On a brilliant sunny weekend in late June 2017, twenty Plum Village practitioners gathered at Rose Apple Retreat Center in Vermont for a weekend retreat on “White Awake.” The group included monastics, lay dharma teachers, OI members, and Wake Up members. The retreat was facilitated by core ARISE members Sr. Ocean and John Bell.
There were four objectives of the retreat:
- To build our relationships with a focus on white people working to undo racism;
- To do some of our own work to heal from white racialized conditioning;
- To learn some frameworks and practices for exploring this territory and facilitating the work; and
- To think together about how the issues of white supremacy culture show up in our practice community and next steps in engaging our community more deeply in this work
The retreat was rich and powerful. In addition to silence, singing, and walking meditations, retreatants shared how we came to learn we were white and what early messages we received about people from different races. We experimented with a variation of Beginning Anew with our white European ancestry. We watched a heart-wrenching video documentary about the impact of the Native American boarding schools that helped destroy tribal cultures for generations. We identified some ways that white privilege and power manifest in our Plum Village community, and generated some ideas for ways to address some of them, which included planning a White Awake Retreat, creating a template for a Day of Mindfulness for white practitioners, refining and testing a White Awake curriculum for use in person or online, and creating some online class or study group.
Participants agreed that the retreat was a mere beginning, but a good beginning. We look forward to tasting the fruits of this gathering for years to come!
Before the retreat, participants were asked to do some pre-retreat work, specifically to:
- Watch “Birth of a White Nation”
- Read “Our Analysis” from the White Awake website (www.whiteawake.org)
- Read “What is White Supremacy”
- Read “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”
- Read “Code of Ethics for Anti-Racist White Allies”
- To write a short bio about one’s experience and background related to this work
These were not the focus of the retreat itself but provided some important perspectives and information as a backdrop. We invite you to explore these resources with friends and Sangha.