EBMC has been the silver lining in the extreme isolation of the pandemic – Hooman Gratitude Story!
I first heard about EBMC at a queer retreat at Spirit Rock with Larry Yang, Arinna Weisman and Pascal Auclair. At the time, I didn’t live in the Bay Area, so I got involved in meditation communities in San Diego. My circle of meditation friends and I would dream of having something that mirrored EBMC’s strong POC and queer representation. These dreams faded after moving to Arizona, where there is even less of a queer, POC meditation community. With the onset of the pandemic, however, access to the center opened up for those of us who don’t live near Oakland.
EBMC became my silver lining during the lockdown. Being able to regularly attend the Alphabet and POC sanghas were my means of feeling connected. Attending became essential for coping with the extreme isolation of the first year of the pandemic. These groups were also the only outlet I had to a secular spiritual community that wasn’t about religion or religiosity but something more spiritual. I recall EBMC community teacher, Arinna Weisman, talking intentionally about the word “remember” as a way of re-membering who we are. This teaching reminded me of my humanity and the humanity of those around me, regardless of how their values might differ from my own. Within the center, I’ve found liberation in building relationships with people with whom I’ve been able to explore the difficulties and joys I’ve had in life. In the sangha, I’ve found a nourishing form of refuge, a sense of belonging, connection, and ease. That it is a secular space is important because our connections become about re-membering our shared humanity, rather than adhering to ideologies.
The teachings and communities at EBMC have profoundly affected the way that I work and relate to the people I work alongside. I see groundedness reflected in the way the volunteers, staff, and leadership at EBMC live and embody values of the organization in a way that stands in contrast to cultures of over-saturation, over-stimulation and quick gratification. For instance, at a community meeting updating everyone about EBMC’s search for a new space, “community” extended to include anyone connected to the center, not necessarily those physically close by. I was also struck by the attention the committee paid to making sure that our new space was accessible, not just by having an elevator, but by ensuring that most of the center’s operations take place on the first floor. Here, I see our values being truly embodied by the organization. When we say radically inclusive, we want everyone in our community to feel welcome, not just the majority.
In an effort to more deeply connect with and support this community, I joined the Alphabet Sangha Coordinating Committee in 2020, providing leadership and tech solutions for the sangha’s online platforms. I’m grateful to EBMC for providing such a safe and welcoming space for myself and others, now across the country and the world; and I hope you will support the center as well.