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Announcing the EBMC Maha Sangha

Announcing EBMC’s:

Maha Sangha for All People & Communities

Creating Freedom in Community

Every Friday night at EBMC, 6:30-8:30pm (starting January 6).

Beginning January 6th, 2017, Fridays will feature a new format, with an emphasis on radical inclusivity and social justice. Also a new name: The EBMC Maha Sangha, for all people and communities. Maha is a Pali word meaning whole, great, larger/largest, deepest, and Sangha is a Pali word for community, or community of practitioners. Together, these words represent a place where all people and communities are warmly invited to explore the Dharma together, in keeping with East Bay Meditation Center’s core mission to foster liberation, personal and interpersonal healing, social action, and inclusive community building. We hope that you will join us in the New Year.

The EBMC Maha Sangha’s initial leadership team of teachers, dharma leaders and sangha members includes: Arinna Weisman, Arisika Rasak, Bang Nguyen, Chinh Nguyen, Crystal Johnson, Fresh! White, Hilary Berwick, Jd Doyle, Lisa Moore, Max Airborne, Phoenix Soleil, Shay, Syra Smith and Thomas Davis.


By Showing up in a Different Way, I Can Create Change

There is so much trauma in social justice spaces, including my own, and I have realized that developing the ability to apply mindfulness practice, to see things clearly, without judgment, has helped me navigate what are at times challenging and stressful environments. Three years ago I went through the Practice in Transformative Action (PiTA) program, and that cemented my relationship with the EBMC community. I knew that I could no longer keep the pieces of my life in silos, and the concrete mindfulness skills I could apply to my organizing and social justice work became very clear.

I realized that if I could show up differently at work, I could transform the space – not by proselytizing or by doing so loudly – but just by showing up in a different way, I could change things.

I first got involved with EBMC several years ago and I was struck by how EBMC was intentionally building a space for people you don’t usually see in a meditation center – queer and trans people, people of color, low-income folks. It was rare to be in a place where the default is that the teachers fully reflect the people they are trying to be in relationship with and to serve, and it enabled me to see how I could put this kind of mindfulness into practice in my own life.

When I began to meditate, I wasn’t sharing it in any of my work, and definitely not in my paid work with the Center for Story-based Strategy, because I was feeling shy and insecure about my personal practice. EBMC gave me tools to recognize that during times of transition within organizations there is both intellectual and emotional labor that need to be done. Historically, it had been inconceivable in my organization to take time to pause our external-facing movement support work and deeply reflect on what we were doing. We introduced a practice we called “the pause,” in which we took a break for three weeks to stop and seriously look at how we were doing our work. The world didn’t fall apart, and in fact, that pause allowed for a huge pivot in the organization, helping us to become more focused and strategic.

After being in meditation spaces for several years now, I can see that EBMC is one of the only places that prioritizes bringing those of us who are in the margins to the center. And while there are other places I could pursue mindfulness practices, there aren’t others that fully embrace my radical politics and commitment to social justice at the same time. When I walk in, I don’t have to choose parts of myself; I can show up with my whole person.

I am now excited to be involved in supporting the brand new Social Justice Sangha, which is meeting on the second Tuesdays of the month at lunchtime. I am also a Friend of EBMC monthly donor. For me there is no way to quantify or monetize what I have gained from EBMC as a person and a practitioner. I do believe in planting seeds forward to grow the environment for others to find similar transformation, and I believe deeply in the model of gift economics EBMC has embraced, which allows me to match my (modest) resources with my highest values. I see my giving as a part of my practice, and I am so deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be part of this community.

With gratitude,

Christine Cordero

With So Much Uncertainty in the World, We Have a Place of Refuge

When I think about the times ahead of us right now, the political uncertainty and anxiety about what is to come, I feel tremendous gratitude for EBMC. As the election results were coming in, and my sense of fear began to grow, I knew I wanted to be at EBMC the next morning. The day after the November 2016 presidential election we held the doors of EBMC open for anyone to come through.

People came, and we practiced together.  Ringing the bell and meditating together felt like a simple act of kindness and acknowledgment of the despair so many of us were feeling.  By the time of the Midday Sangha at noon, there were more than 50 people gathered, and that number continued to grow throughout the day.  We shared lunch and support, and in those hugs and conversations, I think we all felt a little bit of hopefulness.

EBMC is that place of refuge for me: a place to come and get grounded, to be in a community of people who share my commitment to racial and economic justice. A place where the intention to be in beloved community is so strong you feel it the minute you walk in the door. This is a place where people are practicing each moment how to be in community.

You could almost say I moved to Oakland to go to EBMC.  I’ve been a union organizer for more than ten years. I was on the road all the time, working on strikes and immigrants’ rights campaigns around the country.  I heard about the Alphabet Sangha and started going whenever I was in town.  I had been to a few meditation centers, but none like EBMC, where people got to know each other, where conversation happened as part of the practice group, where new people are welcomed into the center as soon as they walk in the door.  I had a sense of belonging in spiritual community and in the dharma in a way I had always wanted to but didn’t know how to make happen on my own.

And at EBMC my life and my practice have deepened.  In 2015 I spent six months in EBMC’s White and Awakening in Sangha program designed for white people to work together to wake up to the suffering in the world and to come into wise relationship with our experience and responsibilities as white people who are committed to liberation.  This is why EBMC means so much to me: it is helping me meet the real time conditions in my life and to grow.

I am now honored to help organize the newly created Social Justice sangha, and to serve on the Leadership Sangha, our board. To have a spiritual home that is not apart from what matters most to me in the world, but instead meets it with all the compassion and engagement possible, is the place for me. With so much uncertainty in the world, and here in Oakland, I hope you will join me in giving to EBMC and growing this necessary place of refuge.

With deep bows,

Amanda Ream

Our Family Would Not Exist Without EBMC!

Wonder () would not exist if it were not for EBMC!  Wonder is our exuberant, four-year-old child who loves to run and run and run when he is at EBMC.  We chose an apartment within walking distance to EBMC because, other than our home, this family-friendly meditation center is the most important place in our lives.

Our family was formed when Abe and David fell in love after serving as volunteer coordinators for the Alphabet Sangha for EBMC, back in 2010.  We lived out our dreams of becoming a two-dad family and welcomed Wonder into our lives surrounded by the love and support of our Sangha members.  A handful of EBMC friends wrote songs for our baby shower including one our favorites: “Imagine Baby Wonder/ It isn’t hard to do/ With two wonderful Dads/ And a loving sangha too…”

EBMC is where our multiracial, queer family learns to show up for ourselves and others in community.  We find sacredness in the persistent practice to honor ourselves, one another, and the greater EBMC beloved communities that are hurt and marginalized, whether by internalized or external “isms.”  There were times during the initial first few years of parenting that being able to sit in silence at EBMC would bring up tears of gratitude and release. Now that Wonder is older and we are able to show up more at EBMC again, we are relishing the moments of connection and deepening practice we find there.

We are active in the Family Sangha and movement classes, as well as the Midday, Alphabet, and POC Sanghas and the Alphabet Brothers of Color and Transgender Deep Refuge Groups. We are at EBMC several times a week!  We relish showing up as our embodied selves more and more, and, moment after moment, learning to listen, gaining wisdom, and honoring our individual strengths and collective spirit.  And now Wonder is playing games of counting his breaths, and we are talking about what it means that a bully has been elected President.

During this time of intense fragmentation and uncertainty, we find refuge in EBMC as a sacred public space where wondrous, imperfect beings, like our family, can show up and be in deeper relations and open our hearts. In support of the radical and beautiful practice of gift economics at EBMC, this year, in lieu of a holiday tree, we are redirecting our family funds to make an additional end of year contribution to EBMC.  Instead of a tree, we decided to pitch the holiday tent pictured here!

With tremendous gratitude to everyone who makes EBMC juicy and real,

Abe, David and Wonder Wu-Doherty

I found someplace to meditate in Oakland—and it’s all about diversity!

When I found EBMC, I was looking for a place where I could meditate with others, not out of any desire to engage with Buddhist practice, but just to concentrate more, to calm my often frenetic mind. I googled “Meditation” and “Oakland,” and East Bay Meditation Center popped up. I remember calling out to a friend who was downstairs, “I found someplace to meditate in Oakland–and it’s all about diversity!”

Practicing at EBMC has calmed (somewhat) my chaotic mind. But it has brought so much more than that. As a person who has been disabled since early childhood, the core Buddhist belief that old age, sickness and disability, and death are intrinsic to human life is a central truth. It meshes with the core concept of disability studies and disability justice: Disability is not tragic, it does not need to be gotten rid of, it is a part of the fabric of our existence.

While EBMC was deeply committed to diversity, when I was first part of the community there was little explicit attention paid to disability. Along with other Sangha members, I raised issues of access and awareness of disability. One of the things I most love about EBMC is its openness to change, the real welcoming of critique. Five years ago, the Every Body Every Mind Sangha (EBEM) began meeting on Sunday evenings, focusing on bringing together those with disabilities, chronic illnesses, and limitations.

With other disabled members of EBMC, I took part in drafting an access policy, drawing on the work of the disability justice movement, particularly the writings of Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Mia Mingus. We wrote: “’Disability’ is created by a world which privileges and normalizes a limited range of mental and physical ways of thinking, feeling, and moving. Disabilities are not personal flaws or problems; they are not liabilities, shortcomings, nor tragedies. Inclusivity requires a transformation of worldview away from seeing ‘disability’ as ‘wrong’ or as something that needs fixing. Disabilities are assets that offer us vital teachings for our practice as interconnected human beings.”

I have seen those ideas put into practice both at the EBEM Sangha, as well as at East Bay Meditation Center as a whole. At our Sunday night practice group, people with a variety of limitations and impairments come together, connecting across the barriers that too often divide us. For me, EBEM has been important in helping me to learn to listen without judgment–or at least listen while being aware of my judgments–to people whose life experiences and understandings of disability are sometimes very different than mine. I know of no other meditation center that provides this kind of support and openness to the disabled community: I hope that EBMC will continue to provide an example of what inclusiveness can be.

With appreciation,

Anne Finger

From Uncertainty to Purpose, EBMC Is There for Me

In my two years of finding community at EBMC it has been many things to me: a place of self-discovery; a center of healing; and a training ground for sharing my practices with the world.

The first time I came to the Alphabet Sangha at EBMC, I was experiencing a lot of suffering and confusion. I was unemployed and on the cusp of coming to terms with my identity as a trans woman. The Alphabet Sangha provided a supportive environment to quietly explore my identity and observe other queer and trans people form community and practice self-care with support from each other. EBMC’s commitment to gift economics insured that I was able to consistently access the space even though money was tight. The open doors and welcoming environment I found at EBMC provided a stabilizing influence during a time of extreme vulnerability. I know it does the same for many others.

Inspired by the Alphabet Sangha, I wanted to share the gift of mindfulness with my broader community. Through the Practice in Transformative Action 3 (PiTA3) mindfulness for social change agents training program led by Mushim Ikeda, I have achieved that goal. In PiTA, I developed a strong foundation of mindfulness, healed from depression, and learned how to lead others in the practices that improved my own life.

Since doing the program, I have used the program’s teachings to lead others in mindfulness meditation. For six months, I led a trans feminine meditation group where participants shared that walking meditation allowed them to feel embodiment in new and exciting ways. Today, I am leading a regular small mindfulness group at my work at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, where people have told me that rhythmic meditation was the first time they felt like mindfulness was accessible to them. Through PiTA I committed to sharing and adapting healing practices to diverse audiences.

Throughout life, and especially the next four years, we will face uncertainty and challenges. I choose to be a monthly sustainer donating $35 a month to help insure that EBMC can continue to be a source of resilience for all of our vulnerable communities, and I hope others will join me. For people who are new to meditation, experiencing major upheaval in their lives, looking to deepen their practice, or stepping into spiritual leadership, EBMC is there for all of us, and I feel so deeply grateful.


A Grieving Heart Brought Me to EBMC

It was actually heartbreak that first brought me to EBMC. I was going through several major transitions at the time: I was ending a very loving and intense relationship, contemplating leaving my job of five years, and considering moving to an entirely new area of work. I saw an EBMC daylong event advertised on Facebook that was called “unleashing the power of the heart.” At that moment my heart truly needed some attention.

Through the year that followed, EBMC held me throughout all my transitions. I transitioned into different relationship with myself. I changed my job and launched the UndocuHealing Project, a holistic and transformative healing project for young undocumented immigrants. This is my calling, this is where I am supposed to be.

I came away from that first event incredibly moved by the feeling of the space. It was packed with people—a beautiful community of people—all of whom had challenging things going on in their lives. I felt within me how sacred the space was and how sacred we were to each other. This connectedness allowed me to feel so held and comfortable in that space. The teachings connected to everything I was feeling at the time and allowed me to see some of the lies I was telling myself. It reinvigorated my spiritual practice and was a major turning point for me. I remember leaving the event and going to my car where I sat and cried the tears I hadn’t been able to cry before that day.

I eagerly signed up for a six month Wednesday night class to deepen my practice. Although I had been in other meditation spaces, EBMC promoted an expression of Buddhism I hadn’t experienced before. It was a practice that was grounded in the moment, in community, specifically in Oakland, with a focus on justice and liberation, and the teachers were not afraid of talking about complex political challenges, oppression, and state-based violence. These issues were constantly present to me as a part of my social justice work, but I had never found a spiritual space that acknowledged and wrestled with those things as well. This was exactly the type of space I was seeking: a space to work through the most daunting political and moral issues of our time with deep compassionate commitment to each other’s lives and happiness.

I was later given the opportunity to become a Temple Keeper volunteer, which served as a way of giving back to EBMC and a way of deepening my spiritual practice. I will always remember the day I worked my first shift. As I was vacuuming the floor, I felt a rush of emotion and started to cry. I thought of my mother, who was an undocumented immigrant just like me, and how she cleaned office buildings at night. Sometimes she would take me along at nights to help her clean. I felt a rush of memories surge in that moment as I held the vacuum cleaner. I felt so aligned with my mother in that moment, so connected in a deep way to her and to her service. My mother did that work to give me life and to give me sustenance. And in a similar way, I now had the opportunity clean a temple as a way of giving back to this community of people I care about and this place that has given me so much.

I was recently asked why I go to EBMC and why it has been so important to me. I answered simply:

“EBMC is the place where I get to come in every week and practice being my best possible self. And though I consistently fall short once I leave EBMC, I am grateful to come back and continue cultivating my most genuine expression of self—my Buddha Nature.”

With appreciation,

José Arreola-Torres






The Search for Safety & the Three Refuges: A Daylong for People of Color

DECEMBER 17 @ 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM

with Larry Yang and Louije Kim

Register here

All beings wish to be happy, to enjoy safety and a sense of well-being. For People Of Color living in a racialized society, the realities of racism, systemic violence, and trans-generational trauma creates a pervasive sense of danger and insecurity–the search for safety takes on a tender urgency. The Buddha taught that the nature of reality is one of ultimate instability and groundlessness, and to live in conflict with reality brings us suffering. The teachings of the Three Refuges offers us places of relative grounding from which we can navigate our lives skillfully, without grasping for security in what is temporary or false.

Register here

EBMC Sangha Supporting the Water Protectors of Standing Rock

Many of you are involved in efforts to support the water protectors at Standing Rock, standing with indigenous nations in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many of you have expressed the desire and intention to know more, to do more, and to connect with sangha in wise action.

“We have to start learning how to live in a way so that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren. We need a kind of collective awakening. We have the dharma; we have the means; we have enough wisdom. We do not have to sink into despair … we can act.” — Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh

“The battle at Oceti Sakowin is deeper than the pipeline. It’s about how we are to redefine our leadership and how we rebuild community and how we love and have compassion for each other and Mother Earth and all the people who come to support — that’s what all this means.” — Tom BK Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network

Ways you can get involved


THURSDAY NOV. 10. 3:30p- 5:30

Water protectors have called on supporters to challenge the banks financing the pipeline.
Wells Fargo Bank
1221 Broadway, Oakland, California 9461

SATURDAY, NOV. 12, 10AM – 6 PM

PLACE for Sustainable Living
1121 64th Street, Oakland, California 94608

MONDAY NOV. 14, 12p-3p
LETTER WRITING & CALLING PARTY! Join us at EBMC from 12p-3p for an afternoon of making calls, and writing letters in solidarity with Standing Rock. Useful to bring: cell phones, laptops, paper, pens, envelopes, stamps. We’ll provide contact numbers and addresses, talking points and snacks.




EBMC’s Midday Sangha is gathering items to deliver to Standing Rock. If you have items to donate that are needed (see the lists below), please leave them in the donation spot in the EBMC library.






  • Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414
  • Call the Army Corps of Engineers (202) 761-5903
  • Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at (701) 328-2200
  • Call or email your Congressional Representatives and Senators:




EBMC Open for Refuge, Wed. Nov. 9, 2016

9am – 5pm, a contemplative space of courageous compassion
Tuesday November 8, 2016

PLEASE SHARE. Wed Nov 9, everyone seeking **refuge,** a quiet place to meditate and gather strength in courageous compassion, can come to #EBMC, East Bay Meditation Center, 285 17th Street, Oakland 94612. We will be open 9am – 5pm, with our usual Midday Sangha meeting at 12 pm, peer-led mindfulness meditation followed by potluck lunch. Contemplative space, a comfortable place to sit, and a warm cup of tea await you!

EBMC is a fragrance-free space, so please don’t arrive wearing scented hair, body or clothing products out of respect to those with environmental illnesses.