09 November 2021

I had the good fortune to attend Jayachitta’s movement meditation session where in a spirit of open inquiry and play, she effectively uses movement to accentuate our connection with our direct experience and each other. The title of this piece and the insights that follow were all inspired by her workshop. You can find out more about her work here: https://www.playofnow.com/improvisation 


In North America, the sweet potatoes and pumpkins are ripe. Green grass is emerging on what has been a bone dry landscape. Shoots are emerging from the trees where the forest fires left their black charcoal charing signature. The deciduous trees leaves are falling.


For countires south of the equator it is Spring. For some, the weather is starting to warm up. Here in Hawaii, so close to the equator, there is much less oscillation in temperature than further north or south, yet I notice the turmeric leaves are dying back, and the pomegranates are ripe.


Wherever we are, we experience development and decay as a natural part of the cycle of life. It is all around us. It is also within.


Look at one breath cycle. The in-breath begins, fills, and then releases. The inhalation where there is filling and expansion, is the process that brings new oxygen to the body in the development phase. The exhalation, releasing the CO2, and collapsing the chest is the decay. One follows the other just like night follows day. As long as we breathe, we can see development and decay, rise and fall, uplift and release, expansion and contraction.


When we get curious and settled enough there is something else that becomes apparent. Right before the in-breathe begins, just after the inbreathe stops and before the out-breath begins, there is a pause, a space. Nothing is happening. More accurately, in the absence of expansion or contraction, there is a whole new thing to explore in which nothing is happening. Turning attention to this pause, the mind has no movement to watch, no shift in energy to notice. It is a portal. When there is enough steadiness, very quickly that absence of motion, absence of sensation, absence of change can allow the mind to rest, be still and know itself.


What does it mean the mind knowing itself? Here awareness relaxes from looking at something to noticing that which is noticing. This is a radical shift of orientation. Instead of me knowing it, the ‘me and it’ duality softens and then sometimes dissolves. This softening and dissolving is a type of letting go. When the next breath comes, it can come into a mind that has let go of identification with the subject. Without identification, the in-breathe is freed to be itself, like a dancer freed from self consciousness, and what remains is movement and flow. Then, after the completion of the in-breathe again, there is a moment of space and again, a moment where non-identification and rest are a little more available. Then exhalation.  With attention present, the out-breath is full, complete and lands in another place of rest, space, stop.  All of this can happen without a story about it.


This time of seasonal change is an opportunity to notice. What is asking for development? What is ending, dying back, taking on less prominence? Does it make you happy, sad, indifferent or tired? Is your inner experience in-sync or dissonant with the seasonal rhythm around you?  As you enter into this seasonal change, do you experience any space, place of rest, mystery? There is no right or wrong way to notice what you notice. Just an invitation to see what is alive for you now.


As we question what is present, there is wisdom in looking at nature’s example; look to the grass for an example of new growth,  to the fall leaves and turmeric as an example of dying back, letting go, falling. We would be wise to study the sky as a reminder of what it can be like when we stop taking the clouds too seriously, and wonder what it is like to trust vastness.


Sometimes our lives are filled more with one aspect of development, decay or space.  And yet in one full breath cycle, all are present. So the question becomes: is there a way to focus on the breath to bring balance, resilience and perspective at this moment? Then this moment? Then this moment?

Continue Reading
31 August 2021
Born March 25, 1911
Died September 1, 1989

I first heard about Dipa Ma while I was a student in the seventies going to university. I was taking a course with Jack Engler. The stories he told about the depth of  Dipa Ma’s suffering and level of transformation from meditating left a deep impression on me. I had a strong aspiration to meet her. When I finally did, the love I experienced from her changed me.

Now, 32 years after she died, globally we are dealing with Covid, climate chaos, racial capitalism and the manifold pandemics of oppression – racism, homophobia, sexism and xenophobia to name a few. Many are experiencing anxiety, overwhelm and PTSD. Dipa Ma experienced multiple losses and crushing grief, and was severely impacted physically, things that many of us are dealing with directly or support loved ones who are. I share some of what I learned from this remarkable woman in honor of her death anniversary and in celebration of her radical transformation and freedom in life.

Dipa Ma was born in Bangladesh with the given name Nani Bala Barua. According to the customs of the time, Dipa was married at the age of twelve to Ranjani Ranjan. One week after she was married, Ranjani went to Rangoon, Burma where he worked as an engineer, leaving Dipa alone to live with his family. At the age of fourteen she joined her husband. Dipa was unable to have children, which naturally is a source of deep sorrow for any couple trying to conceive. In that culture, it was a family catastrophe.

Ranjani’s family summoned him home under false pretenses and tried to convince him to abandon his wife for another who could bear him a child. Ranjani refused stating he had not married Dipa for her ability to have children. Even though her husband solidly stood by her side, there must have been impact from her in-laws’ betrayal.

Sometimes life can be stranger than fiction. After 20 years of marriage a child was born to Dipa and Ranjani.  Her status shifted from person-non-grata to being a mother. Then, tragically, that child died. She survived the grief, but it took a toll.  Some years later another child was born who was named Dipa – Dipa Ma means Dipa’s mother. From then on that’s what everyone called her. A third child, a male child was born. He died soon after birth. Not only did she lose another child, but she lost a male child that compounded her loss of status. All of this loss  caused Dipa Ma to collapse. Ranjani was a kind, attentive and loving man but the increased need to care for Dipa as a toddler and Dipa Ma took its toll. Ranjani died unexpectedly from a heart attack.

Within a ten-year period Dipa Ma had experienced the death of both parents, her two children, her husband, and a severe decline in her own health. She was a single mother in Burma, a foreign country, living far away from her family.

Dipa Ma had grown up joining her grandmother’s regular trips to the monastery offering food to the monks. As a child she was very interested in meditation. When married she would ask for permission to go to the monastery to learn meditation. She was repeatedly told no, that it was not the right time.

After all of this loss, she had no desire for anything including life. The doctors told her there was nothing more they could do to help her health. However, the thought that meditation may be able to help her was one thing she clung to. When her body and spirit were broken, she found her way to the meditation center in Rangoon. She crawled up the steps on her hands and knees to the front doors.

Her meditation practice progressed rapidly. Within a few days she experienced deep absorption. She was walking, and suddenly found that she couldn’t lift her leg. When she looked down, she saw a dog biting her lower leg. Her concentration cancelled the pain. She required treatment. The combination of the treatment and the injury took time to recover.

During that time, she couldn’t return to the meditation center and receive instruction. So, like all of us in Covid lockdown, but without Internet and Zoom, she practiced at home. Her meditation continued to deepen. Eventually her meditation led to realization –where anger and unwholesome desire are uprooted from the mind. With realization, she experienced transformation.  She began sickly as a broken, dependent woman. She emerged radiant, peaceful, calm, independent, deeply loving and available to others. She wasn’t suffering.

In addition to her deep wisdom and compassion, Jack also spoke of the special abilities Dipa Ma developed. He gave us detailed accounts of how everything that he witnessed was verified. If I didn’t trust Jack so deeply, I would have dismissed these stories outright.

Dipa Ma could be in two places at once and walk through walls. She could remember past lives and go back to the time of the Buddha and listen to what he was saying. She could travel into the future and hear what was being said and visit the different realms of existence. Hard to believe. I had grown up with an idealized image of a powerful woman as one who jumped into a pickup truck with a chainsaw and could get hard work done. Even though she had attained some of the deepest levels of realization and had all of these psychic abilities, the main quality radiating from Dipa Ma was love. Love was Dipa Ma’s superpower.

When I finally did get to meet her, nine years after first hearing about her, I felt as if I was in a vast ocean that was still, timeless, and suffused with everything. It was as if she could see me clearly and nothing was excluded or judged. Every part of me felt embraced and accepted. The love that I felt was all encompassing. Nothing I had experienced had touched me like that before.

Dipa Ma had a lot of spiritual power. She was able to make use of the meditation tools that were given to her. Many of us right now are experiencing elevated levels of anxiety and trauma that require support before we can make use of traditional meditation tools. We have to soothe our nerves in order to sit, close our eyes, and feel our body. The main point of sharing the story about Dipa Ma now is that she too was desperate, heartbroken and in profound despair. There are trauma informed meditation supports that help with what we are dealing with. The level of despair we may experience does not limit what is possible.

This video of Dipa Ma shows the power of her love.

May we find our own path of transformation. May we be free from fear, anxiety, desperation, helplessness. May we know who we are beneath all that changes. May we know love, feel it and recognize it as who we are and what we are made of. May we have all the support we need to be free

Websites:Dipa Ma Website: http://www.dipama.com contains many photos of Dipa Ma

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/nanibalabarua/


Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master, Amy Schmidt
Knee Deep in Grace, Amy Schmidt
This blog first appeared as Dipa Ma the story of a Great Master in 2009. You can read it here: http://awakeningtruth.org/blog/dipa-ma-the-story-of-a-great-master
Continue Reading
03 November 2020

I came to Maui to help my lifelong friend Bert in his garden. I have known Bert since 1978. The externals of our lives oscillated between convergence and divergence over these many years. No matter how different in external appearances, we always found common ground in our deep interest in waking up. This is the first time I have helped him in his garden.

Bert lives in Hana. I live in a hut on Bert’s property. Ordinary eyes would see a shed/kuti. Extraordinary eyes would see a Jade Vine Palace, with the jade vine wrapping her loving arms around the back, sides and starting to crawl over the tin roof. About 30% of the leeward surface is covered in screens. There are no windows. Right now there are no switches, just extension cords to plug lights and other devices in. The next time it rains so hard we can’t garden, Bert will help me install a switch. That will be an exciting day!

This kuti comes with a kitty whose name is Lei Momi, a sink and fridge, and cold running water. It’s equipped with a hot plate, a blender and a loft that I have to navigate several steps to get up onto. Lei Momi is very pleased I have come. It’s been high time that a human is at her command to rub her tummy, bend her ears, and listen to all that she has to say. It’s been a while since I lived in a kuti. Still tender from losing Kona, it is lovely to have a kitty to cuddle. I feel at home here.

Hana has gentle rain most days. The tropical sun and the absence of harsh winds translate the garden into semi-order in the midst of jungle chaos. Things grow so fast and furious here that it takes a lot of effort to keep up. Getting rid of unwanted vines, weeds and aggressive trees is no small effort. But yes, paradise is paradise. The first morning I was here, we harvested 6 papayas, a breadfruit, star fruit, oranges, and passion fruit. I have the sounds of the ocean lulling me to sleep at night; I go for swims in the Venus pond, a mere 12 minutes walk away before I begin gardening. I look out of the screens into the garden and smell the night blooming jasmine. I eat food that is so electric with vitality that the body lights up with each bite.

Bert planted his half acre with a lot of trees. In addition to papaya, banana, lemon, orange, pomegranate, fig, mulberry, curry leaf, kaffir lime and cacao there are many exotic fruits. I remember a small fraction of their names: soursop, star fruit, noni, white and black sapote, tree apple, breadfruit, and miracle fruit. Yesterday was an exciting day! Two new fruits that I had never before tasted became ripe on the same day – the tree grape and the Mamey Sapote. The tree grape was like a concord grape that explodes with flavor. Saying the Mamey Sapote tastes like sweet potato with brown sugar on it gives you a rough idea, but doesn’t dial into the custard-like texture, the aroma, and the nourishing filling experience eating one.

There are pleasures in paradise. But it is also true that paradise isn’t always paradise. One night I didn’t sleep because the rats kept me awake. Once we catch the rats, and  I can clean the mouse and rat smell out, I will also do something so the cockroaches don’t return. There are two inch garden spiders that spin huge extremely strong webs. These spiders and their webs are everywhere. Already I have walked into one. Spider web in your face! Ugh!  The slugs devour berries and leafy greens. There are no easy solutions to keeping the slug population down. And then there are the mosquitos. I have bites all over my arms and legs. Paradise is not delivered by a maître d’. Harvesting the fruits and vegetables takes effort and sometimes finesse. Bert tells me that getting a coconut and then opening it to eat the meat means you have to take an hour nap afterwards. I haven’t tried yet.

Today I learned that trees prefer compost that comes from their own fruit, from their own leaves. I never thought about it before. But it makes sense: what is familiar from within is nourishing.

The garden teaches me different ways of thinking. Someone came and gave us three huge avocados. This morning Bert asked if I wanted some. No, I already have some in my fridge. Then I shifted and started thinking about what I could do with them – make chocolate eclairs.  Put them on seaweed – avocado sushi. Super simple. Super delicious. The garden takes me away from focusing on what I want and puts me into flow with how to make use of what is being offered. This catalyzed an explosion of creativity combining flavors that I have never tasted together before.


I came and was full of aches and pains. My heart was heavy with sadness; for friends who have lost homes, my brothers and sisters who are pinned against the compounding stressors of Covid, financial and racial injustice against the backdrop of a climate that continues to get warmer, where we see extreme weather and fires in expanding areas around the globe.  The garden holds me through my waves of grief, encourages me not to hold back, but to let grief flow through me.


I’m learning pacing, and listening in a way where I can discern the difference between throwing my energy out of my body in order to get something done, and engaging just enough energy to do it for a little while. Then rest. Watch the palms gently swaying in the wind. I scan; are there papayas, cherries, noni fruits ready to pick? I don’t know the names of the butterflies or the birds that fly by. I take their flight and song as part of what helps me rest. When, after I have rested, hydrated and I still feel tired, it’s time to stop. The project may not be done. But I have to stop. Maybe a creative project in the kitchen is possible when gardening is not.


Here, the land holds me, welcomes me into myself, and allows me to notice and feel into many layers: the joy and pleasure of being surrounded by beauty and the vitality and the self-sufficiency of eating meals from the land. The joy of being with my dear friend and the rich conversations we are having. The creativity of cooking and doing new things. Then there is another layer that I have heard Bert describe, and I’m only just beginning to feel myself. When I work in the garden, sweat and labor with the ground, weed around the very plants that I harvest later, I become part of a constellation – it isn’t just me and what I’m doing. But the plants, the land as a living organism also are playing their part. Being part of a constellation, we impact each other. I enter into the constellation, give myself to it completely and become part of the garden even before I have eaten the food. The food changes, mirrors me and becomes more bio available as I eat. All of this makes it a lot more possible to ride the waves of grief when they come, let them move through me and release me.

I’m tired now as I write. But it is a deep and full tiredness, with contentment and gratitude underpinning it.


I invite you to join me in my beautiful and vibrant world here in Hana. Join me on Sunday, November 8 at 6:00 pm Pacific Time for a slideshow and video presentation to help you immerse yourself more into this healing world with me.

Register for the Zoom session here.

Continue Reading
16 October 2020



Wiggly, wagging bundle



Morning smiles;


deeply respectful greetings.

Leaning in

I wrap my arms around your barrel chest,

Palm your heart.



I got you.



Feel you melt,

Hear your deep sigh.

Your questioning eyes with passers-bye,

Yes, I got you still.



You watch where it’s thrown,

Your supersonic nose

Finds the ball in ivy

Sometimes you miss it,

From my projected image, find it



Overwhelmed anticipating losing you;

You climb into the front seat. 


Nestling your muzzle into my neck 

Just enough pressure to let me know 

You got me,


As I sob



Get in the back seat, girl, 

it’s not safe driving



You understand,

And climb back.








Kona girl, 

You are not a single-story girl.

A whiff of something, 

You’re transformed.

No longer recognizable,

No longer listening 

Wildness unleashed,

The chase.




The fight,

Even with docile dogs 40 feet away.

You go for the throat

And don’t let go. 



With me, you 

Relax and breathe out a big sigh,

melt like butter.



We play ivy,

clover catch,

Take long walks in the Redwoods


Watching you abseil into water,

Your unbridled power, swimming, 

single focused play. 

Joy pushed past a threshold.

In those days I had no worry.

I heard you growled over Sky girl’s toys

Kelsey and Nate no longer left the two of you alone  

About the dead cats.

No one knows the racoon’s fate.

In May, you lunged at the mailman.



While you cowered for days,

We were in turmoil

Wondering when you would really do serious damage.



We planned to euthanize you. 

But you didnt bite the mailman

You were better now that you had moved in full time with Chris and Tom,

We couldn’t abide with the plan



Not  a resolution

a repreive



When I tried to look,

All I saw is murky darkness and violence.



For six years 

Animal communicators,



Each of us working with you. 

None of us could reach your demon,

Release it.



I learned you were 


To grab

Bears and bulls heads:

Not let go.

Then dogs fights.



I shudder 

for humans to find pleasure 

In a fight to death.



It’s not your fault

You are not to blame

It passed down to you.



This last time,

Were you nervous because all the family gathered?

Were you anxious to make Kelsey better;

Make sure she was safe?

Why out of the blue, 

Did you run outside the yard and attack 

a dog on a leash minding his own business?

If I had been there, would you have done the same?



Kona girl,

Too great a risk

Too much to manage.

We made an agonizing choice.

A date was set. 



I put in more effort.

Friends who didn’t know you also tried

Knowing it would take a miracle,

I hoped 



Donna, 25 years in the Dog shelter business, 

Owned Pits all her life,

Told me the demon will never release.

Can only be managed

With tremendous skill, consistency

and a lot of money hiring skilled trainers.

Affirming the risk,

She knew 6 shelters;

None would take you

It would be rare to place you

if you didn’t get placed

you would die,

Without anyone you knew



She cried.

Commended us.



I cried.

The torment relaxed

for a moment.



We had a splendid last week. 

Two trips to the beach

A walk in Redwoods,

Last day on Redwood creek doing everything you loved.



We were visited;

A pair of Dolphins, 

A seal, 

Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies 




Everyone who loved you




We had a long talk in the car that day.

You whimpered. 

You knew.

Thought you were bad,



It’s not your fault

You are not to blame

None of us are to blame.



I will walk you as far as I can go

with you



Lean in to what is easy,

Trust what you know

Deep breath out

Let our love in

Love us to the end



The last day 

The rainbow bridge, revealed



Surrounded by love

Threshold Songs 

Noble and dignified 

To the end.



Your last act, 

Empathy for Chris’ tears.

Loving you, fully, fiercely;

Empathic resonance, 

Loving back.



Kona you got into our hearts big time

Missing you.


For more pictures and few videos of Kona see this photo album: 


Continue Reading
10 September 2020

What do I cherish? What do I dare to dream and let in my imagination?

I cherish smiles at my door with eyes looking to see if I’m free to play,

The red ruby throated humming birds in the monkey paw, shimmering, hovering and making a bee line for the high place to rest,

Hand-picked Plum cobbler that my neighbors share

Watching the squash blossom turn into a zucchini

I love the heartbeat of kindness, wisdom as it drums me into remembering what it means to pause, take a breath, turn toward the moment with each other and with presence.

I love the great redwood trees that remind me of roots that are deep, offering support and sharing widely when they have more then they need. I love that they take in my out-breath and release as air imbued with consciousness for me to breath in.

I love being able to drop beneath the surface and touch into the ground of being, the luminous presence that ties me into belonging with all things.

I love the capacity to hold the deep ache of emptiness that comes from the absence of presence, hold it with care and kindness, knowing it isn’t all there is, and watch how its tendrils take so many different shapes,

How when I reach in, allow, the empty vacuousness changes and becomes full of presence, giving me faith.

I love inquiry, presence with others and open-ended questions where much is revealed. I become more whole or at least remember the wholeness that I have always been but somehow had forgotten.

I love expressions of generosity, when out of nothing is a heart reaches out and touches another with what there is to offer

I love the wild things, creatures, water, trees and the clouds that will not be tamed.

When I touch all of what I cherish, when I’m with others doing the same. When I’m around poets, song writers, dreamers and wild mad women who refuse to be boxed, bent and told how they are supposed to be, it allows me to imagine a world where life is respected. Where liberation and wellbeing are the birthright of all, and that awakening to our shared belonging within the web of life we cherish as we cherish life itself. Where our shared belonging is fundamental for a spiritually fulfilling, socially just, ecologically sustainable, and equitable world.

I imagine a world that is based upon compassion- the silver bridge that connects the tenant of unsatisfactoriness with the inescapable reality of love- that our togetherness and our inseparability go hand in hand with our challenges and heartbreaks.

I imagine a world where more people hold the paradox that liberation is eminent here and now, available to all, yet the injustices in the world prevent our access to collective peace and freedom. Together, we hold this paradox, develop insight and compassion, and empower ourselves, each other and our leaders to embrace and address, both internally and externally, everything that keeps these tragedies of wrong seeing in place, our biggest challenges of racism, patriarchy, homophobia, colonialism, racial capitalism and the devastating heartbreak of climate change.

I envision connection is our norm, rooted and tethered to what is timeless and yet ever present, grounded in ethics that sees our connection between intent and impact, and lives with emotional and relational intelligence.  We live a deeply embedded understanding that all life is interconnected.

I imagine a world where collective wellbeing is at the center or our worldview, we let that move us, motivate us towards our full potential as thriving individuals and create families, communities dedicated towards healing our world. Where we have the time, the support and the shared values to



Heal self

Immerse in Self

Heal the world.


Continue Reading
08 September 2020

Obsidian Darkness

Cornered:    What is, is. It won’t go away.

Resistance:   I feel how unacceptable, shocking, infuriating, terrifying and defeating this is.

Turning toward fears:   Underneath my resistance are my fears. I turn toward them, see them and name them. As courage builds, I feel them.

Danger:   There is so much that is at risk, the magnitude is overwhelming. Where do I engage to bring more safety? I prioritize needs, and make sure that self-care is on the list. I do what is most compelling. Direct action helps dispel anxiety.

Unleashing what is disallowed:    I look at my contribution. Where am I interested in my own comfort at the expense of others or the Earth? When do I condone racism, misogyny or superiority? Where have I internalizedthese? What supports my releasing these patterns?

Obsidian darkness:    I balance keeping my body healthy with letting go. I let go of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and relax my attention into what is groundless. I let go of trying. I rest. Body and mind drop away. What remains is obsidian darkness, vast and pervasive, beyond all reaches and limitations; my gateway.

Continue Reading
30 July 2020

Amma Thanasanti is a mentor for the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certificate Program (MMTCP), a two year course that teaches diverse mentees living in 51 countries how to facilitate mindfulness in groups. This slightly edited letter below was to one of the groups after a lengthy email exchange about racism.


I have been having many conversations about racism, systemic oppression and awakening to the implicit biases I sit in as a white person, and how that is on a continuum with explicit biases that I abhor.


I have been talking about what happens when we speak about racism. How awkward these conversations can be both for me as a white individual and as a white facilitator, and for some of my white students. I have been talking about what happens when you don’t address racism. As a leader, if I don’t explicitly name racism when it shows up there are problems. One issue occurs when I give space for an individual to have their own opinions. But when, for example, their opinion denies the reality of racism, and I do not explicitly delineate the difference between the right of an individual to their opinion, and the way their opinion is part of a pattern that supports racism, there is a lot of impact for People of Color. It leaves the people who are usually the ones marginalized, at the brunt of the joke, prejudice, and carrying the load of systemic oppression impacted. They feel numb, like they are crazy, afraid to speak up, or unable to find the tremendous energy to show up when there is so much denial to fight through.


Many of these conversations have been initiated because I have put my foot in my mouth, made mistakes and have been dealing with the mop up after. One thing that I’m learning is that I’m learning. There is no end to learning about racism and the dynamics of privilege individually, culturally and systemically. I have learned, I can’t do this alone. I can’t see my implicit biases all by myself. I need friends, students, colleagues, and mentors who are willing to show me alternatives, not throw me under the bus when I make mistakes, which I do often. I need friends to help me link together the implicit biases I cannot see, the biases that posits my white centric world as reality, and see the connection with the relational and the structural forms of racism that I clearly do not want to support. The work is time consuming, often painful, and yet the rewards are tangible. Slowly, I observe my own increased capacity to move in directions that are less harmful, more harmless, less supportive of collusion and delusion, and more aligned with what I value. Doing this works makes me feel my deep connection with all of life, and gives me the resources to show up when I’m scared. The single biggest help in doing this work is increasing my own window of tolerance. This way, I can deal with increasing levels of discomfort, squirm in my skin a little longer before freezing and becoming unable to respond or feeling like I’m in unsafe territory and need to escape or defend.


The unfortunate and very real truth is that systemic racism is real, pervasive, and deadly. Deadly not only because people are killed just for being Black, Brown and Indigenous, but killed from lack of healthcare, housing, funds or despair from the weight of it all. All of these things are in place because of structural laws and cultural agreements that keep it that way, the traumas that have been passed down from one generation to the next and are lived through in real time, re-enacted in small microaggressions and gross brutality often. This is true where I live in the USA. I know racism was present when the US constitution was written and signed. While I haven’t been to all your countries, I have lived in the UK, Canada, and Spain and have visited Switzerland, France, Italy, India, Thailand, Nepal, Mexico, New Zealand. In each of these countries I have been to, I’ve seen racism enacted in front of me and in the systems embedded in the country.


The question remains, how as facilitators do we discuss racism?  It isn’t an easy topic. But wherever we are, whatever we think, whatever opinions we have, whatever the facts are, as facilitators this is our next month’s topic. Get ready to feel uncomfortable; get ready to feel like we are out of our depth, that we are not skilled to do this, or that we are not competent enough.


A start to consider, what are the ways that resistance shows up for you from the racial location you inhabit? Can you differentiate between discomfort and lack of safety? What do you need to do, what are things you can do personally and with friends to increase your window of tolerance so that you feel a little more able to deal with feeling uncomfortable? One thing that I have learned is that if we, in the dominant culture, are not uncomfortable, then the conversation isn’t going very deep. For BIPOC, while the conversation of race and racism may have been present since you were born, as a facilitator, the work is to see and not succumb to the ways racism has been internalized. And while dealing with internalized patriarchy, misogyny and homophobia are not the same as internalized racism, my experience has shown me that recognizing internalized oppression is not easy. It is elusive. It’s like trying to figure out what parts of your nervous system, your moods, feelings, beliefs and thoughts were introjected and absorbed by dominant cultural values designed to harm you. For me, noticing and deconstructing internalized oppression is not over.


What I do know is that the basic premise of meditation is to show up with presence, awareness and a heart of compassion. The fundamental skills for a facilitator is to show up, track what is going on internally, sense what is going on in the group and do the next one thing that is available to further growth, lessen fear and create more awareness. Our aim is to move towards less suffering both individually and collectively. Sometimes we have to deal with our resistance to discussing racism and disorientation when we get into the many facets of the topic. If we use medical treatments as a metaphor, when it works, even if it’s initially uncomfortable or even painful, the results are that eventually there is less pain and disease, greater health. The same holds true with racism. Sometimes it is messy and uncomfortable. Applying the medicine of seeing things clearly, understanding the roots of suffering and bringing forward a heart of compassion to meet the suffering and respond wisely does pay off.


We have been training, accessing tools, reflecting on our goodness, understanding the importance of harmlessness and learning the specifics of how these apply in conversations on racsim. When any of the myriad forms of racism show up in our groups, it is time to put everything we have learned into practice and leverage our role as facilitators to reduce suffering and be a catalyst for peace.


I’m with you in this.




Continue Reading
27 June 2020

Photo by Richard Felix on Unsplash

Last year I wrote Seeing Beyond Racism. While I have learned more, and feel more comfortable seeing myself as White, I also see how multi-layered and complex racism and the process of waking up to racism is as a white person living in a white centered society. I’m grateful for my mentors, colleagues and friends. Just like my spiritual journey, understanding whiteness and unravelling racism is something we begin where we are at, and then take the next step forward. Like my spiritual path, deep work happens with connection and feedback, not in isolation.

Many people in this country, and worldwide, are still grieving and protesting the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbury and too many more. Collectively these deaths have taken our breath away as we wake up to the reality that these are just a few names of people in an innumerable list of human beings who have died or been harmed as a result of racism.

I use the Four Noble Truths as a framework for focusing attention and efforts. It is succinct, yet it offers profound guidance to compel a lifelong inquiry unravelling the causes of stress. Like the purpose of the Four Noble Truths, it is my aim to show how unravelling racism is also a liberation practice.

The Four Noble Truths are:

        • The Truth of Suffering
        • The Cause of suffering
        • The Cessation of suffering
        • The Path leading to the cessation of suffering.

Life is a Pain

The truth of suffering is that suffering is here. It is in our bodies, the aches and pains we have. It is in our susceptibility to getting sick, of aging. Suffering is the pain of death. Suffering can also be found in the stress when the things we like change and when the things we don’t like stay; when we’re not in control. With so many of us dealing with the impact of Covid-19, we see stress on our systems from isolation, from financial concerns, from anxiety about what is going to happen next. We can also see how much time, energy and resources it takes to keep ourselves clean, fed, housed and healthy. That is of course, when we are fortunate enough to have access to these basic needs. Suffering exists and is part of life. But that isn’t the whole story.

The Reason Life is a Pain

The Buddha goes on to describe the cause of suffering is our reaction to what is happening, the way we want and don’t want things as they are, not necessarily the actual pain itself. We can see this in the pain in our bodies and getting older. The real problem is not the pain and getting older, it is not wanting them in the first place.

Suffering is not the Whole Story

The cessation of suffering is when we turn attention to the causes and dismantle them. When we see our craving for pleasure instead of dealing with pain, our distraction in the face of pain, our dismay at getting older. Right where we feel this wanting and not wanting is where the causes of suffering can end. Right there is the cessation of suffering.

The path that supports our ability to do this is described by the 8-Fold Noble Path.

Racism impacts access to healthcare, home and business loans, hiring and firing policies, is embedded in the media, the criminal justice system, government, and the distribution of wealth. Impacts from systemic racism are visible in a disproportionate number of people of color getting sick and dying, as well as dealing with financial devastation in the face of Covid -19. Seeing all of this the harm and death as a result of racism, we can conclude racism is suffering.

Causes of Racism

There are many causes of racism including supremacy and trauma.

Here in the USA, we are in a white centered society. One cause of racism is the delusion that white people are superior to Black, Brown and Indigenous people. The flip side of superiority is being taught that non-white people are inherently dangerous, dishonest and don’t feel pain; that they are somehow less than human. This delusion is expressed individually, culturally, and systemically and institutionally.

Our individual expression is related to our personal beliefs and value judgments. My meditation mentor, a Black, highly educated, accomplished, professional woman shared that whenever she goes shopping, she does several things so no one thinks she is stealing.

Implicit bias is more challenging to see. It is like the air we breathe; it is not usually visible unless it’s really cold out, or there is something like smoke that highlights it. Implicit biases are the things we don’t know we think- it’s the way things are supposed to be. It is normal. In a white centered society, we don’t have a backdrop to reveal our implicit bias unless we create it. Another way implicit bias is like air is that it is everywhere. Implicit bias means that until we, as white people, see White Supremacy as our problem, it is not going to change.

Explicit and implicit bias, the delusion of superiority, and their shadow fears and negative stereotypes play out culturally in the way groups either deliberately or unconsciously are biased to select white people over People of Color and make it safe for white people and unsafe for People of Color to speak up and ask for and get what they need.

Systemic or structural racism operates in institutions, laws, ways that criminal justice, education, and economic systems work, independent of what we personally think, believe or value. Furthermore, as white people we benefit from these unjust systems even when we don’t agree with them and had nothing to do with creating them.


The second cause of racism is trauma. Looking at Resmaa Menakem book My Grandmother’s Hands, he shows how trauma is reenacted rather than resolved. He talks about medieval times in Europe when white people commonly tortured other white people. When white settlers came to this land, they unleashed their unresolved trauma on Black and Indigenous people.

Trauma is primarily a physiological problem rather than originating as a belief or attitude. Trauma lives in our bodies; in the tension in our muscles, the level of arousal in our nervous systems. When we have trauma in our system it will shape the way we perceive and interpret sensory input. This has everything to do with why it is really easy to have exaggerated reactions and extremely challenging to respond with discernment, feel calm, or settled when we are triggered.

Releasing Trauma

Releasing trauma is both an art and science, staying activated enough to feel discomfort, but not so activated we lose discernment. During this optimal activation zone, we learn to oscillate focus between discomfort and sensations or sights that are calming and soothing. As we do this, the trauma releases from our muscles, nervous system and we end up feeling settled and calm.

The causes of racism:

1.     Supremacy based on delusion, greed and ill will in order to maintain power and privilege.

2.     Trauma that is enacted on other bodies, rather than resolved.

We can say that the delusion of supremacy and trauma are causes of racism. 

Suffering isn’t the whole story. It is the beginning. When we look at the causes and unravel them, we release suffering. TheThird Noble Truth is that there’s a cessation of suffering.

Delusion, Conceit, and Separation

The Buddha spoke about conceit as a fundamental delusion. He wasn’t only talking about the conceit of feeling superior. Surprisingly, he spoke about feeling equal to and feeling lesser than someone else also as expressions of conceit. The Buddha was pointing out that we don’t exist as solid separate entities. Instead, we are part of a web of life, a set of interdependent causes and conditions. Furthermore, this delusion of seeing ourselves as solid, separate is a root cause of all forms of suffering, not just racism. Seeing this mistaken view, we are invited to come back into a fabric of being and relatedness, connected to the whole rather than isolated as a separate part. Understanding and living from the perspective of being part of the whole, from the place of connection is both the path and the goal of a spiritual life. The more we are connected to the whole fabric of life, the more it highlights the aberration of racism.

Since one of the main causes for racism is the sense of separation, seeing ourselves as distinct and separate from others, then as we release that, we also release the separation that keeps us in a wheel of suffering. This liberation isn’t abstract. It means that we come home to a sense of belonging in awareness, with each other and all of life rather than feeling on our own to figure things out or worse, being abandoned to outer-space without a mother ship.

The Four Noble Truths as applied to racism:

        • Racism is suffering
        • The delusion of supremacy and trauma are causes of racism
        • Resolving trauma and awakening to the delusion of White Supremacy is a path toward the end of racism
        • There is a path to end suffering

The Four Noble Truths point to the symptoms, the cause and the medicine to remove the disease. The elegance of interconnection reveals both the path and goal; showing how a spiritual path and unravelling racism are intertwined, and is personally liberating both in the way we release what keeps us tethered to the wheel of suffering and how we end up connected to life, wholeness. The path requires seeing how implicit bias, cultural bias and structural biases take shape and galvanizing to dismantle them. Spurred by tragedy and heartbreak, people worldwide have come together to deal with the explosive pandemic of racism.

It is time to mobilize. Wherever we are in our learning and commitment to unravelling racism, it’s time to take another step.

Continue Reading
05 June 2020

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Anti-Racism Resources

This blog post is a compliation of many different lists from many different contributing authors. This is why somethings may overlap. This lists continues to be added to.


The table Below contains a ‘short list’ with sources from a variety of channels. This list contains content from Black authors and content creators. The longer list of resources underneath the chart contains resources from authors and content creators of multiple races. This comes from Threshold Choir of the East Bay as a resource for its white members.


Item Media Description
Code Switch: Can we talk about Whiteness Podcast (37 min) This is a great primer addressing the question “Why is it so hard to talk about whiteness?” All episodes of this podcast are worth listening to, but this one (their first) is a great place to start.
Urgency of Intersectionality with Kimberlé Crenshaw TED Talk (18 min) Crenshaw is credited with coining the term intersectionality. In this talk, she calls on us to bear witness to this reality and speak up for victims of prejudice.
13th Movie (1hr 40 min, always available on Netflix, and right now on YouTube) The film explores the painful and often untold history following the passing of the 13th amendment, which outlawed slavery. 13th explores the way our modern criminal justice system continues to exploit and oppress black and brown people – in essence, slavery by another name.
The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates Article (also available in audio here) The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates describes how the legacy of slavery extends to geographical and governmental policies in America and calls for a “collective introspection” on reparations.
How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi Book “Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America… Instead of working with the policies and system we have in place, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.”


Further Learning: 


The list below is both long, and incomplete. If we missed one of your favorites, please let us know so we can add it! We also recommend trying to find ways to integrate content created by diverse voices into your regular content consumption for continuous and long-term exposure to diverse voices. — whether in news resources, movies and TV, books, etc.


Articles & educational tools: 


Non-fiction books: 



Cinema | Miniseries | TV




This following list comes from Nina Simons from Bioneers


Voices to Follow


As Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) share their lived experiences of oppression and discrimination — as well as their wisdom for moving forward to dismantle the systems that perpetuate it — the value of listening to these voices right now cannot be understated. Here are a few of so many inspiring  BIPOC organizers and leaders that you should be paying attention to.

  • Patrisse Cullors, best known for being a co-founding partner of the Black Lives Matter movement, also wrote the New York Times best-selling book, “When They Call You a Terrorist.”
  • Kimberlé Crenshaw is the executive director of the African American Policy forum and the host of their podcast, Intersectionality Matters!
  • The Audre Lorde Project is a community organizing center for LGBT and gender non-conforming people of color.
  • Code Switch is an NPR podcast hosted by a multi-racial, multi-generational team of journalists. Their episodes span overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture, how they play out in our lives and communities, and how all of this is shifting.
  • PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing racial and economic equity by Lifting Up What Works®.
  • Dr. Rupa Marya is a doctor, professor and leading activist whose work connects medicine with social justice.
  • The Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley, directed by professor john a. powell, advances research, policy, & communications in order to realize a world where all belong.
  • Anti-Racist Research Policy Center convenes varied specialists to figure out novel and practical ways to understand, explain, and solve seemingly intractable problems of racial inequity and injustice.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center, founded in 1971, combats hate, intolerance, and discrimination through education and litigation.
  • Repairers of the Breach is a nonprofit organization that seeks to build a moral agenda rooted in a framework that uplifts our deepest moral and constitutional values to redeem the heart and soul of our country.
  • Color of Change is an online racial justice organization that designs campaigns powerful enough to end practices that unfairly hold Black people back, & champion solutions that move us all forward.
  • Maya Wiley is a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, as well as a University professor at the New School in NYC.
  • Dream Corps closes prison doors and opens doors of opportunity. This nonprofit organization brings people together across racial, social, and partisan lines to create a future with freedom and dignity for all.
  • White Awake is a network of people combatting white supremacy by focusing on educational resources and spiritual practices designed to engage people who’ve been socially categorized as “white” in the creation of a just and sustainable society.
  • Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice.


How to Support the Protesters Demanding Justice for George Floyd


This Teen Vogue article shares important resources — such as bail funds and organizations to know about — for helping protesters in need, along with further tools for getting involved and making your voice heard.

Read more here


What We’re Tracking:


Ways To Become Involved







  • Anti-Racism Resources – http://bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES
  • My Grandmothers’s Hands:Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem. This book deals with the somatic path of untangling racism from the trauma inprints in black, white and police bodies and how to undo them. Highy recommended
Continue Reading
Sign Up For
Awakening Truth Newsletter!