Draft imagining of an engaged Plum Village sangha blending "Beloved Community Circles", Wake Up, and BIPOC sangha aspirations

I rest in a forest of trees of every kind – oaks, manzanitas, tall pines, redwoods – all aspiring to the vast and open sky. Root systems, though not visible on the surface of this forest, are deeply interwoven, existing in symbiotic relationship with the insects, fungi, and rich, fertile soil. Some trees are young saplings or even sprouts, offshoots of older trees. Others have borne witness to this earth for many generations, their presence steady through genocide, war, and much suffering.

We humans are like this forest of trees. Our roots transmit the inheritance of our ancestors, grounding us in the lands and people from which we came. We cannot escape the suffering and happiness of our ancestors. Our trunk - stomach, chest, heart, stable and strong backs - hold many of our gifts. Our resilience, compassion, creativity, and intuition arise in our core. And our arms and minds open to the possibility of descendents. Not just blood descendents, inclusive of the many people and places we touch in our thoughts, speech, actions. Our descendents are everything that flows from us.

I imagine this gathering of trees, of people, in a community space that centers people of color, young practitioners, and those that reside for other reasons on the margins: LGBTQ+ folks, those differently abled, those with limited financial resources. Where shared responsibility and ownership is built into the fabric of the community: where each person offers their unique and wonderful gifts to the sangha with open arms. There is no need for hierarchy. Power dynamics are spoken of and distribution of decision-making is done with intention and care. We respond to ever-changing conditions with ease and letting go, making decisions that reflect the needs of the whole community.

The four tenets of the tree community

1. Shared responsibility = shared ownership.

When each sangha member has clear invitations to contribute and take responsibility, each member has ownership of the sangha. They are inspired to support the sangha with their creativity and gifts, building a space of wellbeing and care for all.

2. Clear interrogation of power.

Power dynamics are named and made visible to all members. Be mindful of how our space might default to dominant ways of being and acting, which empower some and limit the engagement of others. Define practices that facilitate a new and radically equitable path forward.

3. True inclusivity.

Explore a space where all are welcome and youthful and active presence are celebrated. Establish a stated commitment to 50% people of color in attendance, and 50% facilitation by people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, and other folks who may hold marginalized identities.

4. Community volunteering as shared practice.

Commitment to volunteer in the community on a monthly basis to cultivate the recognition of interbeing — not just within sangha but in relationship to the local community in which we live.

Additional brainstorming:

  • Above all, co-creation and shared ownership and responsibility
  • Encouraging the whole sangha to contribute, in facilitation or otherwise
  • Values of freshness, creativity, empowerment, interbeing, fun
  • “Youthful and fresh energy” without clear age requirements
  • Centering people of color, young people, LGBTQ+, those differently abled: 50% BIPOC membership and 50% facilitation by BIPOC (and others who we’d like to center)
  • Monthly volunteering (e.g., last Sunday of the month)
  • Bridging sanghas in San Francisco and the East Bay: Wake Up SF, New Gen, Hella Just
  • Letting go of hierarchies, stating all power dynamics that exist, being clear about intersectional identities (and acknowledging our privileges and challenges)
  • Loose ties to Beloved Community Circles initiative
  • Some commitment requested of sangha members: attendance, contributions, volunteering
  • oriented around healing and transformation, looking deeply at suffering in ourselves and in the world