Proposal for Service
Zen Life Meditation Center would like to offer meditation and healing tools to its neighboring west-side communities of color that are plagued with trauma and violence. Zen Life is located in Oak Park, IL, a west side suburb of Chicago that shares its border with Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, which currently has the most homicides of any neighborhood in Chicago. Four of Chicago’s west-side neighborhoods, Austin, Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, and North Lawndale are in the top 5 for most shootings in Chicago. While meditation and healing are only a small piece of the puzzle to this complex issue, Zen Life is looking to see how it can make an impact and become part of the myriad of solutions.
Zen Life is still mostly a white upper- and middle-class community located in an affluent suburb. To offer the tools they want to share with low-income communities of color, Zen Life must be willing to work with the internal biases that typically exist within white, upper- and middle-class dominant communities. These biases include but are not limited to racial bias, gender bias, classism, sexuality, and able-ism.
This internal work will both allow Zen Life to work with the communities they want and will organically attract new people of color to the meditation center.
As Zen Life begins this process of internal work, it will cultivate relationships within the communities that it seeks to work in as well cultivate relationships with the more affluent communities that have the means to fund projects that Zen Life wishes to embark upon. In time, projects, events and programs can be funded through grants and donors within Oak Park and the Western Suburban area.
Spiritual Activism is an organization that helps spiritual communities like Zen Life bring their spiritual healing tools and gifts to communities that can benefit. Over the next year, Spiritual Activism will help Zen Life to meet its objectives.
Spiritual Activism will work with Zen Life Meditation Center to:
• Become a more racially diverse spiritual community by working with internal biases that may be preventing the community from (a) attracting more racial diversity and (b) offering tools and wisdom directly to neighboring west-side communities of color.
• Create safe space caucus groups, such as POC space, within the Zen Life Community
• Establish partnerships with schools, non-profits, community centers and other organizations and peoples that are working to heal trauma, end violence, and bring healing to Chicago.
• (Optional) Create Safe/Brave space in Zen Life for young people, parents, etc who are facing trauma due to violence. Offer tools of support and healing as opportunities arise. Allow people’s creativity to surface and develop into projects.
• Attract more residents from Oak Park/NW Suburbs to events created by Spiritual Activism, Zen Life, and the communities and organizations we are working with.
• Foster partnerships with donor groups
Spiritual Activism will achieve the objectives with the following plan:
Part 1: Working with Internal Bias
To offer the tools they have to low income communities of color, Zen Life must be willing to work with the internal biases that typically exist within white upper and middle class dominant communities. This internal work will both allow Zen Life to work with the communities they want and will organically attract new people of color.
Spiritual Activism proposes the following steps:
• Work to better understand the Zen Life community. Identify people who have existing experience with diversity and inclusion work or who may be good candidates for it.
• Offer talks on why working with bias is important and how it is often overlooked in spiritual communities. Seek out members of the Zen Life community who can also offer these kinds of talks.
• Once the community is ready and there is buy-in, develop and offer diversity and inclusion trainings for the existing community to help heal racial, sexual, class, gender, age, ableism, (etc) biases. Spiritual Activism recognizes that some people may have done more work with biases than others. Therefore, if appropriate, Spiritual Activism may decide to develop a team of people within Zen Life who can also hold a training space. Over time, Zen Life may choose to offer these trainings to the wider Oak Park/Western Suburban community.
• Trauma training (Does not have to be done by Spiritual Activism but is a very important step). Because people in low-income communities of color suffer from trauma, it is important that anyone who teaches meditation to people in these communities is aware of a trauma response and can alter their instruction as appropriate.
• Creating an educational process to help to inform the existing Zen Life community about why creating caucuses based on gender, race, class, sexuality, etc, are meant for healing and not intended to be divisive. This is critically important in race work, particularly the creation of POC caucus spaces and white awareness caucus spaces. Encourage ways in which healing caucuses based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality, etc can form organically. Work with group leaders who want to start these healing spaces. (these groups will be based on the needs of the community which may arise from the trainings)
• Work with June Tanoue and other POC that already are part of the Zen Life community to create a POC Caucus. This will be a POC-specific container within Zen Life that may take the form of POC retreats, POC programming or POC meditation sessions. Spiritual Activism will work with Zen Life’s marketing team to promote and attract new members of color to Zen Life.
• Work with Zen Life to Intentionally train more POC teachers.
Part 2: Working with Communities of Color that are Plagued by Violence and Trauma
Spiritual Activism will help the Zen Life community engage with and develop partnerships with educational entities, non-profits, and community organizations and centers that are located in low income, west-side Chicago neighborhoods. Before beginning Part 2 of this plan, it is important that bias work is actively happening. This is ongoing work that never stops! It is important to avoid the idea that people in white, upper and middle class neighborhoods are coming to “save” the day, and exhibiting “white savior complex”. Helping people is good, but often helping becomes “saving,” an often unconsciously engrained idea that should be avoided. The bias training (Part 1) of this plan provides the support, education and tools needed before stepping in to work with low-income communities of color. The bias training works to help people see that even people who may be facing difficult circumstances still have their own self-worth, innate goodness and ability and power within themselves to make their own changes. In other words, Zen Life is simply offering people tools that help people empower their own lives. It is often easy for many of us to believe this in theory, but many times, these “savior/I’m better than/I’ll fix it” biases are difficult to see and then often come out and hurt the very people we want to help.
The Zen Life community may choose to limit its involvement by working with those who are already supporting people directly in the neighborhoods highlighted above, people such as teachers, activists, social workers, care-givers. It may also choose to go further and work directly with people in the neighborhoods, mothers, fathers, young people, etc.
Spiritual Activism proposes the following steps to engage with Chicago’s west side, low-income communities:
• Work with Zen Life’s existing social engagement group to create new partnership opportunities for Zen Life with surrounding schools, community centers and non-profits, particularly from (but not limited to) the Austin, Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale neighborhoods and other west side low income neighborhoods. Bring in any new partners as Sunday speakers. Allow projects/events to emerge organically.
• Help to create brave/safe spaces for young people, parents, mothers, fathers, etc who are facing trauma due to violence in their communities. Zen Life may offer this directly, or it can work with an organization who can offer this in the Zen Life Space.
• Work with Zen Life’s marketing team to promote Sunday speakers and other events to Oak Park/NW Suburbs
• Locate grant opportunities to fund projects. Develop other funding opportunities from local Oak Park/NW Suburb community. Identify a team that can write grants, and work with funders and donors.
Spiritual Activism will serve in a mentor role and continue to develop those who may be suited towards this kind of work. In a year’s time, Spiritual Activism hopes to develop an infrastructure and a team within the existing Zen Life community that can then continue to hold this work and develop it further as seen fit. This team of people can include a variety of skill sets including but not limited to:
• Grant Writing
• Creating and Maintaining Donor Relationships
• Teachers, Mentors and Space holders who can work directly with low income communities of color
• Teachers and Space holders who can work with educators, mentors, non-profits who work with low income communities of color.
• Teachers and Space holders who can continue to work with internal biases and provide support, talks and training.
• Teachers and Space holders who can maintain and create new caucus spaces as needed.
• Drivers, Cooks, Healers, Musicians, Artists
There is a place for everyone in the community who would like to be part of this work, provided they are committed to continuously working with their own biases. Often this means working with people in the community to uncover their skillset and find out what they can and are willing to offer.
Spiritual Activism is committed to helping Zen Life for 10-15 hours per week at a rate of $25/hour for a period of one year. This will include all the work described in the proposal except for any teaching for classes or retreats that Spiritual Activism does (for instance, teaching a POC retreat or teaching a diversity training.) Teaching fees will be calculated separately based on the revenue that the center brings in for those classes or retreats. Spiritual Activism will take 50% of the revenue grossed for a retreat or program that it teaches as pertains to this project.
This rate/time of $25/hour for 10-15 hours is negotiable based on Zen Life’s financial ability. The time period is also negotiable and can also be revisited after one year. In addition, Zen Life will allow Spiritual Activism access to classes, events and retreats at no cost.
Spiritual Activism is also willing to participate in additional paid consulting efforts and be written into future grants/projects as additional hours and fees based on the grant.