September 2012

September 4, 2012

Dear Beloved Community,

As we move towards the end of the summer months I am reminded of the truth of change. Everything in life is in constant movement and flux, ever changing dynamics in continuous motion. We can learn to dance in the flow of creation and embrace change and impermanence with grace. As we shift and evolve internally the outer conditions of our lives also changes, this can be both scary and exciting at the same time. Impermanence is life’s only promise to us, it is a guarantee that things will eventually change. When we learn to open to this great truth we can experience tremendous freedom and letting go even while grieving the loss of what was.

One time, camping with a friend, I had a huge opening, this same freedom, a feeling of letting go of everything. It was through a deep insight into impermanence. We were doing our practice together, sitting and walking. I saw my friend walking by on a deck, and it came to me: Hello, goodbye. I started to see, this is my friend, but one day we will part. It was a powerful insight that every moment is “hello” and then “goodbye.” It was hello, goodbye, hello, goodbye.

For days after that I was like one of those mystics wandering around with tears on my cheeks. Even when I saw a flower, I would say, “Hello, goodbye.” A cat walking by, “Hello, goodbye.” The sun, “Hello, goodbye.” I was saying “hello, goodbye” to everything, and appreciating it even when it was painful. I remember even calling my mother, saying, “Hello, goodbye.” I tried to explain to her that everything is impermanent, that she had to understand “hello, goodbye,” that everyone had to understand this! She just laughed at me, of course

“It was the deep understanding that we’re here and then we disappear. Things come together for a period and then quite organically dissolve again. Organizations shift, people change and projects that we began we also learn to let them go. So there’s less holding on and clinging to things.  This ability to let go, is a quality of the awakened mind. This profound opening showed me another way to live, and it has had a lasting impact on my life. The inner doors opened, and I saw something that I didn’t see before. The truth revealed itself, yet it was there all along. Let’s embrace the wild ride my friends and let go together.

Hello, goodbye.

— Spring Washam, July 2012

About the People of Color Sangha:

We meet THURSDAYS at East Bay Meditation Center, 2147 Broadway, in downtown Oakland, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm. We usually do a half hour of silent meditation, with instructions for beginners, followed by a Dharma talk and community gathering.

We come together as a community of people of color for meditation, practice and resilience, to support the struggle and provide a balm to sooth our continued work forward. Bell Hooks says, “Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.”

We carry this spirit forward in gathering people of color in community each Thursday for the POC Sangha.  Join us!


SEPTEMBER 6: John Mifsud 

John Mifsud has studied insight meditation for going on ten years and completed EBMC’s Commit to Dharma Program led by his mentor teacher, Larry Yang. He is currently in the Community Dharma Leaders Training Program at Spirit Rock. He is on the Leadership Team of the EBMC Deep Refuge Group for Alphabet Brothers of Color and their Euro-Descent Allies. He also studied with Rodney Smith at Seattle Insight Meditation for eight years. John spent ten years on the Leadership Team of Seattle Dharma Buddies, a meditation group for GBT men and also coordinated the Seattle Multicultural Sangha for four years.  His current teaching practicum includes dharma talks at EBMC, the San Francisco Gay Buddhist Sangha, the Gay Buddhist Fellowship and the LGBT Sangha at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.

SEPTEMBER 13: Spring Washam, POC Sangha Core Teacher

Spring Washam is a meditation and dharma teacher based in Oakland, California. She has studied meditation and Buddhist philosophy since 1997 in various traditions. After many years of teacher training with Dr. Jack Kornfield she is a new dharma teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Spring is one of the founding members and core teachers at the East Bay Meditation Center and leads the weekly sitting group for people of color. Spring is considered a pioneer in bringing mindfulness based healing practices into diverse communities. Also considered a curandera, Spring studies indigenous healing practices and works with students individually from around the world. She currently leads healing and meditation retreats throughout the United States. To contact her directly visit her website at

SEPTEMBER 20: Spring Washam

SEPTEMBER 27: Mushim, EBMC Leadership Sangha / Core Teacher

Mushim (Patricia Ikeda)  is a Buddhist meditation teacher, socially engaged Buddhist activist, diversity facilitator, and author, who teaches meditation retreats for people of color, women, and social justice activists nationally.  She is one of three women featured in Acting on Faith: Women’s New Religious Activism in America, a documentary available from the Pluralism Project at Harvard University. Mushim was originally trained in the Korean Zen monastic tradition, and has had broad exposure to Buddhist practices and teachings within the Mahayana and Theravada lineages since 1981. Her writing has been published in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, ColorLines magazine, the Poets Against the War anthology, Turning Wheel: The Journal of Socially Engaged Buddhism, seminal anthologies of Asian North American poetry, and other books and journals. She is the first recipient of the Ragdale Foundation’s Alice Hayes Fellowship supporting a writing project having to do with social justice issues.  For more information, see


Deep appreciation to all of our teachers and volunteers for your generosity! We wouldn’t be here without you!  The Teacher Calendar can be accessed anytime online at:




  • Subscribe to the EBMC POC Sangha Newsletter –  the Newsletter is a monthly email with information about our weekly sitting group and other sangha-related announcements.  Subscribe by joining the google groups here:  You will  receive an invitation to the group and must accept before you can receive messages.
  • Become a “Friend of EBMC” monthly donor.  EBMC has outgrown our small storefront space. We are negotiating with our landlord over a prospective full-time move into a larger space upstairs, in the same building, as well as looking for alternative spaces. No matter where we move, we will need more “Friends of EBMC”! For more information and to begin donating here


WE NEED NEW VOLUNTEERS! Volunteers make our space happen! Volunteering is a great way to get to know the Sangha, to have a more active role in co-creating our community, and to experience the practice of service to the Dharma.

Shenaaz will be conducting a training in September covering various jobs such as opening/closing the center, counting the dana, set-up and clean-up and other tasks that are required to run the sangha.  If you would like to participate in a training, please complete this google form here and indicate which date(s) you are available: Thursday September 13 5:30pm-6:30pm; Saturday September 15 11am-12pm; Thursday September 20 5:30pm-6:30pm.

If you have questions, please contact Shenaaz at

Thank you to all that continue to help informally. This training is a step towards creating a structure of receiving and providing support for one another.


Please arrive before 7pm to minimize disruption and as a gesture of respect to the rest of the Sangha.

The EBMC tries to be an accessible, fragrance free space. For support on being fragrance-free, see these resources “Femme of Colour Fragrance Free Realness”,  “How to be Fragrance Free,” and check out this extensive list of fragrance-free products on the EBMC web site.

The teachings are regarded as priceless. So they are offered without a fee. You are invited to support the teachings and our efforts by contributing voluntary donations (the practice of “Dana”) for the expenses of the meditation center and the support of the teachers.

UPCOMING CLASSES AND  RETREATS                      

A Day of Healing for Women of African Descent at Spirit Rock Meditation Center with Konda Mason and Zenju Earthlyn ManuelSeptember 8, 2012 9:30 am – 4:30 pm at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA

Join Dharma leaders Konda Mason and Zenju Earthlyn Manuel for a very special day of deep healing and ritual for women of African descent. We will create sanctuary together as we allow the space for the sharing of stories, emotions and celebration. The day will be filled with drumming, movement, sacred ritual, walking with nature, and silent meditation. We will create the space where being together is being the medicine we need on our healing journey.

Bring your lunch, yoga mat, drums and percussion instruments. Come prepared to have your heart touched, your body opened and your mind expanded as we tap into our ancestral connection and openly love ourselves and each other on this special day of ritual and healing.

Information and registration here


My Home Is Here: Refugees and Immigrants of Color with Wildecy de Fatima Jury and Bang Nguyen

Saturday September 8, 2012 – 9:30 am to 5:00 pm

This daylong meditation retreat for immigrants and refugees of color and/or their adult children includes sitting, walking, and eating meditation; dharma talks; and exercises in small and large groups. To honor our cultures, languages, and heritage there will be opportunities to share our journeys to our current home and to practice meal contemplation in many languages. Bring your lunch or something to share if you wish. Beginners in meditation are welcome; instruction is provided.
Registration: Registration is required and space is limited. Register here

Resilience & Well-being for People of Color with Mushim and Sage Mahosadha

Monday September 17, 2012 – 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

3 Mondays: Sept. 17, 24 and Oct. 1, 2012
7 – 9 pm

Being a person of color in the U.S. is stressful, and stress-related illnesses impact us disproportionately. Even “fighting for justice,” while positive in its intent, can end up wearing us down if we fall behind in replenishing our spirits. Please join us in committing to increased resilience, well-being, and compassion through the practices of mindfulness meditation (sitting and gentle movement), deep relaxation, and community dialogue in a safe and supportive environment. Instruction will be provided for beginners in meditation.
Registration is required and space is limited. Register here


Grief Ritual: A Daylong Workshop for Collective Healing with Sobonfu Some, Spring Washam

Sunday, September 30, 9:30am – 5:00pm, Spirit Rock meditation Center; Community Meditation Hall


This daylong is a transformational and soul-invigorating workshop designed to break through our cultural barriers of grief. There is a need to periodically feel and express grief in order to purge the soul from hurts and pains. The interdiction and suppression of emotion in general, and grief in particular, has recently been linked to the general sense of spiritual drought, emotional confusion and certain illnesses we experience in our life. To begin to regain a serious and lasting sense of connectedness with ourselves and with spirit, we need to find a proper place to release our grief–grief about all the losses we have endured in this lifetime, the loss of loved ones, the loss of our dreams and the loss of our connection with our ancestors.

Cost: $50 – $108 sliding scale. Add $5 at the door, plus a donation to the teachers. Bring your lunch.  This event is a Benefit for the Spirit Rock Diversity Program. All are welcome to attend.  Register at Spirit Rock meditation center –

Living In Harmony With All Beings: A Time to Practice with Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Sept. 22nd – Dec. 8th at the San Francisco Zen Center

When I touch the earth I honor my ancestors. With sitting meditation I honor my ancestors. And I say to them, “Let each breath be a gift of my love.”  –Zenju

The path is our lives and the purpose is to live it.  And fortunately we are not alone on this journey of life. We are joined by ancestors, family, friends, and those who have yet to reveal themselves. We are joined in community or Sangha (as it is called in Buddhist practice) where we consciously provide support for each other in the joy and not so joyful times. No matter what the experience we are bound to learn something about who we are. We are in this world together by no mistake at this very time. And yes, I gasp at what I see and hear, at what is said in the world and what of the world comes into places like Zen Center or spiritual communities.  I ask, can we even consider living in harmony at this time? Is it possible to live in harmony?  Harmony with what and who? What does harmony look like in community or Sangha?  I smile at the possibilities.

I have been invited by Christina Lehnherr, Abbess of the San Francisco Zen Center, to share her Dharma seat as Shuso (head monk), in which I will co-leading the upcoming 11 week practice period–Living In Harmony With All Beings (Sept. 22nd – Dec. 8th).  If you want to explore harmony (or disharmony) in community please join us. There will be many practice events throughout the ten weeks, including talks, teas, a 10 week class on Saturday mornings that will be taught by Christina Lehnherr and myself.

Since I will be living at the center during that time I would love to see friendly faces in the crowd. So, I invite you to participate in whatever way you see fit for your life. For more information about the practice period go to:,6,100.  Parital scholarships are available.

You can also just come by on Saturdays for meditation instruction (8:45 am), Dharma talks, tea/cookies, and lunch.  Or, call the front desk and let them know that you would like to make a date to have tea with me.

The first event will be a one-day sitting September 22nd which will begin at 5:40 am.  Yes, we rise with the dawn–a very precious and quiet time of the day when often you can see the moon and the sun moving together–one setting, one rising–a harmonious dance of opposites. The Saturday class will begin on September 29th. Please check this website for time. I will be giving a Wednesday evening talk soon. Please check this website or the front page listing of talks at, City Center (




Sangha Is Culture, Larry Yang Huffington Post, 7/10/12

Toward a Multicultural Buddhist Practice
“Sangha” is the word from the Pali language (the first language in which the Buddha’s Teachings were written) which means “community,” and specifically, a spiritual community of like-minded and like-hearted people. While it might seem like a no-brainer, it is important to remember that the Sangha or community is always about Culture.

In previous segments of this series, the Refuge of the Buddha’s words and the historical unfolding of the Dharma were shown to be integrally woven to the experience of Culture. Cultural dynamics of conflict and resistance, integration and synthesis, evolution and transformation — are all part of how the Dharma develops and how the Dharma is lived into future generations of human experience. Our current situation in North America is no exception. Culture is one of the doors through which the Buddha’s Teachings are being transmitted into the diverse communities of the West. This is one of the primary reasons that culturally specific, or identity-focused support, like retreats for communities of color or LGBT communities or young people or women, are so important.

Before the large Euro-American mainstream-culture sanghas were formed in the U.S., there had emerged (since the 1800s) many Asian temples and spiritual centers within which to practice — Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Thai, Burmese, Cambodian and Vietnamese, among others. Over time, especially by the middle portion of the last century, many westerners of Euro-American descent had gone to Asian cultures and returned with their experience in the Dharma and what they had learned. Many of these individuals have since become our senior western meditation teachers. An interesting reflection is why Euro-Americans returning from Asia in the 1970s and ’80s did not practice and teach in the existing temples that had already been created over the previous 100+ years? Why did Euro-American practitioners feel the need to form their own communities and retreats in spite of existing Asian practice venues?

I suspect that some of the reasons, without the intention to over-generalize, are because these emerging western teachers realized that Euro-Americans would not necessarily see themselves reflected within those Asian spiritual centers and communities. Euro-Americans would not see their life stories mirrored in the way the teachings were languaged within Asian cultural norms and values. They would not experience how the Dharma was relevant to the conditions of their particularly western cultural lives. So, Euro-American practitioners created communities (sanghas) centered around the experiences of Euro-Americans, totally understandably, because culture is a doorway into the teachings. Culture allows the teachings to become relevant to a specific community. Culture begins to connect-the-dots and show people that “yes, this practice is for me too — not just for others.” The reasons that Euro-Americans chose to form their own sanghas, are the exact same reasons that people of color (POC) and LGBT/queer communities also need to create culturally relevant sanghas for themselves.

Indeed, regardless of our cultural differences, we are the same … in that we respond in the same way to many of the same cultural circumstances (even if the specific cultural details or story lines differ). This is a piece of our interconnectedness and our universality. We all (not just people of color or LGBT communities, but also mainstream Euro-Americans) need to create sanghas based on culture and identity — because we are all human. We all have a need for safety and community, especially in the beginning of our practice. It is always helpful to see ourselves reflected in the teachings, reflected in the teachers who teach, reflected in the spiritual environment around us. To deny that to any cultural group who feels the need for it, is an act of cultural unconsciousness.

Of course, the intention of creating culturally specific practice venues, like POC and LGBT retreats, is not to be the final goal of practice, but merely a skillful means to create access and safety for communities who feel that they don’t belong to or relate to mainstream cultural environments of the Dharma. Even though a mainstream sangha might have the intention to be totally inclusive, unless a refined attention to culture and diversity permeates that sangha’s experience, the outcome will fall short of the aspiration.

This deep inclusivity is yet-to-be-achieved in part due to our collective cultural unconsciousness, which includes the legacy of racism, homophobia and oppressions of many sorts. But as C.G. Jung coined the term “collective unconscious,” this implies that a “collective consciousness” is possible. Our collective practice of awareness can elevate our communities so that the aspiration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beloved Community” is possible. Eventually, the Dharma invites the deepest intention from all communities — Euro-American, communities of color, queer folks, young people, people of different physical abilities — to be able to practice anywhere, with anyone, under any circumstance; to be able to practice together as a gathering of Whole Communities.* That intention will take a concerted effort from all of us to raise the level of our personal and collective awareness in how to live together with both intentions and actions of non-harm, non-oppression and non-exclusion.

And it takes time — it takes a lot more time than anyone would like. In 2010, Spirit Rock Meditation Center created the opportunity for a multicultural gathering to practice over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Out of 90 participants, 50 percent were from communities of color and 50 percent were from Euro-American communities. It was a weaving of difference, commonality, connection and diversity. And it was more than 20 years in the making (that is another story). It took that much time to begin transforming practitioners, teachers, board members, management, staff and the organization itself, toward a multicultural awareness that could allow such an event, whose fabric had diversity woven into it, to thrive. The “bad news” is that it could not have been done any sooner (or else it would have!). The conditions were not available in the cultural awareness of the community landscape of how to be authentically together in spiritual practice. The “good news” is that it was done. And in 2012 it was done again, with the deep knowing that it is so rare and precious, anywhere in this world, to be able to gather such diverse communities together in deep spiritual intention, and that it is a profound responsibility to continue the efforts.
2010 Martin Luther King weekend retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Creating Whole and Beloved Communities does not arise just because we want them to, or because we think we deserve them, or because we think that this is the way things should be, nor does it happen overnight. It happens through the diligence and consistency of difficult work, constant compassion, and always our highest intentions embodied by Wise Effort and the entire Eightfold Path (the umbrella of the Buddha’s Teachings) from all communities, to work on ourselves over time, so that we then can work on ourselves together.

In creating practice opportunities both for culturally specific populations and for the larger community to gather in cultural mindfulness and awareness of our humanity, we can be invited from the question “Who am I?” into the larger explorations of “Who are WE?” “Who are WE in this Life?” and “Who are WE really?” What kind of path toward collective liberation is possible? The Buddha said that he would not teach that which is not possible or that which we cannot do.

In our spiritual journeys, we all have that need for safety and feeling at ease in order to deeply explore our places of healing, our places of injury, our joys and our sorrows. That place is vulnerable and tender. And just as we are so much more than who we think we are as individuals, we are also so much more than who we think we are as communities. As we enlarge our spiritual capacity to be with all of our experience, we also gain the capacity to be with the all of the experience of greater and greater numbers of beings. This is the invitation of the Dharma into the Unconditional, into the expansiveness that is the community and sangha, into the vast connections we have as the Universal Family.

This is why the Sangha is about Culture.

And this is also why the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are all so much about Culture.

*Gratitude to the Center for Whole Communities in Waitsfield, Vermont for introducing me to the terminology of “Whole Communities.”

This article is part of a three-part series written by Larry Yang for the Huffington Post.  To read the other articles, visit:

wishing you ease,