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Lions Roar : July 2018
For instance, when Godfrey is teaching for the weekly Alphabet sangha, which sees about fifty participants weekly and has a mail- ing list of thousands, she is mindful of the pronouns she uses. “Language is important, especially now that we have such a strong influx of trans and questioning folks,” Godfrey says. “Before I’ll start a talk, I’ll say, ‘Forgive me if I use the wrong pronoun or forget to shift, because it’s a learning curve for me.’ Sometimes if I’m reading a poem, I might change the pro- nouns, or if I’m giving a quote from the dharma, I’ll say, ‘This is how the Buddha taught. Now, how do we interpret that in a language for us, or in a way that makes sense for us?’ Some- times, I forget things, or say the wrong word, and the audience will remind me. I say, ‘This is what happens when you get old,’ and people start laughing.” Yang writes that EBMC values culture as an important part of the spiritual path: “We find what lies beyond the layers of our experience by probing deeply into them, not by ignoring them.” Godfrey says one major advantage of having iden- tity-based sanghas is that it eliminates the need to explain shared culture and experiences. “You have a sense of ‘I don’t have to explain,’” she says. “You understand. It may not be the same experience, but there is somewhat of a universality there.” those same concerns anymore. After twenty years, I have a little bit of confidence and security.” The People of Color (POC) sangha, now in its twelfth year, is the oldest weekly group at EBMC. “Since we serve people who may have been rejected by their families of origin or may not have a place to go over the holidays, we’re open then too,” says Ikeda. “We’re both a meditation centre and a community cen- tre, rooted in taking care of beloved community.” Participants of the POC sangha, which usually attracts about eighty people weekly, say it has changed their lives, even beyond the dharma it offers. “There are times, as a person of color living in this country, where you literally don’t feel safe,” says one participant. “To have space and refuge where we are not only invited, but we’re welcomed with warm, open arms to heal together—you can’t put a dollar amount on that.” “People feel seen here. It’s like family,” says another partici- pant. “There’s a deep interconnection that happens, especially when people come week after week. When I go into the space, I can let my guard down.” One of the many ways EBMC translates the dharma beyond its typically white, middle-class presentation is by reframing its language to be more inclusive in terms of culture and identity. At EBMC, the word “sit” has been replaced by the word “meditate” to allow for people of all abilities to practice in the way that makes them feel most comfortable. PHOTO(R)BYLYLADENBURG LION’S ROAR | JULY 2018 37