Tag Archives: dualism

Meditation, Mindfulness, and the Issue of Race

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Jaweed Kaleem writes on the Huffington Post about the growth of racially based meditation groups in and out of the Buddhist community in the U.S. (“Buddhist ‘People Of Color Sanghas,’ Diversity Efforts Address Conflicts About Race Among Meditators”). He describes one such group: “This class of Buddhist meditation was for beginners, tailor-made for minorities. … No whites were allowed.” The participants in the group – and others like them – were led to take this step because they felt excluded from the broader community, especially in areas like Seattle that are not racially diverse.

This is an issue for many religions and practices, not just meditation and Buddhism. It is fraught with contradictions. In my opinion, anything that can help people learn a practice of meditation and mindfulness is welcome, even these racially based groups. However, Kaleem gets to the heart of the controversy when these groups are not just meditation-oriented, but also ostensibly Buddhist: “One of the prime focuses [of Buddhism] is on letting go of any attachment to the individual self. The aim is to be one with the wider spiritual world in the pursuit of harmony, and ideally, that includes going beyond skin color differences.”
I am concerned that there are people of color who feel excluded from the larger community of meditators. In the short run, these race-based groups may be a reasonable solution, which may be why some prominent Buddhist leaders have endorsed them. But I think the answer, in the longer run, is to address what the broader community is doing – intentionally or unintentionally – that makes people of color feel uncomfortable or unwanted. At the same time, we need to ask people of color why they feel excluded because it is difficult for me to accept that practitioners of meditation and mindfulness would actively seek to exclude anyone. It is not that people who live mindfully are necessarily better people, or are completely free of bias – it is just that I don’t know how anyone can practice meditation and mindfulness and continue to view those around them as “different” from themselves. Perhaps I am naive or too wishful.
I believe these tings because I do not think dividing into groups based on “distinctions” such as race is ultimately consistent with meditation and mindfulness practice. I see unity as a natural outgrowth of living mindfully because I believe that mindfulness means seeing things as they really are – and in “reality,” we are all one, indivisible, connected, inseparable.
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Happily Heathen

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Heathens. Godless ones. Terms that didn’t so much scare me when I was a Christian but saddened me. My God was such an important, constant presence in my life that I could not imagine how one could live without God, any god. I knew that God was always with me, beside me, inside me. I could speak with God any time I wished. I could listen for God speaking to me. Wouldn’t people who didn’t believe in God be completely lost, alone, forsaken?

When I stopped going to church several years ago, and even after I recognized that I had become Buddhist, that sense of Presence didn’t just go away. Though I wasn’t quite sure what it was anymore, I still felt it, and was glad, comforted, safe. I had ceased praying to this lifetime companion—well, let me rephrase that. Intercessory prayer, seeking the intervention of that Presence in my life and others, had ceased. But I was still enjoying it, benefiting from having the Presence around me. In other ways, I was still speaking to it, still praying as I understood it, which was a vastly more multifaceted form of communication than simply asking for things. And I was still offering prayers for those in needs, for guidance in my own life, though I no longer had any idea who I was sending those prayers to.

I can’t say for certain that I’ve figured out what is going on with me in this regard, but I have had a hunch lately. I think that what I am sensing, what I previously referred to as God, is the universal interconnectedness of all beings. The constant Presence is the sense of my connection with everyone, of being one with all and leaving me and them behind. I believe that when I am feeling down, solitary, that I am slipping into dualism and sensing a disconnection from the universal whole. And the prayers that I offer now are not seeking an omnipotent being to swoop in on a fiery chariot and act on my behalf or for another’s sake. They are a sharing of concern, of need, of a particular kind of energy that resonates with the universal whole and calls on it to heal, aid, support its constituent parts.

Clearly, I have a lot more thinking and meditating to do on this subject, but I put these newborn thoughts out there in the hope that it will help lead me further along the path. Thanks for reading and walking with me for the past few minutes. Peace and love and wholeness be yours.

P.S. If “trading in” god for the new-agey universe thingy makes me a heathen, then light a bonfire so I can strip down and start dancing. I embrace it.