Having entered into the realm of ethics in last week’s session, we are joined in session six by Sebene Selassie and Colin Beavan to explore some particular challenges and guideposts in this area. In particular, how can discover our purpose or “place” in responding to multi-faceted and seemingly unending need? How might we navigate the challenges of responding in collaboration with others? In particular, how might dharma understanding and practice help us to respond skillfully to the challenges of multicultural groups when our analysis will never be complete and our internalized hierarchies never fully extirpated? And, leveraging session three’s exploration of View, how might we bring the strength of our commitment together with the an appetite for new ways of seeing our world and even defining what’s needed?
We look forward to this conversation with two powerful Dharma leaders who have been broadening our understanding of what the Dharma is and has to offer to engaged response.
Sebene Selassie is a dharma teacher and transformational coach. She began studying Buddhism over 25 years ago at McGill University where she received a BA in Comparative Religious Studies and Women’s Studies. She has an MA from the New School where she focused on race & cultural studies. For over 20 years she worked with children, youth, and families nationally and internationally for small and large not–for–profits and is the former Executive Director of New York Insight. Currently she serves on the board of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and is a meditation teacher for the 10% Happier App. She is a graduate of the Community Dharma Leader (CDL4) program at Spirit Rock and is training as a retreat teacher with her primary teachers, Thanissara and Kittisaro. Sebene is a three–time cancer survivor.
Colin Beavan, PhD attracted international attention for his year-long lifestyle-redesign project and the wildly popular book and film, No Impact Man. He is a coach and consultant, ran for the US House of Representatives in 2012, is the founder of the No Impact Project, a board member of Transportation Alternatives, an advisory council member of 350.org, a guest professor at Sarah Lawrence College and a senior dharma teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen. He is the author, most recently, of How to Be Alive: A Guide To The Kind of Happiness That Helps The World.
Homework for Session Six
- Opening to Mystery: The Evolutionary Journey Home — Dharma talk by Sebene with Thanissara
Trusting the intuitive mind through embodied awareness. Honoring the importance of indigenous knowledge.
- Ditch the “Animal Farm” Mentality in Resisting Trump Policies — Article in Yes! Magazine by Colin
Try less fighting and speaking and doing to get “our” way—and a lot more sitting and listening and questioning and being still.
Access the Webinar
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- The live session begins [localize_time tz=”America/Los_Angeles” fmt=”l, F j, Y g:i a T”]Sunday, November 12, 2017 9:30 am [/localize_time].
- Add this meeting and the full the series to Google Calendar, Outlook or other .ics-compatible calendar.
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- You may join the session up to 30 minutes before the meeting begins. At that time, the link and further instructions on how to join the webinar will appear on this page.
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You’ll be taken into the live session once it begins.
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Each session will feature inquiries that you can explore on your own in meditation or with others in dyads, triads or larger groups. We’ll post basic instructions and the inquiries immediately following the live session.
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Here we offer some optional (but highly recommended!) exercises to help you integrate some of the ideas and practices presented in the session. Each inquiry may be practiced individually or in dyads, triads or even larger groups. If the practice of meditative inquiries or group inquiry is new to you, we offer some guidance and suggestions here.
In this session, Colin invited us to consider the wisdom embedded in the 12-step program made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous and in particular, the 4th step, “making a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” (see AA’s Big Book, 4th edition, chapter 5) He offers for us the following practice:
Resentment is the “number one’’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry…
… When we were finished we considered it carefully. The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore. Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves. But the more we fought and tried to have our own way, the worse matters got. As in war, the victor only seemed to win. Our moments of triumph were short-lived.
It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alco holic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is in finitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.
If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcohol ics these things are poison.
We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future. We were prepared to look at it from an en tirely different angle. We began to see that the world and its people really dominated us. In that state, the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, had power to actually kill. How could we escape? We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? We could not wish them away any more than alcohol.
This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick.Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.’’
We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.
Referring to our list again. Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dis honest, self-seeking and frightened? Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were we to blame? The inventory was ours, not the other man’s. When we saw our faults we listed them. We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight.
- List who you resent.
- List why you resent them.
- List your part in the wrong.
- Amend your wrong, which is what you have power over.
- Resent: New EPA administrator
- Why: He cares more about industry and is undermining global warming. Will destroy the earth).
- Your part in the wrong (behaviors that destroy the earth): I fly, I am not really that civically engaged etc
- Amend your wrong: Decide what actions you will take to reduce your part in the wrong.
Inviting the Perception of Mystery
Any of the epistemologies or ways of knowing that we pick up and use in order to understand and respond to the crises unfolding on our planet will have possibilities and limitations. Like a tinted or magnified lens, a particular way of knowing will bring some things into focus, make some blurry, and render some invisible, beyond the scope of its view altogether.
In the practice inquiries for Session 3, we explored the possibilities and limitations of “Scientific Materialism,” a rational, analytical and perhaps reductionist way of knowing. From quarks to galaxies, this way of seeing conditions a compositional, mechanistic perception of reality. This is the dominant lens of the modern, Western world. In Sebene’s characterization, this view is laden with concept.
In the following contemplation, we invite you to intentionally try on and explore the lens of mystery, the perspective of the sacred and the implications for ethical response. Consider moving into a setting where a sense of mystery or the sacred might be available to you. Try adopting the lens available here, the challenging edge of mystery in whatever way you understand, and then explore the following questions:
- What is it like to perceive through this lens? What is newly allowed or included?
- How do I perceive myself, other people, and other beings through this lens? In particular, what aspects of myself and others are newly incorporated or valued when I adopt this way of knowing?
- What light does this perspective cast on our connection with the non-human realm, even ecological crises and other collective ills?
- Does this perspective open up or suggest new possibilities for ethical response?
Share Your Experience
After you’ve done any/all of these inquiries, we invite you to share your experience and engage in conversation with one another in the community discussion below.[/time-restrict]
Follow Up Resources
Mentioned during the session:
- Renee Lertzman on The Myth of Apathy
- Honor Native Land — A Guide and Call for Acknowledgement
- Exercise for discerning how you are called to help: How to Really Know Your Calling — Practice offered by Colin wherein, at all times and in all places, hold this question as a mantra, “How may I help?” Your ability to help will then appear at the right time and place.
Offered in the session by participants
- Article from Sebene, Sangha is a Verb: Cultivating Relational Practices to Foster Inclusiveness
- After Las Vegas, These Are the Questions That Can Bring Us Peace — Article in Yes! Magazine by Colin. If we can stop clinging to stories that obscure the truth of what happened, then what follows easily is, How can I help?
- Article from Colin, I Need to Start With the Racist Attitudes in Me — Some of my anger at the recent actions of white supremacists comes from acknowledging my own capacity for ugliness.
- Sebene’s Blog — eye opening and heart nourishing articles
Support Session Leaders
To maximize participation, we are offering this series at minimal cost. In addition, all of the teachers and leaders on these calls offer their gifts freely in this spirit of dana.
If you value what is offered here, we invite you to support these leaders and you may also wish to support One Earth Sangha. Dana, or generosity, is considered an essential part of practice and situates us in the unbroken line that seeks to bring the gifts of Buddhadharma, wisdom and compassion, to our world.
Any amount you offer, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated.
We invite you to share with the community your reflections on any aspect of the session: the webinar, homework, practices, follow up resources or anything else!