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Freedom Through Storytelling: A Retreat for People of Black African Descent

Residential Program
Dates: May 19, 2023 - May 24, 2023
Days: Friday - Wednesday
Number of Nights: 5 nights

Instructor(s): Kate Johnson, Lawrence Barriner II

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Course Description:

One of the ways that the Buddha taught freedom is through telling stories. He shared tales of devotion, renunciation, transformation, and transcendence, stories that were preserved and shared across generations and generations of Asian Buddhist practitioners. We bow to these lineages, and celebrate our good fortune to learn from these stories still. 

As Black people, this time honored tradition of telling freedom stories feels rich and familiar. Meditation and storytelling are practices that have been a part of healing and transformation for us too, for centuries. Stories reminded us of who we really were when colonization and enslavement tried to erase us, and they have guided us on freedom journeys both physical and spiritual throughout the African diaspora. 

In these times of increasing intensity, stories have the power not only to remind us of our humanity — what we love, what’s important to us — but also to help us shape the world we want and need, the world that is almost here and is begging to be spoken into existence. 

In this weekend retreat led by and for Black people, we will meditate, tell our stories, and meditate some more. 

Our dharmic framework will be the Buddha’s teachings on spiritual friendship, or Kalyana Mitta. This teaching states that the true spiritual friend is one who can “tell you their secrets” and “keep your secrets” — which is to say, can give and receive the real and intimate truths of our lived experiences. 

Our storytelling will center our experiences and our dreams of liberating relationships — what it is to come into radical friendship with ourselves, with each other, with all people and with the land itself.

What if we viewed these times of crisis as an opportunity to bring the clarity that comes from meditation to the power that comes from storytelling? 

"These are the times to grow our souls. Each of us is called upon to embrace the conviction that despite the powers and principalities bent on commodifying all our human relationships, we have the power within us to create the world anew."

— Grace Lee Boggs

Transportation Assistance: We are happy to offer multiple ways of increasing accessibility to the BCBS campus. We will share a ride share page specific to this retreat. Barre Center for Buddhist Studies will also provide a single van shuttle ride to and from BCBS on opening and closing day to Boston for those who are unable to find a ride using the rideshare boards. The page and van pickup information will be shared with you upon registration.

Noble Silence:
This program includes dedicated periods of both wise speech and noble silence. Some contemplative exercises may involve mindful speaking and listening. Noble silence is to be upheld at all other times.

Experience Level:
Suitable for beginning and experienced practitioners.

Cancellation Policy:
During the pandemic, there is a cancellation fee of $50 for all residential programs longer than two nights and $25 for weekend programs. 2023: If you need to cancel your registration, please contact us as soon as possible. If you cancel two or more weeks before a program begins, cancellation fees are $50 for all programs longer than two nights and $25 for weekend programs. If you cancel less than two weeks before your program begins, your full deposit is forfeited. If you have requested financial assistance, cancellation fees are $50 for all programs longer than two nights and $25 for weekend programs. All cancellation fees support our Scholarship Funds.

Covid-19 Safety Protocol:
Please review our Covid-19 Safety Protocols here: https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/covid-19/.

As we work to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community, we invite feedback/suggestions you may have regarding ways that we can make participation in the program more accessible and welcoming. Please email us at contact@buddhistinquiry.org.
    About the Instructor(s):
  • Kate Johnson is a Buddhist meditation teacher, writer and mama who loves integrating embodiment, justice, and the practice of wise relationship in all of her work. She’s been a passionate practitioner in the Western Insight/Theravada Buddhist tradition since 2008, and was fully authorized as a retreat teacher through Spirit Rock’s training program in 2020. She is the author of the book Radical Friendship: Seven Ways to Love Yourself and Find Your People in an Unjust World (Shambhala, 2021).

  • Lawrence Barriner II is a narrative strategist, connector, and systems thinker. Lawrence first explored weaving meditation and storytelling together with his friend, Fez Aswat.  Over the course of his professional career, he has honed his communications, facilitation, and design skills and is continually exploring how to use them to continuously shape a more socially and environmentally just world. You can find the vision and values that shape his life and world in his vision statement.