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Lions Roar : September 2019
“DEEP TIME LIBER ATION IS HOW—in the present—we experience the influence of our people’s histor- ical past and the possibilities of our future,” says African American Buddhist teacher Devin Berry. “The deep insights that arise have the power to heal the collective trauma of Black people from the African diaspora.” That’s the philosophy behind Deep Time Liberation, a series of experiential retreats for meditators of Afri- can descent who are grappling with the suffering caused by centuries of enslavement and oppression in the United States. “I knew I was deeply wounded by generational trauma,” says Berry, who first had the idea for the pro- gram. “I felt compelled to bring my ancestors into my practice.” The first Deep Time Liberation retreat was held in April 2018 with twelve meditators immersing them- selves in the history of slavery, and a second retreat is planned for next May. The program’s design was inspired by the late Roshi Bernie Glassman, who led annual meditation retreats at the Auschwitz exter- mination camp in Poland. “ Those practitioners were bearing witness, memorializing and honoring their ancestors,” says Berry. “I decided that I wanted to bear witness with those whose ancestors were enslaved on land here in the U.S.” “You have to touch the thing that you’re being liberated from. You have to sit with it, witness it,” says retreat participant Kabir Hypolite, a meditation practitioner from the Bay Area. “You have to touch and taste and smell the intergenerational wounds. FREE AT LAST Deep Time Liberation takes African American meditators into the heart of slavery’s past so they can free themselves from its legacy of trauma. BY RIMA VESELY-FLAD Deep Time Liberation retreatants (left) bore witness to the trauma of slavery at the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana, where Ken Smith’s statue “Hallelujah” (far left) celebrates Emancipation. PHOTOBYDEVINBERRYPHOTOCOURTESYOFDIANNEYASKI LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 33