Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Buddha Buzz Weekly: The Great Awakening Walk

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.

Buddhists Join Together in “Great Awakening Walk” for Black Lives

Last weekend Buddhist groups joined together in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo neighborhood for a protest for Black Lives Matter. Vanessa Gomez Brake and David Woo of Burning Pride Meditation, a secular Buddhist sangha for Asian Americans based in downtown L.A., collaborated with leaders in Black Lives Matter and the activist group Asians4BLM to create Sunday’s Great Awakening Walk

“Members of [Burning Pride] have been participating in Black Lives Matter protests since this all began a few weeks ago, and some of us have been involved in social justice movements for over a decade,” Brake, who is the Associate Dean of the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life at the University of Southern California, told Tricycle in an email. “However, this was our first time as a sangha to organize a large scale action.” 

The march began with a prayer and chant outside the Japanese American National Museum, then leaders marched in silence, at a slow, meditative pace, down L.A.’s First Street with a few hundred marchers behind, Brake said. The demonstration concluded at City Hall, where the group erected an “altar to Black Lives” with images of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbury, and others surrounded by flowers, and where monastics chanted the Heart Sutra, bowing nine times—once for each minute that George Floyd was pinned down and fatally choked by a white police officer. In attendance were representatives from the Korean Buddhist Jogye Order, ordained faculty and students from the Buddhist-affiliated University of the West, monastics from local temple Tahl Mah Sah, members of the International Center of Chinese Buddhist Culture and Education, clergy from Zen Center L.A. and Empty Room Zen, and several other local Buddhist groups.  

Buddhists offer prayers at the makeshift altar for Black Lives. | Photo by Anthony FelixBuddhists greet each other with an elbow bump. | Photo by Roland DybuncioA Buddhist nun at the protest | Photo by Roland DybuncioProtestors gather in front of Los Angeles City Hall. | Photo by Anthony FelixA protestor holds a sign while another protestor meditates. | Photo by Roland DybuncioA monastic prays while fellow protestors sit in solidarity. | Photo by Anthony Felix

Spirit Ceremony Held in Thailand, Despite Pandemic

A ceremony for spirits was held last week in Thailand despite the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Times reported. The figurines representing the spirits started out too large to fit into their new “spirit house” in Bangkok, but for about an hour, attendees prayed and burned incense, until eventually Kitsana Phattharasirisap, a spiritual advisor, led the statues through the doorway. “If you don’t believe, then it won’t work,” he said. 

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4 Lessons on Anti-Racism from Brené Brown and Ibram X. Kendi

We are collectively facing a moment where people are hearing the call from Black communities and rising to action. We need to work for change on every level—supporting individual change, social change, and policy change—in order to fully acknowledge and end racism.

This rich conversation between professor Ibram X. Kendi, the New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist (as well as the upcoming Antiracist Baby) and the Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, together with research professor, author, and podcast host Brené Brown offers us clear and heart-opening lessons to integrate into our anti-racist toolbox. Read a few highlights here, and be sure to listen to their full interview. 

1. Our identity is changing from moment to moment

Nobody, regardless of race, says Kendi, is simply racist or anti-racist in a static way. “What we say and do about race in each moment determines what, not who, we are.” It isn’t helpful to fall into essentialist categories around race, says Kendi, even as a Black person, because we have the ability to change that as we raise our own awareness—and our ability to admit it when we’ve made mistakes: “Essentially, to be anti-racist is to admit when we’re being racist.

“What we say and do about race in each moment determines what, not who, we are.” It isn’t helpful to fall into essentialist categories around race, says Kendi.

2. The opposite of racist isn’t non-racist, but anti-racist

“Once you understand what a racist idea and a racist policy is,” says Dr. Kendi, “you begin to realize there’s a fundamental contrast to that, and that contrast is not some sort of neutrality.” 

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5 Mindful Books About Equality and Racial Justice

1) Every Body Yoga

Let Go of Fear, Get on the Mat, Love Your Body

Jessamyn Stanley • Workman

Most people feel awkward during their first yoga class. For Jessamyn Stanley, being the largest woman in the studio only compounded this. Fast-forward a few years, and Stanley is an Instagram sensation for chronicling how a “big, black, and beautiful African Queen” can be as yogic as the idealized (and grossly misleading) representation portrayed in women’s magazines. With Every Body Yoga, Stanley, now a certified teacher, takes that a step further.

This book—a solid mixture of pose and sequencing instruction, introduction to the history and philosophy of the practice, and beginner’s tips to help you feel slightly less awkward when you start out—also tells Stanley’s story of how falling in love with yoga helped her fall in love with herself. Not only is this an inspiration for anyone who has ever felt different or has struggled with self-image, it’s an absolute testament to what yoga, at its core, is really all about.

2) Mindful of Race

Transforming Racism from the Inside Out

Ruth King • Sounds True

Long-overdue discussions around race in America are finally having a moment—one that needs to last a very long time.

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America, The Business that Tried to Become a Country

Tricycle is offering free access to select articles during this uncertain time.

Mr. George Floyd began his last breath with these words, ringing in the air:
“It’s my face, man.”
I tell you, somebody stole my face.
I can’t seem to stop this river of tears. 
Black face on the ground, black face in the cages. 
I tell you, somebody stole my face. 
 
When I found it, it was dark like the night in it’s elegant beauty. 
When I found it, it was in a dreadful theater called the White Man’s Burden. 
When I found it, it was already condemned to live in a basket of lies. 
 
But when I found my hidden face, the window of eternity swung open. 
 
I tell you, somebody stole my face, my precious face. 
I hold it in my hands catching tears of sorrow and joy. 
I hold it with the kind hands of my ancestors.
I hold it turning into many faces,
appearing across time and space. 
I hold it dancing with the cosmos itself. 
 
I tell you, somebody stole my face. 
But I have a secret for you, my friend. 
Somebody stole your face, too. 
I know you’ve been searching for it. 
 
Find your face. 
Find the ground of no coming and no going. 
Embrace yourself. 
Love yourself. 
Lift yourself up so you can lift all the rest of us to higher ground. 
 
And remember, 
when you touch your face, 
George Floyd can no longer have that joy. 

I share this poem, and I bow to you, not simply out of politeness. I bow to you, as I learned when I was living and working in the villages of India. I bow to you in recognition of your mystery, depth and greatness. I bow to you in recognition of the awakening heart and mind that flows through your veins.

It’s been quite a two weeks for me. I said to my dear wife, Peggy, “I never knew I had so many tears. I feel like a cloud.” 

I’ve felt like this for a long time, but especially in the last two weeks. In my reflections I saw that it took a global pandemic to slow us down enough from the modern “grind” of business and disassociation from our own lives and the lives of others to recognize the value of human life. So many people are passing away from the virus, so many of us—either by choice, by accident, or by luck—have had time to reflect. Most people in the world do not have that luxury, but those of us who do should not waste our energy.

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Maybe it’s The Barrel: Mindful Policing Gets Real

Listen to the full conversation:

As protests continue across the United States, video footage of police officers acting in reprehensible ways has gone viral, resulting in widespread criticism of the police and a call for defunding.

Richard Goerling is a certified mindfulness trainer and former police lieutenant, who specializes in teaching resilience and performance skills to first responders. In this interview, he explores the biases that exist in policing—and explains how mindfulness can foster a more compassionate police force. 

The Two Types of Change Policing Needs

“One of the greatest failures of police leadership is the failure to lead a culture—or maybe, more specifically—the failure to lead an ethos that is grounded in humanity, rather than grounded in tactics or grounded in equipment, or grounded in the good old boy network,” Goerling says.

Here are two types of changes he says the policing culture needs to see:

1. Systemic Change

“No matter how the institution of policing evolves, it is still a system. And systems, by their nature, are imperfect. And systems that are imperfect by their nature can and will cause harm on some level,” Goerling says.

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