Archive for the ‘Mind & Spirit’ Category

Cultivating Spiritual Power for our Healing and Happiness




WED, OCT 22 – SUN, OCT 26, 2008

Our fifth annual retreat offered to People of Color in the tradition of the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh will be held on the East Coast for the first time! In this five-day retreat for people of Native-American, African, Latina/o, Asian/Pacific Islander, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern ancestry (as well as their Caucasian family members), we will touch healing and nourishment through the practice of mindfulness and our reconnection to our ancestors.

This retreat offers us the opportunity to practice and enjoy the art of mindful and peaceful living in our daily life. We will learn to recognize and embrace our pain in transformative ways, find peace within ourselves, and foster stronger sisterhood and brotherhood in our communities. It will give us an opportunity to stop, rest, and touch the source of wisdom, compassion and healing in ourselves, so that we can renew our relationships and bring peace and understanding to our world. Through the practice of mindfulness we will learn how to nourish happiness, gratitude, good communication and serenity in our daily life. Some of the questions we will explore are:

• What are our sources of spiritual power in us?
• How can we cultivate our spiritual power to maintain balance in our life?
• How can we nurture faith, joy, creativity, and compassion in our daily life?

For further information, please check our website later on for more details regarding this retreat (, or call us at 845.733.4959.

In the wake of Super Tuesday’s results of how Asian Americans voted, particularly in California, there’s been a flurry of activity among APIA bloggers to figure out what happened. In particular, Jeff Chang’s article does a great job of breaking down Clinton’s political machine.

To our community and allies, let’s not give up because for all the discussion about how Clinton has a more diverse campaign staff, we have to remember that when Obama first came onto the scene as a presidential candidate, many (including myself) didn’t think his campaign would become what it is now. I’m not surprised that many organizers of color signed up early in Clinton’s campaign because it was more established.

Name recognition played a huge role in what had happened. But there is a clear difference between Obama and Clinton. The New York Magazine recently described Obama’s campaign as a “white boy campaign“. Despite the usual spin on race and ethnicity from mainstream media, I find that this article’s analysis is incredibly off. Obama’s campaign is a break from the old way of politics. His campaign is about movement building, not name recognition. What electrifies me about Obama is that he is talking about transforming our politics and ourselves, not giving out quick, token favors to our leaders and figureheads. Professor Scott Kurashige articulates this important distinction in his recent post (long but very worthwhile to read in its entirety). Here’s an excerpt:

The Obama campaign is about transcending the “minority politics” mentality that carves us all up into “interest groups” and pushes the hot buttons that reinforce our sense of victimization and vilify the other side. Mainstream observers focus on Obama’s invocation of “hope” as a rhetorical device, which appeals to the common decency in all of us to both transcend partisanship and support an agenda driven by the discourse of change. No doubt this is part of the appeal he is making, especially as he seeks to fashion himself as someone who can unite voters in both “blue” and “red” states and also “change the way Washington does business.”

But I sense there is something much deeper to both Obama as an individual and his campaign, which has the potential to develop into a movement. Obama has a deep respect for what Charles Payne (in I’ve Got the Light of Freedom) has called the “organizing tradition” that sustained the Black freedom struggle in the South. He recognizes the debt we owe the likes of Martin Luther King, Ella Baker, and Rosa Parks, but more importantly the lessons we must learn from their struggles. If you are just a “minority leader,” then you’re not really a leader at all. If you are only fighting for your “fair share” of the riches controlled by those in power, you’ll never address the root causes of oppression. Above all is the sense that none of us can be free in America until we change the whole country. Obama speaks in poetry and he is writing a song of redemption.

Yet, as Obama admits, his work is not done. To have built an impressive biracial coalition in the North and South is impressive. So is having won both the Black and white vote in California, which really should put to rest the media’s endless drivel about that divide. Yet, we now know that a biracial victory doesn’t cut it anymore, for all that historic act has done is create new challenges. I wonder how Obama’s campaign is processing their drubbing among Latinos and Asians in California. Was it just a lack of time? Is it an idiosyncratic result of the Clintons unique appeal? Was it a failure of execution? Or do they need a better strategy rooted in a deeper understanding of Latino and Asian communities and new people to be a part of the decision making process? My sense is that it is mostly the latter. In the future, I’ll try to say more about what is shaping interethnic attitudes and relations today, especially to counter the mainstream media’s new sophomoric fixation on “Black/Latino tensions.” What should stand out, however, is that we need to know a lot more about interethnic relations and recognize they are not a sideshow.

Remember, it was the media that asked if Obama can “transcend race” — Obama never spoke these words himself because his message is not about colorblindness at all.

I’m confident the numbers will change and that more Asian Americans will change support for Obama’s campaign. In some weays, our “loss” in California is very positive because it is continuing the contest between Obama and Clinton, giving us an important moment to talk to our community, peers, friends and family members. We can really highlight what sets Obama apart from Clinton. I don’t think we are last minute at all — Transformation is very different from identity and coalition politics, which is what Clinton is solely relying upon. We’ve seen the upsurge in the last two weeks, where folks went to the poll en masse to change their vote for Obama. Let’s keep building and reaching our communities.

Today was certainly a highlight of the weekend for me! At 9:00am, we arrived at the Columbia HQ to take park of a large faith-based mobilization hosted by Obama’s campaign. As an organizer, I remember how important, yet challenging and nuanced, organizing the churches can be. And as a buddhist practicioner, there was only so much I felt like I could accomplish, outside of building relationships with congregations that were open to inter-faith alliances. Obama’s “Call to Chapel” was exciting to me because 1) my partner is Christian and has helped me better understand the Christian faith, and 2) the mobilization was about simply meeting people where they were, rather than aggressive campaigning.

At the headquarters, I was happy to see a large crowd gathering and a charter bus pulling into the parking lot. Outside of some logistical delays, everyone that showed up was assigned a church to attend. My partner and I chose to go to Antioch A.M.E Church in Eastover which was located about 40 minutes outside of Columbia. During the drive, I saw how this part of South Carolina was truly rural, without much infrastructure between population centers.


I had no idea what to expect when we arrived at Antioch A.M.E. This was the kind of church that had a grave next to the building, with an address named after itself. How well would they receive us? Would they let us read Senator Obama’s letter? Did I look okay? All went well — Reverend Benton and his congregation welcomed us with open arms, and this Sunday happened to be dedicated to the youth members of the church, so we were lucky to have one of the children read Obama’s letter.

As an observer, I think that the “Call to Chapel” action was successful. Over the weekend, I had overheard many people who had qualms about taking part in this action, or who thought it was not for them. But I don’t think one needs to be Christian to take part in something like this. What better way to earn trust and build bridges than to go to the place that is the foundation of so many people?

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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. Continue Reading »

Yesterday, the Judson Memorial Church located in Manhattan hosted a conference called “How the Church Failed Us: A Way Back from Spiritual Violence“. Attendance was sparse, but I believe this was a result of poor outreach rather than disinterest and relevance of the issue. The conference brought people of Christian faith together to discuss how religion was being used to alienate and oppress people of color and queer folks.

I found the panelists and speakers engaging, flowing well from topic to topic. The most enjoyable speaker for me was keynote Ron Buford, former director of the “God Is Still Speaking” campaign. I didn’t know about this campaign before, and how socially transformative and progressive (i.e. controversial) it was, transforming churches into spaces of affirmation rather than condemnation. Ron’s words about the need to address our nation’s lack of spiritual development reminded me of Grace Lee Boggs’ writings.

My partner and I were also invited to speak on a panel and share our personal experiences with spiritual violence. Though I wish it weren’t such a tall order, my partner and I are trying to find a spiritual home(s) affirming our interfaith, inter-racial, queer relationship. As a buddhist, I was tentative to be a panelist at first, but was assured that my experience growing up in a white, conservative Southern town was an important one to share.

It’s taken me many years to develop an understanding about the way my childhood friends made me feel guilty about not being Christian. Their hurtful words were wrapped up in what they were hearing and internalizing from their own churches, perhaps not necessarily from God. The way they questioned my spirituality were denials of my own family, culture and spiritual journey. At best, they regarded my being buddhist a novelty, and not a legitimate practice. So when I became an activist, it was too easy for me to equate Christianity with being oppressive and fundamentally conservative.

I think that something is taking place in my own spiritual development, where moments of opportunity, affirmation, and reconciliation are taking place. To have had the opportunity to share my story at this conference, in a Christian church, was such a moment. And as an activist, I found it very hopeful to that these kinds of challenging conversations are taking place within the church.

From Freire:

Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is commitment to

It’s been a few days since MLK day. Often, I have found MLK Day celebrations to be romanticized interpretations of Dr. King’s life and work. I think this co-optation of his words, work and image have also turned many social activists off from the holiday, and I’ve seen only a few reflective posts in the blogosphere that I visit.  I invite readers to share how they usually spend their MLK Day by posting a comment.

A while ago, I came across this speech (copied below) by Vincent Harding, who had worked closely with Dr. King. I had the honor of meeting Dr. Harding at a Beloved Communities gathering. Being in his presence helped me begin to unlearn the romanticism of the Civil Rights Movement and superficial understanding of Dr. King that is one of the more dominating narratives of those times. Such insights, along with reflections like the one below, help ground my understanding of Dr. King, especially during the challenging years of his political development leading up to his assassination.

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The intersection of spirituality in activist work continues to be a growing interest of mine. Mostly because I am exploring it in my personal journey, but I also believe that activists need to find out what role spirituality has (or doesn’t have) in their lives, in order to sustain and deepen our work. Below are portions of writing from a recent article I published in Critical Moment. I invite you to read the full article by following the links on my “Articles” page. I would love to hear any reactions, comments, or feedback.

Beloved Communities: Deepening Our Activism and Healing Our Communities

By the rivers of Babylon
Where we sat down
And there we wept
When we remembered Zion
-“Rivers of Babylon,” Black spiritual

As an activist, I’ve heard and sang plenty of “freedom songs” in marches and rallies. But the first time I actually felt a Black spiritual was last month at a Beloved Communities Initiative gathering…The feeling it produced was familiar to me, as a Chinese/Taiwanese Buddhist and my experiences in Sangha, the community of Buddhist practitioners. Both song and Sangha have an indescribable capacity to provide clarity, connection and renewal. The historical use of spirituals, however, is unique to the Black community and in its transcendent ability to bring together a community of people towards collective struggle and hope. For the gathering I was attending, it opened us to even deeper reflection on the state of our communities.

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This weekend my friend and musician Joe Reilly is performing at the Leaven Center in Lyons, Michigan. If you’re in Michigan and would like to hear the kind of music that will fill your soul (no joke), you will definitely want to attend this event on Saturday.

From the Heart: Joe Reilly Returns to the Leaven Center
Join Joe Reilly and friends for dinner, discussion,
and performance of his music for
spiritual social change.
November 18th, 2007
5:00-8:00 PM
$15/Person (Rooms available for an additional $25/Person)

The Leaven Center is located at 7981 Peckins Rd. Lyons, MI 48851. Driving directions are listed on the Leaven Center website: You may also register online with a credit card or download a registration form at the web site. For more information about The Leaven Center, call 989-855-2606 or email leavencenter (at) leaven (dot) org.

Full message from Joe Reilly: Continue Reading »