Reflections on Tusk Consulting DEI Training

Sam Murphy, Board Member

I recently had the opportunity to attend three DEI training sessions along with 25 other Dharma Rain leaders.  It was great to engage in this work with other sangha members, especially after the relative isolation of COVID.

When we first began, I wondered why Dharma Rain needed to have DEI training.  I mean, this is a group of “enlightened” people, so surely, we were above the racist and domination mindsets that plague this country.  Of course, I was quickly reminded of how many blind spots I have around various marginalized groups and the ways I have been trained to use “power over” vs. “power with”, and how even well-intentioned institutions like ours can be inequitable or uncomfortable for some people based on race, gender, sexuality, age and physical ability.

It’s not quite right to say I am excited to engage in this work; I’m thinking that there will be lots of uncomfortable discussions on the way.  On that I take refuge in the sangha, and know I could never do this work on my own. I am excited and motivated by the thought of building a community where everyone feels welcome, loved and valued for exactly who they are.

Alice Chan, Board Member

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in all three sessions of the training conducted by Tusk Consulting. Unlike other diversity training at work, I am interested to learn and want to make a difference to the sangha at Dharma Rain.

In session #1, I examined my beliefs and the prejudices I hold. I realized I have been practicing privileged neutrality with thoughts like, “I don’t like labels. I just see myself as human,” and “We’re all just human. Can’t we all just get along?” Even though I am a person of color, I admit that I am biased and (un)consciously demonstrate racism mindsets and behaviors. The biggest takeaway for me in this session is the difference between “Equality” vs “Equity” and how equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances.

In session #2, I learned the concept of “Productive Zone of Disequilibrium.” It makes me realize how often I stay with the “Threshold of Change” and do everything I can to avoid the problem.  It dawned on me that I am an expert in gaslighting to avoid discomfort so that I don’t need to confront white people. Perhaps I felt I lack the skill and capacity to challenge the situation because of the strong cultural norms around white supremacy. During this class, I rewrote my “rules” of engagement and one of the rules I wrote down is: “I take risks and point out to white people when I feel there is racist comment or behavior.”

In the last session, we discussed anti-racist systems change. The discussions in breakout groups were deep. We talked about systemic oppression inside Dharma Rain and where power is concentrated within the Dharma Rain community. After the training, I continue to ponder the questions “What can I do now to make things better?” and “Where do I have influence?”

After only six hours’ training, I feel we just began touching the surface of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion [as a topic at Dharma Rain]. I am far from being competent in racial equity, anti-racism, and systems change. But it sparks my curiosity and I am on this journey to change my mindset and embody anti-racist practices. 

Gabe Fields, Assistant Godo and Dharma Council Member

I felt some familiar resistance and trepidation signing up for the training – an impulse to protect my time, and hesitance to enter into the daunting territory of race, privilege, inequity and the like.  Also present, though quieter, was interest and even excitement about the possibility of growing through grappling with topics I tend to keep at arm’s length. I’d had an encouraging, eye-opening experience participating in Dharma Rain’s Awakening to Whiteness program, and some of that inspiration was still with me.  So while on one level there was a reluctant sense that I “should” attend this DEI training, I could also genuinely appreciate the opportunity and sangha encouragement to open up to challenging material.  In the training, what felt most immediately helpful was to connect with a compelling guiding vision for DEI work: universal belonging and collective liberation.  Talking about racism, oppression, and my own blind spots of privileged ignorance feels intimidating and polarizing.  Why would I want to do that?  Oh yeah, universal belonging and collective liberation.  Although I had been exposed to many of the ideas presented in the training before, understanding and integrating them is an incremental, ongoing process. As with other forms of dharma study and practice, it feels like something I’m just beginning. 

Karl Kanbergs, Greeter Lead

I was fortunate to attend the recent anti-racist training. Buddhist concepts, in general, and the practices and atmosphere at Dharma Rain seem well suited to serve as a locus or agent of change in achieving greater equity for oppressed groups. As the subject is complex, systemic societal changes and the role that Dharma Rain might play will evolve over time and be a challenging journey calling for the collective wisdom of the Sangha.  Personally, as a greeter, I can welcome guests and members with an open heart and be sensitive to their spiritual needs by listening to them respectfully and with humility.   

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