By Rosa Alegria During the Santa Barbara retreat, we had two meetings for People of Color and friends. Many shared the need for a Sangha open to all, focused on the connection between mindfulness practice, diversity, and social change. Since the retreat, several of us have continued to meet, working to give form to the open Sangha. We enjoy meditation and Dharma discussions, getting to know each other better, and working to create skillful ways to respond to suffering. We want to look deeply at all forms of suffering, from global threats to the everyday, habitual forms of racism, classism, sexism, and other "isms" so often ignored, yet which cause painful separation. Anyone who shares this vision is welcome.
Another gift of the retreat was the "Mindful Celebration of Our Diversity." Our invitation read, in part, "By learning to see and recognize each other more deeply, we come to know ourselves better as well.... Each group that we belong to has a gift to offer the larger whole. Let us all come together as a community, to mindfully embrace and see deeply into the wonder of who we are, in all of our diversity and unity. If this message awakens seeds of hope and beauty in you, please join us."
The ritual was simple. Each of us bowed when we wished to speak, and then shared one or more of our identities which we wanted to celebrate with the group. The group bowed to the speaker, and paused silently to breathe and acknowledge the gift shared. As we listened deeply, people spoke of ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, hidden physical disabilities, religions of origin, childhood traumas. All were welcomed in the silence and bowed to. My heart is full of gratefulness to everyone who participated in this mindful celebration and shared their tears, fears, joy, truth, pain, beauty, shyness, and strength.
Rosa Alegria is a member of the Mindfulness and Social Change Sangha in Oakland, California.