We are living in an extraordinarily challenging time, confronted by a cascade of crises that demand our full attention. The climate emergency is only part of a much larger ecological breakdown that threatens civilization as we know it and perhaps even our survival as a species. And it is becoming ever more apparent that ecological healing cannot be separated from determined efforts to address racism and other forms of social injustice. Over the last year the coronavirus pandemic has already led to the loss of well over half a million lives in the U.S. alone, including a disproportionate number of people of color. It has also disrupted social and economic systems in ways that aggravate the enormous (and still growing) gap between rich and poor in this country. The police killings of yet more Black people during 2020 and 2021 have revived unhealed wounds that have haunted our nation for centuries. We share the widespread feelings of deep grief and outrage, but that is not enough: these tragic events require all of us to respond, as well as we can.
The RMERC Board of Directors shares the concerns well expressed by the Guiding Teachers of the Insight Meditation Society:
“All actions have their genesis in our hearts and minds. The light of awareness is in this moment shining brightly upon the tragic manifestations of hatred, ignorance and delusion that led to the death of George Floyd [and many other people of color since him]. Delusion blames others, creates enemies, and fosters disconnection, sustaining the illusion of separateness upon which war, racism, and injustice rest. True lasting change will only come when we awaken that sense of personal and shared responsibility and compassion for all.”
“For white people in our sanghas, there is a responsibility to educate ourselves about the historic and current expressions of racism and oppression so that we can be a positive force for the good. We are called upon to see and come close to the magnitude of the suffering before us, and not turn away once again as if these devastating events are singular occurrences. It is not enough to practice loving-kindness and compassion in the solitude of our meditation; we can all strive to have them manifest in our actions, actively seeking ways to address the immediacy of the suffering as well as its many underlying causes.”
As the Japanese Buddhist founder Kukai taught, “You can measure the depth of a person’s awakening by how they serve others.” In these crucial times it is essential that the qualities we cultivate and develop in our practice be applied to address the myriad social and ecological problems that face us. Both individually and collectively, all of us at RMERC are committed to do the best we can in response to these challenges.
May all beings be safe, may everyone be free from harm and danger.
What IS RMERC Doing?
Since the Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center was founded in 2017, the RMERC Board of Directors has been focusing primarily on the massive infrastructure improvements necessary to provide a physical home for meditation retreats and related events. We have also been working to create the institutional systems to organize and support such activities. Now that much of that is in place, we are able to focus more on our mission – that is, addressing ecological crises, including their social dimensions.
To that end, this is an update on how the Directors of RMERC have been grappling with what to do – both individually and as an organization – to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which are interwoven with the environmental crises that confront us on a global level. We strive to steward the generous donations of time and money that so many people have offered in ways that not only support a wonderful place for contemplative retreats, but also promote the broad Ecodharma values of the center.
Over the past year, RMERC has been working toward cultivating a more inclusive Board. A second woman joined the Board in February 2020, and we are cultivating relationships to better include the voices of people of color. Last summer the Board decided that, in order to understand better the challenges around diversity, equity, and inclusion for RMERC as an organization, we needed to do more in-depth work as individuals. In particular, the white male directors of RMERC undertook a study course this past fall/winter that included such topics as racism and white privilege, sexism and patriarchy, economic disparities, the history of indigenous genocide in Boulder County, and much more. This group immersion into the long history of discrimination, prejudice, and privilege based on race and gender was a sobering experience.
The roots of these problems date back centuries and are ingrained in our culture, residing inside us in ways that we often do not fully realize. We must acknowledge the long history and immense suffering surrounding these issues so that we are able to witness and alter these patterns as they manifest, not only individually but in our organizational culture. The RMERC Board of Directors is committed to understanding and addressing these challenges as best we can.
The conclusion of the male Board members’ course provided a foundation from which to improve some of the ways we work together. As a result, we have restructured board meetings and administrative functions so that responsibilities, roles and decision making are more evenly distributed among the directors. We are pleased to report that these changes are working well.
On a broader level, all members of the Board are united in our concern that the mission of RMERC includes healing social divisions and creating inclusivity in our hearts and communities in whatever ways we can. We are happy that this intention is reflected now more than ever with the upcoming season of retreats. We are blessed with a rich diversity of programs this year, including:
- A people of color Ecodharma retreat for those involved with environmental activism
- An insight meditation retreat for gender non-binary and same-sex oriented individuals meeting to cultivate sangha, live in courage, and celebrate diversity
- An ElderCouncil Retreat honoring, fostering, and sharing the wisdom of ElderSouls
- Hosting a group that focuses on supporting women in spiritual practice
- Many retreats focusing on spiritual practice in the natural world
- Several silent meditation retreats
We hope this diversity of offerings moves us in the direction of an inclusive sangha that reflects the diversity of society. Our aspiration is that everyone who feels the call to explore Ecodharma and connect deeply with nature can feel welcome and at home at our center.
RMERC is also organizing ongoing gatherings with spiritual teachers and activist leaders on the Colorado Front Range and beyond, asking “How can we integrate Ecodharma teachings and practices into our sanghas and the broader community, and how can we support each other in this endeavor?”
In these and other ways, the RMERC Board of Directors is exploring the meaning of this new Buddhist development, Ecodharma, and we continue to welcome new partnerships and to look for new opportunities to promote Ecodharma through personal growth and organizational programming.
Note: The RMERC Board welcomes comments and suggestions in response to this statement.