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Open Letter from East Bay Meditation Center’s Core Teachers

May 30, 2020

As Core Teachers at the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California, we condemn police violence and the ongoing systematic abuse and killing of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, and members of other target populations. These abuses are manifestations of centuries of patriarchy and white supremacy which have institutionalized the oppression of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color since this country’s founding.  

 

We share the outrage, pain, anger, and grief that has been expressed across the United States. We join in demands for justice, accountability and radical systemic transformation. We call for reparations, beginning with the divestment of resources allocated to policing and their immediate reinvestment in systems addressing the health, wellbeing and safety of Black, Brown and Indigenous communities that have been hardest hit by centuries of colonialism, patriarchy and institutionalized white supremacy, up through the current pandemic health crisis. 

 

As we (virtually) gather together with members of diverse communities targeted by oppression, we honor the wisdom of the ancestors, the sacredness of the earth, and the power of our collective practice to bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice. Rooted in Buddhist principles of mutual care, compassion, and love, we call for social and ecological healing and comprehensive reparations, so that all people may live in abundance, dignity, and thriving communities.  We recognize our interdependence and commit to serving movements dedicated to the liberation of all beings. 

 

May all beings be well, happy, and free from suffering.

Arisika Razak, Melvin Escobar, Amana Brembry Johnson, Carol Cano, JD Doyle, Mushim Patricia Ikeda and Debra Kerr




Core teachers, the East Bay Meditation Center

www.eastbaymeditation.org

Teen Circle: Online Meditation for Teens Age 14-19!

“Sometimes when I feel alone, I get into an internal narrative where I tell myself that no one can understand what I’m going through. I start to believe that I can’t connect to anyone. The practices I’ve learned at EBMC Teen Circle have been a gateway into my ability to step out of that cycle.

 

The container of Teen Circle showed me that I have an intuitive ability to drop into the moment when this happens with others and realize that I have a choice; that I can act as opposed to react. Instead of blaming myself feeling isolated, or getting angry at what someone said, I’ve realized that I can pause and decide what I really want to do or say next in these intense moments. It’s beautiful to know I have a space that holds laughter, tears, wonder, and vulnerability. The potential for community here makes me feel like my dreams for revolutionary change are possible. 

 

If you’re starting to really notice and struggle with your relationship with yourself and your body during quarantine, Teen Circle is a place where people are open to exploring that.” – Kai Sugioka-Stone (Teen Circle alum, Communities Rizing alum, POC sangha and EBMC community member)

 

Teen Circle has moved online and meets Wednesday evenings 7-8:45pm PST. We invite EBMC community members to spread the word to 14-19 year olds in your life who want to learn mindfulness meditation and explore the dharma (Buddhist teachings) in creative experiential ways. No experience is necessary. We are committed to maintaining a sangha (community) that is welcoming to people of all identities. Led by the EBMC Teen Circle Teaching Team: Sarwang Parikh, Louijie Kim, Sara Oakes, Anthony “T” Maes and Raul Kahlil Betancourt 

 

Register at https://eastbaymeditation.org/programs/sanghas

 

COVID-19 Letter from Spiritual Teacher & Leadership Team: This is Important Now More Than Ever

Dear Beloved Communities:

On behalf of the Spiritual Teacher & Leadership (STL) training program, the core teaching team extends our gratitude and appreciation to EBMC’s staff, volunteers, benefactors, and technical support in transitioning to the new on-line platform.  We extend deep gratitude to all our Sanghas for their devoted commitment to practice and continued support to the sustainability of our beloved community during this unprecedented time.

We recognize the difficulties and sense of uncertainty that may be arising as a result of the rapidly changing climate of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many in our communities are facing the loss of loved ones, loss of income and loss of emotional stability. It’s only natural that deep feelings of fear, anxiety, and confusion may exist through our self isolation and physical distancing.  

Throughout the past 14 years, EBMC has been a place of refuge for so many, near and far.  It is times like these that calls forth our community to draw upon our practice of the Buddhadharma and collectively reflect on liberation, healing and social engagement.  May we remember the two wings of compassion and wisdom, as we graciously hold one another with kindness within our beloved community. Now more than ever, cultivating spiritual teachers and leaders to guide and support EBMC’s diverse communities and partner organizations is essential. Our desire is to join with you to create vibrant and innovative responses to the current and future needs of our time. 

In closing, we honor our ancestors, their ancient wisdom and the 2600 years of the Buddhadharma, while holding each of you with aspirations of well being, health, strength, resilience and safety.

Wisdom is a correct understanding of reality 

and compassion is the desire 

for all beings to be liberated

 from the causes of suffering.”  

Matthieu Ricard

 

Warmly,

Spiritual Teacher & Leadership Team

Amana Brembry Johnson, Carol Cano, JD Doyle and Noliwe Alexander

Updated! EBMC Moving All Groups & Classes ONLINE ONLY

To ensure our community’s health and well-being, EBMC has now closed our center’s in-person meetings and is moving all of our Practice Groups, Programs / Classes, Deep Refuge Groups, Movement Classes and Retreats to ONLINE ONLY. 

For our regular drop-in practice groups, please click HERE . [Please note that as of March 12, 2020 we’re still adding information as we receive it. We appreciate your patience.] 

If you’ve registered for a class, you will receive a Zoom link to participate via video or phone. 
 
Deep Bows, 
EBMC Staff + Leadership Sangha (Board of Directors) 
 
 
 
 

EBMC and coronavirus

EBMC and coronavirus (COVID-19) 

If you aren’t feeling well, with flu or cold-like symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, or you think you might have been exposed to flu or cold viruses, we ask that you please stay home until you feel better.
 
 
” I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals.” — from “The Five Mindfulness Trainings,”  — Thich Nhat Hanh
 
The practice of spiritual refuge and radical inclusivity at East Bay Meditation Center means, above all, the co-creation of safe space and mindfulness in order to keep ourselves and our communities protected from harm. For lots of helpful information about the Coronavirus (COVID-19), including hand washing, and virus prevention and treatment, you may wish to go to this resource page set up by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): Click here:   CDC COVID-19 Virus Resource Page
 
We’ll continue to make posts on all EBMC social media as well, and if you’d like to see our recent email blast about “The practice of Sangha (spiritual community) and the COVID-19 virus, please click here: https://conta.cc/32Y9EJP
 
If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to email us at admin at eastbaymeditation dot org, or “Contact us” through this website. 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Season of Gratitude: Stu Jenkins

Today is the final day of our Season of Gratitude and we are SO CLOSE to reaching our end of year goal. We still need your support to raise the last $8.400 to get us all the way to $25,000!

I didn’t discover this practice until I was in my late 60s, when a mindfulness meditation course was recommended to me by my doctor. The instructor gave us a list of resources in the Bay Area, and EBMC was at the top of the list. I took an introduction to meditation class series and immediately decided I wanted to volunteer my time to give back to the center. I became a temple keeper, which is a job that allows me to feel closer to EBMC. I see volunteering as a service to the organization, but also as a meditation practice. Usually when I am cleaning the temple I’m the only one there. In my life I am rarely in a place where there are no pressures, where it just feels comforting, accepting, like a safe place to be, and EBMC is that for me.
 
Over the last two years, I have participated in a number of daylong retreats at EBMC, and most recently, I completed the Path of the Boddhisatva course. If felt to me like it was time for me to go beyond meditation and really commit to Buddhist practice. No matter where I have lived for the last 30 years—Chicago, New York, Dallas, now Oakland—I have been connected to people who were Buddhist, and practiced with them at their temples, but not Buddhist myself. When I moved to the Bay Area, I attended EBMC to learn mindfulness skills before I knew it was also Buddhist-based. When I learned that the connection had come up again in my life, I figured it was time to finally take the vows. 
 
Practicing at EBMC has changed so much in my life for the better; it has transformed my relationship with myself and with others in my life. I appreciate that when you walk into EBMC you see the list of “Agreements for Multicultural Interactions” on the wall. The one that resonates most for me is “Try It On,” which reminds me the importance of being open-minded and willing to accept ideas and ways of being that are new. As a result of my practice I am so much more aware of my interactions with others; I am much more present with the people closest to me, and kinder to and less judgmental of people I don’t know. 
 
What is important to me is that when you go to EBMC no matter who you are you will see yourself there. It is a place unlike any I have seen anywhere else: multi-racial, multi-generational, inclusive of all genders and sexual orientations. For that inclusivity to be part of the mission statement, and to actually live up to it (!), is rare. What I appreciate the most is how welcoming the people are at EBMC. It is such an easy place to go; you never feel out of place. It is just that type of environment—one where you are always home. 
 
With gratitude,
Stu Jenkins 
 

Season of Gratitude: Jo Ann Prompongsatorn Farrant

We invite you to join in our Season of Gratitude at EBMC! As we close out 2019 we are sharing stories from our Sangha about how EBMC has positively impacted them and asking our Sangha to collectively raise $25,000 to keep EBMC sustainable and accessible for the benefit of so many. 

We are tremendously grateful to a generous Sangha member who has given a matching grant and so all gifts to EBMC between now and the end of the year will be matched dollar to dollar, up to $10,000! Please support the center today at the highest level you can and help us meet our end of year goal! 

From Jo Ann: 

Because the women in the Thai-Chinese Buddhist tradition I grew up in hold second-class status relative to monks and men, I was skeptical about what I would find at a Buddhist temple. I had been following the class offerings at the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC) for several years before I worked up the courage to apply for the 2017 Practice in Transformative Action (PiTA) yearlong program.

 

It wasn’t until I got to know Mushim Ikeda and the other members of the PiTA5 cohort that I was able to make my own assessment about Buddhism, Sangha, and what it meant to belong to a temple without the impact of the patriarchal system that I grew up in. For the first time in my life, I was able to ask questions about Buddhism that I was never allowed to ask. And for the first time in my life, I was able to admit that I was disheartened by the system that upholds monks as the ultimate of holiness. I was able to find my voice and unlearn oppressive ways of thinking.My relationship with my beloved mother, who had been the hardest on me, grew stronger, and I came to appreciate the complexities of being in practice with others.

 

EMBC was the first place where I practiced with a majority people of color. Up until that point in my life, I was either caught in a patriarchal system, practicing mindfulness in majority white spaces, or both. I was never truly at ease. I felt welcomed, but I was not in a place where I could truly explore my self-identity.

 

The PiTA program was so impactful to me that I stayed on for an additional year volunteering my time as an apprentice teacher where I continued to engage and solidify spiritual relationships with others. The people in my life from the EBMC are like no other. I can always find refuge with any of my cohort members. The shared experience of learning and practicing together creates bonds that are unforgettable. Opening our hearts and sharing in the experience of transformation together is very special – something that is hard to describe in words. Unlike other programs that are price prohibitive, the fact that EBMC relies on a gift economics system of sustainability made the experience affordable. I have deep gratitude for the offerings at EBMC. I am a stronger, more liberated, Asian American woman because of this beautiful community.

 In loving kindness,

Jo Ann Prompongsatorn Farrant

New Year’s Eve 2019 at EBMC

December 31, 2019, New Year’s Eve, falls on a Tuesday. This year, our weekly Tuesday meditation practice group for LGBTQIA2+ practitioners, the Alphabet Sangha, invite **all**  EBMC Sangha members for a New Year’s Eve get-together! Rev. Daigan Gaither is the Dharma teacher for the evening. Please come fragrance free; thank you! 

From Alphabet Sangha:
“Alphabet Sangha will welcome all members of all sanghas to join us
that day from 7:00pm to 8:30 pm for potluck, meditation, and hanging out informally afterward until our volunteers turn into pumpkins, probably around 9:30 or 10:00 pm. We will just not be there until midnight as has been the case in previous years. Please bring a potluck dish to share, vegan preferred in keeping with Buddhist precepts.”

Season of Gratitude: Weyam Ghadbian

We invite you to join in our Season of Gratitude at EBMC! As we close out 2019 we are sharing stories from our Sangha about how EBMC has positively impacted them and asking our Sangha to collectively raise $25,000 to keep EBMC sustainable and accessible for the benefit of so many. 

We are tremendously grateful to a generous Sangha member who has given a matching grant and so all gifts to EBMC between now and the end of the year will be matched dollar to dollar, up to $10,000! Please support the center today at the highest level you can and help us meet our end of year goal! 

From Weyam:

East Bay Meditation Center changed my life. 

I first came to EBMC five years ago when I was going through an excruciating breakup. I was feeling overwhelmed by tidal waves of grief, anger, self-hatred, and abandonment. A friend brought me to the People of Color Thursday night sit where Mushim Ikeda gave a dharma talk on the Four Noble Truths. I remember trying frantically to write down every word Mushim said in my notebook. Never before had I heard something resonate so deeply. The Buddhist teachings and practices I learned at EBMC revolutionized how I relate to suffering. EBMC taught me to be open to all experiences as they come and go, observing them intimately, kindly, and nonjudgmentally. 

For the first time in my life I found myself being able to befriend the bundle of memories, feelings, bodily sensations, connections to ancestors and life force energy that I call me. Through these practices, the friendship I built with myself became more robust, and it is now the place where I mostly reside. Even more profound, I noticed that the more self-compassion I cultivated, the more I became able to open to other people’s suffering in a balanced way. 

As a Syrian, queer woman, I’ve witnessed my communities in a state of unbelievable suffering. I used the practices I learned at EBMC to investigate my own intergenerational trauma as the daughter of displaced dissidents and refugees from Syria. Thanks to what EBMC taught me, I have deeply committed to practicing for the wellbeing of my people and all beings. I am now part of a small “Sangha” of Syrian and Palestinian spiritual activists who are working on bridging the divide between transformative change and spirituality in our communities, so that our people may heal and return to sacred governance of their land and live in harmony with each other and the earth. Without EBMC’s warm, loving, multiracial, queer, access-oriented sangha, I may never have been introduced to the practices in a way my heart could receive—and I am so grateful I was.    

Weyam Ghadbian is a queer Syrian healer who works at Movement Strategy Center as a “Culture Shift Doula.” She is a graduate of EBMC’s Practices in Transformative Action 4 and is currently part of the Community Dharma Leadership 6 training at Spirit Rock.

 

Season of Gratitude: Marrion Johnson

We invite you to join in our Season of Gratitude at EBMC! As we close out 2019 we are sharing stories from our Sangha about how EBMC has positively impacted them and asking our Sangha to collectively raise $25,000 to keep EBMC sustainable and accessible for the benefit of so many. 


We are tremendously grateful to a generous Sangha member who has given a matching grant and so all gifts to EBMC between now and the end of the year will be matched dollar to dollar, up to $10,000! Please support the center today at the highest level you can and help us meet our end of year goal! 

 

From Marrion:

When I moved to Oakland about four years ago, I was desperately seeking a spiritual home. It wasn’t until after a year of hearing about EBMC that I finally stepped through its doors. I was immediately struck by the warm and welcoming environment and loving nature of the teachers and Sangha. I knew this was the space I was searching for. 

EBMC was there for me during a critical time in history, as many black people were being murdered due to police brutality and white supremacy. During the summer of 2016, a friend from the U.K was visiting me, and the energy through the city was extremely intense. One of the first places I brought my friend to was EBMC, where the Sangha held space for all of us. In that moment, I remember feeling a sense of hope that somehow we would be alright. It was wonderful to share with my friend who was coming from another country because she had never experienced anything like that before. 

While I’ve always been social justice oriented, EBMC’s PiTA program helped me better understand my role in social justice circles, and how restorative the work can be. During PiTA, I was able to develop strategies for minimising burnout, such as incorporating mindfulness as an act of self care, and I’m tremendously thankful for the practices I’ve learned at EBMC. 

EBMC is a place where you are given the space to tap into who you truly are. I regularly attend evening POC and Queer Sangha offered at the center. Being able to embrace a lifestyle that centers radical healing for queer, POC and folks of all abilities has impacted me in such profound ways. I embrace who I am–I don’t run away from myself as much. Whenever I feel things, I allow myself to breathe into those spaces of uncomfortability, and simply follow wherever my breath takes me. 

 

EBMC provides space to explore the vastness of who we are, and that’s a wonderful thing to tap into. 

 

In gratitude, 

Marrion Johnson