We have entered into a very challenging period in our time. At the forefront is the issue of diversity and inclusivity. Who is in and who is out. This is playing itself out on the world stage. Millions of people potentially being banned, mass deportations, hate crimes and new laws being drafting that are discriminatory in nature. In a way nothing has changed and yet everything has changed. Internally there is also a shift happening. We are being provided with an opportunity to investigate our own deeply held beliefs. Opening to diversity isn’t just a noble idea; it’s actually a genuine path that leads to both wisdom and deep compassion.
Dr. King once said:
Our goal is to create a beloved community and
this will require a qualitative change in our souls
as well as a quantitative change in our lives.
He couldn’t have been more right. On an absolute level, who we are doesn't matter. However on the level of the heart race, gender and sexual orientation matters AND discrimination takes its toll. When I awoke to this deep pain in my heart early on in my spiritual path, the need to create something new, different and inclusive grew stronger everyday. Until recently, very few spiritually based organizations even considered words like inclusivity or multiculturalism in building their centers. No one ever talked about racism or inclusion. It has been a facet of the diamond left unpolished.
Creating an open, inclusive community has been a healing process for me and not always easy. What I’ve discovered is that diversity is radical because it accelerates our learning process. The journey is not about being comfortable it’s about seeing the truth in any moment. In diverse communities, we grow more, because we have to consider the needs, opinions and feelings of others. We all have internal hierarchies and diversity challenges these set preferences and opinions. It becomes the mirror that exposes all of our biases. As spiritual practitioners, we WANT to see our delusions so we can overcome them. We want to become mindful. At the end of the day our practice is dedicated to transforming greed, hatred and delusion.
We envisioned the East Bay Meditation Center as a place for communities of color, LGBTQ those with disabilities and all people who are marginalized. In order to do this we had to do things differently. I personally had to adjust and grow; I couldn't stay the same. I thought, I was an open person, and then people came with chemical sensitivities asking, "What about us?" Then Spanish-speaking people came and asked, "What about us?" Teenagers came and I started to think, "I’m not sure we can fit everybody in." Then a group of transgendered men came and asked, "What about us, Spring? We need a place, too."
I started to feel the barriers to my love. Every new group needed us to change something so that they could have a home at our center, and I got to see my own clinging. All these diverse groups were coming with different needs, and they wanted our center to be as accessible as possible. I would feel this resistance within myself. It was painful, and challenging at times. Yet I slowly felt my heart expanding every time I said, “yes” we can include you too.
The heart of the dharma is about always about opening, accepting and including more and more parts of ourselves. There’s something profound about widening your circles. Einstein said, "Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty." The only way to do that is to truly engage. Every time I open the door, I grow.