A Grieving Heart Brought Me to EBMC

It was actually heartbreak that first brought me to EBMC. I was going through several major transitions at the time: I was ending a very loving and intense relationship, contemplating leaving my job of five years, and considering moving to an entirely new area of work. I saw an EBMC daylong event advertised on Facebook that was called “unleashing the power of the heart.” At that moment my heart truly needed some attention.

Through the year that followed, EBMC held me throughout all my transitions. I transitioned into different relationship with myself. I changed my job and launched the UndocuHealing Project, a holistic and transformative healing project for young undocumented immigrants. This is my calling, this is where I am supposed to be.

I came away from that first event incredibly moved by the feeling of the space. It was packed with people—a beautiful community of people—all of whom had challenging things going on in their lives. I felt within me how sacred the space was and how sacred we were to each other. This connectedness allowed me to feel so held and comfortable in that space. The teachings connected to everything I was feeling at the time and allowed me to see some of the lies I was telling myself. It reinvigorated my spiritual practice and was a major turning point for me. I remember leaving the event and going to my car where I sat and cried the tears I hadn’t been able to cry before that day.

I eagerly signed up for a six month Wednesday night class to deepen my practice. Although I had been in other meditation spaces, EBMC promoted an expression of Buddhism I hadn’t experienced before. It was a practice that was grounded in the moment, in community, specifically in Oakland, with a focus on justice and liberation, and the teachers were not afraid of talking about complex political challenges, oppression, and state-based violence. These issues were constantly present to me as a part of my social justice work, but I had never found a spiritual space that acknowledged and wrestled with those things as well. This was exactly the type of space I was seeking: a space to work through the most daunting political and moral issues of our time with deep compassionate commitment to each other’s lives and happiness.

I was later given the opportunity to become a Temple Keeper volunteer, which served as a way of giving back to EBMC and a way of deepening my spiritual practice. I will always remember the day I worked my first shift. As I was vacuuming the floor, I felt a rush of emotion and started to cry. I thought of my mother, who was an undocumented immigrant just like me, and how she cleaned office buildings at night. Sometimes she would take me along at nights to help her clean. I felt a rush of memories surge in that moment as I held the vacuum cleaner. I felt so aligned with my mother in that moment, so connected in a deep way to her and to her service. My mother did that work to give me life and to give me sustenance. And in a similar way, I now had the opportunity clean a temple as a way of giving back to this community of people I care about and this place that has given me so much.

I was recently asked why I go to EBMC and why it has been so important to me. I answered simply:

“EBMC is the place where I get to come in every week and practice being my best possible self. And though I consistently fall short once I leave EBMC, I am grateful to come back and continue cultivating my most genuine expression of self—my Buddha Nature.”

With appreciation,

José Arreola-Torres