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Lions Roar : September 2014
to Sharpe, marriage is difficult because it’s a very close relationship with someone who has their own practice, their own history, and their own ideas about how things should be. We all have a his- tory of trauma, isolation, and abandonment, and so much of what constitutes life is how our past difficulties manifest and how we work with that. Marriage, she says, is not just about “How do I get my needs met?” It’s about “How do I get my needs met? How does the other person get their needs met and how does the relation- ship, which is a third entity, get what it needs?” “A marital relationship,” says Sharpe, “shows you all of the places where you’re stuck, all of the places where you’re selfish. Marriage is the dharma of sex and money and work and rela- tionship all contained in one situation. If we look at it as practice, then we learn from the conflicts that naturally arise.” As for Sharpe and Fowle, I’ve rarely encountered a couple so supportive of each other. When I ask Fowle who his teacher is, he tells me there’s a group: Sharon Salzberg, joseph Goldstein, jack Kornfield. But his number one is his wife. “This is clearly biased,” he says. “I don’t care. Gina is the best there is. What I love about Gina’s teachings is that they can cover a Buddhist text and be very detailed, and then she’ll open it up and take you from your head to your heart.” Fowle also points to the work that Sharpe has done for people of color in the dharma. “It’s not about proselytizing to those ‘poor people of color’ who need to know the dharma,” she explains. “When we’re in a room that’s not diverse, we’re missing opinions, we’re missing viewpoints of the world. So getting a more diverse sangha is about enriching our community. It’s not about getting them to come get what we’ve got but for them to bring with them what they’ve got. When we all study the dharma together, it becomes really rich.” Sharpe feels that a critical step to encourage diversity is retreats and sitting groups specifically for people of color. In these safe spaces, people of color have the opportunity to connect with Bud- dhist practice and many of them will fall so in love with it that they’ll then begin attending general retreats and sitting groups. In 2005, Sharpe was instrumental in establishing the NYI Peo- ple of Color Sangha, a sitting group that meets once a month. This was followed by other initiatives to reach out to people of color and to educate convert Buddhists, particularly those in leadership positions, about issues of race, diversity, and equity. Recently, Sharpe and her collaborators launched “Cultivat- ing a Beloved Community,” an eight-week course that explores differences and similarities through a Buddhist lens. The first course was led by four teachers—a white lesbian, a black gay man, a white straight man, and a black straight woman—and forty-five people applied for the sixteen available spots. “It’s not just talking about race or sexual orientation or prejudice,” says Sharpe.“It’s really looking at suffering and the end of suffering.” “The way suffering ends,” she concludes, “is that its cause is understood. Racism is a huge part of American suffering. If we’re not attending to it, we’re being ignorant.” ♦ Gina Sharpe continued from page 35 A place for contemplation, adventures outdoors & journeys inwards; unwind, retreat, explore, connect & enjoy. www.cabotshores.com for retreats and reservations call +1 866 929 2584 Conveniently located on the renowned Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, within easy reach of Gampo Abbey and Kalapa Valley. Unique lodging: yurts, chalets, farmhouse, lodge, geodesic dome, tipi. SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2014 64