Letter to the community June 4th
During the past week, I have been stirred with emotions of grief and anger. In the midst of this, it’s important for me to make this commitment: I will re-call your names: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade, and Manuel Ellis. I will re-call the names of black transpeople, women, and men whose names we don’t yet know, who have been brutalized and killed by police and white vigilantes. I will stand with your families and communities in our commitment to work to end systemic racism in our country, and white supremacy in our very own hearts.
This has led me to ask the question: What does Vallecitos have to do with these tragic, senseless losses and the unrelenting violence that black, brown, and indigenous communities face day-in and day-out in this country?
Everything and nothing.
Nothing… Vallecitos is a secluded retreat center on Ute and Jicarilla land. Set far, far away from the civil unrest, ripping grief, confusion, outrage, and the crushing injustice raging across our cities.
And everything… Separateness is a distortion of right view. And Right View is one of our values and you’re going to see more action from us on this. This is something I’ve learned so much from the Dharma about. This is what it means to awaken.
As Guiding Teacher and a white, straight, cis-woman with unearned class privilege who has the joy of being in deep relationship with BIPOC, my daily life still stands in stark contrast to the lives of many of our sangha members of color, those who are trans, non-binary, queer, poor, (self-identifying) fat, disabled, and/or immigrants. My responsibility to dismantle white supremacy is different than yours, and I have more privilege to redistribute. All of that is true.
And it’s also true, that as the Buddha taught, separateness is an illusion. Much of my commitment to dismantle the racist infrastructure that enacts violence on black and brown bodies, comes from the dissonance between the freedoms I enjoy and the freedoms my black, indigenous, and friends of color can’t. I’m also inspired to act by the possibilities that are nurtured in the flagship Belonging Retreat we hold, diverse teaching teams, and the relationships that continue to grow out of our shared ground in the Dharma of liberation.
And, if I’m committed to the truth of things, I’ll admit that the majority of our practitioners are white. We are committed to being an increasingly racially awake community through curating community care resources, through continuing to cultivate deep relationships with teachers of color, through continuing our staff and leadership’s un-learning of white supremacy, and raising-up the colonial history and indigenous stewardship of the land upon which Vallecitos rests. You’re going to see more from us here.
In this moment of tragedy, confusion, facing ignorance, and the burn-out that can ensue, let’s turn towards Ruth King’s teachings in Mindful of Race. In her book, Ruth presents her rendering of Michele McDonald’s RAIN which she calls “Working with racial distress.” It may just be a source of release and relief for you.
Recognize: What’s Happening?,
Allow: Can I be with What’s Happening?,
Investigate: How am I relating to what’s happening?, and;
Nurture: How do I care for this distress?.
“With RAIN, we are investigating the unfinished business of the heart through the body. We are transforming our conditioning by seeing behind, beneath, and beyond the object of racial distress in service to freedom.”
Might Ruth’s guidance be of service to you, to your loved ones, and to your community in this time? I know her teaching supports my unfolding. Here is an unparalleled offering
Finally, we at Vallecitos are curating an ongoing list of community care resources. All the while acknowledging that you and I (and the next sangha member) occupy different realities. In this spirit of recognition, we offer them to you.
In deep care,
Erin Treat, Guiding Teacher
P.S. These recent events are deeply tragic, and what’s really tragic is that they’re not new. I am not here to send you this letter to look good. I am here to voice our commitment to what you know we’re already committed to: Dharma in the service of liberation for all beings.
This…while state and federal governments are talking about “opening-up” again. Restarting the economy. All the while, human lives, particularly BIPOC, disabled, elderly, and immunocompromised folks, are hanging in the balance.