The Power of Small Encounters – Alison Christiana Gratitude Story!

It doesn’t take long after arriving at East Bay Meditation Center to feel the impact of multicultural spiritual community and powerful wisdom teachings presented through a lens of social justice. Today’s Gratitude Story features Alison Christiana, a Sangha member who arrived at the center last year and, as a transracial adoptee, immediately felt welcomed and included.
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The first thing I noticed about East Bay Meditation Center was its striking difference from the other mostly white-dominant healing spaces I had experienced. I came to the center on the heels of a very traumatic racial experience in a therapeutic training program. What was sold to me as an intuitive, supportive, and conscious training ended up being a mostly white-led space that reinforced white supremacist behaviours. Ultimately, I left the program but carried the grief and pain of that encounter. When I came to EBMC I was nervous and hesitant to enter another healing community. But immediately upon walking into the center, I could tell I was in a different type of space. The center felt humble, simple, and approachable. It had a comforting feel and everyone I encountered was friendly. Even before arriving at the physical space I felt held; the communication around what to expect from the center and what was expected of me was clear: come as you are and be thoughtful of the community.

The nervousness I felt around being in a new healing space quickly lifted as I realized that most of the folks in the room were people of color. The first workshop I attended was led by Dr. Sean Feit Oakes and Fresh Lev White for adult adoptees, former foster home or system youth, and any adult who was forced or separated from their birth family at a young age. The workshop itself was wonderful and it was impactful to be in a room filled with both the foster community and the adoption community and hear different people’s perspectives.
I’m a transracial Korean adoptee, and there were others in the room that also held who identity and, of course, have their own experiences. I appreciated seeing adoption through a new and intriguing lens of Buddhism. It can be easy to feel like your adoption is an isolated tragedy or trauma in your own life, but there are a lot of interconnections to why these events come about. Through the exercises in the workshop I was able to access generational wisdom and bring meaning and context to my lived experience. I connected with another Korean adoptee; this small interaction led me to resources and support, including finding a suitable therapist to help my adopted mother and me work through challenges in our relationship. Looking back, I see the power of community in seemingly small encounters. EBMC is a place that fosters important community interactions in a respectful and authentic atmosphere.
A few months after the workshop, when the pandemic hit, I really felt the value of the spaces that were created as an environment for people of color to gather in person. I became a monthly donor because I wanted to make sure EBMC weathered the pandemic storm. Donating to a small organization like EBMC made me feel good about the impact of my financial contribution. I was also impressed by how quickly and smoothly everything was moved online. I’ve attended online workshops and they were held beautifully, even in a virtual environment.
Most of the healing spaces I’ve encountered are white-led, expensive and/or hard to access. Coming from a place of relative financial privilege, I wanted to contribute to an organization that is continuing to support and prioritize marginalized and oppressed groups within our community so that they may continue to have access to spiritual and healing wisdom.