Gratitude Story from emiko yoshikami: How EBMC transformed my broken pieces

Dear Sangha,

We are grateful and thrilled to announce that a generous Sangha member has offered to match all gifts to EBMC, up to $10,000! Between now and the end of the year, you can double the impact of your generosity to EBMC dollar for dollar.

As we enter our Season of Gratitude at EBMC, community members are sharing powerful stories of the transformative power of Sangha. The following story is from Midday Sangha member emiko yoshikami:

I grew up with the Dharma, spending my young adulthood meditating and going on retreats. I felt it was a stable presence in my life, a path I could always rely on. However, when I was twenty-two-years-old I had an experience that radically changed my relationship to Buddhism. Following two back-to-back five-day silent meditation retreats — an LGBT retreat and a POC retreat — I had what psychiatrists term a “manic episode.”

I was involuntarily hospitalized and diagnosed with “Bipolar I with psychotic tendencies.” Trying to make sense of this experience, I reached out to Dharma teachers, but it didn’t help. Sadly and unintentionally, I began to hold Buddhism with suspicion and grew a bitterness towards Sangha. Sporadically I would try to reconnect with others since I knew the Dharma held deep wisdom. One of those attempts led me to the East Bay Meditation Center.

I was incredibly attracted by EBMC’s hot politics. (Wha!?? Uprooting systems of oppression, healing justice, and collective liberation?! HELL YES!) But I still felt a strong sense of disconnection and alienation. (These people talked the good talk, but could they hold my broken pieces?) Two years ago I found EBMC’s peer-led Midday Sangha, a welcoming space for POC and mixed-race folk like me. During the weekly potluck we are invited to speak from the heart and listen from the heart. It was there that I began opening up about my story. And I was amazed to find myself feeling very held.

In Midday Sangha, each week I felt more at home. And my bitterness began to dissolve. It was amazing to watch. No teacher was able to make this happen. It was the deep listening in the room – not in the form of responses, but in the layers of sharing our stories, holding space for the complexities and contradictions of our humanness.

This space invited me to explore my own complexities in a different way. It was my white mom who had raised me with the teachings of Jack Kornfield and others. But from my Japanese dad’s side, I discovered that I come from a very long line of Pureland Buddhist priests. I learned that my grandparents built a temple in Berkeley in the late 30’s (before they were interned). I visited this temple for the first time three months ago. I have also discovered new meaning in my “psychosis” through reading Thich Nhat Hanh (courtesy of the EBMC library).

I hold deep gratitude for EBMC, a Sangha that supported the Dharma to come flooding back into my life. EBMC embodies the intentions for the world I want to live in, where we grapple with how to care for each other – not in some uniform “right or wrong” way – but with continuous attention to how our realities are shaped by histories of power imbalances, dominant narratives, and all that we carry with us.

In solidarity and with compassion,
emiko yoshikami


During our Season of Gratitude, emiko is one of many Sangha members who are sharing the ways that EBMC has changed their lives.

For over a decade, EBMC has run on a radical Gift Economics model which ensures our programs are accessible to all. Gift Economics means that we rely on the generous support of our community to support our Sangha as a whole.

Please support EBMC and help us reach our $10,000 match by becoming a Friend of EBMC monthly donor or by making a one-time gift today!

Thank you for supporting this radically inclusive meditation center that is changing lives every day.