Session 8: Applying Our Spiritual Practice

In this session, we explore ways that our spiritual practice can support the transformation of suffering arising from race-based oppression.  These readings/listenings point out that much of our suffering and ignorance in this area are unconscious, outside of our ordinary awareness.  It is therefore necessary, as we are doing in these study groups, to step outside of the arena of individual practice and into sangha, in order to reveal material that cannot be seen through personal reflection.  Also, to understand that what we see/experience as personal, is in fact simply a reflection of a greater whole.  

The pain of this uncovering can be very intense, as we cling to our ideas of ourselves as “good white people” or “good dharma practitioners.”  Here is where the concept of spiritual bypass can help us be aware of our cultural conditioning, and the practices of metta and karuna can open our hearts to the interrelatedness/oneness of suffering.  This may allow us to experience how racism affects us as white people, and how our own pain around this issue keeps us from seeing clearly the suffering of others.

Before Your Meeting

Please read or listen to these before your meeting:

Practices to do before your Session 8 meeting

  • Using metta and karuna  as a skillful response Thich Nhat Hanh says, “According to Buddhism, compassion is the only source of energy that is useful and safe. With compassion, your energy is born from insight; it is not blind energy.”
    • Assignment: Consider your own narrative of race and the suffering within it. Use your daily sitting practice to cultivate compassion for your suffering. Reflect on its relationship to the suffering of others.
  • Seeing “identity” as constantly arising from unfolding causes and conditions.  Meaning that it is impermanent, impersonal.
    • Assignment: Reflecting on the materials in this series, how has this allowed you to see both the power and the impermanence of your racial/cultural identity? As compassion is cultivated for self and others in practice #1, notice whether or how it enables you to move in the direction of skillful action.

Also please review the discussion questions in the agenda below.

Facilitation

At your last meeting a facilitator was chosen. Here is a link to the facilitator's role .

Agenda

  • Sit (5 minutes)
  • Review Communication Guidelines   (5 minutes)
    • Read aloud your group’s guidelines developed in the first session
    • Discuss any revisions to the guidelines 
    • Confirm that all members can abide by the group’s guidelines, or at least open to practicing with them
  • Mindful Sharing (90 minutes)
    • Instruction: Mindful Sharing   involves each participant sharing from personal experience. There is no discussion or cross-talk during this time period, only personal sharing.
    • Each person in the group may share 3-5 minutes on each question.

Discussion Questions 

      • In the OnBeing interview, Robin DiAngelo says: “When white people ask me, ‘What do I do?’ I ask them, in return, ‘how have you managed not to know?’, when the information’s everywhere; they’ve been telling us forever? What does it take for us to ask, and then, to keep asking?”  How do you feel that you have managed to not know what to do? Going forward how might you keep asking?
      • Robin encourages us to watch what’s coming up for us as we hear Resmaa’s hopelessness and speaks to how we may even expect him (or other people of color) to give us hope, to trust us. She challenges us with this statement: “Let’s break through how deep the apathy is and use your umbrage, if you’re feeling it, to motivate you to prove him wrong. Show him that you can be trusted, that we can be trusted.”  How do you feel about this part of the interview? Does this resonate with you?
      • Is it hard for you to hear the interviewees single out white progressives as racist and not to be trusted? Do you see how your buddhist practice could be used to spiritually bypass the pain you feel when you hear this?
      • Practice 1: using metta and karuna  as a skillful response.
        • As you reflect on your own narrative of race, what has come up for you? How has your cultivation of compassion affected your ability to stay with these reflections?
      • Practice 2: seeing “identity” as constantly arising from unfolding causes and conditions.

        • In what ways has this series of readings/conversations allowed you to see both the power and the impermanence of your racial/cultural identity? How has/could your compassion practice free you up to move toward skillful action?
  • Group Reflection (10 minutes)
    • Instruction: Group Reflection is like Mindful Sharing in that there is no discussion or cross-talk, however the focus is on what kind of experience the participants had during the meeting rather than on the content covered.
    • Each person in the group can share 2-3 minutes about what it was like to participate in the group (gauge time based on number of people in the group)
    • PROMPT: What was it like to engage in Mindful Sharing today? How has this been for you so far?
  • Sit (5 minutes)
  • Next Meeting (5 minutes)
    • Assuming the group is continuing past these first 8 sessions, confirm that you have a next meeting time set up and make any technology or other changes that will support it.  Be sure that there is a facilitator for next time.

Additional Readings, Videos and Podcasts