AtTikkunMagazine, of the many posters of quotes and inspirational images on the walls in our office, we also find this passage from Exodus. “Do not oppress the stranger,” it says. This passage serves as a reminder that we must work to know and understand the other as our collective liberation is intertwined with others as well. The mission of this series,Embracing the Stranger, is based on the commitment of activists, changemakers, and visionaries across different causes to create a more inclusive and loving world. Through a series of interviews, we worked to explore the personal and spiritual motivations behind their work. With the many issues present in the world, and much to be done, we wanted to know how people became involved in the activism they dedicate their time to. Would there be any connected ideas? Any connected struggles? Would there be commonalities among people even if they differed in identity and origin story? We atTikkunfeel that it is vital to do all in our power to highlight and support individuals and groups that work to heal the World. We hope to further the Movement of healing, repairing, and transforming the world. Through this project, we aimed to paint a picture of the unified human desire to heal pain and turn our world into one of peace, empathy, and love. By discussing the missions of different groups, we hope to discover possible connections across a variety of causes to show where our struggles can be connected, to further the creation of a world influenced by peace, love, and empathy that creates liberation for the diverse world we live in.
Click here to read part I in this series. Stay tuned for parts III and IV!
Challenging Ourselves to Love Ourselves: Reflections on an Interview with JD Doyle from East Bay Meditation Center
In the practices of meditation and mindfulness, there is a component that calls for us to explore how our daily actions affect not only ourselves, but others as well. JD Doyle is currently on the program committee, as well as one of the teachers, at the East Bay Meditation Center (EBMC), a meditation training and spiritual teaching center based in Oakland, CA. JD has been involved since its opening saying, “It’s kind of like a dream come true to me because I can be whole at EBMC.” JD described that being a part of EBMC is to embrace the possibilities of radical inclusion, along with an invitation to be uncomfortable within spiritual practice in order to grow. As it was founded on the grounds of social justice, EBMC is a place to become more in touch with one’s self while developing a sense of community.
For JD, the practice of meditation began at 35 when they began learning about Buddhist teachings. When I asked them how they began practicing, JD explains, “My first Buddhist teacher was a gay man [and was involved in social justice]. And I say that intentionally because I think […] being able to hear Buddhism from somebody I could relate to was significant to me. And as I started practicing, I found these tools of how to relate to myself and how to relate to suffering in the world with more compassion and loving kindness and being able to extend that to others more readily, which is transformative.”
Being a part of EBMC and its development has been highly influential in JD’s practice as a Buddhist Beings surrounded by a community of people who have come together with the mindset of wanting to do social justice work has meant that radical inclusivity is integral. Additionally, the ability to fully participate at EBMC is one of its main principles. “I can show up as a white, genderqueer person, coming towards middle aged, having had some health issues […] and I don’t have to leave out a part of me at all when I walk through the door. I’m asked to step into my wholeness and to allow other people to be whole as well. […] It’s about creating a space where we all can live into our wholeness .” JD describes that EBMC was originally designed to be an inclusive center. “Most places have to retrofit to include underrepresented communities, people of color, people with disabilities. Part of the vision of EBMC was to be founded to include communities that have been traditionally marginalized or excluded.” With this foundation, this intention would be influential in the practice of meditation and community building. “Inherent in its mission, [EBMC] is to serve communities and focus on social justice. So people who come to EBMC are coming there with that intention, and know they will meet like minded people there. The community practices meditation because it is a way for us to come home to ourselves and work both internally and externally.”
Meditation and mindfulness are the main practices at EBMC, but this does not mean they do not come without a responsibility to challenge oneself. As the center is a diverse space, the different identities and experiences of those who come and participate are embraced and valued in order to do the work of social justice. In discussing how to embrace difference and diversity in a space, JD described a phrase that Larry King, a Buddhist teacher, brought to EBMC: “[He asked], ‘can we break together rather than break apart?’ Conflict is natural in the development of communities. Sometimes white mainstream culture thinks that ‘well let’s make everything nicey nicey!’ And having diverse points of opinion is actually very healthy.” The work of meditation and building a community can create not only a safe space, but what JD called a “brave space which invites practitioners to address their own discomfort and their own areas of privilege. Confronting how we are in relationship to others based on our identities is crucial to building community. It asks, How are we treating others? Are we prioritizing our own comfort or considering others’ as equally deserving?
The communities that can be cultivated through these practices are incredibly valuable and is something to be consistently worked on. In Buddhism, suffering is seen as being present in our lives, but we work to end the suffering for ourselves and for others. This process is not easy, but it is necessary and allows for one to grow in their spirituality and awareness of the world. Therefore, reflecting on these practices, the moments when mistakes are made and intentions do not come to fruition in social justice, JD described that this is an opportunity to learn. “[You can be] a loving person and sometimes your behavior has impacted somebody in a way that wasn’t intentional. But when we look at working with others and the impact is greater than we intend, we have to respond from that place [of] learning and growing.”
The strength of building a better world within a mindful community has been a powerful source for JD through their practice as a Buddhist, a teacher, and a participant. By reflecting on ourselves inwardly, we can see possibilities for the development of the world we inhabit with others as well. “[Something else that is] really powerful for me is self compassion. I think that compassion [is] where the intersection of mindfulness and love [lies].” The ability to have compassion for oneself can also mean to intensely challenge ourselves through our own thoughts and actions. As we live in intentional or even global communities the ability to self reflect and be in conversation with others has the consistent potential to lead to a world of justice.
JD Doyle has been an active part of the East Bay Meditation Center since it opened, co-founding the LGBTQSGLI (Alphabet Sangha) and volunteering in many roles, including as Board Member and Core Teacher. In 1997, they started practicing Buddhism and have attended retreats in the US, Thailand, and Burma, as well as completed Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leader Program, Dedicated Practitioner Program, and currently is in the Spirit Rock Dharma Teacher Training Program. They are committed to celebrating the diversity of our human sangha, addressing the impact of racism on our communities, expanding concepts of gender, and living in ways that honor the sacredness of the Earth.
Lauren Bodenlosis a sophomore at Agnes Scott College where she is a religious studies major. Some of her academic interests include christian socialism, liberation theology, and interfaith literacy. Lauren worked as a print editorial intern atTikkunand was also able to work on an interview series focusing on the connected motivations of activists.
Madeline Cookis a senior at Mount Holyoke College, where she majors in Politics and minors in Africana Studies. Her academic interests include investigating the intersections of political, feminist, and critical race theory and the development of social movements. During her time atTikkun, she has worked on creating an interview series on the connected motivations of activists.