A reflection on Bhante Suhita Dharma

Bhante Suhita Dharma, 12/02/12, East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland CA (photo by Max Airborne)Venerable Bhante Suhita Dharma died suddenly on Dec. 28. (Please see Mushim Ikeda’s beautiful tribute to Bhante on Turning Wheel Media)

My dear friend and teacher Mushim has asked me to write a reflection on the impact Bhante Suhita Dharma has had on my life. I received the ten Bodhisattva precepts from Bhante in December, 2012.

In fall of 2012, I started feeling increased curiosity about monastic life, and a yearning to move in that direction. I wasn’t entirely sure what this meant or how to turn my life there, but I set out to explore this with many of my Dharma friends and mentors. Mushim questioned me about what I really wanted and why. The essence of the desire I could distill was that I wanted to firmly root my life in Dharma practice, to devote my life to the Dharma. She immediately directed me to her friend Bhante Suhita Dharma. Bhante knew first hand what it meant to ordain in all three branches of Buddhism (as well as some other traditions), and had been a friend, guide, mentor and preceptor to many on the path.

Mushim went home and called Bhante to make my introduction, then Bhante and I set a time to talk on the phone. I felt excited and nervous, blessed by Mushim’s encouragement, trusting her instincts for me, knowing that connecting with Bhante would be a step toward my heart’s longing, and feeling open to the mystery.

Bhante Suhita Dharma, 12/02/12, East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland CA (photo by Holly Hessinger)

I called Bhante at the temple where he lived in Los Angeles and we talked for an hour. He loved to laugh, and his gentle spirit put me at ease. I asked him about paths to ordination. He asked about my life and my practice. I asked about his. What did his monastic life entail? He was very clear that a life of devotion to the Dharma, for him, was about service to others. Doing whatever we can, wherever we find ourselves. As we talked, my heart began to swell with the realization that the devotion and practice I wanted to cultivate was right in front of me. Bhante suggested that a good next step for me was to take the ten Bodhisattva precepts. He asked if I knew what they were, and offered to give them to me. I had written my own version of a Bodhisattva vow several years previous, but there hadn’t been any precepts involved. This was a new idea for me, and I loved it. “So how does it work?” I asked. “Should I come to Los Angeles?” “No,” he said. “I will come to you.” Wow, really? I was astounded that he would make such a trip for this purpose. We parted without a concrete plan, but knowing something would come together soon.

Mushim emailed me the following day to say, “You really got the ball rolling!”  Bhante would come to Oakland in December and give precepts to me and other students from Mushim’s year-long “Practice in Action” group at East Bay Meditation Center. A whole ceremony was being planned, and there was much to do! Over the next several weeks, Mushim and Bhante worked closely to plan all the details, carefully choosing Dharma names for each person who would receive the precepts, asking for my help in creating beautiful certificates for each person. They really wanted this ceremony to feel special to each of us, and they put so much love into it.

Bhante Suhita Dharma and Mushim Ikeda, 12/02/12, East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland, CA (photo by Holly Hessinger)

In the kitchen of EBMC the morning of the ceremony, Bhante patiently answered my questions about how he became a child monk, but he didn’t want to linger too long on his stories, saying we could talk about all that later. What he really wanted to discuss the possibilities for doing an internet radio station. He had lots of ideas and enthusiasm for sharing the Dharma.

During our ceremony, Bhante impressed upon us that we were committing ourselves to simply do what needed to be done, and that while this was simple, it wouldn’t always be easy or pretty. As he gave us each our new name, he told us its meaning. He was both playful and plainly serious. Most of all, he was kind and loving toward us. Having received our Dharma names, he said, we were now part of his Dharma family, and we could use “Dharma,” as he did, as the second part of our names to indicate so. Afterwards we took him to Fenton’s, which was apparently a regular stop for him when he visited the bay area. He loved their “Berry Go Round” sundae, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Bhante Suhita Dharma and Mushim Ikeda surrounded by receivers of the 10 Bodhisattva precepts, East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland, CA, 12/02/12 (photo by Holly Hessinger)The name I received is Sunanda, which Bhante says means “bringer of happiness.” Mushim says it was chosen just for me. I try to hold it lightly, while also knowing that it’s an invitation to live into my true nature. Somehow with the confidence of Bhante, it feels possible. I’m finding my way there. And sometimes, I know I’m already there.

My introduction to Bhante and receiving the precepts has ushered in some major life changes for me, which are ongoing. Bhante’s blessing has been exactly what I knew it would be – the beginning of stepping into a new life, in which I agree to simply do what needs to be done. The rest is a mystery.

My heart aches to think that Bhante is gone. Especially knowing what a tremendous loss this will be in the coming days for those closest to him. I know that Bhante was a rare creature who embodied the truest spirit of friendship.

May the spirit that flowed through Bhante Suhita Dharma flow through my actions, and those of all his Dharma family, to benefit all beings in all directions.

Bhante Suhita Dharma enjoying a Sundae at Fenton's, Oakland, CA, 12/02/12 (photos by Max Airborne)

Enjoying a Berry-Go-Round Sundae at Fenton’s, Oakland, CA, 12/02/12 (photos by Max Airborne)

A deep bow to you, the most Venerable Bhante Suhita Dharma

~Sunanda Dharma, Oakland, CA, December 30, 2013

Heal Greed

Heal Greed, art by Pomegranate Doyle

Generosity keeps on giving

On the morning of November 17, I watched the livestream of protestors in NYC being beaten as they attempted to shut down Wall St. I felt the intensity of the togetherness of the crowd, the depth of what seemed to be their commitment to nonviolence — these vast numbers of people surrounded everywhere by militarized police, keeping their eyes on the prize of economic justice and liberation. So many emotions ran through me: anger, inspiration, rage, love, determination, doubt. Yes, doubt. Am I doing enough? What more could I be doing?

In Oakland, there were no planned mass actions during that day, but our little affinity group had decided to do another action in front of Chase Bank on this day, in honor of the OWS attempt to shut down Wall St. In this action, we’d all be practicing generosity, offering one-dollar bills freely to all who passed. Such a completely different energy from what was happening that very moment in NYC. The sense of doubt was lingering. Was this generosity thing silly, juxtaposed with the injustice the world was experiencing and witnessing?

Max Airborne in "Generosity" hat in front of Chase Bank, Nov. 17, 2011. Photo by Jean PetersWe’d planned our action for the lunch hour downtown, at the same Chase Bank branch we’d visited before. The security guard recognized us as we arrived. He wouldn’t allow my comrade in to the bank to get change, so she had to go to another bank nearby. Another bank employee came out to speak to me. She told me that after we’d been there the previous time, their windows had been smashed and their ATM had been burned. In the spirit of generosity, I committed myself to really listening to her. I asked if it had caused her hardship, or made more work for her. She said they’d had to close down for a day, but nobody lost any pay. There was a short silence between us, and then I said we weren’t planning anything like that, we’re doing something different. I proceeded to show what we were about by starting to offer money to people as they passed, “Would you like to take this dollar and give it to someone who needs it? We’re practicing generosity.” The bank employee remained by my side for another minute or so while I did this. Then she turned to me and said “let me know if you need me to get you any change,” and went back in to the bank.

Giving away money in front of Chase Bank, Nov. 17, 2011, photo by MelvinEventually there were six of us. New arrivals were allowed into the bank to get change. We occupied half the block, about 10 feet apart, each of us gently holding out our money in offering to all who passed. It felt a bit different this time, with no mass action happening around us, just an ordinary business day lunch hour. It’s said that the path to liberation involves swimming upstream, and I’m reminded of this because that is so clearly what we are doing. There is not one single person walking down that street expecting to be freely offered money they didn’t ask for and which comes with no expectations. It goes against everything we think we know, and every reaction shows it.

Some folks were delighted by the surprise, others were shut down to it. The range of responses tells the story of human existence. One who was devastated by foreclosure of their home seemed to think we were part of a PR campaign for the bank. Another told stories about how she loved giving, and that she’d take the money to her church, where there was always someone who needed it. One guy had a grumpy response for each of us, such as “go home to your mother,” or “Halloween’s over, pal,” in response to my hat. One person stayed to join us. Another initially took a dollar, then came back with more money for us. There was one who, when asked if he’d like to give a dollar to someone who needed it, said “no, when people ask me for money I tell them “‘that’s not my job.'” There were plenty who ignored us entirely, and plenty who were tickled by the strange and unexpected joy of our action. Some who initially ignored us,  after walking past not one, not two, but six of us offering them a dollar, would stop at the last of us and say, “so, this isn’t a joke or a trick?” Nope, no catch. We are practicing generosity and encouraging you to do so, too. That is all.

The possibility of generosity, Nov. 17, 2011I was struck deeply by the surprise of my  internal experience. On an ordinary day in an ordinary context, I’d be annoyed by the grumpy ones, defensively judging those I perceive to be judging me, and likely to be generally unpleasantly reactive. But this practice of generosity has a kind of magic to it. It changes the narrative, and offers a completely different possibility. I felt no annoyance or impatience with anyone, and any judgements that floated through my mind were barely whispers. I was seeing each of these people in their full humanity, on a path that contains infinite choices and infinite possibilities — each potentially able to touch liberation at any moment. We were offering one possibility by example, planting the seeds of generosity through embodying it. Each offering felt completely unencumbered, naturally accompanied with a genuine feeling of goodwill.

I don’t think any of us were feeling doubt about the quiet revolutionary potential of our little generosity action by the end of that lunch hour. All actions that address injustice and greed are needed in these times, both internal and external, large and small. We weren’t shutting down the bank, instead we were doing our part to shut down human greed by digging a new pathway in our minds, and the minds of all those we encountered. So, to the passerby who asked if our action had been “successful,” I say “absolutely,” without a doubt.

Practicing generosity at the Oakland General Strike

One of the many things I love about the Occupy movement (also known as the Decolonize movement or (un)Occupy movement, both of which I support) is the vast array of artistic, cultural, philosophical, educational, and practical contributions coming from so many people and communities. I’m seeing so many folks who are really showing up, and masses of people who are acting like it’s possible to create the world we want to live in, acting like liberation is within reach. We’re exploring how to be together, how to make decisions together, how to disagree and stay united, how to take responsibility and hold each other accountable. It’s as though we, as Eihei Dogen suggested to his Zen students back in the 13th century, are practicing like our hair is on fire, and the only thing that can save us is practice. Only now, it’s our world that’s on fire. And we are realizing that our only hope for survival is going to the heart of the matter, both internally and externally. We are fed up and will settle for NOTHING LESS than the real thing.

For the day of the Oakland General Strike, a bunch of us from my queer sangha (spiritual community) formed an “affinity group” of sorts, to participate in the strike together. A few days beforehand, we met to plan our actions. One thing we planned was to find a large bank and do sitting and walking meditation outside. Later that night, one of our group lay awake in the wee hours, and was suddenly struck with a brilliant inspiration! S~he envisioned an expansion of our bank action — practicing generosity by giving away money in front of the bank. The polar opposite of what banks are doing.

The morning of the strike, we gathered early at Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza, many of us sporting our queerest, most colorful outfits, armed with a few signs and our personal collections of $1 bills. Around 10 of us showed up. Some of us danced in the flash mob, then we all took off with the big march down Broadway. A few blocks into the march, our affinity group split off from the march and headed for the large branch of Chase Bank.

Alphabet Sangha affinity group in front of Chase Bank during the Oakland General Strike

In front of the bank, we lined up not far from the front door and the ATM. There was a security guard at the front door, clearly on alert, checking us out, and unlocking the door only to let in one customer at a time. We went about our business, a motley group of rainbow and frills. Some of us wanted to do sitting meditation, one wanted to hand out felt hearts she’d made with words like “compassion,” “generosity,” and “kindness,” and some, myself included, wanted to hand out money. Folks in the group passed me their $1 bills, and between us we came up with around $40 total. We’d been saving our ones for the occasion.

As I reached out with one $1 bill at a time, I experimented with different ways to offer it, and how to say to passersby what we were doing. I remained seated on the back of my scooter, as disarming as possible in a muumuu with a rainbow zebra print, simply holding out my hand. With the helpful feedback of my comrades, my words evolved into something like this, “Would you like to take this dollar and give it to someone who needs it? Or keep it for yourself? We’re practicing generosity.” If they simply kept walking, I’d add, “We’re giving away money.” Sometimes that would be the phrase that got their attention.

The array of responses I received was fascinating to me. Some folks absolutely didn’t want to engage at all and just kept walking. Some would engage after a minute. Some needed the money for themselves and said so. Some loved the idea of participating in our action with us by taking a dollar, and letting me know they intended to give away.  Some seemed thrilled at the total surprise of being offered money. The bank security guard, who kept coming out of the bank and going back in, seemed pleasantly surprised at the completely non-threatening protest. One of the bank tellers came out of the locked bank and offered to go into the bank for us and get us change if we needed it. Excited by her gesture of appreciation, someone gave her a $20, and sure enough, a few minutes later she came back out with twenty ones. Along similar lines, some passersby loved it so much that they took a dollar, then reached into their own pockets and gave me all their $1 bills so I would have more to give away. So many people gave me money that I ended up giving away over $200 in the hour and a half we were there.

Some of my favorite interactions happened when a group of other protestors showed up with a much different mood and different tactics, shouting angry chants at the bank and blocking the door of the bank. They seemed unsure what to make of our calm and happy group. Then I started offering some of them money, with the same words and gestures I’d offered to everyone else. Every single protestor I engaged with was ready to engage back. I watched so many expressions change, from righteous anger to surprise and then amusement or excitement. From where I sat, it was with the protestors that our generosity action was most infectious — some of them started giving away money, too, living into those words with their own voices and outstretched hands, inviting strangers to take their money because they were practicing generosity.

I watched my own experience change, too, as the act of generosity moved from something I was enacting to something I was embodying. Some people I’d offered money would ask for more, and I noticed there was no resistance inside me, no questions to be asked, no clinging, no other possible answer but “yes, of course you can have more,” just the simple outflow of sharing what I had. We are all connected. All that I have is yours.

Our affinity group hasn’t had a chance to really debrief yet and share all of our experiences and interpretations of the event. Other folks in our group gave away money, and we each had a different approach and experience. One in our group actually walked with people as she tried to give them money, in contrast to my more passive, seated position that required people to come to me. Some of us gave away coins. A man of color in our group experienced some people thinking he was a panhandler. I look forward to hearing more of my comrades’ experiences with our action, exploring what came up for each of us, and discussing what we want to do next.

There’s a lot of talk right now about the movement’s “diversity of tactics,” and the discussion is often centered around violence and nonviolence. There is a lot of complexity to that conversation, and I am learning so much. It occurs to me now that I also want us to pay attention to how the tactics we employ affect our ways of being in the world, and what impact they have on the culture. With every word and action, we are planting seeds (whether we want to or not). Not just our mass actions, but every action. Our group’s little generosity action was one small creative experiment, which we are planning to continue, and perhaps to expand. I invite everyone to try similar experiments, to share the results, and to share ideas about ways to highlight and transform our ways of being in the world. May we all be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.

Being a subject for art, and the Dharma therein

I sat for a painting recently, my first time as a painting subject. I’d sat for a photographer once, several years ago. But somehow this painting felt different. More vulnerable, despite the fact that this painting was a face/head portrait only. Interesting. The photographer in question had been a fat woman, someone who I knew thought of me as attractive, and worked to portray me that way. The painter is a friend, a thin gay man, someone I haven’t seen in a long time and hold dearly but don’t really know all that well.

We had a great time catching up on our lives before the painting began. We talked a bit about politics, community, spirituality, art. No shortage of stuff to get pretty deep about between us, as is true for so many of my New Mexico friends.

He did a sketch first, which was a small painting meant for him to get a feel for what it was like to paint me. It was fascinating silently experiencing him work. He painted very quickly, dancing back and forth from the canvas and the palette, looking at me but not at me. It felt intimate to be part of his trance, to watch his face and body twist and turn while he and his brush did the dance, and he muttered to himself about colors and inspirations as the creative spirit moved through him. I was contemplating non-self, feeling what it was like to detach from my identity and just experience being in a body, and just being seen as that, minus all the identity.

When he turned the sketch around so I could see, a sense of attachment arose. I loved it, and wanted to identify with it. I felt proud to think this image was a representation of ME. The image looked kind of studious, butch, sexy and masculine. While he prepared for the larger painting, we talked about the experience a bit, about the creative trance and being looked at but seen with a different gaze.

Then he did the bigger painting, meant to be the “real thing.” I was into it, yeah, a bigger version of that sexy sketch! Me Me and more Me! When he revealed the finished painting, I instantly felt crushed and ashamed. I hated it! Could it really be that when he looked at me with that “creative gaze” what he saw was this giant pink Miss Piggy?! So many voices inside me — ugly, hideous, fatter than life, a failure of a woman, Ugh!

      

Amazing to go through all that process in one short, 2-hour session. What a strange, perfectly sequential and transparent experience of self. I’m still sitting with all the various reactions, and the new ones that are coming up. Knowing the “real” painting will be the one he puts in his show. Knowing I would so much rather be seen as whatever I see in that sketch. Seeing my mind go to that place of “knowing” I can’t trust a thin person to portray a fat body (MY fat body) in a non-stereotyped way that doesn’t bring up shame for me. Vaguely remembering those first moments, before seeing either painting, of experiencing what felt like complete non-attachment to self, and then how that went from a liberating experience to a self-congratulatory one, then the clinging that arose with seeing the first image and the intense clinging/aversion with the second.  I can see that I will be learning from this very rich experience for a long time to come.

The importance of coming out

Dear friends, family and co-workers,

October 11 is National Coming Out Day, a day for coming out of the closet. So I am coming out: in case you don’t already know, I’m lesbian / queer / gay. I am also a woman who identifies as genderqueer, which means that I am happily not trying to fit into society’s defined gender boxes.

You may have heard that there has recently been a huge wave of young queer kids committing suicide. These kids have typically been bullied at school, experienced violence and harassment, and have had very little support in their lives for accepting their natural selves. Almost every person who grows up queer knows some part of this story from the inside. I have been heartbroken  about this for weeks, and also deeply moved by the response of the adult queer community as we put our energy together into reaching out to the kids who are struggling just to survive. I believe it’s equally important that we reach out to the non-queer community. Ultimately we are one family, after all, and we need each other.

And so, I am asking you ALL to come out. IF YOU ARE NOT QUEER or gay or lesbian or trans, please please please COME OUT AS AN ALLY. If you care about the lives of queer people, if you care about our safety and our well being and our happiness, make it known. Letting people know you care is actually the most important part. That is where the feeling of caring starts to become the act of caring that can actually make a difference in people’s lives.

It is only by coming out that we can make the world a safer, happier place for those kids. Those kids need us, ALL OF US, queer and queer allies. By becoming visible, we reach out and create a world they can feel safe to continue living in.

I am deeply grateful that I have such a vast community of friends and allies who accept me exactly as I am. I want the same for everyone.

Thanks and love,

Max

A letter to my beloved fat community

A couple weeks ago, the fat queer communities of nolose and Toronto lost someone dear to us. The loss is shocking and unfathomable – Luscious was only 32, and a much beloved member of her communities. I can’t know the utter heartbreak being experienced by her closest friends, though it’s palpable. I didn’t know Luscious well, but I always felt her to be a kindred spirit — she was a fellow member of our faux gang of rebel fatties, the chubsters, and like me, she was among the fattest of the fat: the superfat. My heart is broken, too, in a way I don’t know how to describe just yet.

The year nolose was in Northampton, 2008, Luscious came to the superfat caucus, a special meeting for the fattest among the fat to share our experiences, support one another and build some solidarity. We talked about the pain and isolation of being at a fat-themed gathering and still feeling like we were “too fat” to fit in. Luscious said afterward that the superfat caucus had been her favorite part of the conference, and it had clearly touched something important for her. It really got me thinking about how lucky I am to have other superfat friends and community in my daily life. Many of the other folks in that superfat caucus were more isolated, often the only superfatties in their fat-activist communities back home.

I don’t know whether the fat oppression a person experiences is actually proportional to how fat they are – I’m sure to some degree that’s true, but of course it’s more complicated. What I know is that some of the things that make it easier for me to deal with the fat oppression I do experience include having fat-activist friends and community of all sizes, and having fat-activist friends and community who are actually superfat like me. It helps not just to have allies, but also to be reflected back, to have people around me share this specific aspect of my experience in the world.

A year or so after that conference, Luscious had weight loss surgery. I didn’t know at the time, but it was obvious when I saw her this June at nolose, in a body that bore the signs of recent, rapid weight loss. We didn’t speak of it, and mostly it was just nice to see her smiling face and share a laugh. Then, just a few days after the conference, she was found dead in her home. I have heard that she had been sick for months, and that her surgery had caused some “complications.” However, the actual cause of death either isn’t known or isn’t being made public.

I noticed after she died that nobody who knew anything was talking about how. It’s typically the first question that comes to mind when someone dies, but everyone I knew, myself included, seemed afraid to even ask. The closest thing I heard initially was someone saying they were afraid that she would become a poster child against WLS. Then oh, the vast silence that has ensued, while my heart has been raging with anguish, such deep sadness, loneliness, and shame about my desire to know the truth. It has felt like there was some automatic collective agreement not to mention weight loss surgery, like it’s some kind of dirty secret. Can it really be true that we’re all unwittingly participating in minimizing the risks of WLS? Or are we all just confused and in shock? Oh, the ache of grief compounded by this eerie silence.

I want to talk about our hearts, and the collective heart of our precious fat queer community.

I want to talk about how someone could feel isolated as a superfat person in a society that hates fat people, seek a potentially dangerous and desperate way out of the immense suffering, and on top of that feel ashamed about it, like they had to be secretive with the other superfat people in their life about it, isolating themselves further.

Something here is becoming abundantly clear to me: horror of WLS notwithstanding, pushing away people who contemplate or choose it is not the answer for our liberation. Closing them out of our hearts is not the answer. When we shut people out because they choose surgery, we further isolate fat people who are in pain, and we help create the conditions that allow this silence to exist. I’m not saying that any individual or the community shut Luscious out of their heart, but I do believe she feared it, and I think the fact that people are afraid to mention it now is partly a reflection of that fear.

As fat activists, we surround ourselves with fat-positive community because it nurtures our ability to love ourselves and our fat bodies. We often push away people from our communities who seek WLS, in part because we need to take care of ourselves. WLS is the antithesis of a fat-positive world view, it’s the ultimate in fat = bad, the very message we’re trying to change, the tape loop in our heads that we are trying to erase.

What if our hearts and minds were big enough and strong enough to hold our own self care/acceptance/love AND compassion for someone who is so desperate to end their suffering that they’d risk everything to become thin? Oh, that pain and suffering is deep, and if you’ve grown up fat in this culture you probably know it well. Often, in our desire to create a fat-positive life, we try to sweep that pain under the rug. In our quest to survive, we shut out the pain of the daily onslaught of fat-negativity, the voices in our heads, the fears and the doubts. It becomes automatic, the simplest, most necessary tool for getting through our day. But it’s not enough just to escape the pain. Self love and liberation, the real, lasting kind, isn’t ultimately served by shutting parts of ourselves out. What’s denied becomes the proverbial shadow that just might be our downfall if the sun changes its angle, the dirty secret that forces us to constantly “protect ourselves” by trying to control where the light shines, lest our shadow be revealed.

In the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear — fear of contempt, of censure, of some judgment, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live.And that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength. Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid. –Audre Lorde

I want to say that if we own our pain and stop silencing ourselves, they can’t hurt us. I know it’s not true, and as Audre Lorde said, “the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway.” But I do know that the more we embrace all the experiences and voices within ourselves (and our communities) with loving care and compassion, the stronger we become, and the less apt we are to be thrown off or threatened by the scary and painful stuff in other people.

When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid. –Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde has been with me today, and I am deeply grateful.

I want a world in which we can grow up loving our bodies without question, a world that adapts lovingly to all our bodies’ changing needs. I will work to create that world until the day I die.

But I also dream of a community in which people aren’t isolated by their suffering, because the muscle of our collective hearts is so fiercely strong and vibrant that we can extend compassion to one another — even when it’s scary because it touches our own pain — without it rocking the boat of our own self care and self love. This is the community to which I will devote myself, this is who I want us to become: a community who is willing to shine the light on its shadow, a community that seeks to be whole, a community that is willing to make room for the complexity of truth.

May we learn to love ourselves, and may we show each other how. May we be free.

Your friend,

Max