•  Navigation
  • One of my goals for 2017 is to attend more workshops where I have no formal role. I am often both a presenter and learner so I don’t always get a chance to fully immerse myself in the experiences. I want to learn what I can from seasoned teachers, mentors, and coaches who can provide information, perspective, and accountability that will help me continue to transform my life.

    A few weeks ago, I attended a day-long workshop focused on meditation and compassion for women of the African diaspora. This interfaith workshop had three formal teachers, Gretchen Rohr, Kiara Jewel, and Terese Taylor-Stinson, but I learned just as much from the other participants.

    We started off the day with setting our intention. I shared that I wanted to “get whatever it is I am supposed to receive.” Afterward, we moved into singing a song from Ghana. There is nothing I love more than to sing. (I love to sing like nobody’s listening.) So we were already off to a great start.

    After a guided meditation from Kiara Jewel, Gretchen Rohr led us in a healing circle that reminded me of the Emotional Emancipation Circle . In the circle, we were asked to contemplate and share about what it means to be a woman of the diaspora. In the circle we able to discuss what we had in common as well as our differences. 

    At lunch, we ate in silence after getting grounded using the five contemplations.

    1. This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.
    2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive this food.
    3. May we recognize and transform unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed and learn to eat with moderation.
    4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and preserves our precious planet.
    5. We accept this food so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, build our Sangha, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.

    I really think I am going to use the five contemplations going forward so that I can be more mindful when I eat. I was also introduced to Matzo Ball soup. I’ve heard of it for years but this was my first time having it. The Matzo Balls were so delicious. I’m looking for a good Jewish deli in my area so I can have it all the time. Food is healing right?

    After lunch, I was able to participate in group spiritual direction led by Terese Taylor-Stinson the Director of Spiritual Directors of Color Network. I had not heard of spiritual direction so I went to find out more about it.

    “Spiritual direction explores a deeper relationship with the spiritual aspect of being human. Simply put, spiritual direction is helping people tell their sacred stories everyday.”

    We sat in a circle and one person shared her story of life as a cancer survivor so she could receive spiritual direction. It was a chance for everyone to listen and then ask her questions. Asking questions helps the storyteller to tune into how their inner spirit is showing up and how they can tune into that for guidance. We all were able to offer our spiritual wisdom, encouragement, and discernment to her. I know this all sounds vague but it was simply a group of people coming together to support another person through their journey and helping them apply a spiritual lens. Sometimes we approach things from an academic and intellectual standpoint and can’t hear the spiritual direction. So I appreciated this formal process for tapping into our own spiritual direction and being able to offer it to another person.

    Then Kiara Jewel taught us the process of Beginning Anew. It’s a Buddhist tradition she practiced when she was a Buddhist Nun at Plum Village in France. It’s a process for maintaining a relationship with others. It can be done as a ritual or during times where you feel that some relationship repair is in order.

    This process involves two people taking turns speaking and listening. The first step is appreciations or what they call “flower watering.” In this step you take turns appreciating the other person on the side of the table. Step two is expressing regrets for anything you felt you have done or said to that person recently. The third step is to express your hurts to the other person. And last, share a long-term difficulty you may need help with.

    The “Begin Anew” process really opened me up. I started crying immediately when we got to the part about expressing our hurts. There are two people in my life I have shut off almost completely because they hurt me but I never told them about the hurt. (I’m crying again writing this.) And in both cases, I would like to have a better relationship with them but I didn’t know how to “begin anew” with them. Until this point, it was easier to just shut them off. But the tears I cried that day and I am crying now let me know that my soul longs to repair these relationships.

    After the workshop, I simultaneously felt at peace and energized. I really did few anew. My intention was met, I now have a few new tools in my toolkit. But the workshop isn’t the work. It’s now for me to take what I have learned and integrate these practices into my way of living.

    Integration is the most important part of the learning process. It doesn’t matter if you take a class with me or go on a week long retreat. It’s important to continue the learning and transformation by integrating what you’ve learned after the workshop ends. For me that means that I am going to work on incorporating the “begin anew” process in all aspects of my life.