With the American Holiday called Thanksgiving upon us I reflect upon a beginning a new practice that has helped me to transform and heal the hurts of past holidays celebrated such as the Fourth of July. This seems relevant today, as the turkey dinners are rolling out this week. This piece has been edited to leave those teachers in my spiritual growth nameless. In Gratitude..
Shakya Munaye Buddha,
It is with veneration that I wish to practice beginning a new with the sangha. Aware that my habit energies of holding on to my feelings, perceptions and attachments to ideas are strong in me. I am aware that alone I do not have the capacity to practice with and transform these energies. I trust that by allowing myself to be held in the hands of the sangha and that by following the guidance of the sangha eyes I can learn to see things more clearly. It is from a place of joy, gratitude, trust and complete vulnerability that I wish to also share a recent suffering. I speak with gentleness, love and the hope that my words are received with understanding. I humbly remain open to guidance for any unskillfulness, shortcomings or any discomfort to others that my sharing may cause.
To live in the sangha is a great fortune. The sangha provides everything for me to be able to live and to be able to practice. I have not needed for anything, I have more than enough conditions to be happy. It is only with the support of the sangha that I am able to become intimate with, open my heart of compassion and to begin to understand the roots of my unknown sufferings. These sufferings only come alive by those who remind me of the pain that I have learned to ignore.
I am grateful to have had many opportunities, to be included and to have been able to share wonderful moments with the sangha. I cannot express the honor and the joy that still manifests in me by being invited to join the MahaSangha in great togetherness and the expansion of sibling hood. I am thankful for the many sangha outings and activities that have been planned and organized with love, hard work, time and much consideration. In being a part of the sangha, I have been filled with love and a sense of belonging, a feeling of coming home both internally and externally. I am aware that my presence in the sangha is not dependent on my background, origins, upbringing, or status but only by my heartfelt intention to practice toward transformation and healing. I am overflowing with gratitude for the many ways in which the sangha has nourished and cultivated wholesome seeds in me.
In sharing my regrets I am aware that the individual is a part of the collective, looking within I see that social and cultural experiences shape my perspective and limit my understanding. I am aware of the distortions in me by systematic oppression. Aware of my embodiment and the experiences that it brings within this country and around the world. I recognize the regret of living most of my life outside of my raced, sexualized and gendered body. This internal oppression has been a part of my life training as was deemed essential to becoming successful within the dominant culture of mainstream America. I regret the shaping of myself into what was expected in order to be accepted or for a false sense of belonging. Even as I sometimes experience microagressions in the sangha, I am aware of this internal oppression and aware of this all too familiar habit to shape for a sense of belonging, or to be accepted, or as I begin to see myself as different.
By assimilating and acculturating, I recognize that this only creates an increased loss of identity, culture, connection and affiliation on top of the displacement, dispossession and the loss of my ancestral identity. Only by acknowledging and having an intimate relationship with this loss can I learn to begin to transcend it. And only then can I work through the relative truth of life, by understanding the nature of life as it is experienced in this embodiment. By knowing the nature of this suffering, I am able to move towards transformation and healing with gentleness and care.
The teachings and the practice are helping me to embrace and to begin closing this gap of internalized treason, self hatred and societal conditioning. I am able to disengage from societal norms, its ways and the clinging of its systematic mistreatment. I am able to begin shedding the labels and identities that were such a huge part of who I thought I was. Even living within the sangha, the impact of oppressive systems will remain my embodied experience. It is an element of my origin and my experience in this body and in this life. The practice is helping me to see my innate goodness, move closer to my true self and to find freedom in my true nature. I learn to see that true beauty blossoms from within. With the sangha, I know that I can make space for a new way of being and dying in the world, a new way of being born and unborn.
Expressing hurt. In me I see the fear and the pressure that speaking up may bring me harm or judgement. I feel the ancestral habit energy in me, to allow the incident to go unnoticed, or to make excuses for others that I care for. I see a need to protect a false sense of external belonging. I am aware that belonging is not based on my external conditions. I see the deep seeds of acculturation strong in me transmitted from generations of ancestors to not make waves, to not go against the norm or that of the dominant culture. Aware that by not sharing, complete freedom is not possible. Aware that by sharing I can learn to understand my community and that my community can learn to understand me. Aware that healing and transformation are only possible by making known my difficulties. I know that my personal suffering is not different from that of the collective or of the community in which I live. I am aware that these alone are not mine and that all beings share in these sufferings through different experiences. By sharing, I am able to release my regrets for not speaking up in the past, and for being afraid to look deeply at these sufferings. I speak out so that I can overcome the fear, the silence and the shame, so that I can transform these sufferings in me, in those around me, and in my communities.
The path of practice has given me space and awareness to be in touch with what is happening within myself, the community, the country, the planet, the collective and that of my spiritual, blood and land ancestors. With stillness and a more stable, peaceful state of mind, unexplored injuries sometimes are newly discovered. I see that what needs purifying just shows up and I am learning to be present for it, to embrace it with peace, kindness and compassion. I am learning to be in contact with pains that I do not own alone and pains that I sometimes have been unaware of. These seeds are collective of my stored consciousness, humanity, land, communities, ancestors, descendants of the enslaved, immigrants, exiled, victims of war, victims of genocide and those who are unjustly treated. Aware that these seeds cause suffering, I choose to water the seeds of freedom, true independence or interdependence, interrelatedness, interconnection and interbeing. I practice to embrace the trauma, while remaining in the peace and freedom, that is available to me and not determined by that of my external conditions. I practice understanding and compassion to see beyond the separation. Looking deeply I see that the sameness cannot be recognized without knowing deeply the oneness or that of our individual uniqueness.
The path of practice gives me new ways to respond to these pains. New ways to move through the suffering, to listen, to be open and to learn from them. I learn not to repress, dismiss, or otherwise throw it away. I am careful not to personalize the pain, add to the story of it, or to get dragged down or stuck in it. It is only with deep looking that I am able to come out on the other side of this pain and to see that healing is possible.
In sharing this I also see in myself that I too both known and unknown may cause suffering to others. I aspire only to become more aware of my actions to help lessen the suffering of others. I aspire to raise the level of awareness of the personal, collective and that of my community in fulfilling our intention of creating safe spaces, to live together in a way that embodies non harm, non oppression and non exclusion. I am aware that I am only restricted by the limitations of my awareness. I am determined to look at everything with openness in order to transform violence and injustice in myself and in the world.
Aware that lack of communication brings separation and suffering, and knowing that true community is rooted in inclusiveness and in the concrete practice of the harmony of views, I request to practice sharing my hurtful experience with the community. Dear Sangha, during our recent celebration of the Fourth of July many unwholesome seeds were touched in me, slavery, displacement, disconnection, war, dehumanization, disregard, oppression, cultural appropriation, a yearning for ancestral connection and seeds of nativism and nationalism. As these feelings rose to the surface of my mind, I felt aversion and the desire to want to escape from and push away what was happening. I felt a continuation of histories dominance, of cultural appropriation. I felt again the experiences of harm caused by racial discrimination in different periods of life and land. I felt again previously forms of oppression that our society still perpetuates. I felt separated, disconnected and a sense of detachment from my surroundings. I felt awkward, marginalized, and unsafe. The felt message was that the aspects of being a descendant of displaced enslaved Africans, a descendant of Mexican ancestry, and a descendant of immigrants, were not worthy of awareness, representation or kindness. It felt as though whole nations and whole populations of people were not acknowledged. All of the stories were not represented, the stories of our shared history, the joys and the sorrows involving all of our personal and full range of collective experiences. It felt as though we missed an opportunity to nourish our sibling hood by embodying compassion and offering ways to celebrate in a way that was inclusive, one that offers healing, one that fosters diversity and one that looks deeply into all aspects of our diverse lives.
Too often our communities live inside of an unconscious awareness of the violence and injustices that are the current situation in America as groups are still being terrorized because of race, political affiliation, religious choice, physical ability, class, sexual orientation and gender. I did not feel separate from those who have been exiled, from genocide, from war, from violence, economic loss and political oppression, devastation, poverty, dehumanization and other such atrocities just as beings are being turned away from and separated from their families at the very near shores and borders.
In the midst of all of these feelings, I turned to my breath. I held tenderness in my heart and tried to keep integrity in my actions as I closed my eyes and listened to the Pledge of Allegiance being recited. Cause and conditions give me sight beyond the boundaries of my own experience and even of this event. Aware that persons of color across this nation are “taking a knee” in the hope that, “Justice for All” and not “Justice for Some” could someday be possible. Aware that students across the nation are being expelled by choosing not to participate in this forced patriotism. Aware that the roots of the pledge arise from fear of immigrants just as today we experience restrictive immigration laws in the wake of terrorist attacks and promises to build a “great wall”. I practiced not to cause harm to myself by going along with the norm, by shaping or conforming. I practiced to not turn away from these feelings with despair and hopelessness. Instead I leaned in with a strong desire to understand these feelings so that I could learn to nourish, and to transform this suffering past and present for myself and for my community.
Feelings of supremacy, harm, exclusion and separation came up immediately upon seeing the many flags of red white and blue. Seeing my immigrant siblings sporting hats, leigh’s and colors of pride to celebrate what they have learned from only a few of how and what this holidays represents. This gave rise to the awareness that at the current time in our nation the flag is being used by some to represent hatred and the ridding of anything other than the dominant race in this country. I could not find a representation of my ancestors or the many lands and nations that have come together to build this country in the choices and selection of the food, games or song. I did not feel a conscious awareness for persons of color and the terror and the trauma that surrounds this particular holiday and its history. I anxiously awaited for the acknowledgement of these hurts and pains and a chance to celebrate in ways that cultivated healing and peace. I awaited a chance to collectively cultivate seeds of interbeing by acknowledging all of the stories and by embracing our intention to transform these hurts and at the same time honoring the beauty of this land and all of the stories of those who have built it.
Because of this experience, I see that when all of the stories, when loss and disconnection are not acknowledged with mindful awareness the norms of the dominant culture are taken or displayed as the norm. This same dynamic of cultural unconsciousness without intention only seems to foster separation and water seeds of appropriation. My aspiration is that with the spirit of interconnectedness and interrelatedness we could foster the seeds of inclusiveness and diversity by paying closer attention to events like these. I aspire for an elevation of our multicultural awareness and for the nourishment of the multiplicity of our cultures. I aspire to foster ways where loss and disconnection do not go unacknowledged but are given a chance to heal and awaken for a greater sense of freedom. I aspire to live in a community that pays attention with love to these sensitivities, that creates a safe space for all cultural origins, for all beings, for the love of our country and our planet.
Taking refuge in my teacher, the teachings, and the community in which I practice. I touch the earth gently, seeing the beauty of America, the beauty of its lands, rivers, mountains, its people, plants, animals, waters and minerals. I recognize, its pioneers, visionaries and all those who have transformed our nation in helping to create this land of innovation. I touch the earth knowing that America has limitless potential, I see her true beauty, I see that the land of freedom, justice for all beings, and that all beings can be created equal by cultivating seeds of love, understanding and compassion. I touch the earth in remembrance of days past, ceasing from oppression, building trust with awareness, wisdom and love, with compassion of deep suffering. I touch the earth embracing all of our root cultures with an open heart and an open mind to foster peace, equality and justice for all.
Bowing my head,
Joining my palms,
Touching the earth in deep gratitude,
Sister True Moon of Clear Grace