EBMC: A Home for Spiritual Warriors

Sangha member Kaily Heitz shares her Gratitude Story with us today. Social Justice and Healing is one of the Core Elements of the East Bay Meditation Center, so it’s no surprise that Kaily felt a sense of belonging given how the center embraces and uplifts social justice movements! Keep on reading for Kaily’s story…

When I began meditating in 2014, I turned to the practice seeking inner refuge as I healed parts of myself. Soon after starting to practice, I arrived in Oakland from across the country, ready to build a new life and community. I’d moved on a bright Wednesday in January and the very next day, knowing little about Oakland beyond its history as the home of the Black Panthers and a BIPOC-led meditation center, I headed directly to East Bay Meditation Center’s Thursday night People of Color yoga and meditation. I found that, unlike in the quiet, monotone church basement Sanghas I had practiced with in the Midwest, my questions about Buddhism and meditation, the Buddha’s history of caste privilege, and the role of acceptance in the midst of social transformation were alive in the Dharma and discussions held at EBMC. I felt as though I had not moved to a new place at all – rather, I had come home. 
From then on EBMC was a refuge through which I deepened my practice and connections to social justice movements in Oakland and the wider Bay Area. Through this Sangha, I found the courage, and financial support, to attend my first of many week-long retreats. Inspired to teach my students and fellow teachers and activists mindfulness-based practices, I joined the Practitioners in Transformative Action (PiTA) program’s fifth cohort. I have now joined the center’s Leadership Sangha (Board) to give generously through service what I cannot give monetarily. All of these opportunities have opened doors to profound and transforming spiritual friendships. 
Now when people ask why I meditate, inner refuge is only part of the story. I practice to be in community, to be in right relationship, and to be able to show up to the ongoing fight for social justice from a place of compassion. I practice because I know that the spiritual community I have formed at EBMC is one of warriors practicing and always holding one another accountable to our wider circle of relations. We strive to show up for one another just as we show up to the cushion, to accept one another as we accept our thoughts and feelings, and to turn to one another as we turn to the breath. 
The communal refuge EBMC provides me and so many others has only grown during the pandemic. As the center looks for a new physical home, I wish for us to be able to expand our commitment to radical inclusivity, shared leadership, generosity, and social justice. I hope we continue to build upon the legacy that links mindfulness with the solidarity movements for Black & POC power that are at the heart of Oakland.