on the dharma shelf | “the transformation of silence into language + action”

“Each of us is here now because in one way or another we share a commitment to language and to the power of language, and to the reclaiming of language which has been made to work against us. In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each one of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation and to recognize her role as vital within that transformation.”

“We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.

The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence.

And there are so many silences to be broken.”

~ Audre Lorde, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action

I cannot think of a reading that is more aligned with Sangha’s study of Skillful Speech, Skillful Action, Skillful Livelihood. This trio of ethical actions on the Noble Eightfold Path holds deep resonance with our commitment to living into community where inclusion and liberation are seeded, watered and nourished!

Read the full essay (via Cal State @ San Marcos).
Look back at skillful understanding and skillful thinking and the qualities of skillful communication.

on the danger of delusion + co-signing craziness

3jewels-cuttingthroughdelusion

Requiem: Prelude, Coda, Encore 

This. Againa million hoodies, a million hearts: metta behind the movement for trayvon martin.

I didn’t know where to physically place this section in the body of this writing. An overlapping marker on the timestream — the beginning, the end, the looping back to repeat for impact and emphasis — it wasn’t a part of the original thought-piece (consciously, anyway).

Read it as you will: first, for a sneak peek; or last as a behind-the-scene bonus. Either way, I offer it as insight into process and synchronicity.

Eager though I was to get these pressing thoughts out of my head, there is something to be said for respecting intuition. For cultivating shamatha. Pausing, stepping away, and allowing things to simmer and deepen when you sense your work needs more time to stew (like any slow-cooked dish).  In those days between drafts, I got a ping-back notifying me that another site had linked to the piece I’d written four years ago. Turns out Baltimore + Beyond: Mindfulness Community had just added a million hoodies, a million hearts to its updated list of selected dharma readings to be shared at its activists and people of color gatherings. 

I had not read it since 2012 and was astonished that I could have just as easily written yesterday about James Means or Joe McKnight and all the others like Sandra Bland and Rekia Boyd whose names have become engraved upon our wailing hearts.

Understand then — yes, really dwell in the cries of despair and protest and the calls for action until clear comprehension prevails — why being here, stuck in this maniacal cycle is fucking tiresome. To exist in it and to constantly have to explain it to people who have not the ears to hear or hearts to feel. We are weary. But we are (getting) ready.

Cutting Through

We cannot afford to participate in the delusion
that we are absolutely powerless,
that change can happen without us,
that our fears are over-hyped,
that things will be alright,
that our right to protect our well-being
should take a backseat to playing nice
in the face of bigotry, violence, and injustice.
These times are too dangerous to co-sign craziness.
I cannot, will not, and unabashedly refuse do it.
And my loved ones, who hear me say this repeatedly, will attest that this is more than a favored turn-of-phrase.
Not co-signing craziness is at the heart of my commitment to the work of being a good spiritual friend!

This is the craziness that manifests as willful ignorance, denial, and delusion in our personal lives as well as in the world-at-large.

In our current state of crisis where cultural warfare is being waged against Otherness, it is the absurdity that refuses to see how quickly the vile rhetoric spewed throughout the campaign has become reality in the form of bold-faced white supremacists being appointed to key roles of leadership in the new (return-to-the-dark-ages) administration.

It is the problematic hushed-and-haloed spiritual and inspirational messaging (gaslighting wrapped in sanctimony), blanketly chiding the wounded:

to transcend anger because we’re bigger than that,
to not abandon or “throw away” folks who don’t regard humanity as we do,
to try to understand those who refuse to understand us,
to yield to our divine capacity for open-heartedness and forgiveness for they know not what they do…because they are suffering too,
to trust thin assurances that — guys, c’mon — it’s only class resentment.

Let’s get very clear:

Resentment is a near-enemy of hateResentment + Implicit Bias = A Gateway to the -Isms.

And through that narrow passage, it is a short walk to discrimination, bigotry, and the bartering of lives for the false promise of economic and job security from a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobe with no basic skills in decency and civility, let alone diplomacy.

Sorry, folks, platitudes and passivity cannot transform hate and delusion.


“And this deluded person, overcome by delusion, his mind possessed by delusion, kills living beings, takes what is not given, goes after another person’s wife, tells lies, and induces others to do likewise, all of which is for long-term harm & suffering.”

“Yes, lord.”
“So what do you think, Kalamas: Are these qualities skillful or unskillful?”
“Unskillful, lord.”
“Blameworthy or blameless?”
“Blameworthy, lord.”
“Criticized by the wise or praised by the wise?”
“Criticized by the wise, lord.”
“When adopted & carried out, do they lead to harm & to suffering, or not?”
“When adopted & carried out, they lead to harm & to suffering. That is how it appears to us.”

“So, as I said, Kalamas:
‘Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, “This contemplative is our teacher.”

When you know for yourselves that, “These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering” — then you should abandon them.’
Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’

When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.

from the “Kalama Sutta: To the Kalamas” (AN 3.65),
translated from Pali by Thanissaro Bhikku


Now is the time to unburden ourselves. To release the fetters that bind us to a dysfunctional codependency on a corrupt system that has plotted for centuries to diminish our agency, deny our wholeness, and compromise our right to survive and thrive. To get clear. To get equipped. To get connected to good spiritual friends who are willing to leverage their privilege to aid and abet us as accomplices on the path to anti-oppression and liberation.

______

straight outta the dhamma:

In the foundational Buddhist tome, Visuddhimagga, the commentaries on the Divine Abodes (brahma-viharas) make reference to the “near” and “far” (or remote) enemies of these four esteemed virtues — love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. Near enemies bear such close resemblance to the virtue itself that it is easy to miss the unskillful dimensions. On the other hand, far enemies are easily recognized as the opposite of the virtue. For example, pity can be seen as a near enemy of compassion and apathy its far enemy.

for more skillful understanding:

Implicit Bias

White Privilege, Resentment + Politics

 

living into community: capacity, commitment, contribution

3jewels-kalya%e1%b9%87a-mittata

GETTING CLEAR + LOCATING INTENTION

Sangha moved into the first month of our new season with an exercise in beginning anew by shining the light on the essential elements that give shape to our experience of living into community and nurturing spiritual friendship (kalyana-mittata).

We named our individual aspirations and intentions for seeking spiritual connection within a community and clarified the function of sangha — why and how it is formed; what sustains and helps it to thrive. Lastly, I elucidated my history of practice within sangha and how the call to serve as a sangha builder and facilitator has evolved over the years. 


Spirituality is something we can cultivate.
To be spiritual means to be solid, calm, and peaceful,
and to be able to look deeply inside and around us.
It means having the capacity to handle our afflictions–
our anger, craving, despair, and discrimination.
It is being able to see the nature of interbeing
between people, nations, races, and all forms of life.
Spirituality is not a luxury anymore;
we need to be spiritual to overcome the difficulties of our time.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Friends on The Path


IN FRIENDSHIP + WHOLENESS

As one of the three precious jewels we take refuge in, the sangha conjures for me the image of having “a soft place to land” where we find or restore comfort and ease. We touch it in the physical act of sinking onto our cushions and exhaling fully to re-center, ground, and meet ourselves where we are in a given moment. That soft resting place can also be discovered in the warm embrace of peers who offer compassion and understanding.

Building on that imagery, one practitioner shared that for her it is also a springboard! Indeed, we are buoyed by the lessons of the dharma, the collective energy of our spiritual companions, and our steadfast commitment to cultivate awareness where there is neglect or avoidance, harmony where there is discord, and skillfulness where there is suffering.

Awareness gives rise to Insight. Insight makes Transformation possible. Transformation opens us toward the possibility of Reconciliation. Reconciliation gives way to Liberation. Through all of this a strong sangha can help to energize and equip us! How? By supporting us through the self-inquiry process in which we acknowledge and pay close attention to why we keep showing up: what we gain, give, or give up in the practice.

From our discussion, we lifted up three qualities that sangha offers and also depends upon to thrive.

Capacity-building — Sangha is a container that holds the wisdom of the dharma as well as the collective insights and understandings of the practitioners who constitute it. So it becomes a reservoir that we pour into and drink from, fortifying our capacity for spiritual resilience, liberation, stability, skillfulness, compassion, generosity and love, to name a few faculties. The teachings offer “exercises” in embodied actions that we can test out for ourselves and practice together…releasing, refining, renewing.

Each time we gather, we get to enter into (and build) the revelatory space of silence and breath where our skillful understanding and faculties of concentration, diligence, mindfulness, discernment, and faith have room to bloom. We check in with and bear witness to our emotions, thoughts, physical sensations/well-being, and our interdependent relationship to the world (the many intricate ways we impact it and it impacts us).

We exercise our capacity for skillful communication:

Pausing before we speak to make room for awareness, breath, discomfort, and the processing of information into understanding;

Bowing to one another as an expression of our commitment to offer presence, attention, kindness, patience, and understanding when we speak and listen;

Speaking skillfully from our discernment of what is true, well-timed, kind, helpful/beneficial, and with a mind of good will (Vaca Sutta);

Paying attention to ourselves as we speak and as we listen in order to stay attuned to what is arising in body, heart, and mind;

Listening deeply to our peers to enrich our understanding.

We offer gratitude frequently and genuinely, which anchors us to and expands our hearts as it fosters trust, warmth, empathy, and good vibes among us.

Commitment — To build our capacity and sustain the connections that keep sangha thriving requires our diligence and consistency. The commitment is foremost to ourselves and to the practice. Later, as we earn trust and deepen our connections, our commitment extends to each other.

We looked deeply into the notable challenges of sustaining a commitment to ourselves and our practice, by contemplating an observation offered in Christine Pohl’s book:

“While we might want community, it is often community on our own terms, with easy entrances and exits, lots of choices and support, and minimal responsibilities.”

Many practitioners felt that the suchness of our formation fuels their commitment! The ease of participating and the energy that we collectively generate gives way to the stability upon which our commitment is then built. For those among us who felt compressed by jam-packed schedules and then — pierced deep by arrows of guilt, obligation, judgment — deflated and exhausted, there are no quick and easy solutions. All were encouraged to continue reflecting on intention and then choosing sustainable compassionate actions from this place of clear understanding. To test out what it’s like to open up, honor, and protect the space we hold for our spiritual development and friendship.

Contribution — Without presence, without simply showing up, the sangha would not even be possible. And presence can be enough. Sometimes it is all one has to give. There is no judgment in that. We all arrive at different points on the spiritual path, with different levels of experience and capacity. We value the insight of “beginners mind” — seeing with fresh eyes, throwing out ideas/beliefs/teachings — and the depth and breadth wisdom of from experienced practitioners.

We may not be able to give identically nor always equally. Again, it’s important to emphasize: there is no judgment in that. But we can give in ways that are aligned with our current skills and gifts as well as those that will emerge and become strengthened through practice. Here, we lift up the power of paying attention, telling our stories, listening deeply through our own suffering and discomfort, and extending understanding and compassion to ourselves and others.

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

Elder Wisdom: Ruby Sales | On Being with Krista Tippett

Terence Crutcher. Another innocent, unarmed black man was assasinated. Unarmed. In need of help. In the middle of the highway.

Gunned down. On film. Demonized for simply existing. By another white cop.

Real talk: I don’t have enough skillfulness to see beyond the savagery of this act. The savagery of white cops who are authorized to wage war on black and brown bodies without repercussion, on a whim of a notion hastily stitched together by any misperceived glimpse of what?! suscipious movements or weapons?! direct or implied threat?!

Nope, plain and simple: their hate-fear and our melaninated skin.

I sat down to have lunch, inhaled the fragrant broth, and exhaled tears. In that moment I touched the amorphous and unameable feeling, which had been building for days (at turns, subdued by moments of refuge with beloveds and then piqued by a few personal and familial woes): A quiet deep-down hum of dread.

Dread…that we are doomed to the misery of oppression and supremacy no matter how many good white folks divest of their racism, bias, and fear and leverage their privilege to enter into the good work of liberation and justice. Dread that systemic change is too slow, that the real and apparent need for the transformation of millions of hearts and minds is inconceivable.

Dread that if I hear one more story like this, I won’t find my way back to the center from the cliff’s edge of my compassion.

I needed to hear this today. It had been in my queue of Must-Listen-To’s, and I woke to a text from my dear (white) friend telling me that she was in the middle of listening to it this morning. I was meant to hear it. So I sat with my dread and tears and listened deeply to the voice of elder wisdom.

It was salve and comfort — as nourishing as my steamy bowl of spiced broth and noodles. A touchstone to what holds most heart and meaning for me in building an inclusive spiritually-centered community of refuge where we can restore our wholeness, commit to nurturing skillful relationships, and engaging in practices that bring about reconciliation.

The dread dissipated. Still I make room for its return.

Thankful for these gems of wisdom from human rights activist and public theologian Ruby Sales.

Cry of Liberation: Black Lives Have Always Mattered

Let me just say something about Black Lives Matter. Although we are familiar with it within a contemporary context, that has always been the cry of African Americans from the point of its captivity, through enslavement, through Southern apartheid. And Northern migration and de facto segregation was the assertion that black lives matter in a society that said that black people were property, in a society that said that black lives did not matter.

Spiritual Crisis of White America

there’s a spiritual crisis in white America. It’s a crisis of meaning, and I don’t hear — we talk a lot about black theologies, but I want a liberating white theology. I want a theology that speaks to Appalachia. I want a theology that begins to deepen people’s understanding about their capacity to live fully human lives and to touch the goodness inside of them rather than call upon the part of themselves that’s not relational. Because there’s nothing wrong with being European American. That’s not the problem. It’s how you actualize that history and how you actualize that reality. It’s almost like white people don’t believe that other white people are worthy of being redeemed.

And I don’t quite understand that. It must be more sexy to deal with black folk than it is to deal with white folk if you’re a white person. So as a black person, I want a theology that gives hope and meaning to people who are struggling to have meaning in a world where they no longer are as essential to whiteness as they once were.

Love, Outrage + Redemptive Anger

...love is not antithetical to being outraged. Let’s be very clear about that. And love is not antithetical to anger. There are two kinds of anger. There’s redemptive anger, and there’s non-redemptive anger. And so redemptive anger is the anger that says that — that moves you to transformation and human up-building. Non-redemptive anger is the anger that white supremacy roots itself in. So we have to make a distinction. So people think that anger, in itself, is a bad emotion, and it’s where you begin your conversation.

I became involved in the Southern Freedom Movement, not merely because I was angry about injustice, but because I love the idea of justice. So it’s where you begin your conversation. So most people begin their conversation with “I hate this” — but they never talk about what it is they love. And so I think that we have to begin to have a conversation that incorporates a vision of love with a vision of outrage.

And I don’t see those things as being over and against each other. I actually see them — you can’t talk about injustice without talking about suffering. But the reason why I want to have justice is because I love everybody in my heart. And if I didn’t have that feeling, that sense, then there would be no struggle.

On Human-ness: Universality + Particularity

What it means to be humans. We live in a very diverse world, and to talk about what it means to be humans, is to talk with a simultaneous tongue of universality and particularities. So as a black person to talk about what it means is to talk about my experience as an African American person, but also to talk about my experience that transcends being an African American to the universal experience.

So I think it — we’ve got to stop speaking about humanity as if it’s monolithic. We’ve got to wrap our consciousness around a world where people bring to the world vastly different histories and experiences, but at the same time, a world where we experience grief and love in some of the same ways. So how do we develop theologies that weave together the “I” with the “We” and the “We” with the “I?”

HEAR HERE [for deep listening]: Ruby Sales | “Where Does it Hurt?”
READ [for clear-seeing]: Transcript 

 

 

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

_______



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?”

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learn: buddhist peace fellowship
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gathered + rooted: a new season of sangha

The 2016 Fall session of  the 3 Jewels Yoga Sangha will open on Sunday, October 9 with a deep focus on my oft-referenced endearment (and zen-trendy hashtag), The Suchness of Sangha.

In the Buddhist vernacular “suchness” is the translation of the Pali world Tathātā and seeks to describe the essence of our perceived reality — and all the conditions that make our experience of reality possible — in the moment. It points to impermanence and interdependence. Reminding us that all the elements (people, places, objects, etc.) and our perceptions and responses to said elements in any given moment create a quality of “thusness” or “thatness” which cannot be replicated. Because these very things at this very point in time uniquely converge to form a fleeting experience. It is the vibe, the stuff, all matter seen and unseen, that is gathered and drawn together and felt so deeply. It becomes a knowing, a rooted cellular memory…a dream, an inspiration, the aspiration we seek to nourish.

So we’ll sit in these queries, turn them over, and test them in our daily living:

  • What is sangha?
  • How is it formed, nurtured and sustained?
  • What do we seek in our connection(s) within spiritual community?
  • What do we contribute?
  • How are we transformed?
  • And any number of questions that will emerge from our collective effort to learn and practice cultivating mindfulness together as good spiritual friends.

3jewels.pgulleyquote

Fall Schedule

October 9, 16, 23

    • 10/16 ~ Monthly Mindfulness Immersion
      A half-day retreat including our regular #wholyhappyhour practice, food + fellowship, and an Orientation to Foundational Practices — walking meditation, sitting meditation, and the criteria for skillful communication.

November 6, 13, 20

    • 11/13 ~ Special Workshop | Inviting Mindfulness: The Heart at Rest
      Following our regular #wholyhappyhour practice, this restorative workshop will introduce an embodied meditation in mindfulness to awaken self-compassion and skillful understanding of the relationship between body, breath, mind and environment.

December 4, 11, 18

    • 12/18 ~ Monthly Mindfulness Immersion*
      A half-day retreat including our regular #wholyhappyhour practice, food + fellowship, and an Orientation to Foundational Practices — walking meditation, sitting meditation, and the criteria skillful communication. [*updated on 12/4/2016: new date posted.]

on ground sacred and fertile

I treasure our Sunday practices and our time together on August 7th was all the more special because, for the second year in a row, I was able to spend my new year in the full embrace of Sangha.

After a week full of celebrations with loved ones (and a few more to come!), I am feeling deeply ALIGNED, AFFIRMED and INSPIRED to honor and lift up WHAT I VALUE, WHAT I WISH TO PROTECT, and WHAT I WISH TO LEAD WITH:

fostering compassion, skillful understanding, and connection through this sacred and fertile ground we cultivate in the form of a like-spirited, open-hearted, wise-minded community of practitioners who revel in silent contemplation, take delight in nature, and find refuge in communion with #‎GoodSpiritualFriends‬.
See upcoming dates below!

 

 

3 Jewels Yoga Sangha’s Practice Schedule

August 14 ~ 11 am – 12:30 pm | Monthly Sit-Together

August 28 ~ 11 am – 12:00 pm | Walking The Labyrinth

September 11 ~ 10 am – 1:00 pm | Walking The Labyrinth + Gentle Yoga with Ann Lapo

September 18 ~ 11 am – 12:30 pm | Monthly Sit-Together

September 25 ~ 11 am – 1 pm | Walking The Labyrinth (end of season)

#MarchMindfulness2016: Seeds of Mindfulness

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As we enjoy the final days of March and the warmth of spring, I am feeling stretched by all the lessons that arose during this month spent renewing my commitment to compassion, understanding, and connection.

S T R E T C H E D and TESTED!

But those experiences only AFFIRMED what I know to be true:

Even in the hardest moments — after I’ve fussed and cussed through my frustrations (to good spiritual friends who listen deeply, see me clearly, honor my wholeness without co-signing my craziness, and respond skillfully with wise and loving support) — compassion calls me back again and again.

It offers a calming, centering grace that inspires me to seek the depth and breadth of understanding that in turn keeps my heart open to authentic connection.

“Sometimes we think that to develop an open heart, to be truly loving and compassionate,
means that we need to be passive,
to allow others to abuse us,
to smile and let anyone do what they want with us.

Yet this is not what is meant by compassion.
Quite the contrary.

Compassion is not at all weak.
It is the strength that arises out of seeing
the true nature of suffering in the world.

Compassion allows us
to bear witness to that suffering,
whether it is in ourselves or others, without fear;

it allows us to name injustice without hesitation,
and to act strongly,
with all the skill at our disposal.

To develop this mind state of compassion…
is to learn to live, as the Buddha put it,
with sympathy for all living beings,
without exception.”

― Sharon Salzberg
Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness