What is Whiteness? Exploring our White Cultural Conditioning with Sangha

with Lea Stotland & Rees Sweeney-Taylor

September 11th—November 20th (2017)

Date details +
    Room: Sangha Room

    “...there’s been too little conversation allowing space for the unearthed suffering of white folks. Almost because of the power dynamics involved and almost because we have been so racialized into saying, ’If I'm white, I'm supposed to feel bad for folks of color.’ But there’s zero space for white folks to really claim suffering around living in a racialized society...I just don't see how we can ever expect that this dynamic is going to change if we can’t allow people to fully claim their own suffering...That’s what the dharma is actually about. It's about allowing people the space and the opportunity for discomfort so that they can touch their own suffering.” -Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Radical Dharma


    A 3-month, 6-session committed group using the principles and practices of Shambhala and of Karuna Training (contemplative psychology) as a support for looking directly and compassionately at our own experience of race and whiteness and for exploring the obstacles and privileges that are carried unconsciously throughout our communities, relationships, and institutions.

    This group is for Shambhala community members who self-identify as white and are wishing to learn, listen, and unpack their notions of ‘whiteness’ with fearlessness in the “cradle of loving-kindness.” The group is a work in progress, and will evolve to meet the needs and incorporate the wisdom of participants. As a basic structure, each meeting will likely include a short meditation practice, Karuna exercises, and paired and/or open discussion. We will form principles of working together as a group as we go along, building shared language and agreements. Initial reading/viewing assignments will be offered; others may be chosen by the participants.

    In an effort to create space for discussion we are limiting the group size to 12 participants. Please commit to attending at least 5 of the 6 sessions; see below for dates.

    If you are would like apply for this group, or you're interested but not sure if this is the right group for you, please email leastotland [at] hotmail [dot] com and r [dot] sweeneytaylor [at] gmail [dot] com by September 5th. If applying, please write a letter of interest (2-3 paragraphs) stating your availability for the dates listed and your personal reflections on what arises for you around "whiteness" and why you would want to explore this with others.

    Karuna Training is a program in Contemplative Psychology that teaches us how to work skillfully with ourselves first, and then how to offer ourselves to others through the innate potency of the heart. The program joins deep study of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist principles with contemplative practice, skills development, and ongoing group interaction and community support. This study group will include practices drawn from Karuna Training and serves as a graduate-level practicum for host, Rees Sweeney-Taylor.


    Every other Monday, 6:00-9:00 PM
    We'll begin with a brown bag dinner from 6:00-6:45. 

    September 11th
    September 25th
    October 9th
    October 23rd
    November 6th
    November 20th


    There is no price for attending this program. However, we do ask that participants consider making regular donations to the Center.

    Readings may be drawn from:

    Radical Dharma by Jasmine Syedullah, Lama Rod Owens, and angel Kyodo Williams
    Learning to Be White by Thandeka
    The Shambhala Principle by Sakyong Mipham

    “...for white folks, there’s still a lot of healing that has to happen. It’s a different kind of healing. I think it requires different spaces for that to happen and it’s not the oppressed’s role to do that work on behalf of the oppressor. We can mirror certain aspects, but the work has to be done by individuals within their groups. Going back to race--there's significant racially induced trauma that we're all struggling to give voice to...we ALL have that trauma. We have different kinds of trauma, but it’s still trauma.” --Lama Rod Owens, Radical Dharma

    “White shame is this deeply private feeling of not being at home within one's own white community.” Thandeka, Learning to be White


    About Lea Stotland

    A lifelong struggle with depression led Lea to the path of meditation and becoming a Shambhala Guide. She is deeply engaged in understanding our white supremacist culture and the ways in which it harms all of us. Studying Nonviolent Communication and participating in the UNtraining have whetted her appetite for difficult conversations. Lea is thrilled to be bringing her passions together by supporting this discussion within the Shambhala community.


    About Rees Sweeney-Taylor

    Rees is currently the Center Director at Berkeley Shambhala and a Meditation Instructor in the Shambhala tradition. Through the confluence of his work in Karuna Training and the UNtraining, he is interested in how the power of community can help us to heal from our societal traumas, including racism. Rees’s work with this group contributes to a practicum in the Karuna Graduate Training.




    There is also a group of people of color from the Shambhala community currently meeting in an ongoing way. If you identify as a person of color and are interested in connecting with sangha around these issues, please contact Dina Buck at dina [dot] buck [at] gmail [dot] com