By Rhonda V. Magee
The Vision and the Call Behind the Creation of this Beloved Community
Why we need new spaces for healing and connecting
Against the background of the often over-the-top distresses of these times, where can we find deeper support for personal-to-collective healing and flourishing? And how can we develop the capacity to create such spaces for others?
Over the past few years, since the publication of The Inner Work of Racial Justice, I’ve become increasingly aware that I wanted a way of both keeping connected with good, active people – people really engaging deeply with questions like that one, and of sharing what we’ve been learning along the way.
And in thousands of hours of working with others in socially-engaged mindfulness, I’ve come to see how much I am not alone.
That’s why this community of practice matters.
Here we offer resources – opportunities to join together both online and, in some instances and events, in person. We explore traditional wisdom teachings which have been shown to support deepening love, ease and a sense of belonging; for ourselves, but not only for ourselves. We share practices that support developing mindfulness-based awareness and compassion. And we experience for ourselves how doing so can increase our sense of belonging, wellbeing and resilience.
Here, we will open up windows onto ways of engaging these practices in the everyday-ness of our own unique lives – a way of starting where we are, of meeting in and through the very particularities of the stories of our lives, in loving embrace; but importantly, a way of doing all of that without getting stuck in the identities and details in ways that limit our capacity for growth, for new ways of being in connection, and for transformation.
Building and exploring such a framework and set of practices in the style of exploration offered here will take time. Indeed, I personally believe that is the worthiest work of the rest of my lifetime.
What’s more, I know from experience that this will not always be easy.
Nevertheless, I am really excited to be here with you at this moment, and to offer this space for joining together in service of deepening our resources and building community at this time. I look forward to expanding our network of connection, of learning about one another’s experiences. Whether we think of doing so as stitching together our worlds, like patches making up a quilt, or joining the rivers of our lives together like estuaries meeting the Ocean, we have here a chance to make the invisible connections that run through our lives, visible; to make known the Ocean of interbeing in which we are all already always swimming.
Still, as we form our community of practice, it may help us to prepare to move through what traditional wisdom teachers sometimes call the “worldly winds” – and to make our way through what may feel like great waves of difficulty that will no doubt ebb and flow.
We can expect to experience some of the typical interpersonal conflicts, and to feel ourselves buffeted about by the winds of gain and loss, success and failure, praise and blame, pleasure and pain. Our reactions to all of this – individually and collectively – give us much to work with. There are predictable personal, interpersonal, and whole-group dynamics that might as well get ready to experience.
For example, sociologist Bruce Tuckman identified four phases of traditional group formation that I think provide a useful shorthand for aspects of what we can anticipate: forming, storming; norming; and performing. What might this look like in this community – whether in its online version here, or in the places where we may gather together from time to time in various formats, in person? It is my hope that we’ll have a chance to explore that over the coming years.
The good news? There are both ancient practices, as well as proven and emerging research-grounded insights that point the way towards ways of being in the face of all of this that can be uplift and inspire each of us, and can help us be the healing our families, communities and workplaces in which we live, love and serve.
We ground in time-honorered ethics, practices and teachings to be able to navigate this ocean well, both separately and together.
I think of this community as being formed around the cultivation and practices that nurture the very roots of wellbeing.
The essential nutrients that form the roots of wellbeing
As in the natural world, the roots that we’ll cultivate here will require nurturing and essential nutrients, akin to the water, sunlight and good soil in which foliage grows in the natural world. Here, we will focus on bringing our ethical, love-in-action practices to bear as a foundation for building our community by relying on the following nutritional or growth enhancing inputs:
Grounding in the ethics essential to deepening mindfulness, including wholesome intentions, speech and actions, all aimed at doing as little harm as possible. We will observe the following commitments with the goal of creating a trustworthy space here: no lying or repeating known untruths; no taking, re-using or re-publishing what is not freely given for such purposes; not becoming intoxicated, and not engaging in sexual misconduct or abuse.
Establishing equitable agreements around mindful interpersonal communication, including committing to pausing before reacting automatically, and choosing, instead, a response; reframing from blaming or shaming others; being willing to try on new ideas; recognizing the differences in power and the impacts of historical patterns of exclusion and inclusion that may be a part of the context; practicing confidentiality and mutual respect; and minding the gap that often arises between intent and impact.
Exploring practices, teachings and learnings for deepening mindfulness, including the unique curriculum that might be called for, based on our experiences, wounds, positions and equitable needs.
Developing values- and practice-aligned practices for addressing conflicts, including violations of these agreements. And
Being accountable and co-supporting these agreements and our community.
A foundation in engaged mindfulness and compassion practices – with a soulful twist
In my experience over the years, I’ve benefited greatly from practicing mindfulness and related means of cultivating awareness and kindness, and bringing those to bear in a changing world. In co-creating this community with you, I will be drawing on these practices. And, I’ll offer many opportunities for you to learn and practice along with me.
In terms of practices, traditional mindfulness will be central. To support us in establishing a traditional mindfulness practice and way of being, together we will lean into the four establishments of mindfulness: mindfulness of the body, of feeling tone, of mind, and of how we relate to the traditional sources of suffering; or, of dharmas.
The practices of mindfulness support us in exploring the core insights derived from these practices and handed down over the millennia as the four noble truths: there is dissatisfaction and suffering in our lives; there are causes of this dissatisfaction and suffering; there are means of ending this dissatisfaction and suffering; the end of this dissatisfaction and suffering is accomplished by walking the walk of change: by engaging in an 8-step path that interweaves insight, compassion and ethical action to support wise action and relating with others in a world of constant change.
And what’s more, we explore how four core forms of practice – sitting in awareness of breathing in the body; body scanning; mindful walking; and mindful movements of all forms (including dancing, singing, art/music and communicating/storytelling… this is where the soulfulness comes in!) — support us in deepening our experience of our body-minds, relaxing into a sense of belonging and feeling more genuinely alive in the moments that we have; and living with a sense of basic goodness, wellbeing and ease.
Here, we practice celebrating the wholesome particularities that make our lives worth living! And we will do that even as we explore new ways of being with all that we love in ways that, paradoxically, reflect our understanding of the inherent impermanence of all that is — including all of those things and aspects of our lives that we hope and pray last forever (even as we know we really know that they won’t).
Lastly, we integrate all of these practices (and more) with unique and soulful reflections, movements and practices for cultivating kindness, compassion, joy in ourselves (and in the good that happens to others!) and equanimity.
So that’s it! I am so glad you’re here! And if you’ve read along this far, I am gonna just come out and say it: odds are, you’re meant to be here! Indeed, you might already be one of us.
Please take a look around here. Explore this introduction to the work that provides the background of these offerings.
And if you’d like to join in community here, click here now to create your own profile – trust me: it will be fun! — and join our subscription-based community.