency are killing us.

To build our capacity as a spiritually resilient community that cultivates and protects justice, freedom, and equity through compassionate, creative, innovative and skillful understanding and actions.

To be a beacon of light as a community of refuge and resistance against hate, violence, inequity and oppression.

For Justice, Liberation + Healing!

Today, we march. Tomorrow, we rest, take refuge and restore ourselves to rise up and to take action again.

skillful communication | anti-oppressive communication webinar

 

Anti-Oppressive Communication Webinar
with Autumn Brown + Maryse Mitchell-Brody
Icarus Project

 

wisdom files

This is a living “library” comprised of suggested readings for Sangha and the frequently-referenced texts used in our practice, which I have also linked throughout my various writings over the years. It is certainly not intended to be comprehensive.

Rather it reflects my personal approach to this spiritual path of study and practice — informing what I teach and how I facilitate the rich conversations that support our learning and growing together as a spiritual community.

 

Foundational Wisdom Teachings

3 Jewels/3 Refuges: The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

The Three Jewels | Buddha 101
Taking Refuge | Plum Village
The Three Refuges (Audio) | Plum Village

4 Noble Truths: There is Suffering, There are Causes of Suffering, There is an End of Suffering, The Noble Path is the End of Suffering

The Buddha’s Four Noble Truths | Sylvia Boorstein
True Love + the 4 Noble Truths | Thich Nhat Hanh
What Are the 4 Noble Truths? | Melvin McLeod

4 Foundations of Mindfulness: Contemplation of Body, Contemplation of Feeling, Contemplation of Consciousness, Contemplation of Mental Objects

Embodied Practice: 4 Foundations of Mindfulness | 3 Jewels Yoga
Embodied Practice: Sutra on Mindful Breathing | 3 Jewels Yoga
Transformation and Healing: Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness |         Thich Nhat Hanh

5 Mindfulness Trainings: Reverence for Life, True Happiness, True Love, Loving Speech + Deep Listening, Nourishment + Healing

5 Mindfulness Trainings | Plum Village
— For A Future To Be Possible | Thich Nhat Hanh
     2 versions: Commentaries on the 5 Mindfulness Trainings [1993]
                         Buddhist Ethics in Everyday Life [2007]

5 Spiritual Faculties: Trust, Wisdom, Mindfulness, Concentration, Diligence
Perspectives on the 5 Spiritual Faculties | 3 Jewels Yoga

8-Fold Path: Skillful Understanding, Skillful Intent, Skillful Speech, Skillful Action, Skillful Livelihood, Skillful Effort, Skillful Mindfulness, and Skillful Concentration
I have a particular fondness for the use of the word “skillful”  here; various translations of the Buddhist Canon also describe these eight practices of the “Middle Way” as “right” or “wise.”

Contemplations on Skillful Understanding + Thinking  | 3 Jewels Yoga
Contemplations on Skillful Speech, Action + Livelihood  | 3 Jewels Yoga
Contemplations on Skillful Effort, Mindfulness + Concentration  | 3 Jewels Yoga
The Eightfold Path | Buddha 101
The Way to End Suffering | Bhikku Bodhi
Discourse on the Middle Way | Plum Village
Beyond the Self: Teachings on the Middle Way | Thich Nhat Hanh

 

The Dhammapada

— Annotated + Explained | Max Müller + Jack Maguire
Access to Insight
— BuddhaNet
— Gil Frondsal


Insights on Practice + Study

On Sangha + Spiritual Friendship

— Creating Inclusive + Welcoming Buddhist Sanghas in the U.S. | Mushim Patricia           Ikeda
— The Fertile Soil of Sangha | Thich Nhat Hanh
— Gathered + Rooted | 3 Jewels Yoga
— Good Spiritual Friends | 3 Jewels Yoga
— The Sangha Without Thich Nhat Hanh | Matt Gesicki
— The Suchness of Sangha | 3 Jewels Yoga

Works by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

— Tell Me Something About Buddhism

Works by Thich Nhat Hanh

— Breathe, You Are Alive!
— Friends on the Path: Living Spiritual Communities
— Living Buddha, Living Christ
— Zen Battles: Modern Commentary on the Teachings of Master Linji
[alternate title: Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go]


Related Eastern Wisdom Teachings

Bhagavad Gita
— Annotated + Explained | Shri Purohit Swami + Kendra Crossen Burroughs
— Stephen Mitchell

Tao Te Ching
— 
Annotated + Explained | Derek Lin
— Stephen Mitchell


Radical Bodhicitta Reading History

In 2014, I facilitated a community-based dialogue entitled Toward Wholeness on the intersections of spirituality, identity (ability, race, culture, gender, sexuality) and embodied awareness. Sangha deepened its inquiry and study of our complex embodied experiences with the study of Zenju’s book, The Way of Tenderness, in the winter of 2015. Contemplations on how we are seen, heard, felt, understood, cared for and supported — and cultivate the capacity to extend such care to others — have become integral to Sangha’s practices of healing, transformation and liberation.

3 Jewels Yoga Sangha
— Body As Nature Series
Transformative Love Series
Embodying Refuge, Resistance, Resilience + Radical Self-Expression Series

Buddhist Peace Fellowship
— Gender Dysphoria and The Dharma
— White Privilege + the Mindfulness Movement

Everyday Feminism
— 9 Ways We Can Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist + More Accessible
— I’m Not a Person with a Disability. I’m a Disabled Person.

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
— I Can Breathe: A Meditation Surviving Acts of Hatred
— The Way of Tenderness

Relevant Magazine
— 4 Misconceptions About Mental Illness + Faith
— How Church Can Lead Racial Reconciliation
— Why Are Sunday Mornings Still So Segregated

The Body Is Not An Apology
— Did You Do Any of These 6 Activities Today? Then You Have Class Privilege
— Lucky To Be Alive: The Everyday Ways We Tell People with Disabilities They Should Not Be Here
Nobody Bothers To Ask: The Challenges of Being Sexual in disabled/trans/genderqueer/etc..Body

angel kyodo williams
 Radical Dharma
— Social Justice + Buddhism

 Tim Wise
— Fighting the Normalization of Inequality 

Larry Yang
Awakening Together: The Spiritual Practice of Inclusivity + Community
— Directing The Mind Towards Practices in Diversity
— Remembering What It Means To Be Gay
— Toward A Multicultural Buddhist Practice

 

 

Updated 15 February 2019

spirituality, social justice + healing spaces

 bookends to my summer:
two radical events steeped in activism, equity + healing.
drawn into these moments by either
an endorsement or invitation from dear friends —

i arrived without expectation,
holding the intention to be present + open-hearted.
i departed: aligned, affirmed + inspired.
fully nourished, energized + equipped to continue the good work.

18th annual
allied media conference
wayne state university | june 19, 2016

It was truly an honor to have been a part of the Allied Media Conference‘s healing justice practice space where I led a session on cultivating embodied self-compassion. To my surprise, the beautiful souls who joined me filled the room with breath, loving awareness, and the good energy they carried from Ann Arbor, Detroit, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Montreal, Seattle, Boston, NYC, Maryland and Mississippi!

Afterward, I had the pleasure of connecting with Nse Umoh Esema, Program Director of MIT CoLab, and Sofia Campos, a student affiliate of the center. Our conversation became part of an interview they selected to be featured among CoLab Radio’s profiles on how “workshop facilitators from the 2016 Allied Media Conference use collaborative processes grounded in media, art and technology to address the roots of problems and advance holistic solutions towards a more just and creative world.”

what i experienced + witnessed

freedom of movement, creativity, + being
joy of human expression in body, voice + spirit
abundant power of  multi-generational, multicultural, multi-gendered collaborative energy

_______

learn: allied media
meditatethe practice of arriving
read: how to awaken self-compassion through meditation

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buddhist peace fellowship’s dharma + direct action workshop
zen temple of ann arbor | sept 3 + 4, 2016

I spent a week slowly emerging from the dharma bubble created by the cumulative energy of holding and being immersed in a healing-centered space with compassionate, justice-minded folk committed to integrating spirituality with social awareness. There’s still much content to process and unpack! But I’m excited to share this glimpse into our weekend of laughter (or “blessed foolishness,” as my friend so-aptly sanctified it), truth-telling, idea-sharing, and fellowship over thoughtfully-prepared meals and simulated exercises in direct action.

amplified and affirmed

I experienced the buzz and boom that arises from living in alignment with my deepest values and connecting with others who are doing the same! Below are two contemplations that I’ve sat with over time, unpacked with my circle of good spiritual friends and, with diligence and discernment, have integrated into embodied practices. It was gratifying to not only voice them in this larger forum of peers, but to also hear them amplified and affirmed throughout the weekend of training.

  • My discomfort with and desire to dismantle hierarchies of learning where one person is positioned to bear and transmit knowledge — often deferring to age, experience, education. I’ve always approached teaching as the facilitation of a process or experience rather than the imparting of instruction and information. That one-way funnel creates a sense of bloodletting that leaves me feeling drained. So I encourage a collaborative dynamic wherein practitioners learn to trust and be accountable for building their capacity to integrate new information in ways that develop skillful action and wisdom.Whether in friendships, spiritual communities, professional environments, or social activist circles, how can give room for the range of understanding — newly-formed queries and untested ideas, emerging insights, and seasoned wisdom — from elders and youth alike? By embodying “the posture of the listener” and learning alongside one another as tutors.
  • In discerning how to skillfully inhabit the role of a sangha builder and facilitator, I resonated deeply with the teachings of Master Linji (chronicled in Thich Nhat Hanh’s Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go) who offered a more equitable view of teacher and student in the form of guest and host. Challenging traditional notions of occupying an elevated status as guru or “master,” Linji radically accepted and encouraged the fluidity between roles — where guest becomes teacher and teacher the guest. Just as Linji considered himself to be a good spiritual friend, we can expand our idea and practice of being an “ally” to one who embodies the deep care and commitment to support the liberation and well-being of others.

a few shining examples

Ideas and practices offered by the facilitators (marked BPF) and a fellow participant.

  • Block Harm. Build Solutions. Be Present to What Arises. (BPF) — The three elements around which the Buddhist Peace Fellowship centers its approach to integrating spirituality and social justice.
  • Communicate Access Needs (BPF) — Naming the accommodations, considerations or support we need to best access the learning.
  • Cultivate Sympathetic Joy for Marginalized Communities (BPF)– Neither spiritual nor activist groups are immune to the sting of white privilege, guilt, shame, defensiveness, confusion, fragility and misperception. The complex process of healing and reconciliation is different for the marginalized and the for privileged (especially, when there is a mixed level of capacity, experience, understanding and resilience). Engaging in justice work together all too often re-exposes marginalized folks to the very same toxic thoughts and behaviors that are rooted in systems of oppression. This triggers deep hurts that can hinder or derail the collective endeavor toward impactful change. So it is critical to provide refuge–time and separate safe space–to center, care for, and protect the mental/emotional/spiritual/psychological needs and well-being of people of color, disabled persons, LGBTQ people, and others.

To that end, the facilitators established caucuses based on racial identity. (True story: this elicited a moment of cognitive dissonance for me and later sparked a conversation with my dear friend and training companion on earned trust, which merits its own post.) In this process, white practitioners were asked to recognize that part of “doing their own work” as allies/good spiritual friends is to block harm. They were also invited to draw on the spiritual faculty of mindfulness and turn their gaze inward, looking deeply into any arising discomfort/fear/resistance and transforming it into sympathetic joy for our safety and well-being.

  • Develop + Refine Skillful Listening — Deep Listening and Skillful Speech are core principles and foundational practices for Buddhists. So it was hardly surprising that, when asked to pick a dharma superpower to use in direct action exercise, several of us chose the power of listening. During the discussion that followed the exercise, we were able to unpack the challenges and limitations of our capacity to listen in heightened emotional circumstances and reminded, in particular, of the many biases that further hinder it. A fellow practitioner offered the insight of the four levels of listening, which she later sent to me:

1. Listening from the cocoon where everything sounds like the people from Charlie Brown talking.
2. Listening for whether people are for or against you.
3. Listening empathically.
4. Listening people into their own wisdom.

  • Vow Not To Burn Out (BPF)  — Referencing Mushim Patricia Ikeda’s Great Vow for Mindful Activists, the facilitators spoke to the real and unmerciful impact of justice work on our well-being: secondary trauma, burn out, compassion fatigue, physical harm and ill health. To sustain our engagement, we again call on the Buddhist wisdom of looking deeply with equanimity into how we balance our aspirations with our available resources to take/sustain action. We then assess our present-moment capacity within the frame of the “long view”– imagining how now-based actions reach into the future to touch generation after generation, as indigenous elders teach. Alongside of such honest evaluation, we honor and tend to our well-being with healthy practices that restore, energize and ground us!

As we embrace and live out the call to serve and create a more just world, may we cradle in our hearts this beautiful question lifted up in the training: “In this moment, what best serves life?”

_______

learn: buddhist peace fellowship
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embodied practice: on self care as self-preservation

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