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Newly Launched A Khmer Buddhist Foundation Donates $500,000 in COVID Relief

The nonprofit aims to support Cambodians impacted by the pandemic. Plus, Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Tibet for the first time in decades, and the Tibetan Nuns Project launches a fund for female geshemas. 

By Amanda Lim Patton and Daniel Ilan Cohen ThinJul 24, 2021

Government officials distribute food donations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia during the pandemic. | Photo courtesy ZUMA Press Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

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

A Khmer Buddhist Foundation Is Launched

San Francisco resident, Cambodian advocate, and philanthropist Lyna Lam has launched A Khmer Buddhist Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the Khmer people and preserving their traditions and culture. As its first act, the organization donated nearly $500,000 to support Cambodians impacted by COVID-19, GlobeNewswire reports. The donation will be administered through Friends International, a Cambodia-based nonprofit organization, to provide the country’s stretched healthcare system with critical supplies, including ventilators, patients’ monitors, personal protective equipment, and oxygen manometers. Part of the donation will also go towards providing food and aid to impoverished children and their families. “We were saddened to hear about the devastating COVID-19 situation in Cambodia,” said Lam in a press release. “While we know firsthand that the people of Cambodia are resilient and have a history of recovering from any hardship stronger than before, we also know that additional supplies and resources can help accelerate their recovery and end this terrible pandemic.” The foundation is currently accepting donations through its website

In addition to COVID-19 relief, the foundation aims to support various causes for the Cambodian people–both in Cambodia and abroad—through grants to temple operations and new businesses, college internships, and arts and culture initiatives. Lam is also in the process of building a temple in San Jose, California. 

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Healing Otherness with Compassion (and Sass)

Dr. Stacee Reicherzer lights up when she talks about Sassy St. James. Sassy, like Dr. Stacee, was a southern Texan transgender woman who worked to support her community. “Sassy totally owned her voice. She owned her right to take up space in this world that was very homophobic, very transphobic, and she was willing to be a presence and willing to live her truth and to do so without apologies,” Reicherzer says. “And that is an energy that people need to be able to tap into.” Which is exactly what Reicherzer helps people do.  She’s a counselor and author who works with people who have had to absorb the impact of a lifetime of feeling “othered”—people who feel different from the majority often because they are treated as such in society. 

Owning Your Experience

She’s developed a signature meditation framework with the four pillars: clarity, creativity, compassion, and sass. This process, laid out in her book and in a recent TED talk, is rooted in mindfulness-based therapy. 

Clarity: To begin with clarity, Dr. Reicherzer invites people to connect with their breath and simply get in touch with their experience and the impact it’s had. “We start seeing ourselves, we start seeing that we gave parts of ourselves away,” she says. And she stresses that this isn’t easy. Oftentimes, people feel angry with themselves once they start to see how they give themselves away. 

Creativity helps us visualize a new path forward as well as the actions needed to put it in motion. 

Compassion practice can help people develop empathy for themselves and their experience. 

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How to Sit—And Why It Matters

Any child who enjoys playing with building blocks understands the principles and importance of alignment. If the blocks are placed one directly on top of the other, the pile remains standing. If the blocks do not bear this vertical relationship to one another, the pile falls over. 

These very same principles of alignment determine the degree of balance available to a human body. The building blocks of the human body are the major bodily segments: the feet, the lower legs, the upper legs, the pelvis, the abdomen and lower back, the chest and upper back, the shoulders and arms, the neck, and finally, the head. If these segments can be stacked one directly on top of another, that body will be able to stand in a balanced way. A balanced posture requires very little effort to sustain and allows the major muscles of the body to relax. This relatively small expenditure of energy, coupled with the phenomenon of relaxation, produces a  distinct feeling of softness, ease, and vibratory flow. 

It also generates a natural condition of alert awareness. This dual condition of comfort in the body and relaxed alertness in the mind is the fruit of balance. If the major bodily segments are not comfortably stacked one directly on top of the other, the body (unlike the child’s blocks) won’t topple over, but it will have to compensate for its lack of alignment by exerting constant muscular tension to offset the force of gravity. This constant tension generates a feeling tone in the body of hardening, numbness, and pain. It clouds the mind and makes it difficult to remain focused or alert with any kind of ease. 

The exact same force provides support for the balanced body and withholds it from the imbalanced body. That force is the gravitational field of the earth. The force of this field always flows through the vertical. Even though the primary function of this most powerful of planetary forces is to draw objects to its source (the center of the earth), it also provides support or buoyancy to any structure that’s able to conform its shape to the precisely vertical direction of its influence. . .  

The ability to align the upright structure of the body with the directional flow of gravitational energy is the primary requirement in securing the posture of meditation, and its importance cannot be overemphasized. Our first task, then, is to create a structural situation in which gravity supports our bodies and meditative efforts. This task corresponds to the initial instructions to “sit with the back straight.” 

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Mindfulness-Based Interventions During Pregnancy to Support Perinatal Mental Health

Pregnancy and postpartum, or what health practitioners call the “perinatal period,” is a vulnerable time in a person’s life. For many, parenthood can cause conflicting emotions: joy, love, protectiveness, anger, exhaustion, and confusion. Child-bearers can experience a significant amount of stress as priorities shift to the all-consuming role of caring for a newborn. For some, the added stress can lead to mental health problems. 

A recent report from the United States that examined pregnancies between 2014 and 2018 found that the number of women being diagnosed with postpartum depression is nearly one in 10, a jump of almost 30% from 2014. In Canada a 2018 survey found that almost one-quarter (23%) of mothers reported feelings consistent with a diagnosis of postpartum depression or anxiety.

There is growing evidence that mindfulness training may be effective in reducing the risk of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. A 2017 systematic review of the scientific evidence for mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) found that mindfulness programs were associated with reductions in perinatal anxiety, although results for depression were less consistent.

“Following mindfulness-based interventions…[there is a] strengthening of non-reactivity,” says Marissa Sbrilli, a graduate student in the Clinical Community Psychology PhD program at the University of Illinois. Mindfulness practice can help foster a non-reactive attitude, openness to experience, and cultivation of self-compassion during stressful times. Sbrilli feels that this attitudinal shift is just as important as the attentional skills we learn during mindfulness practice, such as becoming aware of bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions.

Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Childbirth

One program designed for child bearers is Mind in Labor (MIL), developed by Nancy Bardacke, CNM, Founder of the Mindful Birthing and Parenting Foundation. MIL is a condensed version of the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) program and runs as a 2.5-day weekend workshop. “MIL teaches mindfulness-based strategies for coping with labor-related pain and fear, as well as psychoeducation and birth physiology education,” says Sbrilli.

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This Is What Fierce Self-Compassion Looks Like

For women, it’s easy to internalize the message from our culture that we are the weaker sex, helpless maidens who need a big, strong man to save us. For too long we’ve been taught to value dependence over independence, to be attractive and sexy—not as a way of expressing ourselves, but as a means to attract a man who can protect us. We don’t need men to protect us, we need to protect ourselves. Women are strong. We handle the pain of bearing children. We hold families together and skillfully navigate interpersonal conflict and adversity. But until we learn how to stand up for ourselves with the same fierce energy we use to care for others, our ability to take on the world’s big challenges will remain limited.

Some people worry that self-compassion will make them soft, but it actually gives us incredible power.

Some people worry that self-compassion will make them soft, but it actually gives us incredible power. Olivia Stevenson from the University of Northern Colorado and Ashley Batts Allen from the University of North Carolina examined how self-compassion and inner strength were linked in over 200 women. They found that participants with higher scores on the SCS (self-compassion scale) felt more empowered: They felt stronger and more competent, asserted themselves more, felt more comfortable expressing anger, were more aware of cultural discrimination and committed to social activism. These findings are echoed in other research showing that self-compassionate women are more likely to confront others when needed and are less afraid of conflict.

The three elements of self-compassion—self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness—each have an important role to play when compassion is aimed at protecting ourselves. When we’re fighting to keep ourselves safe, the three components of self-compassion manifest as brave, empowered clarity.

This short practice cultivates fierce self-compassion in service of brave, empowered clarity.

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