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#42: Sebene Selassie, A Life of Service While Fighting Breast Cancer

Sebene Selassie's career has taken her all over the world. An Ethiopian immigrant, Selassie grew up in the Washington, D.C., area. Her father left her family in the '70s to go back to Ethiopia and became a guerrilla fighter in the Eritrean independence movement. Her brother became a "Hare Krishna" devotee. Selassie, however, found meditation, and started practicing in high school. She studied Comparative Religious studies at McGill University and went on to work with not-for-profits in international development, including in refugee camps in Guinea. She was a self-professed "really bad dharma student," until she was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer at age 34. Then she says she became "a really good dharma student." Selassie has now survived breast cancer three times and works as a meditation teacher and transformational coach in New York City.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hey, hey! Before we get started, we ve had a real feeling busy weak others pack, as normally we do one paragraph two week this week were doing three or we ve done three. This is the third so in case you missed the last to which workers work on them bonus. Episodes you can check him out one that we posted on Sunday is. We were calling it an emergency edition of the pot guess where we got together some meditation teachers to talk about election stress everybody's freaking out about this election than and meditation, maybe something that could be useful. So that's one and then the other. On Monday, we posted as a bonus was with Robin Roberts, choose their collective good morning, America and Daily meditate, her and distant awesome. Human being so those are. the bonus episodes go check him out, but not really this one here we go from ABC this is a ten percent. Have your podcast dinner? They will come back.
yes this week when my favorite human beings. So if you expect the objectivity you download another podcast Seventy Selassie is Judge Gary for companies really part about meditation practice about issues of illness. and about issues around us running race and whatever the hell else she wants to talk about. Seventy. Thank you very much recommend relentless in kind rights There is a lot more to say about. You will get too, but I would ask the question I was asked already, which is how do you? How did you come to meditation? Well, First came to meditation in high school, not buddhist meditation. My brother, I think about fifteen. He became, what's colloquially known as a high Krishna Oh yeah, oh, yes, but the! U S and you guys were ethiopian immigrants. So that must be our that's. A real combination of cultures allows him ass. A mass
Your parents freaked out yeah. We don't you been here so we got here when I was about three and sows fifteen at the time. So you know my parents have been here for I'll, but nothing had prepared them. For that. So So he became a Hari Krishna. How did it happen? I'm now I dont know actually how he came into take the them probably like we know, jumping around in their robes and bells we haven't somewhere the EU, decided to see you, sir. We grew up in Washington DC and there is kind of a big scene around the Krishna as then. So this was the eightys, the MID Eightys and the hard core Pencroft seen in DC. There was this come by creation of it. That was called straight edge yeah. I remember so they were again and yet in drank to new drugs and a bunch of them were in two hours written. I didn't know that. Would you rather into the whole strategy? Thank you no kind,
I'm sort of on the edge of a little bit older, he's eight years older than me, so he wasn't so much in that scene, but kind of got connected to it. So he had a bunch of friends who were skinheads and no musicians and they had a temple Potomac Maryland, where a lot of people Odin also, the indian community would come to those who were in the Krishna lineage, but they had this thing called the O street Temple, which is oh street, in Dupont, Circle and that was sort of the hang out for all the kids. So I- article kid at all like? I was not a part of that scene, but I go with him, and so I started meditating by chanting, her Krishna with Mala beads and quickly kind realize that wasn't for me, although I was still sort of would hang out with my brother, he moved to New York at some point. I went to actually stay in the temple with him there and Brooklyn and So I knew a lot about it, but I started
during my own research at that point and started looking into other eastern philosophy and spirituality, and I went to kind of a heavy high school alternative private school and he had peace, studies and east asian studies and I did a research paper. meditation and taught my class to meditate, I'm sure like you, first meditation instruction networks. I had no idea what I was doing, but kind of interested, but not really practicing but you're. If I recall to just our personal covers over the years, you are kind of aid a lot rabble rousing a little kid. I didn't. You tell me some story about like leading protests in your neighborhood yeah, so my dad way in the train liberation movement. so when I was young, probably about forests in eighteen, seventy four. When the revolution happening Ethiopia, he went back actually and disappeared fur and failures. Yes, so he would show it picked up a gun in full
he wasn't good at it, but he has. He was a girl, a fighter, as were many, my cousins, which is not uncommon for air train. So I'm half ethiopian, half air Tran, so yeah, a lot of my cousins on that side were fighters and my dad disappeared on us for a few years. Well, yeah, no warning or now he back when the revolution having, as nobody knew at that point. You know at that point when there was word over here that that highly Selassie had been suppose there was a lot of excitement because people thought something God was gonna happen and they didn't realize you know a nightmare of decades was about to happen. So so he went there and then quickly had to flee Addis Ababa. Here he had been part of the government for many years. He was the attorney general of ethiopian Minute Secretary, the interior under highly slot, So he was wanted what I've got there, I'm. So, if and went back to Us Mara back to air travellers from and then went into the field as it's called and became a girl, a finer. How long
along with the area you know I I know I really should ask that. I think it is about tuna. After three years, so not a vacation yeah notification, not a vacation for my mom and us, because she was now a single mom. Three kids, one with major disability, MR so was really really rough on US so, but when he came back, he was still involved with the movement and your mom took about. She did that's all other story Betty. I wasn't it great peacemaking, their divorce. Now over many later so yes, so I was sort of politicized Young threw him and he would take us to rallies and meetings, and I would learn all the eplf chance chance. You're train people's liberation front had come back. We lived in a white neighbourhood middle class neighbour, I would say to rally all the little white kids around him make them champion
Long live api often resurface me, look ridiculous, let's go adorable so so I took your private detour there, but but so you do here is your brother he's into our Krishna Movement and you're? You think there might be something. the meditation thing, but not the way they are doing it. So where did you? Where did your research take you? Well, it took me to academic. So I went away to college to Miguel University and major in comparative religious studies, and I focus done Hindu, Asmund Buddhism, but I really didn't practice which is not uncommon for academic, religious studies, people so in that sense, the I've met a bunch people or read about a significant number of people? Who are you she really what Jack Kerouac last night, not an academic. but he was really interested in reading about Buddhism, but in practice yeah yeah has even sort of appalling?
scholars. If you know it, you don't mix. Practice. And scholarly work, so I dont get high on your own, I leave you here then you can have objectivity right if you, if you're actually practicing, which was not the case at right, would exercise physiologist, say that, though it's ridiculous and adapt it what's crazy, as there are still some scholars and still some departments at lean heavily. That way, Miguel was not like that. Actually, my adviser was a practitioner, but for whatever reason I think, as I was stuck in my head, because those busy partying and doing drugs and because our actually also very politically involved in college. I wasn't practicing. I was just studying this stuff and I really do come to practice until after I graduated, so I started meditating really when I moved to San Francisco after college and you were doing Social just
twerk doing social Service social Justice works. I was I got involved in that in college, I'm going to volunteer level and then, when I moved to San Francisco, I started working for an after school program for kids in a pretty messed up day. The tenderloin the tender. My other that's gonna, love. It and refine our everything San Francisco. So when you, started to meditate. What were you doing? I I started going to Zen Centre of San Francisco, which did not work for me. Sort of the strict medicine really the anonymity. I felt there wasn't a lot of warmth and it might be because I wasn't finding the right kind of entry points Oh, I was really just kind of dabbling on my own reading aloud, trying to practice at home and then move to New York NOS twenty five and started going to all the different centres
were around then so I think doing what a lot of people do. Just sort of kind of hopping and chopping meditation practices did the first two levels of training at Shambhala and I went to a couple of different zen centers, then probably around two thousand and six slash two thousand and seven I did my first ten day retreat are going to a retreat, which was really powerful. You know I kind of mine blowing for me in terms of what I saw on what I experienced, but I did really jowl with clinkers groups and communities back in the Ark say kept being connive looking around, and I was very interested in Charlotte Joe go back at that point. She had a couple bucks out. She was student of my suit me and dogma errors, hee hee, sanction, Tartu, teach so chooses and teacher Zen teacher based in San Diego and founded a school of so called ordinary mind. I've heard of the gas
Oh very mounted, who lives in New York City is psychoanalyst. He had a little community here so a wanderer didn't to that, and I liked it, and so it stuck so he was my first teacher really and I was a really bad student, What do you mean by everybody thinks there Beth? Well, you know I was in my mid twin yes, I was partying a lot still on really just kind of chasing boys and I would go to the sittings back then. Sittings were in his office, his therapy office. So very informal and in a lot of ways, is Saturday Mornings- and he would that's not the best time Saturday morning for MID twenties, yeah, exactly person, so ten o clock in the morning and he would lock the door exactly at ten
in a more than a few times. I was gonna hung over wandering down the hallway, and I was here at the door like that. I'd have to like turn around and could I do a buddhist walk of shame. You sent me some very soon funny you and but but point in some ways. The list of bullet points about your life, some which I already knew you said you were really bad. Dharuma student and then, and then there were something that happened. That made you a really good dormice to talk about what that was. So you now practices Barry Fer a few years, and then I ended up moving to West Africa. My boyfriend at the time work for the, U N, and so I got a job working in the refugee camps in guinea.
and while I was there, I discovered a lump in my left breast and you're your howled. At that point I was winning no. I was thirty thirty, three thirty four, you terrified. I wise and I gotta check out in Gonet, and they said it was fine and you know it was just a sister abnormal growth, but of his benign. I wanted to get second opinion. So my boyfriend at Danish, so we were in Denmark and got it checked again. They told me the same thing moved back to the states by this point we had broken up and You know things just didn't seem right: Mass was started to grow in the breast was starting to change, so I went gotta checked out again and it was stage three breast cancer stage, three so thirty, four years old and a single and
living in DC, which I had returned to, because we had split up, but really wasn't my home. It was anymore and I hadn't lived there since I was in high school, and really disoriented and no ordinary mind school in DC, I had already started looking for a song when I first got there and butchers Fine Sancho for those who do right satellites are concluded it immediately. So so I started in sitting with the insight meditation community of Washington so terrible, its tar Braddock, so when I, The diagnosis is already part of that community and yeah, my life turned upside down, but my practice really deepened I mean this is where the river hits the road really so I have many questions, but what what was the course of treatment a and b you can take this whenever already want and be, how did it? How exactly did deepen
practice. Well, you know. Initially, I didn't do any western allopathic medicine so for the first while I was doing a survey, alternative therapies no chemo radiation light. I didn't we do came our radiation. You know I was getting a lot of conflicting opinions. Some surgeons are saying because the way the the tumor had kind of pulled the breast, they couldn't really do a clean, doktor me, so they wanted to some said they wanted to treat me with radiation first sums that they want to treat me with chemo first see if they could shrink yet. So I started doing Ultherapy Switch were, which were very intensive, actually went part time at work, and they were really supportive about was working in international development at the time focused on my energies on that and practising a lot so deep in my practices
and said I was meditating alot China do retreats, take care of myself. and then pretty soon after that, I moved to New York and then started pursuing treatment, and I found this, very zany ok, oncologist, whose amazing and probably save my life, who did a former treatment? That's really uncommon, her breast cancer. It's really common for most cancers called chemo profusion. Where they actually flooded the area with chemo and he was able to shrink the tumor doing and then I did or regular course of chemo very, very long and then radiation I can only imagine trying to meditate warrior suffused with knowledge feeling weaken. Did you do, lying down. I did do a fair amount of practice lying down. Yes and the chemo profusion is very caustic treatment. So actually had
pain in the tissue itself, which extended to the back, because I had I had cancer in the limp known under my left arm is while so the profusion really that whole left upper area, so yeah there's a lot of pain. There is a lot of fear and could have just trauma and the Ipad practice with all of it. It was, I was pretty. king there. You know what I would be feeling in that situation, and so fear and anger would be the two biggest yeah. You know, I'll, tell you a really good could have pre quell for cancer is working in refugee camps. It was kind of hard to take my pain to personally to seriously that help me put things in perspective. I I had never really, although I come from Africa had travelled in.
frequent, seeing the lot of different experiences having traveled around the world a fair bit at nothing. Prepare me for a cut of just the insanity of a refugee camp, and this was in two two, two thousand three, so we were on the border of Liberia and could bar so both were blowing up at that time, and you know within days tens of thousands of people would be on the border traumatized homeless, weary. I was working specifically in a programme for unaccompanied minors were separated, show which is just you know, I got right. Smart blogging reality, so I did the anger part wasn't a strong for me, because I am of course Have these sentiments, especially when I would see somebody like smoking sick? cats in eating, cheeseburgers and perfectly huh.
As far as I know it, I didn't know anything about them, but even some of the people, my life and didn't, have cancer and me who meditates does yoga its well known just faced with this harsh reality but that kind of wine me, but I think I quickly replaced that with. Why not me so that I am in that I can imagine a huge service that was none for you bite by you in some ways in the fact that, by by dint of the fact that you have chosen to live a life of service in this way, but I'm curious about the meditation. So you you, you tripled down that was a useful because you know where I would imagine that people living this practice meditation fur be more focused too parallel with more calm and their life to not be so yanked around by their emotions, etc, etc. This is an entirely different kettle of fish. Should did it work in this and in that crucible?
yes, I mean it was useful in it gave me tools to recognise what Coming up when I had fear panic her, spinning out in what, if what? If what? If in and really I got really sick later on, and there is a lot of fear about whether it is going to make it or not, and and so that that what do you mean by really psychosomatic state? Three breast cancer is really sick. Well, I had a really strange events, where, like I did, things happen, that you weren't related necessarily to the cancer. So, for example, I had this bout of knowledge and one point not because a chemo I had actually started chemo yet because of some other treatments has given me and then I was throwing up and it led to a twisted my intestine. So I had a twisted intestine
and was hospitalized with kidney failure because they hadn't figured out what was going on cuz. I thought it was just the cancer, but it was all these other things. So if you know a long, a long story and in summary I was- I was really really ill and they were really scared to operate on me. Cuz, I didn't know if I would could survive the operation and luckily intestine untwisted naturally, but you know I was lying in bed in pain, really scared and at those times I I could. With the experience and also not just meditation but really the dharuma practice of the dogma being the teachings of the butter, the Dama practice kind of allowing me to put in perspective. What do you mean by that? What's it, how do you ethically. What do you mean? What is the difference between the meditation in the dark or practice they referred to? Well, I think the meditation,
help me. You know sort of not projects the pain into the future. So if I was having paint be with a sensation of it and and not do what we normally do, which is actually feel something. That's not happening. What sort of panic and then we think we can handle the pain stress, is really a stress that we think we can't handle so to really be with the sensations and sometimes need medication. But you know when I could press the boy a nurse would come and give me more medication. I can also appreciate the fact that I had medication in I at bay, I distinctly remember being in the hospital bed, and this is the time in Darfur was blowing up and I it seen an image in the New York Times of this mother, who is already a may see Edward herself holding her dying child and stimulating the pain that they had been in and you know realizing. I had this little pain button that would bring this very kind being with drugs.
help me alleviate it, so it was. It was partly I'm actually being with the true sensations, not projecting to something that wasn't happening, but also just the appreciation and gratitude for what I had in them. And the latter was the result you think from. from learning about the teachings of the Buddha. Generally as opposed to doing the specific meditation practices yak I think that the teachings the sort of larger teachings do teach us a lot about gratitude and perspective and know the five daily recollections which this chanted and in most buddhist countries and almost daily by a lot of peace,
What are they cause? I will remember there that I will age, I'm not gonna, be an aging, I will grow L I have not gone beyond illness. I will die, have not gone beyond deaf everything that I have that is dear to me. I will lose and I am subjective karma. It's a little dark. It's it's dark only if you only want the positive side it equation right puppies and skills, and if you only want sunshine you're me infrastructure is disappointment. You having every night when the sunset, no, I'm just being able to hold all that and
you know, that's not to say we don't want to alleviate the suffering, that's out there in and help people who can be helped, but to just put our own lives in perspective and realise that it's not always gonna be up, sometimes can be down indeed. So what just a back up for a second? What because people like to hear this, I felt what kind of meditate what what when you sat on the cushion. What was your meditation? I guess you were so practicing in the original might well actually buy. Now you'd moved into the insight meditation world. What what kind of edit Were you doing when the when you're but hit the cushion yeah at that point, I was doing a lot of matter or loving, kindness practice. A teacher had recommended that I make that a big part of my practice so
for months and months I was only sending loving, kindness and wishes of well being to myself just yourself just to myself and then I would start my practice and really you know, spend maybe half the time doing. That. which is also a concentration practice the mind yet pretty sharp night. And then I would be with starting with the breath be with the sensation to the body, starting with the breath of oxygen, you're feeling whatever comes up in your body and then when you get lost start again exactly and in out with that, of course, noticing what's happening in the mind. It wasn't doing a lot of sort of mindfulness of mind. Emotions right then cause my my thoughts and emotions were all over the place
yeah yeah, really sticking with the body as being in the present moment, and at that point you know when I was really going through rough treatment. I was future tripping alot, just the there's. A great Worden Buddhism which is proposed show witches. the imperialistic tendency of my worry ticket data point at the current moment and just projected in the future, so I'm having Spain, whose treatment this is gonna, get worse and worse and worse, I can't handle this. I'm gonna die right. That was like every ten minutes. For me, maybe of surprise, it wasn't every thirty seconds, The up huge part of the dogma of the Buddhist teachings is about getting you to not have such an attachment to your body here, because this is a temporary vessel and and definitely fragile and
You know rotting, so what did was that useful, yes and no. You know. I think that I have the propensity to be stuck in my head. Kind of intellectually oriented were surrounded by especially my dad, but people around me were that way, and so I actually need. To connect with the body more so In a way, yes, it's helpful to have no the impermanence the body in and know that this is like a sad, a temporary vessel, but in the actual experience of the body, action needed to connect with the body were but Would it be useful not to take it to a personal personally? Because the point is. Dead bodies in yours, you know, and so, if you are experiencing things in your body that you don't like. If you're, not, if you don't identify, it is
you. It doesn't feel also insulting and somewhat yeah. That's very true, and I think, when you connect to the body in a deeper way, it doesn't feel so personal on and and that's the the benefit of longer retreat and deeper practice. But you really start to feel all the energetic realities of this body that Erika really put into words anymore. Then I think you get even understand level on some intellectual levels like how connected you think most of us feel to our pancreas or the Micro Biome, which is what Sunday my wife's studies, which you do trillions and going get this wrong with trillions of little life forms our God, there are not you, but without those get lifeforms. You would have trouble surviving like that. They perform a lot of useful things. Services for your body, but no, I ll go at war. If you were to call when you click your fingernails air, what is what it is that part of you
that's gone there. If you were to lose a leg and how far we have to cut in order to until you're. Not you any So you can kind of understand that night, intellectually, but that is like kind of intellectual chinese food in and way because you get her eve, forget it rather quickly your situation entirely different entirely different. so you ended up pulling out of this- I did so the treatments worked, and I was deemed cancer free some how many years later. I think that in the course of treatment took me about two years so with my kind of alternative treatment of about two and a half years that that, like of it and then about five years later, it re diagnosed with cancer again stage for so
come back in the right breast this time and in the bone, my husband, so this at this boy, you're in your late thirty I mean they'd thirties and metastatic answer cancer and in between the I got if I got the timeline right in the interregnum there he met Freddy. I did my husband and I really because I've been deepening my practice so much. I had started to study to become a teacher said this was before Matthew, because you were the executive director at the New York, incite meditation centre. So this is when the second bout round of cancer hit. This was for that job yeah. I was working at New York, but that I wasn't yet the executive director so the second round comes in metastatic, so I
I know that means at its spread, but how how far it it had spread in spreading to the bone and lymph nodes and the press, so it hadn't left at my upper body bed in a once, your metastatic there. They they consider you too, have cancer for life. So how did you take that? Does Not well yeah does everybody figure who you know I I I don't know it was in some ways it was more devastating because a it felt like you know this second knocked the head again. It's like I need this like. I need a hole in the head after what I've been through, but blade they'd? They didn't want to do chemo. They only did very high dose spent only radiation, which is exhausting and not easy in itself, but it's it's much easier than doing both obviously, and
in a lot of ways- because I was I had been practising so much and and really deeply- I really felt like I could- I could handle it. You know I whatever was gonna happen that I was going to be able to meet it so in the space. Between the first round of cancer, and there was a five years later we have. You had been doing significant amount of practising So your mind state was giving significantly different. as you met the second wave yeah. Definitely, and also because of the first experience you know, there's there's some truth to that quote from Natura that everybody misuses. Something like you know, whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger. It's true just that that the wisdom and kind of spiritual maturity that came out of through that experience in a spiritually, mature way was really empowering.
but on this one was it. Seems to me again on projecting. I can't help it alive. Oh scarier in that did there they seemed like they're, saying there's no back door on the first one. It was bad, but they declared your cancer free. This time, they're coming to you in saying its terminal, yet or chronic. I don't know what the right now I don't know what the right words either, and I am I am I like to certain. throw scepticism, men around statistics and just I think it's some point. I made a decision that I was gonna be on in a sort of the positive side of that statistic. What was the statistic? Just whatever statistics exists about the rate of survival for metastatic breast cancer and they were good, they weren't good, but you know I just sort of ask myself why. Why can I be? In kind of you know, I meditated, I take care of myself. I eat what
like why? Wouldn't I be in the ten percent or whatever it is of the positive side of that statistic, and as it turns out you were, I was until I got diagnostic right, which was about a year ago? A year ago, now remember getting email What was the diagnosis the third time so that their time it had returned to the left brasses than the left's lymph nodes within the lungs? It was in the lung, lymph nodes and within bounds. So it really really spread and by that I mean you know in some ways of course has devastated and in tears them receiving the diagnosis, but I also kind of had to laugh at me. It was just ridiculous, like oh, maybe, every five years I get cancer now had great team.
Again they didn't want to do chemo this time they didn't want to do radiation either. So they put me on hormone therapy and I double down on the natural treatments is while really took care. Myself basically took the fall and winter off and through last, fall last winter. So has we record this its September rain a year later? And had some wonderful friends raise funds Hermes that we could do that Freddy took time off to take care of me as well and, amazingly last December, I gotta pets can back that they still had cancer, my body but believable the changes in terms of not only the size of the spots and tumor. but also the intensity. What are your doctors think you're going on there.
And what do you think he's gonna depends you talk to him? If you talk to my oncologist, it's just the hormone treatment working. If you talk to my not your path, its everything, it might, I add its not having too much stress for the past year, really taking at a lot easier on myself, but also in and what I am doing and- and I think if you talk to my dharmu teachers in and from my perspective, there is also something inexplicable that that happens doll. So what is the prognosis now? Well, I am a pet scan on Thursdays, all no more next week, bed everything looks ok right now as far as my tumor markers so tumor markets, our blood tests, they're, not the most reliable in terms of exactly what's going on, but they ve been going down and down steadily. Even since summer will you said, used the phrase. Everything looks ok with you look more.
I'll get you a phenomenal. So nobody would guess that you are dealing with illness, never mind something this serious, so you'd clearly doing something right. I take good care of myself, you know I try and eat really wow. I try and obviously meditate and take my life. A little polio lot more easy than the average New Yorker and the way that I used to function in the city. What is your practice like now. so my meditation practice. I do first thing in the morning, I said from anywhere, depending on my Dave anywhere from twenty to forty five minutes. I do some chanting. I do a sitting practices,
usually depends on the day. What's needed. If I'm really failing scattered, I might do some kind of concentration or gathering practices. Usually the breath is a good one for and then, when I mostly like to do, is open awareness justify not so really being mindful aware, and with whatever is arrived, thing so noticing changing phenomena noticing what comes in and out of my perception, and so that could be thoughts. It could be. Sensations could be so and- and I like to do that practice because that's what it carry with me into the day, so the rest of my practices daily practice of Justino, really in with the body checking in with my awareness moment to moment as much as possible, which is not all that much but more than it used to be and you have done a lot of retreats to and I- less him. One of the last
it should be on the phone. You were you just come back for South Africa, where you done pretty lengthy, retreat with your husband, I think you're telling me you can't wanted to kill him snore. or something like that. Yes calling him, he doesn't know this, and now, if you listen now but who's calling him fidgety fidget in my head interviews, yeah. We actually shared a room. idea was not a good idea. Islands. Amazing, really, really incredible experience gas executive vigilant, yeah that was in the hall. I see ya, say I did a month long in South Africa, my teachers have a hermitage there who are your teachers? My teacher tuna, sir and kitty sorrow they are they
Paulie names, but their westerners soak desires from Tennessee and ministers from London, and they were both monastic acts so and Qatar was among continues. There was a nun bum with Janshah who Ty Forest monk, widely regarded as master yeah, so they both studied with him, and after about I think. Fifteen years they
fell in love and left the monastery and got married and disrupt the widest sense of that worry. What now they ve walked us through. This really harrowing health odyssey they ve been on. What would you think are the lessons for the rest of us ticket question? I love this teaching at the border The eight worldly wins. You know that on low, for you know a lot more than eight worldly wins out. Let me forget them now. Ok, I have I thought it pleasure and pain. Gain and loss famine famine
You crazy victorian translation and an praise and blame prism. Ok, I knew I had heard yes, so you know just our tendency to want one side of that equation and oh yeah yeah an end. How, when the other side shows up, we think the mistake. We think there's something going wrong and it's that sort of question We can ask ourselves like why not me in any moment, and- and this can happen to to any of us- you know what can happen to us could happen to her children. It could happen to our loved
I know that it will happen, it will happen. It might be, and I hope that most people, I know, don't have to experience cancer grave illness like that before their their very old age. But something will happen that side of the equation. It's us every single day and it's incredible mean them telling myself. This is I'm speaking to you, but it's incredible how much we every time it shows up in a whether it's a blister on our foot or head cold oars, somebody, you know yelling at us and blaming us or something that we didn't feel we did wrong. We think it's a mistake. We think should not be happened, but that still haven't with you lucky given an you. You ve gotten this repeated series of jewels of perspective. so do no longer sweat the small stuff. It a lot less,
so blisters, Uganda, blisters. If you bring Freddy in here, he may have a different story, but I will have a different scenarios. Are you? But you know, I think, I'm able to kind of definitely with the big step, taught myself off the ledge and interest realize you know this is this part of life and and more and more with the small steps as well we've people really don't like talking about the stuff. Now yeah, it's not comfortable. It's it's not pleasant in a lot of ways, and that's you know, the fundamental teaching of meditation right is is that second foundation of mindfulness just be aware of pleasant, unpleasant and and in some ways a lot of practice. I think, is learning to tolerate, mostly the unpleasant, because we like the pleasant and just kind of growing realistic about life.
Realistic about life there's a way which that phrase could be ignored because it cuz it's, you sounded improvised, but dad is it. I mean the truth is Nobody gets out of your life and nobody gets out of here without sorrow and loss and and that's not a bad thing. I'd love this sum saying Charlotte go back. I read once she said: joy is whatever is happening, minus our opinion of it. No you used to be your email to and she's making the distinction between joy and happiness, so happiness and unhappiness happen. You know, throughout the day we could have moments of unhappiness, her happiness but joys, something different how's a different enjoy is is is not about.
is an unpleasant joys about an experience of freedom with regardless, what's happening so. now. I could be in that sick bed and have gratitude for pain, reliever and gratitude for my life and all the loved ones. So I can still have that pain and and have that feeling of joy, air freedom. You said before that you know nobody gets out with sorrow, etc, but wasn't the Buddha advertising and escape from sorrow, lamentation, blah blah blah. Wasn't he sang Nirvana Enlightenment Liberal, an awakening. The island, freedom, the beyond the hard disk whatever all those names. was a way out of this. Yes, and he is also report plea, wept, Irwin Sorrowful,
when his too great a student's died. So it's I dont again. You know this is semantics here, but it's not that we don't have happiness and unhappiness it's that we can be with both with a measure of ease. Our beautiful friend Mark Epstein, has said that it may be a little bit like being punished in the face when you're on Heroin had enough Martin knows that experience. I think he was theorizing. I can't just based on my acquaintance with them. Let me ask your arm. So many things out. I would like to take your problems. I am sensitive to time, but the other area of focus for you and we ve talked about quite a bit is race. I don't know I don't have anything I haven't
Oh, I'm sure we'll have specific questions, but we just throw that out there. What what's on your mind these days when I use that word well and a black woman which you can't tell us This is only audio necessarily by may accent made my cousins boyfriend. Yesterday, with the other day told me, I sound like a California white girl of well one one could theorize based on what were touching, but your ethiopian Sledge Eritreans extraction, but yes, right I'll write exactly Good point it so you know, for me, was a black woman was starts on work, but that that's a good question to an end could bring up issues around unconscious bias, which is one of the things that really interested around race.
it now. So this a big discussion in business communities in western, but as communities right now, because they tend to be the convert communities, we sing up asian immigrant ones and they tend to be very white upper middle class. Generally. Yeah, but not enough retreats this either. And there is a you know, a desire to kind of be more inclusive. I I can tell you the number of years I was practicing I'd only being often the youngest person in the room, but is my friend law says I was the only person of color besides the Buddha in the room and
I really didn't even realise of so used to being in white spaces. All the time at in even realise the level of discomfort that I had more assertive underlying there. There is has been documented that people of color in white spaces operate with sort of this threat response that there's this often validated feeling that they will be experience in a certain way, so they often underperform honour behave in particular ways that limit them. So if we're talking about freedom and ease, but that's not happening in these white spaces and- and you know from from the side of the white, communities, so we're talking out again but as communities here, but we could expand that to the larger society. There's unconscious bias happening and to me these,
subtle aspects of the unconscious mind are so they're just excellent topics fur, but as to explore, because that's what we do, we study the mind, but there's a resistance to really talking about it. resistance from her a resistance from a lot of white meditated who are uncomfortable talking about issues of identity, talking about issues of race and whiteness, and particularly of racism and unconscious bias white privilege. Because you know we all it's not call to be a racist, and
more mean in most places ass, but there's a sort of a new order of racism. That is this implicit bias and unconscious bias that doesn't really get talked about speed. Nobody wants to be called a racist. Nobody wants to really look at the ways in which they might stereotype people or make assumptions. Have fears, have judgments about people based on the color of their skin. It hard to retard because urged all the taboo against racism just so justifiably severe here, there's a line from Stephen, better I'm in a mangle it, but the two great Buddhist writer, Stephen Bachelor, who says something I gave you know. If you look in your mind, you're gonna see a rapist and a killer. Sometimes you gotta, see erases to noted, wants to see it, but yours, if you're willing to look
see. It doesn't mean IRAN arise and pass just like everything else, but you have to be willing to acknowledge its. There are surprised, therefore, that there is so much resistance among these Buddhists. Given that that's what we're in the business of looking well, I think that there is a real, especially among that, as you know, these ideals of kindness and compassion. There can be a bypassing of anything that sort of negative as a greater spiritual bypass. You refer How can I ever heard this term from that that that you sizzler? That's like we believe that practices enough, so we the work on earth crap? We don't have to really examiner behaviour or attitudes, your subconscious conclusions about people of other races and authorities, because We're sending loving kindness, Yasso, yes, spiritual bypassing, was coined by John Well
in the eightys to describe kind of this tendency, especially among western practitioners, to not deal with negative emotions to bypass anger and depression age and emotions that they don't want to feel and just prematurely transcend them, but that's, it seems to me to be a complete in complete contradiction with the thrust of the of the Dharuma. Just to look at everything, It is, and I think it is particularly this west phenomena, because we can, you know the torments Ass, their Sonia teachings, and we can pick and choose so that transcend stuff looks pretty good, like I wanna get bare, and so you can ignore looking at everything, if you just want to get to that peace and stillness, and that was happening. and and and
was remedied. Some white or addressed through all the psychological work in this marriage of western psychology and but a psychology and mark has done a lot of work around that as well, and one of the leaders and sort of seeing a where we might need a different approach. Untaxed look at our staff and and not bypass it Jack It was well yes I'll bet this tendency for what actually a friend M brainless, sightless eyes, whose a teacher of taking his course ran up Brian's running through added but which I have recommended it even anybody's interested the berry be a r r E. That's the name of a town. Massachusetts bury centre for Buddhist studies and Brian is running a course which is its it's an online course. I think they're offering her right now is to design a four but the probably effort again called identity,
not self and awakening goods mouthful. But it's all about looking at this stuff through the lens of Buddhism, rank yeah and and Brian and I sort of the kind of hybrid this term cultural, spiritual, bypassing Gonna, teach a course had pcbs on that, to look at okay, so we psychologically bypass, maybe anger, and we don't want to deal with it. So we just let go, but we actually just repressed it, and I met plenty of passive. What's the best over the years to to recognize? If that's something that people can do, you know they can sort of say you know, I just want to be peaceful, not going to look. but we do. We can do the same thing around cultural issues. We can sort of have all of these tendencies that we just don't look at me, and go straight to loving, kindness and oneness and interdependence and the Buddha nature. not realise that we sort of get ten
When were walking down the street and a young black man at the hoodie is walking past us not to be able to acknowledge. That is, is not looking at that stage so so what can we do about it? I don't. I don't want to hold myself up in any way, as some sort of exam oh or exemplar. Here you know I'm willing to talk, I'm not afraid to look at it or talk about it, but I'm sure there are lots of ways that unconscious bias is working in my life because he is unconscious. So what can we do to a rooted out more? can we do to root out and be better well, I think that one is to talk about it. and you know it's not only around race, its around all sorts of issues. There are these wonderful sexism
second gender sexuality, size. I've been educating myself recently about fat phobia, which I really like didn't recognize. In myself, for a long time. I ashamed to say that it's only through actually action number of students who have been pointing things out: two men and posting articles on Facebook that I'm I'm realizing kind of the size judgments the size by us that I create and and in a part of it is just educating ourselves being aware having conversations and then I think, a lot of it in Time is, is learning to catch it and that's where meditation practice- and this conversation about the mind to that in a buddhist sir, very adept at is really helpful, because it is in a moment that we can see it. But if we are not looking for
and we don't want to see it. Then it's not going to happen. So you know in that moment, where you see this kid and you realize this stereotype is coming up. Can you do replacement of that unit? Sometimes I'll ask myself even in my neighborhood or my building, if I have, if I have that tendency to come up I'll just say you know what maybe he's a Rhodes, I don't know like we, but we make all sorts of assumptions about people based on what their wearing, but how they look that day that we wouldn t necessarily make about someone else and Brian pointed out in this course. If not that you have to be yourself up every time, it happens. It's just to see that it happened terrain that actually, Makes it much more doable because, if war, if we're gonna, be so ashamed that is happening you gonna be at? You you're, not gonna, to or even be in for a lot of suffering. But if we are given permission for it
I've been in just the vision, is just to see it and maybe not be so captivated by it. That's that doable and two to realise were all affected by it. You know if, if, if we're talking about race, then why people? A lot of it, is around killed an end to to realise that that everyone is affected by it than some of the officers that were involved in Friday. Grace death were black. You know that there were all internalizing these external systems and but can are we willing to be honest and look at that? What do you think can and should be done to bring, this practice that we're talking about Buddhism, met secular meditation, where we want to call it s, got lots of flavors to make it more attractive to all sorts of people, rather than No, I haven't seen the dad about my my mind, unscientific pulling seems
Jessica overwhelmingly upper middle class white phenomenon at this point. What what can be done about this- and I think that there are a lot of different things and I m not an x but on how to bring us to the masses. But from what I see in other sort of, secularism asian- that's happening that bringing it into schools like with mindful schools and holistic Life foundation There are programmes we are always modelled on the shore of yeah that an all those programmes are doing great work. You know what we're talking about meditation itself were tiny met, the Buddhist The change in the DARPA, what I see, extremely well. Is this phenomena of affinity groups an end to me Are the buddhas is supposed to have said to some of his monks, I'm teaching the vernacular
is this question, do we teach in the classical language and keep it pure? You know some months or teaching in the vernacular. That seems wrong. I said no teacher in the vernacular, because people are going to understand the teachings if you're, not speaking to them in a way, that's understandable, and so, this idea that people every one is going to understand the way Jack Cornfield teaches the Dharma or or Joseph Goldstein or or me know that they might need it spoken to them in a different way. There's a lot of groups that mean around twelve steps, so buddhist meditation groups that are oriented around nay, the other twelve step programmes and and theirs, they speak differently in that grimly teach the teachings in a different way. That's relevant for that community. So people of color groups
the dharmu is gonna, be communicated in a different way, that's relevant to those communities and to not see that as a solution is turn, you know a threat. You know it's also. I've heard it be challenged, as did not in line with the teaching because we're all one, it's yeah, we're all one and you talk funny. I want to hear now it is important. I we all gravitate two teachers who we can relate to drain and so this makes sense and you have a lot more options. If your white, you know because print veto, their huge them, There are huge or well majority of white people and the teacher cloth matters no two ways about it and that's an emphasis right now, also to make sure that we have more teachers, teachers of color and people from other groups, so about very close with Joseph goals. Every level runs
Did the insight meditation society, along with other people, but in I know just wanna come offers an apologist greasy? You can tell me from wrong about this, but I it seems to be a very high priority for him and I get the sense from those at the those in positions of power responsive, within the buddhist world that it is on their mind and there they seem to be trying to do something about my giving him too much credit Do you think I'm right about that? I'm wrong with it. I think there's more awareness about that now, especially in particular communities. I think the yes in the inside community that conversation is very strong and it's challenging. You know it's just stuff is deeply rooted and it's rooted in.
Systems is rooted in the institutions and in the structures, and it's gonna bring up all sorts of questions around how we do everything. So this, for example- and am sure brine, will talk about this in the course we talked about it. Nor segment. Just think over emphasis on silence, others, so much emphasis on silent practice here, and it is it's very profound, it's very powerful. There is not the same kind of emphasis in Asia, a few if you ever travelled and in particular in Southeast Asia, where this tradition, the insect tradition, comes from there's a lot of yakking going on in in temples and monasteries and of course there is a lot of meditation prank
spent kind of the preciousness of silence here is: it might not appeal to people of color to younger people and so to start to understand that a mite challenge these things that we ve decided is that Dharuma is the teachings, but actually are caught culturally constructed as well. Really interesting working people find out more about you or even contact you if they want my website, is my name, some advice, Lawsy dot com gives both ass ye d and e s e out a as as I e Anamooka Youth slowed down the aisle, he talked over you. There was a dot com, there, tat dot, net
you slow down lipids. Are you still teaching you do? I know you were doing coaching. Are you still doing all that, I'm starting to teach more again, I'm not going to be doing a whole lot of retreat teaching just cuz. They find the travel challenging, but some Brian and I are teaching a retreat and may be some gas and I'll do some teaching here and there, but yeah I teach local. and I coach separating the you wanna talk about that, I didn't have a chance to innovation, should have asked you that I didn't occurred. Some might feel like I've had a therapies have had only been charged ok before let you go and update in that interview, which we recorded a few weeks ago, you Efforts have mentioned that she was on her way to go, get some new tests. So then you'd gotten results back and they were really positive and she's she's doing great, so huge relief, for a band for everyone who loves her. So
happy ending to this broadcast and we'll be back next week with more. There's not a person in America who hasn't been impact it in some way by the corona virus pandemic, but it every community. There are pockets of people, pursuit
every day. This is my Monday last day of the cylinder stretch, photos from one about these or America's essential workers, the people who are keeping moving. I turn into a home school mom and now in a new programmes from ABC News you gonna hear from damage. Was she went back to my office on cybercrime because he is not here and making sure that our community hostility smiled faintly Lorraine? This is the essential inside the from the emergency room, the police cruiser to the czech outline. You hear what this pandemic sounds like the people putting themselves norms which is always a risk. Your brain is home to re. Kids are my husband or my appearance listened to the essentials inside the curve on Apple podcast, River podcast, him.