Talking about racism in our sangha; Opening Our Hearts to Social Liberation

The following was posted as part of a review of our sangha by a person of color, Buddhist practitioner, and former participant at the Portland Shambhala Meditation Center….

“After attending this center for 6+ months, being bullied and made to feel unwelcome, I let the powers that be know of my experience. Despite a tearful account of my encounters with several teachers and people given power at the center, the response was that I was ‘seeing things that weren’t there’ and that I was wrong about what was occurring at their center. Some people were interested in hearing what I had to say but many simply tried false platitudes of kindness in a way to make up for their own insensitivities perpetrated at the beginning of my attendance at the center. My time at this center was truly traumatic. There were a few (and I mean a few that I can count on one hand) people who were extremely kind and were a practice of the Dharma incarnate. Many however seemed self-absorbed and almost caustic to my own practice. The excuse given for this was that, this was normal for a sangha. I have never been in a part of a Sangha that look to bring me down and make me feel less than. This center in a way is a perfect metaphor for the state of race in the city of Portland. Too bad it could not be a beacon of hope or an example for people to emulate.”

Attend to your reaction. What do you notice? What thoughts, feelings, responses arise for you? Is this true in your experience? If not, why not?

This weekend, November 9 and 10, we will have opportunities as a community to address this and other accounts of our community culture by people of color (and other marginalized cultures) who have participated as members and friends of the Portland Shambhala Meditation Center.

* On Saturday, Nov 9, from 9:00-5:00, Michaela McCormick and Anemone Fresh will lead a workshop entitled, “Opening Our Hearts to Social Liberation.” This day-long retreat will be a “brave and caring space for us all to connect with what Shambhala calls our basic goodness and to use that to begin exploring the social cocoons that cage us in hyper-individualism. With a constant check on inevitable feelings of guilt and shame, we will look honestly at the social conditioning and hierarchy that maintains fears and prejudices about those different from us. We will remind ourselves of our innate curiosity and longing to connect across differences. And to the extent that we can do that, we will claim our power to use self-reflection, contemplation, and embodied practice to help liberate ourselves, others, and our institutions.”

* On Sunday, Nov 10, from 11:15-12:15, center leadership will invite a community conversation on “Racism in our Sangha: Ground, Path, and Fruition.” This will both continue the work started on Saturday and provide an opportunity for others to listen and share in understanding the challenges that face us as we seek to include those from the margins in a shared vision of Enlightened Society.
We hope to see you at one or both events this coming weekend!

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