Silver Spring, Maryland, Community Online on Thursday Evening
February 11, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all Online on Friday Evening
February 12, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
This Thursday evening, we will recite together the Five Mindfulness Trainings and focus on the first training, Reverence for Life:
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals.
I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.
As I read these words, I cannot avoid considering how “in my way of life” I am part of a society that inordinately incarcerates, subjugates, and kills Black lives.
There are countless ways that Black lives are not valued and protected in this country:
- Among unarmed victims of police shootings, Black people were killed three times more often than white people, a disparity that has remained virtually unchanged in 5 years. (1)
- Black people are dying from COVID at twice the rate of white people, when adjusted for age. (2)
- In a recent study of births in Florida, 1992-2015, Black newborns were three times more likely to die in the hospital than white newborns. However, when Black physicians cared for the Black newborns, the excess mortality rate was cut in half. (3)
- Black children in severe pain from acute appendicitis were one-fifth as likely to receive opioid painkillers in emergency rooms compared to white children. (4)
Recently, police in Rochester, New York, handcuffed and pepper-sprayed a nine-year girl in distress. This was just one instance in a well-documented pattern of inordinately punitive and even violent responses to Black girls by police and school authorities. (5) This harsh treatment is also consistent with research that indicates that adults view Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers. (6) This adultification of Black children is further compounded by other insidious myths about Black people that stretch back to the days of slavery, including that Blacks have thicker skin and are less sensitive to pain.
If white people continue to minimize Black pain, or in the case of the little girl in Rochester, respond to it as if it is threatening, it will continue to result in the disproportionate loss of Black lives. We may not be the police officers who directly threaten Black lives with guns, but individual and collective avoidance and minimization of Black pain causes suffering and death.
The slogan Black Lives Matter is a clarion call to acknowledge the fundamental humanity of Black people. For this country to respect and care for Black lives, it must commit to recognizing and reversing the devaluation of Black lives. It must create policies that address racial oppression, especially in policing, housing, education, and healthcare. From the perspective of the First Training, Reverence for Life, this includes a commitment to cultivating compassion and making meaningful changes in our thoughts and actions to better protect Black lives.
This Thursday and Friday evenings, after our sitting meditation, we will recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings and begin our Dharma sharing with these questions:
- The First Training begins by encouraging us “am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people,” How am I now, or might I, apply this training to the issues raised by Black Lives Matter?
- Can I notice in myself and others even subtle actions or beliefs that discount Black pain and Black lives?
- In the light of this training, how do I relate to fear, pain, anger, or shame that comes up when I reflect on racial oppression and racial healing?
You are invited to join us.
A quote by Thich Nhat Hanh from For a Future to Be Possible is below.
1) Lett E, Asabor EN, Corbin T, et al. Racial inequity in fatal US police shootings, 2015–2020. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 27 October 2020.
2) APM Research Lab, “Color of Coronavirus.
3) A Key To Black Infant Survival? Black Doctors. SHORT WAVE. NPR. Sep 18, 2002.
4) Racial disparities seen in how doctors treat pain, even among children. The Washington Post, July 11, 2020.
(5) Pushed out and punished: One woman’s story shows how systems are failing black girls.
USA Today. May 14, 2019.
(6) Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood. Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality.
Reverence for Life
by Thich Nhat Hanh, from For a Future to Be Possible
Life is precious. It is everywhere, inside us and all around us; it has so many forms. The First Mindfulness Training is born from the awareness that lives everywhere are being destroyed. We see the suffering caused by the destruction of life, and we vow to cultivate compassion and use it as a source of energy for the protection of people, animals, plants, and minerals. The First Mindfulness Training is a training of compassion, karuna–the ability to remove suffering and transform it. When we see suffering, compassion is born in us.
It is important for us to stay in touch with the suffering of the world. We need to nourish that awareness through many means — sounds, images, direct contact, visits, and so on — in order to keep compassion alive in us. But we must be careful not to take in too much. Any remedy must be taken in the proper dosage. We need to stay in touch with suffering only to the extent that we will not forget, so that compassion will flow within us and be a source of energy for our actions. If we use anger at injustice as the source for our energy, we may do something harmful, something that we will later regret. According to Buddhism, compassion is the only source of energy that is useful and safe. With compassion, your energy is born from insight; it is not blind energy.