Mindfulness in the new year

The New Year has arrived, bringing in 2008. Last night in Michigan, we finally saw some decent snow, nearly a foot of it. When I sit to write, I still find myself scribbling the date “11/07”. My mind is still in past and last year has been a whirlwind was changes.
In lieu of new year’s resolutions, I want to commit myself to deepening my spiritual practice in the new year.

In October 2006 I had attended an incredible buddhist retreat for people of color offered by monastics of Deer Park Monastery practicing in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Sitting with over 100 people of color was one of the most affirming experiences I have had. Since then, I have been trying to maintain a consistent spiritual practice in my daily life. People suggest that the best way to practice is to join a sangha (a community of practitioners) to maintain that wonderful sense of energy and centered-ness. It is such a habit to keep living in the past because I realized, after a full year of going in and out of various sanghas, small and large, I had been yearning for that same sense of community, shared experience, and safety that I had found at Deer Park. This realization came to me when I attended a fall retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery in New York, which was mostly attended by older, white New Englanders. Though it took a little longer, I was still able to find the same sense of peace I had attained at Deer Park.

Still, it has been challenging to instill the practice in my daily life, since having relocated three times in the past year. Maybe now that I’m in Philadelphia, I will be able to commit more sustainably and productively to a local sangha. Fortunately, I’ve been coming across more resources for people of color who practice buddhism or are interested in learning more about this spiritual path.

To start of the new year in mindfulness, I offer a brief compilation of what I’ve found so far, attempt to begin a simple compilation of what I have found so far. If you know of other resources, please share them by posting in the comment area.

Deer Park Monastery (California)
Retreat for People of Color and their Families: This retreat has been held during Labor Day weekend, so I would suggest checking the website for registration information during the summer months.

New York Insight Meditation Center (New York)
This Center, which practices Vipassana meditation, offers a monthly sitting group for People of Color. I attended one session and it seems to have a pretty consistent attendence.

This website is maintained by an African-American teacher of Tibetan buddhism. I appreciate the analysis in this article that this teacher wrote about why many buddhist circles in the US are mostly white. I would often visit this website as an online resource before I had found out about Deer Park.

Shambhala Center (Philadelphia)
The local sangha in Philadelphia that I attend has said very positive things about the Shambhala Center. Sometime last year, they had a series of programming for people of color and white folks to caucus separately about their experiences with racism, exploring how their practice of buddhism can heal and transform.


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