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Lions Roar : January 2015
BZC executive director Greg Snyder has spoken of a mind- meld that’s gone on between you and he, and BZC guiding teacher Teah Strozer. Let’s talk about that connection. I’m a New Yorker. I lived in Fort Greene and had a little sit- ting group, an offshoot of my main practice home of Village Zendo. Coincidentally, I called it Brooklyn Zen Center because I believed that the practice could arise in the community, from the community. Most places of practice that I saw didn’t feel like that. They had a feeling of separateness. I knew that in order for Buddhist practice to take root amongst peoples not defined by a particular Western, white, middle-aged, middle- to-upper-middle-class construct, the practice had to go and meet people and not just expect them to come and find it. I eventually went to California, and coming back and find- ing that this Brooklyn Zen Center was really doing the work of welcoming was an incredible relief to me, especially because they were doing it in such a compassionate, humble, present, and transparent way. How does that way manifest? Many centers say, “Oh, we want to include people so let’s invite them to come.” But because we, as Western-worldview, dominant-paradigm folks have not done our work, we actu- ally don’t know how to be welcoming. An invitation is a ges- ture. Welcoming, though, is open-armed hospitality. It’s in the heart. I think that what Brooklyn Zen has that many places don’t is in its leadership: people who continue to truly examine their own hearts and are willing to address the barriers and the hindrances to being welcoming. How can we make fundamental changes in ourselves so that we can be welcoming, not just inviting? Meditation is awesome, but it’s not fast enough. People need to get trained. Training amps up the intensity, bringing things intentionally into our view so that we can work on what’s there to be worked on. What will that training help address? The paradigms and the worldviews of white Western privilege, which have been developed for no other reason but to bestow privilege on a very small group of people and to create separa- tion. That’s what the construct of whiteness was for right from the beginning. This is not about bashing anybody for who they are or for their skin color. This is about a construct that was developed purely and solely in order to create separation and now that construct needs to be deconstructed. If we don’t do that, that separation will live on and it will do so, shamefully, in the midst of teachings that are so profoundly gifted with a language, with an approach, with a methodology, to unseat separation. ➢ Beyond privilege To make diversity real, says Zen teacher anGeL Kyodo WILLIaMS, Buddhists must look deep into their own hearts. shambhala sun january 2015 43