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Lions Roar : July 2015
MICHELELAPORTE MEET A TEACHER angel Kyodo williams BORN IN 1969, I’m a quintessential New Yorker. I spent my early life in Lefrak City, Queens—which was like living in the United Nations—and a good deal of time later shuttling between parents in Brooklyn and Manhattan. My junior high was in Chinatown and ninety percent ethnic Chinese. I found the dharma at Tower Bookstore by way of Shunyru Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. A visit to San Francisco Zen Center brought my practice out of the closet. (Literally: I had been practicing meditation in a small closet.) Back in New York, I trained formally in Zen. At age 29, I wrote Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace as a kind of trans- lation of the dharma for the people I lived with, loved, and wished deeply for the freedom of. I practice and interpret the dharma through the lens of personal liberation and social justice, having never been able to separate the two. I’ve founded the newDharma community as a home in the dharma for activists, and the Center for Transformative Change in Berkeley to bring the dharma to activists where they live. ♦ Favorite meditation practice? To create spaciousness in situations by contrasting the experience of tightness with the experience of release. Primary teachers? Vulnerability and physical pain, the “other,” incarcerated youth, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Francisco “Paco” Lugoviña Sensei, Norma Wong Roshi, and new ones every day. Recommended dharma books? Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Tao Te Ching. John Tarrant’s The Light Inside the Dark. Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart. Trungpa Rinpoche’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras. Favorite authors? Paulo Coehlo for possibility. Alice Walker for joyous liberation. David Whyte for saying what I know to be true. Anne Lamott for laughing at oneself about all of it. Your favorite virtue? Undefendedness. What is being defended? Your chief characteristic? Integration. I’m wired to see the way things are out of alignment and committed to find the way all things are connected and part of the whole. That it really is just one thing. What are your next projects? Dharma that transcends racism and oppression. Online practice and deep change. A social good-coffee business. Three books on: radical dharma, “killing the Buddha,” and “the answer to everything.” Your idea of happiness? The ocean against the horizon. A nap in the afternoon sun—especially in a hammock. Days of solitude with well-sharpened woodblock carving tools and my parrot, Mitra. Your idea of misery? Being invested in any way in the suffering of my self or others. If not yourself, who would you be? An anonymous writer nestled on an island with no cars. But maybe a motorcycle. And wifi. Your favorite musician or group? gina Breedlove, singer-songwriter-sound healer. What’s for dinner? Japanese soba, southern Indian, BBQ tempeh, or anything from chef Bryant Terry. A motto that represents you? “Love and justice are not two. Without inner change, there can be no outer change. Without collective change, no change matters.” Guilty pleasure? The TV show The Blacklist. SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2015 37 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE