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Lions Roar : September 2019
Magnolia, Mississippi, where for five days they settled into large Victorian houses that had been renovated for residential retreats. Here, they heard dharma talks and practiced mindful meditation, silent walking, reflection, and community-building exercises. They embraced each other with deep grati- tude for their mutual presence and commitment to liberation and healing. One of the practices was dancing to traditional drumming. The rhythm of the music and the move- ment of their bodies created anticipation, joy, anguish, and a deep sense of ancestral lineage. The drumming evoked the traditions that were forcibly taken away over generations of capture, the Middle Passage, and enslavement. At the same time, it opened up a space to honor their resilience. In their dharma talks, Berry, Williams, and Alex- ander often contextualized the retreat using Thera- vada teachings on the brahmaviharas, known as the four immeasurables—metta (loving-kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (empathetic joy), and upekkha (equanimity)—along with teachings on being present with the body. According to Alexander, they grounded their healing journey in mindful meditation, Buddhist cosmology, and compassion practices. As a Theravada practitioner, she says, “there are places within my practice where I’ve been able to rest, generating a calming presence amidst an array of complex and painful circumstances. Over twenty years of Buddhist practice, I have found an opening in my awareness that enables me to ask: can I sit right here in and with this body? “ This is a very difficult thing when you’re still fil- tering through unspoken, unseen, and unaddressed trauma. Thus, we intentionally grounded Deep Time Liberation through the lens of self-compassion, in order to allow each participant their own agency through this process.” The teachers told the group about their own journeys to encounter the narratives and places of As one retreatant walked along rows of ceramic heads on poles commemorating those beheaded in a slave uprising, he came upon his own last name. “I was flooded by outrage,” he remembers, “ but through practice and connection with the group, that changed to a sense of pride.” LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 36