Karuna : Hi, I’m Karuna. I’m the founder and executive director for Mind Oasis and I have two special guests with me today and I’m very excited. I have Ken and Amalia. Do you want to just introduce yourselves a little bit?
Amalia : Sure. I’ll go first. Hello, I’m Amalia. Thanks so much for having us. Karuna so special to be here.The short version is that I’m a clinical social worker by trade. I’m realizing that I probably need to start explaining what that is a little bit more, which basically means that my degree is in social work. But to get to the clinical part, I basically had to really be in relationship deeply with people for like the last six years. And just really doing a lot of crisis work, trauma work, just a lot of really in-depth care. And so, yeah, that’s my main thing. And then I’m a yogi also and just trying to figure out ways to bridge the gaps and bring people together.
Karuna : Wonderful. And what about you Ken?
Kenneth: Yeah, similar to Amalia. I’m not a clinical social worker. I’m an educator by trade. I got my degree in psychology education and then I decided education really does kill creativity. If you look at Tim Robbins very seriously and I started to do garden education and work with learning through experience little ways and body ways. And then I came to the Kundalini practice, which gave me a whole different set of tools. And from there I’ve been doing children’s yoga instruction. And now I find myself pivoting into the mental health field. After being a teacher for two years and working in separate classrooms at alternative schools, I realized kids need mental health help before they can even get to the process of learning. So what brings me here is what helps kids learn is the same thing that helps adults get along with each other, a compassionate space, communication, sharing and all these things brought me here. So I’m excited.
Karuna : That’s amazing. So I should probably back up. I’ll just say that this is sort of a strange time for me personally. We’ve been evacuated due to wildfires out West, and so I’m not in my normal set up. But this podcast is called Meditation Happy Hour, Tea Talk and Truth with Karuna. And my guests Ken and Amalia today will be bringing a workshop to Mind Oasis called Communicating through Difference. And before we get into the heart of the matter, I’d love to know where you both are based.
Amalia : I was in Queens for the last two years, but I’ve learned recently and finally in my thirties that my intuition and my gut is never wrong. I’m actually home on Long Island now with my parents since March because I just had a feeling things were going to get a little dicey. So I’m on Long Island, which is where I grew up. And it’s been really nice to spend time with my folks.
Karuna : Oh, and Ken?
Kenneth: I’m based in Durham, North Carolina. But as you know, with covid, I have several virtual bases now, which is kind of cool. So I’m based in Durham, North Carolina. I have a virtual base in Chicago and a virtual base in Boulder because I go to Naropa University. So I’m based in three different places at once.
Karuna : I believe that means you have mastered your emanation body. And as an aspiring Tibetan Buddhist, that makes that gives me a lot of hope there. The Temple of Doom is what we call it, the Temple of Doom. It’s pretty rad. And so how do you two connect how do you all know one another? And how did you come together to offer a teaching for us?
Amalia : So Kenneth is actually currently in our “where we met” because Kenneth and I went to Duke University together, which is in Durham, North Carolina, and we met through a program called Common Ground, which was sort of what it sounds like. It was a weekend long retreat, specifically designed around the idea of bridging differences and also like challenging bias. And so the participants were specifically selected with that in mind. And because we were on a college campus, it was a very diverse group of people to pick from. And yeah, so basically here was a day on race. There is one on gender. There was a day on sexual orientation. And the activities, the workshops were specifically designed to catch people sort of in their stuff very effectively. And then we would process and then what I experienced is that by the end of the weekend there was real sort of cross-cultural, just this beautiful sort of connections and communications happening.mKenneth went five times and he led it. He went four times as a facilitator and once as a participant. And I went once as a participant and once as a facilitator. So it’s something that means a lot to both of us.
Karuna : Kenneth, do you want to add anything there?
Kenneth: I’ll just add that I was a facilitator while she was a participant, so I was there first. That’s all. But that’s a little joke. But I will add that Common Ground was a part of the Center for Race Relations at Duke University, and it was one aspect of what I did, the other aspect of what I did, I was co-director of dialogue. And what we really, really did there was understand that the mind can’t in the conflict, only the heart and the soul. So what can we do? And embody practices to open up the heart enough so that people can change their mind. And that’s really what Common Ground was about. It was beautiful because as I was speaking to Amalia about this, I think it was like two or three days ago. Difference becomes diversity when you communicate. So that’s really what we saw. And it was really wonderful and that’s where we met. So we’re still doing the work 10 years later.
Amalia : But we haven’t spoken in a very long time, like we we probably haven’t spoken in ten years. I know this time has been incredibly difficult, but one sort of beautiful thing for me has been everybody sort of paused for a minute. Right. And so I’ve reconnected. I have had really beautiful conversations with people I haven’t spoken to in a really long time. I guess really having this thing in common that is so meaningful to both of us, that really has felt like we’ve just sort of picked up where we left off, which has been really nice.
Karuna : I have a sneaking suspicion that you’re going to get to this in your workshop, but I’m just dying to ask because I have to tell you, what I just heard was a whole hell of a lot of hope come out of your mouth that through difference that we can actually find dialogue and something else. And it sounds like it’s heart based. And I’d love to hear you just expand maybe a little bit. You can take that question whatever direction you want. But for most of us, you know, we see different pop ups on our social feed. And even if you’ve done a lot of work, I still sometimes am like, how’s that person thinking? Right. And I want to unfriend them. In fact, I have let’s be honest. I got to hear. Hit us with a little bit of wisdom here in just a little bit.
Amalia : Let him start with that, because I actually think he’s better at that than I am.
Kenneth: Yeah. So the only wisdom I have those same moments, instead of thinking what are they thinking, I ask myself, what are they experiencing in their body or what have they experienced in their past that makes them respond that way? And that helps me cultivate just a little bit more compassion. And the compassion is what speaks. Because if I spoke with my mind in my intellect, I would probably, like expose the falsehoods of these like really crazy narratives that people have in their mind, but with my heart, I’m like, OK, we’re all afraid. We’re all human. We all have different fear based responses. Maybe this is one of them. Lets explore that. Not always easy. But definitely a choice. And I respect those who make the choice not to, because, as you know, 2020 has really called our people of color to be educators. And if you don’t want to do that, that’s more than OK. But I try to just focus on what brought them to that place. And move from there.
Amalia : And I think that’s so lovely, like you really picked up on what is at the heart of both of us. And I think that. That’s not to say that in a bypassing way, right? Because there’s very real pain and trauma and like things that people are going through. But, yeah, I have to hold on to hope if I don’t hold on to hope. I mean, I’ve experienced that at points since March. I’ve experienced periods of depression for maybe the first time in my life because when I lose that whole it’s so fundamental to who I am. I’ve spent the last six years watching people heal from things that they couldn’t even talk about when they first started coming to see me and healing and get warm and welcoming in so much beauty and peace in their lives, you know, and then taking that a step further, healing relationships with parents that were super ruptured, healing relationships with partners that were super ruptured. Right. So I know this stuff works because I’ve watched it work. Right. But like Kenneth said, it has to come from a place of humility, has to come from a place of compassion. It has to come from a place of surrender. And I think that’s what’s tough on our egos. Get involved in all these very human things, too.
Karuna : So I guess my follow up question is this. You know, when I can pause for that moment and I can’t always. I’m a very fiery person. When I can pause for a moment, it’s usually my second response. So my first reaction is often sort of an F you, but it is come out a lot of times I can keep it on the inside voice. Right. Then I can go, then I can go to what Kenneth was pointing to, which is really beautiful, which is what my damn name means. Right. I can go to compassion. I can say, OK, what is it that this person has experienced just what Kenneth was saying. I’m curious about that gap. And if Kenneth, if you’re actually to the point where you don’t even have the flu, because that’s what I’m shooting for. I’m shooting for. Gosh, can I go straight to the wisdom? Because that’s what that is. That’s the clear definition of wisdom according to Buddhism. Let’s just be clear. Right. So I got to ask, like, do you still have that gap? And if not, do you have one practice that you would recommend for people who are grappling with that?
Kenneth: I do still have that gap. I would say I had to accept and hold with compassionate abiding the f you if we’re going to talk Buddhism and the progeny, the burning wisdom burned through the f you only once I held it. Whatever I resist persist. So if I push back and saying that that f you is wrong or I should be ashamed of that f you and I should only have one voice then that f you is going to get strength and be the loudest voice. If I just look at it with awareness and that’s where I’m going to the awareness. Decebal Voices and noble voices are your highest self. They’re just a part of the self big s. And with that perspective we have a lot more choice than the F you voice or the super compassionate voice. We have a myriad of choices. The one practice that really helped me is so simple as loving kindness, meditation or metta meditation, whatever you want to call it, where you extend the same amount of unconditional pause and guard throughout the variation of human experience from the person you hate the most to the person you love the most. And that is what equalize the voice for me, because the internal change is kind of pushed out external. But yeah, definitely still have that gap. I don’t think that gap goes away. I could pretend to be like an enlightened guru. I have no gap. But I think to be human is to have that gap and to choose. I think the best humans make that choice every moment and still stay present, which is tricky.
Karuna : Yeah. Do you have anything you want to add to that?
Amalia : Such a good question. I a thousand percent have that gap. I have a hard time with codependence and a hard time with boundary setting. And so I’ve actually been working on expressing more. That’s actually like my work. Right. And initially I came in a little hot. Right? I didn’t know. I was catching myself being a little aggressive and angry. Right. Because I didn’t. Actually, it’s like I do this work with my clients a lot, we sort of swing so like we spend our whole lives sort of putting up with nonsense and this happens. It happens. And men, I see it much more then women, just because of the conditioning and sometimes will swing the opposite extreme and will alienate people, you know. The practices for me have like my own therapy, right, I don’t know how many therapists are watching. We all need our own, especially right now, please. And that goes for really anybody who’s in sort of like a caretaking role, whether that be a parent or a teacher or a therapist. Like we all need our support spaces just for us. Morning meditation for me has changed everything. Right. And just anything that we can do. So here’s my thing. I think we all have the gap, but I think that there are practices that we can do to, like, expand it a little bit and put more space in between that initial trigger and our response. Right. And for me, those things are the yoga, are the meditation. Are all these things because. I don’t know if we’re ever going to not have that thing, but being able to be OK. All right. Let me take a deep breath and not I can still communicate what I’m feeling, but let me do it in a way that’s going to lead to dialogue.
Karuna : Awesome. So your eight week series, which I have to say, especially having now gotten this opportunity for us to chat together, I personally am very excited to experience. I think there’s some really hard work that we could all be doing right now, probably always. But it’s 2020. So what the hell? You might as well throw something else into the fire. Right. And sometimes I’m really confused by the right tool at the right time. And something that kind of kind of alluded to was like, well, all of the tools. All of the tools, right, which is really beautiful, so your eight week series on Monday night starts on the twenty sixth of October. It’s called Communicating through Difference. Why don’t you tell us just a little bit about what people can expect during the series? Like what kind of things will you be up to? And maybe if there’s anything in particular folks might be working with that it would be appropriate to come and join you?
Amalia : Yeah, this is our first time doing this, so like it’s so funny, I always laugh because the ego doesn’t want me to say that. Right. But I’m going to ignore it and I’m going to say that. Right. So what people can expect is that I don’t have the words for how much I care about this and how much I believe in this work. So what you can expect is our whole heart set in it. You can expect a really, really safe space. Both Kenneth and I hold that really well. I understand how reading the course description and it is for this reason that you could think like, OK, we’re coming into this because of just the incredible amount of tension that’s happening, like in the country wide scale right now. I think these are skills for like your every day, like we’re not teaching like if you are the one Facebook fight, you’ll be ready. Like, it’s really more around the how do we navigate life and relationships and love and family and like all of this stuff because I had always been sure about this. But this time and it’s just like Tripoli confirmed it for me, people relationship, community that’s it, right. Everything else is the icing. So teaching people ways to be in safe intimacy is something that means a lot to me because I know that it’s the root of joy. So there’s a lot of other stuff.There might be some dance parties like that. Right.
Karuna : Single song parties are heavily encouraged.
Amalia : But that’s the core. Its teaching ways for us to better connect?
Kenneth: Yeah, I’ll echo. That for me I come at it from a slightly different but in accord with Amalia and that my goal through communicating through difference is both internal and external. Oftentimes we say communicating through difference and otherwise. And it’s the people who we don’t necessarily like or have arguments with. But it’s also about coming, communicating through the difference in yourself. What does it mean to have below the surface habits that you really aren’t voluntarily doing, but it’s sabotage? You like self-defeating behaviors, shining awareness on that, on the stories we tell ourselves, do we tell stories that are empowering? Do we tell stories that make us unlovable? Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy? So we’re really going down and having fun, breaking down all of the things from your first relationship, which is like mother and father, and really extending and going deep, examining childhood, the wounds, attachment patterns, but all in a fun, lighthearted way that amplifies the story, knowing that is the story that’s going to change. We have a lot of techniques and I’m interested in techniques, Tomalin techniques, lovingkindness meditation techniques, Gestalt awareness techniques. But I think this is really going to touch the hearts of people and we’re going to really have fun and feel what it means to communicate through difference with this space and really model that. And it’s not all stuffy and it’s not all intellectual. Its really heart and soul. Its work. So it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think people will have to see this.
Amalia : I was just going to say, hopefully we’re being a little bit more like that. Yeah I promise you, because it’s just hard. My best friend told me once that and it was the first person had ever actually been honest about this with me. She was like, oh, no, I will avoid you. Like when I don’t want to deal with something, you know? I say that because we promises we’re not scary. It’s going to be a very gentle environment. It’s really meant to just be loving and like make connection and and we just want people to take away from it what what works for them.
Karuna : I don’t think anyone brings a single song dance parties to the work, unless they’re fun, so I think it came through fully, but you are fun people and you know, you have fun and do the work, it doesn’t have to be stuffy. So typically we hold up our cups because we got through the talk part right at the top of I no idea why, because of very strange circumstances here. So no, we had talk, no tea. So we for sure have to hit the truth. So, Kenneth, I’m going to start with you. What is your truth?
Kenneth: My truth is that the next generation will have the tools and mindset needed to course correct in a more compassionate and empathetic ecological way, that’s true.
Karuna : And Amalia, what’s your truth?
Amalia : My truth is that the only way out is through and that if we have learned something from this time, it’s that we’ve been avoiding, avoiding, avoiding, avoiding, and we have hit collective rock bottom. And the only way out of this place is through humility and honesty and authenticity. And literally I’ve been waiting for this my whole life, for there to just be like a removal of like just the B.S., you know, and like, we can just have real conversations with each other. So for me, as uncomfortable as this has been, I’m ready. I think why we’re so excited about this because there are ways to do that that are safe. There are ways to do that, that lead to resolution and to actual change. So, yeah, my truth is like, let’s go. It’s time.
Karuna : Amazing. That’s how I feel about Mind Oasis right now. It’s like we were doing the Zoom Temple since 2017 and so we really had things sort of cued up and ready to go. We had daily community meditation going online, group meditation going. We had all of these things ready. So on March 15th, the board of directors was like, make it free, give the daily meditation a way, bring people on. Like I think you talked about community. You’re obviously talking about connection, dialogue. That’s what we do on Monday. So it also kind of feels like it’s the most perfect, like ground from which these sorts of workshops and series for them to sprout forth and to grow and to help make new micro connections that turn into bigger connections. So I just want to say thank you to both. I can’t wait for your series. It starts on October, October 26th. You can find it at Mind Oasis.org. It’s under workshops and series, which is under the word learn and it’s communicating through difference. You’ll see Amalia and Kenneth beautiful faces and it’s six o’clock at night Central and all the information is on there. If you miss a week, it’s no big deal because they’ll be recorded and all that jazz and so Amalia and Kenneth, thank you so, so much for joining us so much.
Amalia : We really appreciate the opportunity. Thank you so much.
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