Bravery, Love and Race

Warm Spring Greetings to everyone. As I write this, the trees are in full bloom and the sky is a blinding blue. This is a pretty in-depth email, so please take the time to read it. For the direct invitation to the June 8th event, please skip to the bottom.

The Boston Shambhala Center is radiating bravery and inspiration as well as grappling with some big societal issues that are present everyday in our community. Over the past few years there has been an active conversation about Diversity that has struggled to find a home amongst our programming and community events. Some of you were active in this work recently through the Diversity Committee, or the ‘Who Are We’ discussions, skillfully held and facilitated by Bryan Mendiola.

Having held a position of leadership in Shambhala while doing my own personal work around race and privilege, I have seen and felt our blind spots as a community. We are a predominantly white Sangha and I believe we are ready to begin the difficult work of understanding these blind spots.

Recently there have been conversations amongst our emerging teachers, race study groups that are starting to form and an overall intense longing to bring race and identity into our understanding and practice of Enlightened Society. Where do we talk about identity, race and difference in our Sangha and how do we understand the barriers present to being more inclusive and reflective of the Greater Boston community?

Since December a small focus group of sangha members have been meeting to tackle this very question. We want to develop ways for our community to have this conversation without further tokenizing or relying on people of color to carry the burden of educating and calling the conversation about what our obstacles are in being more inclusive and awake.

Here are a few things that are already happening that I want you to know about.


Listen, Learn, Connect: Focus Group
Shastri Nick Kranz, Deidra Montgomery, Brandon Sloan, Ashley Hodson, Miguel Gomes

This focus group (which we call ‘Listen, Learn, Connect’) has been meeting regularly for nearly six months to talk about race and Shambhala Boston. We are still in an early stage of gathering information and wisdom from other communities like CIMC, Brooklyn Zen, Shambhala Diversity Committee, Natural Dharma Fellowship, Harvard Divinity and Shambhala Centers around the mandala invested in change and social justice.

We have identified three main needs in the community that would begin the work of seeing where racism exists in our personal experience as well as our organizational and communal experience. We are still designing the structure and forums needed to support these needs at the Center:


1. The need for a safe space for people of color in our center to practice, study and be in community together. This allows for safer access points for people of color to enter into the community. (See Step 2 in next steps)

2. The need for both white people and people of color to have separate process spaces and discussion around race. This allows for the deep inner work of understanding where racism touches our lives in ways that are seen and unseen, particularly in the context of our Shambhala community. (See Step 3 in next steps below)

3. The need for a community forum/space to process and learn about race together as a mixed group of races and identities. This allows for a collective process to see each other more clearly, share our experiences and link arms to create the society we think is possible.

Next Steps

1. Dismantling Racism with Meditation: A Workshop for White People June 8th
This workshop is about working within a safe community to develop a gentle and non-judgmental approach to addressing racism, racial conditioning, and the need for racial healing. Read More and Register

2. Inviting a people of color gathering, information forthcoming!

3. Launching ongoing groups for both white people and people of color to gather and begin this work together. It will likely be a 6-month module for each track that a group of people will commit to completing together in order to provide a container and an environment of bravery. We are still designing these tracks with the help of many people and resources.


Many of you are already fighting injustice on levels of identity, accessibility, difference, power and privilege and for that I’m so humbled and appreciative to learn from each of you and to work together. From where I sit as the Executive Director of the Shambhala Center in Boston, this is deeply important work for our community. Whether you hold a leadership title in Shambhala or you come occasionally to meditate, I invite you into this work of awareness and love for a better society.

If you would like to stay connected to this conversation or lend your support to the next steps of unfolding, please reach out here: [email protected]

In the vision of the Great Eastern Sun,
Ashley Hodson

Executive Director
Shambhala Boston

June 8th
Dismantling Racism with Meditation: A Workshop for White People
This workshop is about working within a safe community to develop a gentle and non-judgmental approach to addressing racism, racial conditioning, and the need for racial healing. Read More and Register
Click Here to Register

Resources to learn more:

Buddhists for Racial Justice: An Open Letter
“This is an online home for a multi-racial, cross-tradition response to racism on the part of Buddhist Teachers, Monastics, Priests, Leaders, Ministers, Practitioners, and Clergy.”

Videos from Harvard Divinity School’s 2016 Race and Buddhism Conference

Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation
by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams, Lama Rod Owens, Jasmine Syedullah Ph.D.

White Awake Website
“White Awake is an open source curriculum that brings mindfulness, critical inquiry, and embodied forms of practice to white affinity work and the development of white racial awareness.”