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EBMC supports us to address conflict and challenge injustice -Tenesha Duncan Gratitude Story!

EBMC’s Season of Gratitude concludes with a beautiful story from Sangha member Tenesha Duncan about how EBMC supports us to skillfully address conflict and challenge injustice.

“As someone who grew up in a Buddhist household, I’ve long been familiar with chanting and some meditation practices. But EBMC’s secularism and focus on social justice makes it the first space I’ve been in where I’ve felt able to bring my full Buddhist self with all the identities I carry. 

I moved to Oakland in August 2018 for a new job in philanthropy that focuses on reproductive health and justice. Within a year, the challenges I faced in this position led me to seek a therapist who, as it happened, had been a part of the PiTA program. Upon her recommendation, I attended the POC sangha. Being surrounded by the energy of so many other people of color meditating together made me realize what a magical place EBMC is. Shortly thereafter, I applied and was accepted to PiTA 7. Not only did EBMC become a welcoming spiritual home for me through this program, but what I learned about mindfulness through the study of the center’s multicultural agreements would change so much about how I approach my work and life.  

One of my most formative experiences in EBMC was at the weekend  retreat, “Embodying the Timeless Wisdom of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.” with Konda Mason and Noliwe Alexander. It was the first time I’d immersed myself in a space that celebrated Dr. King for his radicalism, his complexities, and the way his teachings connect to mindfulness and Buddhist practice. Most powerfully, it offered me the opportunity to reflect on and practice the power of right speech. I realized that the willingness to be honest, to regularly discuss tensions as they arise, and to challenge ourselves to ask questions in order to connect with the whole of people is what makes EBMC so special. These experiences and the way that EBMC holds these values makes me feel less afraid to address conflict and injustice. Here, I can trust that we, as people of color, can carry each other through tensions. Now, in my philanthropic work, I feel more confident to push on the pieces of systemic inequality that I have power over. My experience with EBMC’s values has helped me to bring mindfulness to a space that is deeply ingrained in patriarchy, classism, and white supremacy culture. 

Gift economics has also been deeply transformative for my role in philanthropy and how we talk about the shifting power in our relationship to money. Organizations like EBMC are having an outsized impact on the world relative to the resources they receive. Dana challenges me to see what we value as not just being about money, but transforming how we relate to and support one another. It is up to each of us to make sure that the justice work we are engaged in, and the radical leadership work EBMC makes possible, is sustainable. 

I am grateful to EBMC for continuing to show me all the ways I still have room to grow in my justice work, and for the way the center and its programs have strengthened my own leadership in my community.” 

***Thanks to Sangha members like Tenesha and the tremendous generosity of our community, we exceeded our fundraising goal this year and raised more than $40,000 for EBMC’s vital programming! Deep appreciation to all who made financial contributions this Gratitude Season. If you did not yet have a chance to donate, there is still time! Please click here: eastbaymeditation.org/generosity/donate Thank you!!!***

EBMC offers transformative practices for people with breast cancer – Tsehaynesh Abebe Gratitude Story!

EBMC’s Season of Gratitude continues with a moving story from Sangha member Tsehaynesh Abebe about using the powerfully transformative skills EBMC offers us to deal with life’s challenges and uncertainties.

This is the last day to reach our end-of-year fundraising goal of $30,000! Please join Tsehaynesh and donate today.

When I began the Practice in Transformative Action (PiTA) program for social change activists at EBMC, I was completing my yoga instructor training, continuing my plant medicine studies, and had been practicing various forms of mindfulness and meditation. Specifically, I was engaged in a lot of self-study to learn more about how African histories and influences play an integral role in these spaces. Being involved with PiTA exposed me, for the first time, to the experience of studying mindfulness and meditation with a diverse group of other BIPOC practitioners. We celebrated one another, our cultural backgrounds, and explored how our identities inform our spaces and practices; we were living the lesson that there is no one way to meditate or practice mindfulness. 

It was during PiTA that I had a couple of experiences with breast cancer that hit closer to home. I saw that doctors were great at providing medical care to rid bodies of cancer, but that there could be a stronger mind, body, and spirit approach to the whole person in conventional cancer care treatment. Many times receiving holistic cancer care was not covered by health insurance, or the out-of-pocket fees were so expensive that it was out of reach for many – costing thousands of dollars. I recognized that many of the approaches being taught in holistic care were those I had found through my own research or learned at EBMC and were accessible to me because of the commitment to the practice of dana there. 

I knew that the teachings I received at EBMC offered something powerfully transformative for people who are diagnosed with a chronic illness, like breast cancer.  And, it offered an approach that did not deny pain or discomfort, but also made space to acknowledge gratitude in the process. EBMC taught me that an experience did not have to be one or the other – that you can be in discomfort and also be grateful. And that you can seek to remain balanced and positive in your approach to the stress, since uncertainty is a part of life.

 I remember talking one rainy day with someone who mentioned how terrible the weather was. I replied with my gratitude for the rain and for the way that it nourishes the earth and our bodies. This was an automatic response that had arisen from my practice in PiTA with mindfulness around everyday tasks. My approach to eating had changed too. Now, I was consciously chewing and experiencing the tastes and textures of my food and thanking the earth, the sun, the rain, and the people who made this food possible – from the farm workers to those who transport the foods and those who stock the shelves, etc. 

This way of experiencing the world has strengthened my foundation for building an integrative approach to self-care and has been integral to creating an affordable and accessible integrative self-care resource for others to access this kind of support. This year, I started “Our Breast Care,” a site that offers meditations, affirmations, guided imagery, and other evidence-based resources for people who have been affected by breast cancer. This site offers instruction in a wide range of mind-body practices. Using sound, art, breathwork, and movement meditations like qi gong, Our Breast Care focuses on integrative self-care in mind-body wellness, nutrition, sleep, exercise, and the environment. 

I am so grateful to EBMC, to PiTA, and especially to Mushim Ikeda, for generously offering an experience that continues to serve as an anchoring resource for me as I evolve in the work that I do. They have made it possible for me to share what I have learned with other BIPOC individuals who do not have access to these teachings as sources for support, resiliency, healing, and wellness.  My hope is that Our Breast Care can offer a source of support and community to anyone with breast cancer, at high-risk, and/or their loved ones.  And, I hope this inspires your generous giving to EBMC.

EBMC has been the silver lining in the extreme isolation of the pandemic – Hooman Gratitude Story!

EBMC’s Season of Gratitude continues with a beautiful story from Sangha member Hooman about finding the EBMC community online as the silver lining in the extreme isolation of a global pandemic.
We have $10,000 more to raise toward our goal of $30,000! Please join Hooman and donate today.

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. 

EBMC supports us to heal from the wounds caused by toxic masculinity – Julio Rios Gratitude Story!

As we continue our annual Season of Gratitude, we bring you a Gratitude Story from Sangha member Julio Rios! Julio celebrates EBMC as a community that supports us to nurture spiritual friendships that help us heal from the wounds of oppression.
During our Season of Gratitude, we are raising $30,000 to ensure that EBMC continues to be a spiritual home for all who need it. We have raised $12,056 toward our end of year goal.

EBMC has always felt like a welcoming space, from Mushim’s Introduction to Meditation for People of Color in 2013, to Thursday POC Sangha nights ands beautiful New Year’s Eve community celebrations.  

What solidified EBMC as a home and community for spiritual friendship for me was a daylong event I attended called Visibilizing Our Invisible Wounds (for self-identified men of color) led by EBMC’s Men of Color Deep Refuge Group in 2018.  Not only did this workshop provide mindfulness tools to examine the wounds of my conditioning, but for the first time in my life, I found a group of other masculine-identified people of color who were on the same journey, many of whom modeled the vulnerability I desperately needed to heal.  For the first time, I shared my experiences being socialized as a boy, and how they had shaped my adult experience, realizing I had lost access to a tenderness that was buried deeply under my passive compliance with masculinity. I resonated with the stories of others because they were similar to mine, and I experienced a strength in vulnerability with the support of the group.  Even though many of us were meeting for the first time, we walked together in silence from EBMC to Oakland City Hall in unison, taking up space, and building community.  It was a powerful event, one I will never forget.

I still have a long way to go on this journey. I’m not sure there is an endpoint. But that day, I caught a glimpse of what freedom in a post-patriarchal world might look like, and I met a group of men, some of whom are now my closest friends, who showed me it was possible. Since then, I have served as a coordinator for the POC Sangha, and have been involved in smaller peer-led groups of men, inspired by Sarwang Parikh’s somatic therapy practice groups. I do this work because it supports my own healing journey, and because I want to share that spark of freedom with others.  

I’m grateful to EBMC for hosting the event that changed my life, as well as other events focused on men healing from toxic masculinity through mindfulness practices. With the support and generosity of our community, I hope to help the Center to keep those sparks going.

EBMC is committed to ending the suffering caused by white supremacy and patriarchy – Rhonda Magee Gratitude Story!

As we continue our annual Season of Gratitude, we bring you a Gratitude Story from Sangha member and teacher Rhonda MageeRhonda, the acclaimed author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities through Mindfulness, celebrates EBMC as a community of practitioners focused on bringing an end to suffering, promoting healing, and uplifting love.
During our Season of Gratitude, we are raising $30,000 to ensure that EBMC continues to be a spiritual home for all who need it. We have raised $5,780 toward our end of year goal.

I first became aware of the East Bay Meditation Center some years ago, while searching for fellow travelers on the journey into deeper study of Buddhism. As a Black woman who had become a lawyer and then law professor, I knew something about moving through a world structured by white supremacy and patriarchy, and was on the lookout for those committed to waking up to the suffering caused by that. I sought those actively creating communities of practice that seemed capable of living up to the promise of the Four Noble Truths to help bring an end to suffering while promoting healing, repairing and uplifting love.

 Fortunately for me, at a gathering of teachers from a variety of religious traditions, I met Brenda Salgado, a force of nature who would go on to serve as the Center Director for EBMC. Later, while working with other meditating lawyers to provide more support for socially-engaged practices, I learned that jon a. powell, whose work I had long admired, would be offering a workshop there. I decided to attend that conference and was immediately struck by the welcoming and fully inclusive, community feeling at EBMC.

Years later now, I’ve been fortunate to offer guided meditation and practices to support mindfulness-based engaged resilience for the POC Sangha and other practitioners at EBMC. And alongside founding teacher, Mushim Ikeda, and Crystal Johnson, I’ve helped co-create and deliver a fundraiser for EBMC: a course of study and practice aimed at sharing skills and insights of multicultural community building with the leaders of other centers of Buddhist practice across the United States and beyond.

Founded on love and generosity from within, EBMC’s leadership in the field of Buddhist practice in the United States will no doubt continue to flourish. And I look forward to deepening my work with EBMC’s dedicated and loving community. But doing so requires the support of those who can see and feel the critical value of providing trustworthy spaces for all who seek to learn, heal and grow in awareness, compassion, agency and energy for mutual aid. I am deeply honored to support EBMC’s mission of providing a safe, welcoming and inspiring place for all who seek genuine liberation in this rapidly changing and historically challenging time. I invite you to join me. Please give what you can.​​

 

Got a question about EBMC? Here’s where you can get your answer!

 

If you have a question about EBMC’s operations, budget, decision-making committees, or anything at all having to do with EBMC, you’ll find where you can email your question by clicking HERE “Contact us” through our website also works, and we’re happy to refer any question you have, or any input, to the correct person or group.

EBMC is the sweet meditation-center-that-could – Bong Lau Gratitude Story!

As we continue our annual Season of Gratitude, we bring you a Gratitude Story from dear Sangha member Bong LauBong shares the ways that EBMC offers a place to develop deep and lasting spiritual friendships that support and sustain us.
During our Season of Gratitude, we are raising $30,000 to ensure that EBMC continues to be a spiritual home for so all who need it.

EBMC holds a dear place in my heart due to the impact it has had on my life.  The center came into my life in 2008, when I was an overwhelmed educator-in-training in the process of getting my teaching credential.  My then-partner, noticing my sleepless nights, anxiety, sudden weight loss, and other symptoms, recommended EBMC as a place that could help.  I finally took him up on this invitation, and going into the old Broadway corner location on a Thursday night, I remember Mushim, Spring, Larry, and many other teachers providing a space of respite, slowing down, and quiet.  It took me a while to understand the practice, as I entered into a vortex of thoughts once my eyes shut, and I lay my body down.  Granted, that was still more peaceful than the external stressors of student teaching, lesson planning, and classroom management.

My meditation practice began to shift as EBMC became my spiritual home.  I give much gratitude to the top-notch teachers, especially in those early days, who gently guided my beginner’s mind.  Another factor in my growth were the relationships that I formed.  As I showed up week after week, the spiritual friendships I formed supported and sustained my consistent presence: I became invested in this sweet refuge of people who welcomed me in a way I very much needed.

Over the years my relationship with EBMC has grown and shifted. For a while, it was, without a doubt, my Thursday night plan. I became more deeply involved in the PiTA #2 & #5 cohorts and as a PoC Coordinating Committee member. There were times when I did not attend for months. And still, for over a decade, this sweet meditation center-that-could was and has always been there, consistent.

I write this message with the hope that EBMC will continue to be a spiritual home open to all for many years to come. I give deep gratitude for this revolutionary, visionary center and everyone whose generous spirits have sustained this communal gathering space.  May the fruits of all that merit continue towards the awakening and liberation of all beings!

Moving with Care & Intention towards Hybrid Programming

It has been remarkable to see our collective resilience as a community since we needed to close our physical doors and transition to online programming only 20 months ago. At the same time, we know that many are looking forward to in-person connection with dharma friends and family. As we have seen, conditions surrounding COVID-19 are ever changing and EBMC’s priority is to ensure that we continue to cultivate a place of refuge for all, with special care for traditionally underrepresented Sangha members.

Staff and volunteers are collaborating on safety guidelines and setting up equipment so that we can offer in-person and online programming as safely as possible. Part of this process was gathering feedback from our community safety survey in August 2021 that garnered nearly 500 responses. Thank you to everyone who took the time to help us make more informed decisions about how to move forward with reopening our center

While we do not yet have a definite date on reopening, we wanted to share with you that we are actively working towards hybrid programming – hopefully starting early 2022. We will do our best to keep you updated on the latest developments, expectations and requests.

We are also keeping in mind that virtual offerings have nourished many people’s spiritual practices, including people who do not live within travel distance of our physical location and/or who are unable to come to in-person gatherings because of illness or caregiving responsibilities. These online offerings will not be going away, and we will do our best to meet the needs of those who have come to prefer gathering online even after reopening.

We offer gratitude for your continued support and solidarity as we collectively move towards uncertainty with brave, open hearts. May we all be safe, healthy, and whole – learning from all and all the challenges that arise from this time apart.

EBMC brought together parts of my life that had been separate for far too long – wei li king Gratitude Story!

As we continue our annual Season of Gratitude, we bring you a Gratitude Story from wei li king, our newest EBMC staff member! wei li shares the ways that EBMC creates a space where we can bring our individual spiritual practice and our relationships with our loved ones together.
During our Season of Gratitude, we are raising $30,000 to ensure that EBMC continues to be a spiritual home for wei li, their family, and so many others.

Nearly 10 years ago, while I was in the depths of shame and depression, my brother gave me a book that was innocently titled “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Sri Lankan Theravada monk Bhante Gunaratana. As someone raised in a secular household, I was confused about receiving guidance that contained even a semblance of spirituality. But this offering opened a path of healing that came full circle when I began attending EBMC with my brother and 3 year old nibling. I spent several months enthusiastically attending Dharma talks at various EBMC Sanghas. I recall the vivid excitement shimmering in my body when I entered Family Sangha for the first time in March of 2020 and saw friends, who I looked up to dearly, leading the circles of children and family members. I was finally bringing together two intimate parts of my life that had felt separated for far too long.

Meditation opened me up to the gifts of solitude, reflection and self-compassion. However, silent retreats and breathing on a cushion had increasingly become separated from everyday life – an individualized practice that I couldn’t seem to explain or include my friends and family in. But EBMC brought to light the beauty and power in sangha, as a place that centers healing for people of incredible diversity. Being amidst a community across generations, cultures and all levels of physical ability and financial access was inviting, and showed that spiritual teachings and Buddhism can be integrative and meet people exactly where they are. This is why EBMC has become one of the few places I can enthusiastically share my healing journey with my peers and loved ones.

EBMC illuminates a path of wisdom and compassion that is rooted in community, one that shows how social justice requires both self care and collective commitments. For instance, the agreements for multicultural interactions have transformed the way I hold myself and others accountable in groups. These principles have opened up tender inquiry into core experiences that shape how I relate and react to suffering, and have fostered my curiosity about those who have radically different experiences. 

EBMC’s dedication to radical inclusivity and gift economics is an honest antidote to the transactional, isolated mainstream society that capitalism has sold us. To see the medicine of the dharma given freely and open heartedly has inspired me to contemplate on how I can best share my gifts with all who can benefit. Through these means, it is an honor to join my spiritual path with one of service by taking on a new role as Operations and IT Director at EBMC, and I look forward to helping EBMC grow. 

 

We’re Hiring!

EBMC is currently seeking a Spiritual Training & Leadership Retreat Manager.

The Spiritual Training and Leadership (STL) Retreat Manager supports Guiding teachers, STL trainees, and EBMC’s Event Coordinator for the STL training and ensures that administrative, accounting, and other event operations requirements are met. Retreat Managers must be available, flexible, clear, and present during online events (daylongs and non-residential) and In-Person events (Residential/ non-residential). They should be able to work under pressure, in order to be effective while working sometimes long hours and performing multiple tasks and demands. This is a part-time hourly position. Interested applicants should submit their materials to Jena (at) eastbaymeditation (dot) org. Share widely with your skilled sangha friends! Open until filled!

The full job description can be found here: STL Retreat Manager