I moved to the Bay in 2015 to start graduate school for a PhD in African Diaspora studies at UC Berkeley, and it was there that one of my colleagues introduced me to the Thursday night POC Sangha at the East Bay Meditation Center. Although I had very little formal meditation experience then, I went to EBMC as a way to take care of myself when school got really hectic. I really appreciated accessing a space where I could practice stillness with people that I deeply admire. The humility in that action felt sacred to me, and helped me realize how powerful it was to gather in stillness for the purpose of taking care of ourselves, in the service of liberation.
EBMC’s capacity to make space for multiple realities with kindness and wisdom is something that really stayed with me. There was a moment when I witnessed that so clearly, during a daylong retreat for Black women facilitated by Spring Washam and Alice Walker. At that daylong, a tension had arisen in the room around the relationships between Black trans women and Black cis women. As the tension grew, I remember sitting in conflict as a Black queer non-binary person in deep principled relationship with Black trans women and thinking “oh my God, what are we going to do?” At that moment, Ms. Walker reminded us that this space makes room for all of us to be heard. That prompt opened up a moment where a Black trans woman was able to speak her truth and Black cis and Black queer people were able to listen. I was in awe witnessing how practicing EBMC’s multicultural agreements shifted what it meant to come together in a moment of tension. With the facilitation of our wise elder, EBMC was a container for us to listen, feel and get to know each other more deeply. What was special about that moment was that such a conversation could happen anywhere, however, the fact that we were in the sanctuary space that EBMC has cultivated allowed for that exchange to be held with a lot of kindness and truth that I haven’t experienced elsewhere.
I’ve continued my Buddhist studies at EBMC as a part of the Practice in Transformative Action program and developed a mindfulness practice that keeps my heart and eyes open, especially as life got increasingly difficult in the past few years. My father has recently passed, which was an inevitably heartbreaking time for me. Without the practice of cultivating a moment of stillness for myself every day, I don’t know how I would’ve cultivated the tenderness and resolve that have sustained me. At the time of his illness and eventual transition, I was taking the Path of the Bodhisattva class, where I found a sense of direction and a set of principles that helped me through the processes of care taking and mourning. Through these journeys, and others that inevitably will come, the teachings and practices that I learned at EBMC are pivotal in how I move through the world as a Black feminist cultural worker, scholar, and teacher. Join me in celebrating EBMC in this Season of Gratitude and in cultivating a sanctuary for all of us to find healing and liberation.