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Svādyāya I: Being Linda (the “missing” Monday post) May 19, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in "Impossible" People, Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Meditation, Music, One Hoop, Pain, Philosophy, Suffering, Wisdom, Yoga.
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[This post is related to the Common Ground Zoom practice on Monday, May 17th. You can request an audio recording of Monday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.]

Patricia Rayborn has written several books and essays about race, religion, family expectations, and Oswald Chambers, who asked, “Would I recognize God if He came in a way that I was not prepared for?”

Another way to phrase that is: “Would you recognize the Dharma (Dhamma) if it came in a way that you were not prepared for?” (Or, not expecting?)

Keeping all that in mind, if you have a moment, I invite you to participate in a little exercise. It is an exercise in svādyāya (“self-study”), partially inspired by a visualization exercise guided by Shelly Graf, Associate Director of Common Ground Meditation Center on Sunday. While they had some teachers, staff, and volunteers from the center visualizing, imagining, a future moment, on Monday I used it to guide people back… to some past moments.

“Hey, you know, everybody’s talkin’ about the good old days, right
Everybody’s talkin’ the good old days, the good old days
Well, let’s talk about the good old days
Come to think of it as, as bad as we think they are
these will become the good old days for our children, so um
Why don’t we, ah… Try to remember…”

 – quoted from the intro to the song medley “The Way We Were / Try to Remember” by Gladys Knight& The Pips

Take a moment to get comfortable. Make sure that your breath is deep. Then, imagine your “first day of school.” It can be the first day of school that you remember – which may not actually be the first time you went to a school outside of your home. Conversely, maybe it was your first day at a new school; maybe your first day of school in a new state or even in a new country. Just take a moment, maybe even read this and then close your eyes, and remember what you were wearing and how you felt.

Think about how you got to school: Was it in your neighborhood or somewhere else? Did you walk? Ride a bus? (If so, was it a school bus or public transit? Do you remember what the driver looked like, or even their name?) Did one of your parents drive you (or in some other way accompany you)?

Keep going. What about the other students? How did they look? What were they wearing? Who was your first friend? Or the first person you met that didn’t become your friend? What did your favorite teacher look like? What about your least favorite teacher? What about your principal and assistant principal? Do you remember any of the other staff?

Take a moment to soak up that imagery. Now, imagine the first day of school for your child or a child with whom you are very familiar. Can you visualize the answers to the same questions?

How different is/was their experience from your experience? How many years passed in between?

“Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to fault finding.”

– quoted from “May 3 – Vital Intercession” in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers (although it is also often attributed to Corrie ten Boom)

At the beginning of Monday’s Common Ground practice on Zoom, I guided nine people through this exercise (after ascertaining that, between the 10 of us, we had gone to school in 14 states within 2 countries. (I didn’t count the cities, but it was more than 14). I didn’t ask anyone’s age, but my guess is that there was at least one person in the group in their 20’s, several of us in our 50’s, and possibly someone (or two) in their 60’s – and then some in between. And, while there were some overlaps in states, there was some diversity… in the states and in the people.

Suffice to say, if we had talked about it afterwards, we would have shared some similar experiences and some really different experiences. Yet, there we were, all on Zoom, sharing an experience. More to the point: having the resources to share the experience.

And yet, each of us experienced the exercise and the practice in different ways, because of our previous experiences – include those school experiences. More importantly, those school experiences are part of the foundation through which we experience all of our current experiences – even when we share them.

Consider that even when we don’t think about this foundation – and how it influences us – it still plays a part in how we are currently moving through the world. It also plays a part in how we interact with people who had different school experiences – or we perceive to have had different childhood experiences from us. It plays a part in how we make friends (and, to a certain degree, if we make friends with people outside of our first family, tribe, and community of birth). It also plays a part in how we see ourselves (and how we understand our place in the world).

Lack of awareness about those differences – or assumptions about those differences, can create conflict. It can also compound conflict; especially when we are not aware of our preconceived notions and/or biases. Lack of awareness can increase the suffering we experience and inflict, as well as prevent us from alleviating our own suffering.

“When they won, it set a lasting legal precedent. [Linda] Brown was attending an integrated junior high school by then, and she later recalled the initial desegregation of local elementary schools going smoothly. But over the course of her life, she saw the reality of school integration fall short, locally and nationally.”

– quoted from the 2018 Chalkbeat article entitled “In her own words: Remembering Linda Brown, who was at the center of America’s school segregation battles” by Sarah Darville (posted May 27, 2018)

Monday, May 17, was the anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court case known as Brown v. Board of Education. In getting ready for the practice, I experienced a little sadness that we are not further along as a country (when it comes to racial and class disparities, as well as gender inequality). I experienced a little anger that, throughout this pandemic, we saw those disparities in who was able to show up for virtual classes and who was walking to their school yard (or a restaurant or Apple store) so they could use the internet. And, while I admire local business owners and wealthy celebrities who support the school systems in their areas, I can’t help but be frustrated that (a) private citizens seem to be doing more than our municipalities (or federal government) and (b) that the private citizens who seem to do the most are those who are most aware of the disparities because they lived them.

Yes, I was feeling sad, angry, and frustrated – even a little judge-y. What I wasn’t feeling was a ton of gratitude. However Brown v. Board of Education, while more symbolic than practical (and apply-able) in 1954 (let alone 1955), was a “first step” for which I personally do feel grateful. In getting in touch with the feeling of gratitude – without dismissing or suppressing those other feelings – I thought about Shelly’s exercise. And I decide to go back. But, I didn’t want to go back in order to pass judgement on anyone’s experience. Instead, I wanted to simply raise awareness around our individual experiences (and maybe consider how we would feel if we walked in Linda Brown’s shoes).

During the practice, I mentioned the details of all three Brown cases (which you can read about in my 2020 blog post) and the ways in which (energetically speaking) we house and process our life experiences. Of course, no discussion about Brown would be complete without referencing Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (who was then serving as the NAACP’s chief counsel).

“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”

– Supreme Court Justice (and former NAACP chief counsel) Thurgood Marshall referencing his SCOTUS successor in a Newsweek interview (dated October 28, 1991)

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practice. (However, I did post a “Brown” playlist in 2020.)



1. Eileen O'Toole - May 19, 2021


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