Orlando and Beyond

Dear sangha, 
We are connecting with you at this time in order to encourage and support ways of practicing that can lead to personal and collective healing and transformation related to what is going on in the world. We wish to find ways we can be of support to each other as a community in responding to current events, to create loving connection rather than more trauma and fomenting fear.

The T​ransformation and Healing Committee of the Dharma Teacher Care Taking Council of North America would appreciate your sharing with the community your and your Sanghas response to recent events in Orlando. In particular, which teachings and practices are you using right now or did you use recently in your sangha in light of this event? For example we have heard that one sangha read from ​Thay’s book Calming the Fearful Mind – a Zen Repsonse to Terrorism.  Another sangha read out the names of the people who died at Orlando, sounding the bell after each name. Another sangha lit fifty candles. 

The ​Transformation and Healing Committee is charged with exploring and supporting engaged practice in the dharma teacher and OI communities. Orlando is a painful recent episode of violence. There have been many before, and given the conditions in the world now, there will be more. We can be more intentional about preparing ourselves to engage these kinds of situations by becoming more practiced in our Sanghas in processing current events, sharing the resources we use, learning skillful means from each other, and being a more active resource for the larger community. This message is going to Dharma Teachers Sangha and Order of Interbeing list with a request to forward to regional lists of Sanghas. We will also post on the OI website. 

With deep gratitude and joy in our practice together for collective awakening,

Signed.

John Bell
Richard Brady
Lyn Fine
Jack Lawlor
Kenley Neufeld
Leslie Rawls
Jo-ann Rosen

17 thoughts on “Orlando and Beyond

  1. Bob Allen

    Dear Thay, Dear Sangha: The Fish Lake Sangha in Orlando has completed several months of deep looking and practice with the 14 Mindfulness Trainings. Having seen the immediate fruit of this practice in our daily lives and, in the wake of the killings at the Pace nightclub that ended the lives of 49 of our brothers and sisters and caused great injury to 53 others, all of their families, friends and loved ones and our entire community, we wish to extend this great benefit to our community and the world.

    Our insight is that this tragedy is a result of deep, pervasive fear so, we have worked as a Sangha and are adopting an additional training on Transforming Fear as a mindful response. We will continue to look deeply at this practice and will recite it when we perform a ceremony on the 49th day after the death of our friends. The initial text is below. On behalf of the Sangha, we bow to the worldwide community of practice and ask for your support and your mindful additions and corrections.

    With Great Metta-The Fish Lake Sangha.

    “Aware that fear is the root of great delusion, attachment, aversion and suffering, we are determined to get in touch with fear in ourselves, in our communities, \and in the world. We know that fear is a mental formation arising from seeds in our consciousness and the collective consciousness of all beings and that repressing or pushing it away will only cause more suffering. We are determined to touch our fear and the fear of others, with our compassion and loving kindness and to embrace it with mindfulness. We will practice mindfulness with diligence in our Sangha, and in our daily life to transform fear into understanding and wise thinking, speech and action in order to bring new seeds of peace, understanding and healing to ourselves, our communities and the world.”

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  2. Barbara Casey

    The Still Mountain Rain sangha in Gig Harbor, Washington was beginning a four-week practice of the Brahmaviharas, and the week of the shooting in Orlando we were working with compassion. Each of the aspects of love have been rich and at times challenging explorations into the edges of our ability to love.
    We also read a prayer for peace by Thay as a guided meditation.
    With LGBT representation in our sangha, we discussed in a loving way, the suffering of the shooter.
    Thank you for soliciting suggestions on how to respond to these tragedies, as well as the tragedies that occur in everyday life. When we are together, they weave our bonds more strongly and help us feel the support and love that are always there, but sometimes hard to touch.

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  3. Nicole Dunn

    At our sangha, Be Here Now, in Missoula, Montana we dedicated part of our sitting meditation to the lives lost and affected by the shooting and we had a guided meditation with this verse that I wrote:

    In dedication for the lives lost, and affected,
    in the Orlando shooting on June 12th, 2016

    We as a global community,
    regardless of race, creed, orientation,
    gender, age, origin, likes/dislikes,
    and any other category that may be used
    to otherwise separate us from our shared humanity,
    grieve in unison.

    Our hearts are heavy
    and full of sorrow.

    Please remember,
    we are all in this together,
    both those we seek to understand
    and those whom we seek to blame.
    We are not separate.

    Breathing in, we hold our grief and anger with love and care.
    Breathing out, we look deeply and nourish our compassion.

    – Written by Nicole Dunn, True Wonderful Flower

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  4. John Paul Marosy

    Members of the MIddle Way Sangha in Bethlehem, PA has responded in these ways to the events in Orlando and elsewhere:
    – Including the victims and perpetrators of such events in Dedications of Merit
    – Opening space for sharing feelings and perspectives as part of dharma sharing
    – Opening space for dialogue on this and similar topics as part of the 5 Wonderful Precepts study group that meets twice per month before our weekly sit.

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  5. Phap Hai

    Here in Deer Park, monastics and lay practitioners participated in the candlelight vigil in Orange County and we organized a memorial ceremony here at the monastery last Sunday.
    In our meditation hall we placed the photographs of each of the deceased around the walls, and we sat with them for days, looking into their eyes. In our memorial ceremony, we carried the pride flag in walking meditation and a candle was lit for each of the victims – including Omar Mateen- as well as a candle of hope, as we came to the conclusion of a very heartfelt sharing that lasted two hours.
    At the conclusion of the ceremony, after many tears and stories, we gathered in a circle for hugging meditation. Spontaneously, the circle began to dance. The young and old who died in the massacre loved to dance, now we let them dance through us.
    In both the candlelight vigil and in the ceremony, I read the following which sums up how I and many of the monastic community was – and is- feeling:

    “I have been struggling with what i wanted to share about the Orlando massacre, which, in addition to the mass killings of native americans at the battle of wounded knee is the deadliest mass killing in United States history and the attack was specifically directed against the LGBTQ+ community and people of color. To say that “my heart goes out” to the victims is too trite, almost meaningless, when i consider the fact that in addition to the 49 who were killed – and the more than fifty who are currently listed as wounded- until every single person is safe, none of us is. We are not separate.
    As I struggled to define what I was feeling, I recognized shock, fear, despair, anger and then as I sat with my head in my hands I noticed a realization emerge that shook me to my core and the tears began to flow. I noticed that underneath all of these visceral emotions, there was a part of me that was barely even surprised. LGBTQIAA+ people and people of color live with the threat and the reality of -this violence and discrimnation every single day and it is not OK. It is not ok to have no safe space, no air to breathe- to be stabbed in your own apartment block simply because of your sexual orientation. I am saddened that there are so few places of safety, of refuge.
    I am also contemplating, in the light of the recent discoveries that Omar Mateen was also most probably struggling with his own sexuality the reality that when we are constantly subjected to hatred, to discrimination, to violence; when we are spat upon, when we are refused service, when we are told that we are not normal, when our famiies disown us, that we internalize that hatred- hating ourselves and each other. And that is not ok.
    Audre Lorde once said “ My own silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.”
    Each and every one of us by our small silences- both individual and collective- is a perpetrator, and we contribute to the perpetration of small and large acts of violence, hatred and discrimination.
    Now that the professional empathizers and commentators have had their say, I wonder how much longer this story will remain in the news cycle before we tire of it and turn to more trivial matters.
    That’s the usual routine: We grieve, we observe moments of silence, we pray, we declare that the best response to hate is love. And then we move on. The only people who dwell in the tragedy are those of us who lost loved ones or whose lives are forever altered by injury and trauma.
    What might make this shooting different from all other acts of violence both small and large? This time, we can choose not to take the easy way out. The moment calls for collective and sustained spiritual and political action

    It might be a little surprising to hear this, but I actually don’t want to make any of us feel better, or that we are doing enough. Because we are not: not nearly enough. I myself have not done nearly enough. Ringing in my ears today is a phrase from a conversation that i had recently with one of my mentors “We don’t want special treatment. We don’t want anything extraordinary. We simply want to be able to go about our everyday lives without having to constantly look over our shoulders physically or metaphorically.”
    ​Communities of faith have not done enough and we stand here with you and ask for your forgiveness. We want our monasteries to be places where there is breathable air and which all can feel at home. We commit to deep looking and compassionate engagement and action together with the LGBTQIAA+ and people of color communities.
    It is only in this way that the tears we shed today- and indeed every day -will become the rain that will bring forth healing and transformation.”

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  6. Gina Garlie

    At Open Sky Sangha in Kalispell, MT, we offered an invitation to join us for a healing ceremony during our regular Thursday evening practice.

    Dear Friends,
    A Healing Ceremony this Thursday evening 6:30 – 8:30 in recognition of the violence in Orlando. Join sangha as we offer healing and water seeds of peace. Meditation, Chanting, Bowing to the Earth, and Dharma Discussion. Bowing, Friends at Open Sky Sangha

    We sent out the above invitation to our sangha. The ceremony ended with discussion; in wanting to provide loving action, and our community is in the midst of writing a love letter to our representatives. We walked away feeling that we could do more and will continue to look deeply as individuals and as a sangha.

    Thank you for this opportunity to share how sangha communities are practicing in the wake of violence.

    Bowing,
    Gina Garlie
    Open Sky Sangha
    Kalispell, MT

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  7. Peter Kuhn Chan He Hai

    Facilitating Open Heart Sangha on June 12th we lit a candle and I shared Phap Hai’s words from that day:
    All day i have been struggling with what i wanted to share about the Orlando massacre, which, according to Mark Joseph Stern in Slate, is the deadliest attack against LGBT+ people in United States history. To say that “my heart goes out” to the victims is too trite, almost meaningless, when i consider the fact that in addition to the more than fifty who were killed – and the more than fifty who are currently listed as wounded- until every single person is safe, none of us is. We are not separate.
    Each and every one of us is a victim.
    Each and every one of us by our small silences- both individual and collective- is a perpetrator, and we contribute to the perpetration of small and large acts of violence, hatred and discrimination.
    So i don’t, by this post, want to make any of us feel better, or that we are doing enough. Because we are not: not nearly enough. Ringing in my ears today is a phrase from a conversation that i had recently with one of my mentors “We don’t want special treatment. We don’t want anything extraordinary. We simply want to be able to go about our everyday lives without having to constantly look over our shoulders physically or metaphorically.”
    So there are no words, there is no cup large enough to be able to be able to hold all of the tears. Today i walk, today i breathe, today i light yet another candle for those that we have lost and those who have lost. Too many candles, too many.”

    We looked deeply in the mud and how to use this tragedy to create a real shift in ourselves and the world. What it means to be both victim and perpetrator; the small seeds of discrimination, judgement, intolerance in ourselves; how quick we are to move on, look the other way or feign ignorance when confronted with privilege, injustice, and our own intolerant response to intolerance. The sharing was deep and heartfelt. We held the victims in heart silently, practiced metta and shared merit.

    I also facilitated the prison Sangha the next day and emphasized that the Sangha is not removed from these worldly dynamics and has the genuine opportunity to engage fully with what happened. The openness and candor of Dharma sharing was staggering. Both by a member who struggles with intolerance of sexual diversity and gay/tg members of the Sangha who were happy to have the chance to talk in an open and deeply personal manner about it. We also practiced Metta and shared merit.

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  8. Nancy Stewart

    The Cedar Cabin Sangha in Ithaca, NY, also read from Calming the Fearful Mind. We sounded the bell 49 times plus 2 for the known critically injured (and once for the gunman, a request from a Sangha member that happened spontaneously).

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  9. Jonathan Gross

    Dear Family,

    Our Wake Up sangha in Northeast Los Angeles gathered the Friday after the shooting to grieve together. One member brought an array of colorful post-it notes and markers. Throughout sangha we wrote down our feelings and thoughts, or drew pictures or hearts or whatever came through us. We stuck this rainbow of post-its on my wall, where they stay now, weeks later. We began our sangha by reading the 4th and 12th of the 14 Mindfulness Trainings: Awareness of Suffering and Reverence for Life. We discussed what it mean to be a part of an engaged tradition. We watched Anderson Cooper read the names of those who had died so that we could see their pictures and hear a little about them.

    After this, we read the names of those who had died, one by one, with a bell after each name. We read the name of Omar Mateen last, with two bells to follow his name, and then we sat silently for a short time. We then watched this short clip by Stephen Colbert – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6stc1jC_ux0 – and the had dharma sharing.

    We discussed the opportunity to march in San Diego pride on July 16, and we are still discussing where we can send material resources (money) as well as cards or letters to the families of those who died.

    We are still struggling with how to truly respond deeply and meaningfully in the light of the tragedy. Thank you to all of you who grieve and struggle with us.

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  10. Judith Toy, True Door of Peace

    At Narrow Ridge, the interfaith intentional eco-community where I now live, we circled for Orlando in a memorial candlelight vigil on Inspiration Point, a Tennessee mountain top where our ceremonies often take place. There were readings and poems and silence. This is not a Plum Village Sangha, and yet the spirit of Thay’s teachings are beautifully honored and carried out here in this well-established spiritual community on 700 acres with a 500-acre wild preserve, that began with providing sanctuary for a man who the government would not allow to be a conscientious objector during the American war in Vietnam. Most of the houses here are off the grid. Among other services and events, we host the Earth Literacy School for college students year-round, a discovery of our deep connection with the natural world, and we model and practice the practicalities of sustainable living, organic gardening, green building and alternative energy sources. On the mountain top, we uttered each of the names of the victims, pausing to send light and love to their families, and to them.

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  11. Brian Otto Kimmel

    On the morning following the news of the shooting our sangha had planned to meet for a retreat planning. We continued the meeting and began with a sit and chanting the insight that brings us to the other shore followed by sharing the merit. For me, that practice period was for us, the fear and anger and sadness and mourning that many felt or were about to get in touch with. To be honest, as a queer person of color, the shooting was very much something I too often think about everyday, because it is the reality of my life having grown up and living as a marginalized and oppressed group. So what I was conpelled to do with everything I was feeling was to reach out to my queer friends, and to find support with existing communities and especially queer communities of color that could honor and support the mourning and healing process. Frankly, the spaces that spoke to me most were those conduct as vigils, rituals and celebrations that were held by White allies, but conducted and focused on people of color who held pictures of the victims and candles, marched, and were surrounded and guarded by white allies as we processed on the city streets having refused the protection of our local city police. These ceremonies were multilingual, as were the victims of the shooting, multicultural, and were conducted interfaith including remarks and facilitation by members of local native american tribes, islamic organizations, other faith leaders, and was attended by the press. Afterwards we feasted with multicultural potluck including a dish from Puerto Rico which again many of the victims had in the cultural roots. This was not Plum Village sangha per se, but a collective spirit across and inclusive of many traditions and sanghas. Because I was there and a few other Rainbow Wake Uppers, that is queer people of color who practice in the Plum Village tradition, it was a Plum Village sangha. And it was so nourishing to step out of my own river and flow with many others. Above us, dragon flies reminded us as they swarmed ahead that nature and many living being are there for collective healing too. Later that week, many of us joined our local PRIDE PARADE, either as bystanders or marchers. And again, the dragon flies were there too. Much love, and thank you all for your sharing.

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  12. Marty Soule

    Members of the Peaceful Heart Sangha, as part of the Capital Area Multi-faith Association, helped to create and participated in an outdoor Candlelight Vigil on the Tuesday after the shooting. We invited sangha bells and 4 different churches around town chimed their bells as leaders from many faiths (including our Jewish rabbi, Catholic priest, Muslim leader, and ministers from Unitarian Universalist, Quaker, BaHai, Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, and many other faith leaders) came forward to light 50 candles. The rabbi spoke about reaching out to our muslim neighbors. The Quaker spoke about supporting our LGBTQ friends and families. The Catholic priest spoke about moving towards real gun control. Our local Iraqi muslim leader spoke with his son interpreting and expressed his sadness and revulsion about the events that had occurred and his clarity that an act such as that could not be performed by someone who was a true believer in the muslim faith. As we neared the end of our time together, we had a light sprinkling of rain. As we finished, an incredibly clear, bright double rainbow shined out over the Kennebec River behind where we stood. It was incredibly beautiful.
    At our sangha care meeting 2 weeks later, we chose Together We Are One as our next book to read during sangha and began our plans for a Day of Mindfulness focused on racism and classism with our Dharma Teacher, Peggy Smith.

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  13. Michelle Ritter

    Dear Thay, dear sangha,

    This week in Portland, OR, our Joyful Refuge Sangha read Thay’s statement in the New York Times from September 18, 2001, published at the end of his book Calming the Fearful Mind. Thereafter we spoke the names of the slain Orlando victims and also the shooter as we sat and generated the energy of compassion to all impacted by this tragedy. We then had time for the community to share their own feelings and reflections.

    Bowing with deep gratitude for our practice and our welcoming community,
    Michelle Ritter

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  14. Peter Kuhn Chan He Hai

    Offered musical pieces this week and the week before dedicated to Orlando, encouraging the audience to feel and care for the mix of strong feelings and cultivate bodhichitta for all involved directly and indirectly (all beings).

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  15. Jody Figgins

    Dear Thay, Dear Sangha,
    Open Heart Mindfulness Community in Green Bay Wisconsin had a special dharma sharing that arose naturally where we shared our feelings about the shooting in Orlando. We also sang a metta prayer for all those who suffered and are suffering, including the shooter. At another practice we discussed how we are engaged as a sangha and what it means to be inclusive. We reviewed our vision and decided to add the word ‘inclusiveness’. On July 4th, we had a special peaceful walking meditation with an intention to hold close all who suffer and are not safe. There were more shootings since Orlando, and many were in our hearts, including those who suffer so much that they create violence. We also decided to have a sangha booth present at our local Pride Alive event to show our support. We welcomed others to join us and had information available on the Five Mindfulness Trainings, what is mindfulness, ways we can be peaceful, and also offered many smiles.

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