SOLA SCHOOL of Contemplative Arts

Personal Transformation, Collaborative Partnerships, Awakened Communities

Welcome to the online community dialogue for Holding Each Other's Questions

This intentional online space invites Sola's community to participate and extend the conversation of our November 19 panel discussion. The focus of our panel is strategies and ideas surrounding racial equity and social organizing in Portland. Panelists include angel Kyodo williams, Caverly Morgan, Tuere Sala, Touk Keo, lara pacheco, Madeline Harmon, Teressa Raiford and Ridhi D'Cruz with discussion facilitated by Sola's Renee Sills. These inspiring women are pioneers, activists, visionaries, and leaders who are all working hard to increase equity, resist oppression and strengthen communities. Each panelist has put forth questions for reflection and discussion and we hope you will offer your voice, ideas and solutions using the post comment threads below. Please be respectful and mindful with your words. 

A Question from Reverend angel Kyoto williams

What kind of effort and focus is called for to release Radical Dharma into the world as an ‘Occupy’ for the race conversation we need to have in our new america?


Reverend angel Kyodo williams, Radical Dharma

Called “the most vocal and most intriguing African-American Buddhist in America,” by Library Journal, Rev. angel Kyodo williams Sensei, is an author, maverick spiritual teacher, master trainer and founder of Center for Transformative Change. She has been bridging the worlds of personal transformation and justice since the publication of her critically-acclaimed book, Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace. Her book was hailed as “an act of love” by Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker and “a classic” by Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. In 2016, Rev. angel published her second book entitled, Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation. Ordained as a Zen priest, Rev. angel is the second black woman recognized as a teacher in her lineage.

angel is a social visionary that sees Transformative Social Change: applying inner awareness practice to broad-based social change, as America’s next great movement. She is an early shaper and leading voice in that work and coined the name for the field. For over 15 years, she has deeply invested her time and energy to putting into practice her unwavering belief that the key to transforming society is transforming our inner lives. She has developed comprehensive systems for illuminating both practical personal change and the profoundly liberating potential of mindfulness, yoga, and somatic practices coupled with wisdom teachings. Calling for a paradigm shift that “changes the way change is done,” angel envisions the building of a presence-centered social justice movement as the foundation for personal freedom, a just society and the healing of divisions of race, class, faith and politic.

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A Question from Caverly Morgan

It can be extraordinarily powerful for a person to realize that they are not their thoughts, that they are not limited to this body/mind, that they are inherently free. This teaching, if not administered skillfully, can also leave people feeling as though their experiences of oppression are invisible — equivalent to the philosophical approach of ‘colorblindness.’ How can we continually refine our skill of holding the absolute, the clear recognition of oneness and the illusory creation of identity, while addressing the relative? How can we fully embody that, in actuality, there is no duality between the relative and the absolute realms of existence?


Caverly Morgan, Peace in Schools

Caverly Morgan is a meditation teacher, change-maker, nonprofit leader and public speaker. She is the Founder, Executive Director and Head Teacher of Peace in Schools--the nation's first for-credit mindfulness class as a secular program in high schools pioneering new depths in mindfulness education, based in Portland, Oregon. Caverly blends the original spirit of Zen with a modern nondual approach. Her personal mindfulness practice began in 1995 and has included eight years spent in a silent monastery. She has been teaching contemplative practice since 2001 with the aim of igniting personal transformation and collective awakening.

Prior to her pioneering efforts with Peace in Schools, Caverly formerly worked for nonprofits serving people with special needs. An artist and educator, she brings insight, passion, warmth and humor to her transformative work with students of all ages and experience levels. Caverly speaks publicly at conferences on topics including contemplative practice, social entrepreneurship, authentic leadership, and mindfulness education, and has been featured in publications such as Mindful Magazine and The New York Times. Caverly leads meditation retreats, workshops, and classes around the United States. She offers personal consultations in-person and on Skype. She is dedicated to actualizing possibility, serving love, and embodying the truth of interconnection.

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A Question from lara pacheco

How can we effectively support and encourage individuals and communities to heal from past and present trauma as we work towards social justice and mass societal change? How do our ancestral, indigenous traditions and rituals fit into our healing? How do we bring these traditions and rituals into the future?

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lara pacheco, Seed & Thistle, Brown Girl Rise

lara pacheco is a Taíno, Latinx mamita that believes that our collective liberation is accessed through decolonizing ourselves by weaving ourselves into the web of ancestral medicine. lara directly works through ancestral medicine with plants and fungi. When not caring for her family, land and all creatures, lara runs seed and thistle apothecary, an educational resource, and co runs the seasonal wellness clinic that works to provide access to herbal medicine and massage for marginalized communities and brown girl rise, a youth empowerment program for young femmes of color.

thoughts:  my greatest hope with the panel is that it is an opportunity for folks to learn from one another the many ways we can address the imbalanced world we live in.  that we can find inspiration from one another, expand our toolkits, and also find ways to support one another.

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A Question from Madeline Harmon

What does it mean to show up authentically as a person of color in majority white spiritual spaces? How does code switching intersect spiritual authenticity?

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Madeline Harmon, Peace in Schools

As a mindfulness teacher for Peace in Schools, Madeline’s mission is to assist youth in realizing their personal power and cultivating attitudes of loving kindness towards themselves and others.

Wellness and mindfulness have been connecting threads through Madeline’s life. As a young adult who struggled with mental illness, Madeline has made wellness and mindfulness the foundational building blocks of her life. She is deeply embedded in contemplative practice and credits Yoga, mindfulness and acupuncture for her emotional and physical well being.

Madeline has led several staff development trainings on the benefits of mindfulness to educators at each of the schools she has worked with. As a member of Piedmont Yoga’s Social Justice community, Madeline was responsible for planning, organizing and teaching at their first and second annual Yoga for Social Justice conference in Berkeley, California. Madeline is currently an advanced registered Yoga instructor through the Yoga Alliance holding over 1000 hours of teaching experience and a 300 hour certification from Piedmont Yoga. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Social Work from Portland State University.

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A Question from Renee Sills

What are your most urgent questions at this time? What are the areas of challenge and growth that you are leaning into?


Renee Sills, Sola School

Renee Sills is a multidisciplinary artist, author, astrologer and educator. The throughline of her work is an ongoing investigation of spirituality, mindfulness, creative agency and the adaptive processes of the human body in contemporary landscapes. As an educator, Renee’s unique facilitation style blends embodiment practices (somatics, yoga, dance,) environmental and relational mindfulness, esoteric philosophical study, and creative expression. Renee currently teaches yoga and movement, anatomy, astrology, and contemporary art practices nationally and internationally. She is Co-Founder and Director of Programming for Sola School.

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A Question from Ridhi D’Cruz

What do you need to transmute your grief into healing?

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Ridhi D’Cruz, City Repair

Ridhi is a Co-Director with City Repair. City Repair facilitates artistic and ecologically-oriented placemaking through projects that honor the interconnection of human communities and the natural world. City Repair has accomplished many projects through a mostly volunteer staff and thousands of volunteer citizen activists. They provide support, resources, and opportunities to help diverse communities reclaim the culture, power, and joy that we all deserve.

As an intercontinental cross-pollinator, sociocultural anthropologist and permaculture educator who has been living in Portland since 2010, Ridhi participates, facilitates and supports various initiatives in the areas including Placemaking capacity building, houseless advocacy, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Cultural Sustainability, Social Permaculture. She is also passionate herbalist, urban wildcrafter, natural building enthusiast, participatory technology activist, animal lover and permaculture urban homesteader.

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A Question from Teressa Raiford

What social justice work are you doing to educate our future?


Teressa Raiford, Don’t Shoot Portland

With a background strongly rooted in social economics, philanthropic platforms and community development, Teressa Raiford has long excelled in the business world with her entrepreneurial spirit. Today, Teressa is a key player in Portland’s social justice movement, and is the leader of the highly notable Don’t Shoot Portland activist group. Most recently Teressa has been invited as a guest panelist for TEDTalk(TEDxSalem), and has consistently maintained relationships through educational programming in partnership with Portland Art Museum, PNCA, PICA and Marylhurst College to promote social justice using art and education.

Spending her days organizing protests, food drives, educational workshops and more, Teressa has devoted her life to community development and outreach. Since embracing her role as a justice crusader, Teressa has run for public office, been elected as a District 2 PCP, and led the ranks in several committees, panels, and human rights organizations to help develop community outreach strategies and much more.

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A Question from Touk Keo

There are many barriers to access in my sangha. These barriers include ADA accessibility and issues of location and transportation among others. How do you address the multiple barriers to access you find in your practices? What resources or support have been helpful for you in accommodating needs for the people who are interested in attending your events?

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Touk Keo, Radical Meditation for People of Color

Touk is a first generation Cambodian. She grew up in Oregon after her parents fled from the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970’s and feels privileged to have been brought up with Theravada Buddhism. Touk was raised by her grandma/yiey, who was the village healer outside of Takeo, Cambodia. She felt displaced in Salem, Oregon because her family was one of three families of color in their neighborhood. She utilized skateboarding and hiking as coping mechanisms for dealing with racism, classism, misogyny. Touk is the founder and director for Radical Meditation for People of Color.

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A Question from Tuere Sala

I think it's important that people of color have separate places for practice. The support and inspiration that are available in POC only spaces allow for process that at this time is probably not possible in mixed spaces, and definitely is not possible in the predominately white spaces that many of our sanghas still are. Additionally, while I'm aware that many white people truly desire more diversity and will welcome it, I also know that an increase in diversity will have a substantial effect on the energy and flow of predominately white sanghas that may also cause suffering for many white people.

I know we need to come together because we awaken together. The cessation of our suffering exists in the middle of our difficulties, not outside of them. I'm torn between these conflicting needs. My question is, how do we promote diversity within predominantly white sanghas and care for the complexity of needs that will arise during these transitions towards more diversity?


Tuere Sala, Seattle Insight Meditation Society

Tuere Sala is a retired prosecuting attorney who has practiced Vipassana meditation for over 25 years.  She has been an active member and volunteer at Seattle Insight since 2001.  In 2009, she was appointed to be a Local Dharma Leader and has often supported SIMS in unconventional ways such as answering the many letters SIMS receives from practitioners in prison; offering beginning classes at Angeline Women’s shelter and Jubilee House, a women’s transitional house; and facilitating workshops using nonviolent communication (NVC) to support a mindfulness practice.

Tuere believes that urban meditation is the foundation for today’s practitioner’s path to liberation.  She is inspired by bringing the Dharma to nontraditional places and is a strong advocate for practitioners living with high stress, past trauma and difficulties sitting still.  Her teachings reflect an approach to Dharma that is both easy to follow and understand – making it accessible to everyone.

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