Racial and Social Justice

Clouds in Water seeks to become a sangha where all who feel called to the good medicine of Soto Zen Buddhism can study and practice in a community where they feel welcome and nurtured. We are determined to be a sangha where everyone can take refuge in the teachings of Soto Zen Buddhism as a means to practice personal and collective liberation and address the hindrances and harms of systemic racism and other systemic oppressions. We see this as integral to our Zen practice and to the awakening that our sangha seeks together.

Clouds in Water is committed to providing racial and social justice programming through discussion groups, listening sessions, workshops, classes, Dharma talks, council practice, and meditation. This commitment permeates our organization, and is specifically manifested via seven initiatives:   

  • BIPOC Sitting Group (Black, Indigenous & People of Color)
  • The LAB (Race, Love and Liberation Laboratory - for growing spiritual things)
  • The BIPOC Leadership Scholarship Fund
  • WAG (White Awakening Group)
  • RAGs (Racial Awareness Groups)
  • Being a fiscal sponsor for Deep Listening for Social Change (DLSC)
  • Encouraging sangha members to participate in social, racial, economic and environmental justice activism through faith-based organizations such as Isaiah, Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, and Faith in Minnesota

The Race, Love, and Liberation Laboratory (for growing spiritual things)

The LAB proposes and produces programs and activities at Clouds in Water that focus on activism and racial justice. Its mission is to cultivate and catalyze awareness and transformation around racial justice for the Clouds community and beyond. The LAB is an advisory group to the Guiding Teacher, and members are chosen at the discretion of the Guiding Teacher in consultation with current LAB members. LAB members are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who have demonstrated leadership in racial/social justice and equity issues in communities. Consideration for membership includes demographics, needed experiences, and the desire to remain a small group. 

The LAB supports conversation and reflection to examine and honor the multicultural origins of Buddhism, especially its Asian roots. It is interested in finding ways to explore, facilitate, and lift up Buddhism and its meditative practices to other persons of color.  In this way, all beings can enter into re-imagining and reinterpreting  Buddhism from the white-culture framework to one that is open to the liberation of all beings. It has been observed that by bringing zazen together with an explicit concern for racial justice, people of color can turn the Dharma Wheel.

Black, Indigenous & People of Color (BIPOC) Group

2nd & 4th Sundays: 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 pm
Every Wednesday 7:00 - 8:30 pm

The BIPOC Sitting Group is a space where Black, Indigenous, and People of Color can gather for spiritual practice without the judgment or curiosity of white people. Gatherings start with lightly guided Zazen for 30 minutes and then participants converse for about 60 minutes about whatever is arising from their hearts or on a topic that the facilitator might propose. Please direct questions to Carol Busshin Iwata: carol.iwata@cloudsinwater.org.


BIPOC Leadership Scholarship Fund 

The BIPOC Leadership Scholarship Fund supports the growth of BIPOC spiritual leadership in the Zen Buddhist tradition. Spiritual leadership can look different depending on the path chosen, and the costs in terms of both money and time can be intimidating. The Fund encourages BIPOC individuals to apply for funding for expenses related to pursuing a leadership role on the spiritual path. This Fund is open to BIPOC participants in activities at Clouds in Water Zen Center, or in programs sponsored by Clouds in Water. 

Do you seek funding to support your development as a BIPOC spiritual leader? You can request an application by emailing BIPOCFund@cloudsiwater.org.

The BIPOC Leadership Scholarship Fund has been seeded by the generosity of a single donor. We plan to replenish this fund each year with future donations. Click here if you would like to donate to the Fund. 

White Awakening Group (WAG)

The White Awakening Group is committed to helping create a sangha at Clouds in Water where all who wish to practice the teachings and precepts of Zen Buddhism feel safe, welcome, and nurtured.  The creation of the WAG responds to a call from LAB and BIPOC sangha members for white-bodied sangha members to more fully engage in the work of sangha transformation.  The group helps plan and promote programs and activities for white-bodied practitioners to examine racism in our society, and how the white mind is conditioned to support and maintain it. The WAG also supports the white Racial Awareness Groups that are centered at Clouds (see below).  WAG operates as an advisory group to the Guiding Teacher, and its members are chosen at the discretion of the Guiding Teacher in consultation with current WAG members.

Racial Awareness Groups (RAG)

These small groups of white-bodied people work together to awaken to their role in perpetuating systemic racism and find ways to dismantle it. The groups focus on developing the awareness necessary to see through our individual and collective delusions and conditioning around race and move toward personal and social transformation. Contact RAGinfo@cloudsinwater.org for more information, or to find out how to join one of the groups.

Deep Listening for Social Change (DLSC)

Clouds in Water is proud to be a fiscal sponsor of Deep Listening for Social Change (DLSC). Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) activists initiated the Deep Listening for Social Change project in 2020 as a peaceful social change movement to bring communities together to deeply listen to one another. DLSC is grounded in practices of mindfulness and principles of democratic community organizing. It invites BIPOC community members on a journey of creating the conditions for transformative change for social justice within our communities. DLSC creates opportunities for participants to develop skills, practice, and experience support in honing their abilities to listen deeply to each other and themselves.

See https://www.deeplisteningforsocialchange.org/ for more information.