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Buddhadharma : Fall 2016
fall 2 0 1 6 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 81 We can start to counteract this ten- dency by simply asking questions at the start of a dharma talk: Who is new to the group? What is your practice? What do you expect to get out of the session? We don’t need to ask directly about identity locations, but we can choose to acknowledge that there are other bodies in the room with their own stories and desires. Awareness of intersectionality also helps me see how I exert power as a teacher—or where others are exerting power over me. In seeing our own inter- sectionality, we can become sensitive to how other people intersect with us. The Heart Sutra tells us that form is emptiness and emptiness is form; if that’s true, then our practice is to try to recog- nize the integration of form and empti- ness, and to let ourselves sit in the utter discomfort of that. From this discom- fort emerges a greater capacity to hold space for contradictions. Ultimately, we are not these identities, which is awe- some. But relatively, we are, and that’s awesome too! Privileging one over the other is not the practice here. The prac- tice is to bridge the relative truth of I am with the ultimate truth of I am not, to hold them together while exploring the tendency to want to bury ourselves in one extreme. This practice can be deeply unsettling, but if we can hold the ulti- mate truth together with our relative truth, then space opens up within our identity locations, and we can recognize them without being firmly planted. For example, for me to identify as Black is to first recognize what it has meant to be conditioned as a Black body; at the same time, I see that ultimately I am not Black but still conditioned to perform and to relate to the Black cultural conditioning. The great bodhisattva James Bald- win once wrote: “I am what time, cir- cumstances, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also much more than that. So are we all.” Teaching from intersectionality is really about the courage to be vulnerable and real on the spot, to embrace what time and history and various causes and condi- tions have shaped us to be. Only when we acknowledge both the forces that have shaped us as well as our unique identities molded through that shaping can we move through into the realiza- tion that we are much more than our intersectional identity. The most power- ful dharma teachings I have heard have been from teachers who allow them- selves to be glimpsed by others, who go to the emotional edge that we are all too often trying to avoid. I suspect people want to see me in a certain way, as a well-put together product of years of intense practice; however, my role as a teacher is to show the sangha how I struggle to make the teachings relevant and applicable to my life. Much like Dorothy confronting the illusion of the Wiz of Oz (or Wizard, if that’s what your intersectionality calls for), we too must muster our courage to show our true faces; we must reveal our social faces before we hope to reveal our ulti- mate faces. Teaching from a place of intersectionality is first being radically present—to ourselves, to others, and to the world. CONTINUING EDUCATION AVAILABLE FOR NURSES AND SOCIAL WORKERS SENSEI KOSHIN PALEY ELLISON & SENSEI ROBERT CHODO CAMPBELL CARE STUDY SIT CARE FOR THE CAREGIVER GRIEF AND BEREAVEMENT COUNSELING SPIRITUAL SUPPORT / END OF LIFE DOULAS FOUNDATIONS IN CONTEMPLATIVE CARE APCE ACCREDITED CHAPLAINCY TRAINING MASTERS - LEVEL COURSES / SUTRA STUDY DAILY MEDITATION / WEEKLY DHARMA TALKS MONTHLY HALF DAY SITS / RESIDENTIAL RETREATS TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR UPCOMING PROGRAMS AND EVENTS, VISIT ZENCARE.ORG 119 W. 23rd Street, #401, New York, NY 10011 NEW YORK ZEN CENTER FOR CONTEMPLATIVE CARE