Below is a reflection on East Point's Core Team retreat, held over 4 days at the end of May in the Santa Cruz Redwoods - Ohlone and Awaswas lands.
East Point Peace Academy's Core team.
On an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, under the waning full moon and ten days before 端午節 (duan wu qie, Dragon Boat Festival), I climb into the iron man and journey across water to greet Leonie for the very first time, after nine months of joy and learning on the pixelated screen. Together, as the wild crashing sea and the cool waves of fog accompany us to the west, we travel south
to another time.
When our ears hear only the conversations
of tiny birds
the flap of raven wings
and the whistle of brother wind
through the magnificent redwood teachers.
My two yellow feet land on 土 (tu, earth) and I am instantly transformed.
After weeks of barely sleeping, dreams of caverns deep within the earth, of traveling in the dark with family known and unknown, each night like a crucible— rest arrives like an oasis in the desert. Rest in the form of play, of laughter, of delicious food, of connection, of inspiration and I remember the collective question—
How can we affirm life and create beauty in the middle of collapse? (Kazu)
Like points of star, the six members of East Point Peace Academy’s team come together over five days to create an academy for prophetic dreams (Luis).
We begin by humbly seeking relationship with the land— first inhabited by the Popeloutchom (Amah Mutsun), Ohlone, and Awaswas peoples. We begin by remembering the earth of the body, and our innate connection to water, fire, earth, metal, and wood. In a ritual I learned from Indigenous elder Dr. Eduardo Duran, we each introduce ourselves to the land, naming our ancestors, and kneeling on the rounded mound to open our ears, our hearts, our minds, and our bodies as students.
Guided by my 爺 爺 (yeye, paternal grandfather) lineage of China (from 遼寧 Liaoning by way of 河北 Hebei), I call on the spirit of mountain—with the qualities of sovereignty, stillness, dignity, and deep joy— to support us in our time together.
The breath slows to its natural rhythm and we meet in connection, built over years months days, as our ancestors did. Understanding that the work we need to do is only possible if there is room for all of us. How we are together is more important than what we do, says Leonie.
Although we are here to “work,” we live into the question of whether work can be like kittens learning to hunt— full of mischief, wonder, and trust— with the mettle of persistence as a compass.
Guided by Leonie’s question— Are you willing?— we continually check in over the day— how is your body, what is alive for you? — as the ancestral familial cultural stories that hold us hostage creep in. I bring with me a deep longing to belong, to be what I came into this life to be. We bring our families with us, our ancestral gifts and burdens, our health, our experiences of pain and triumph, we bring with us our heart’s deepest longings and our unwavering commitment to liberation for all. We bring our communities— Asian immigrants, undocumented folks, African diaspora, incarcerated folks, disabled, gender diverse, white America. We hold multitudes of stories in our hearts/minds and we each stand for countless others that are silenced.
There is enough safety that when we are activated, one by one, we can share our experience— so strongly conditioned by eons of violence— and we are met with care, with soft eyes, with nurturing silence, with interested questions and acceptance. Each incident of truth telling is an incredible act of courage— for it takes the boldness of a deity to risk— to step into the unknown, and name that for which we have been shamed, rejected, abandoned, outcast— for these experiences do not arise in a silo, but always in relationship, in the seeking of connection, as is our mammalian nature. Our needs for rest, play, movement, connection— the ways we seek comfort and shy away, how we long to be seen— rub against one another in the shared work of building Beloved Community.
When the naming of different needs is welcomed with openness again and again, I land more and more fully in my body; I feel the feet more solidly against the earth; the dignity of redwood lengthens the spine. I can bring more parts of me here, says laura.
Is it safe to be me?
Can I name my needs and trust you to name yours?
Can we stretch beyond preferences to create a circle of belonging for everyone?
I see that the work, country, culture and healing we are dreaming into being
the way we want to be in the world.
And I taste the sweetness that flows when I am connected to my heart and acting from my knowing and you are in yours. I know we are following the Tao when the shape of the river surprises us all— that we are moving beyond mind into the vast unknown.
The simple truths waiting for us like a lush waterfall nestled in rock in the womb of the forest—
I remember that the collapse of civilization is a moment that was predestined from when we split from the Great Mother (大 地 母親 da di mu qin)….that I am simply a speck in the vast unknown of the shining stars and the history of the universe…that courage is a gift that allows me to remember all the wounded and lost parts of me…and that healing is reciprocal.
Held by the creative brilliance of nature, we experiment with the sociocratic method of decision making, facilitated by Leonie and Chris, and I learn the word equivalence— a radical egalitarian experience where there is room for everyone (Chris). I have the sense of intergenerational learning— that giants of movement are stewarding the next generation, preparing to pass the baton in pivotal ways.
Night falls and it is time for games, for peppermint lavender tea, for Kazu’s delicious cooking (sesame noodles and tea eggs were my favorite, although lasagna, dhal, and Japanese curry kept us sated for the days). For salty and sweet snack contests (shout out to Eastern Conference Champion fiery lime Cheetos), for singing, and for general silliness.
The darkness is perfectly still, unpolluted by the sounds of man, when I return to the corner room surrounded by the safety of earth, a mouse having eaten a stray Chinese medicine tablet lying on the night table. I scramble into the cool bed with a sigh of contentment— belly full, mouth loose from laughing, mind challenged. Happy to be alive in this body in this moment in time. We are a small circle, playing with belonging, seeking joy and meaning in the midst of collapse.