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Angela Oh: Transforming Communities: Tools for Peace and Justice

Nuggets From Angela Oh's Call

This past Saturday, we had the privilege of hosting Awakin Call with Angela Oh.

Angela Oh is an attorney, ordained Zen Buddhist priest, and nationally recognized expert on race relations and conflict resolution across race and religion. Her work in holding space for peace began in 1992 during the implosion of Los Angeles after the acquittal verdict of four police officers following the videotaped police beating of Rodney King. She became a clear spokesperson and mediator, speaking to the precarious position of the Korean American community whose businesses had been destroyed during the riots, vis-à-vis both the white majority and the African American minority. In 1997 Ms. Oh was named to the Advisory Board of President Bill Clinton’s One America Initiative, which published “best practices” for racial reconciliation. Angela has been a practitioner of Zazen (sitting Zen) for more than two decades, since 1999. Her role in both mediation and meditation is to support a healing process for individuals and communities.

Below are some of the nuggets from the call that stood out for me ...

  • The term "justice" pregnant with so many different meanings. Legal and common sense definition may be quite different. :)
  • Delusion = reality by agreement. Justice system offers that to society. E.g. putting an actuarial price tag on one human arm vs. another.
  • Love mediation approach. Litigation is a process that feels inhumane--it's depleting, energetically as well as financially. In mediation, you don't even start the process unless the parties choose to be there, and are there in good faith. They get to decide what's reasonable for them to close this chapter and move on.
  • In the end, as legal defendants, serve to humanize our clients. Won't see much sympathy in general for defendants. Not job to contradict evidence, but ask "who is this person, and how did they get there?"
  • [After meeting Zen teacher in Hawaii] Practice of developing "relaxed concentration." Learn to develop altertness, even when not fully awake. :)
  • In training at the temple, things were not said [out loud/explicitly]. You really had to pay attention. Had to be able to "see" not with your eyes, but with your being.
  • When trying to be helpful, are you actually in the way? That's where practice of "yielding" comes in.
  • Fallacy of continually wanting everything to be "fine". But you can find balance [amidst the fluxations].
  • Compassion, kindness, love--fundamental to our existence as human beings.
  • When asked to talk these days, very clear what's most important: love. When clear on that, the reserves are infinite.
  • Practice of bringing fresh flowers to work, when able, for front reception desk and bathroom. Why? Because find it makes people happy. :)
  • Must accept that systems will be fraught with efforts to make things fair/just [inhernetly "pregnant with different meanings"]. Specific job descriptions, chain of command, etc.--all part of the deal. Ask yourself, what are you gaining or losing by being part of that? So long as you're conscious of these elements, I believe you can live well.
  • How do I practice? In short, I try to show up as my best self.
Lots of gratitude to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers that made this call happen, and to all in-the-moment participants who helped weave the web of listening and space-holding that morning.


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