The increase of sacred spaces being created for people of color to attend retreats, yoga sessions or other gatherings to get away from the toxic experiences of racism. In some of these spaces, they are also embracing the eastern religions, philosophies and practices to heal the mind and body.
On Sept. 18, Ruth King, an African-American Buddhist, led a talk and promoted her book, “Mindful of Race: Transforming Race From The Inside Out,” at the Potter’s House, a cafe and bookstore located in Adams Morgan in northwest Washington. The event was sponsored by the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW).
“The world’s heart is on fire, and race is at its core,” King said. “The bitter racial seeds from past beliefs and actions are blooming all around us, reflecting not only a division of the races that is rooted in ignorance and hate, but also, and more sorely, a division of the heart. Racism is a heart disease. How we think and respond is at the core of racial suffering and racial healing. If we cannot think clearly and respond wisely, we will continue to damage the world’s heart.”
King is an insight meditation teacher and emotional wisdom author and life coach. She was mentored in the Theravada tradition and influenced by the Tibetan traditions of Buddhism. King is on the teacher’s council at IMCW.
King started the event with the audience doing a meditation. After the meditation. she discussed the intersection of artistry, activism and racism and how artistry can be used as cultural medicine for healing. She also explained that racism has shifted people of color’s creative expression and that we would be artists instead.
“Racism is a heart disease that is curable,” King said.
Buddhism is the world’s fourth-largest religion. The Buddhist traditions teach overcoming suffering and the cycle of death & rebirth, either by the attainment of Nirvana or through the path of buddhahood. It is commonly labeled as a religion but it’s not. It is a philosophy or way of life.
“The Buddha was an artist,” King said. “The teachings were written in poetic form.”
King said that writing is the best teacher she knows.
“A work of art is a conversion, not a monologue,” she said.
King described art as a form of intimacy that is medicine for us. She also explained that anger is not transformative. It is initiatory.
“Anger is a wakeup call. The good thing is that it gets our attention,” she said.
King asked the audience how people of color deal with the mess or “seeds” that have been planted from racism. The use of meditation practice can be used to see what needs to be done next. She also mentioned to get out of the way and go on a retreat because it’s a way to take refuge. She shared a story about a retreat she participated in for ten days and a Black woman asked her “Is it OK to feel this good?”
The next part of the talk was set up to have the audience split into groups and King passed out her artwork of mandala drawings on cards to discuss suffering and what it taught us.
“Suffering has taught us beauty and freedom,” she said.
A woman described suffering as a kaleidoscope based on the design on her card.
Travis Spencer, a board member at IMCW, referenced his card to suffering as an alert system to go inside and become empowered.
More than 30 people attended the event and had the option to purchase her book after the talk.
The feedback about the talk was positive. Satyani KarenLeigh McPherson, an attendee at the event, said about the talk that this is important information to live by on King’s teaching. Alysia Thaxton said that she will be doing her mindful race training and will be read her book.
King passed out gray bracelets to those who purchased the book. One side of the bracelets read “Mindful of Race,” and on the other side had the words “Not there yet!”