587. Sebene Selassie

Sebene SelassieSebene Selassie is a teacher, author, and speaker who explores the themes of belonging and identity through meditation, creativity, and spirituality. Born in Ethiopia and raised in Washington DC, she began studying Buddhism 30 years ago as an undergraduate at McGill University where she majored in Comparative Religious Studies. She has an MA from the New School where she focused on race and cultural studies. For over 20 years, she worked with children, youth, and families nationally and internationally for small and large not-for-profits. Now she teaches classes, workshops, and retreats regularly and is one of the most popular teachers on the Ten Percent Happier app. Sebene is a three-time cancer survivor of Stage III and IV breast cancer. Her first book “You Belong: A Call for Connection” is published by HarperOne.

Main points discussed:

  • The importance of belonging and cultural/genetic heritage.
  • The positive, relatable tone of Sebene’s book, You Belong.
  • Trusting the sacredness of life vs. clashing with reality.
  • Surrendering to the mystery that’s beyond our logical comprehension.
  • We are not separate, and we are not the same. Living the paradox of unity and diversity.
  • The importance of integrating absolute and relative.
  • There’s a delusion of separation at the heart of all political and social divisions. ‘Unlearning’ that delusion is where the spiritual path starts.
  • Those who enjoyed embodied presence since childhood may be less effective in teaching others than those who needed to achieve it.
  • Marginalized people often have a broader and more holistic perspective on the world.
  • Healing “epistemicide” – colonialism’s destruction of ancient knowledge.
  • Modern mindfulness practice sometimes dismisses the deeper dimensions of its ancient roots.
  • Everything is sacred. Technology is not the enemy. Benefiting from the best of ancient and modern knowledge.
  • The pandemic may be the first time in history where we are all experiencing the same situation globally.
  • The importance of discernment on the spiritual path, particularly in this time of conspiracy theories, polarization, and pandemic.
  • The importance of community and dangers of isolation.
  • Increased interest in meditation and spirituality during the pandemic.
  • The authenticity, clarity, love, and spirituality of the younger generation.
  • A discussion of Catherine Ingram’s Facing Extinction article.
  • The leverage of technologies of consciousness, including ritual and ceremony.
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
  • Remaining curious and open.
  • Ground yourself, know yourself, connect to the moment.
  • Seeing parts of ourselves we don’t like. Meeting whatever comes up with kindness and compassion.
  • Any motivation for starting on the spiritual path is a ‘good’ one. Other reasons will follow.
  • Contemplating the beauty and mystery of nature.
  • “Love yourself” could be the motto for the whole book.
  • Detailed discussion mindfulness and its historical origins.
  • Sebene’s “Elements Practice”: earth, water, fire, air.
  • The importance of intimacy and imagination.
  • Helping heal kids with emotional trauma. Trauma-sensitive mindfulness.
  • Taking care of one’s self so as to care for others more effectively
  • An invitation for white people to learn more about other cultures and identities.
  • For mature spiritual development, we need to illumine our blind spots.

Website: sebeneselassie.com

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Transcript of this interview.

Interview recorded February 14, 2021

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

YouTube Video Chapters:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction to Buddha at the Gas Pump
  • 00:03:56 – Belonging and Not Belonging
  • 00:07:43 – The Mystery of Existence and Belonging
  • 00:11:31 – Vyavaharika Satya: The Transactional Reality
  • 00:15:08 – The Delusion of Separation
  • 00:18:51 – The Power of Being a “Weirdo”
  • 00:22:47 – Mainstream Acceptance of Meditation and Contemplative Practices
  • 00:26:44 – Rocks are People
  • 00:30:47 – Epistemocide: The Legacy of Indigenous Spiritual Practices
  • 00:34:39 – Spirituality and Trust in the Present Moment
  • 00:38:36 – Developing Discernment and the Importance of Community
  • 00:42:54 – Fragmentation within Communities
  • 00:46:28 – The Rise of Interest in Meditation
  • 00:49:57 – A New Era of Spiritual Awakening
  • 00:54:03 – The Power of Nature and Mystical Possibilities
  • 00:58:22 – Nature’s response to our predicament
  • 01:02:02 – Spirituality in Refugee Camps
  • 01:05:51 – Cultivating Curiosity and Creativity
  • 01:09:39 – Breaking Habits and Reconnecting
  • 01:13:28 – Awakening through Meditation
  • 01:17:14 – Longing for Connection
  • 01:21:20 – Knowing and Loving Yourself
  • 01:25:25 – The Elements Practice: Earth, Water, Fire, Air
  • 01:28:41 – Akasha and Modern Physics
  • 01:32:47 – Wisdom of Living a Long Life
  • 01:36:09 – Healing from Trauma and Supporting Students with Social Emotional Problems
  • 01:39:58 – Embracing Diversity and Learning from Other Cultures
  • 01:43:38 – Broadening Our Understanding
  • 01:47:34 – Moving towards unbounded love
  • 01:51:18 – Connecting with Sebenesellassie.com
  • 01:54:51 – Upcoming Conversations and Thank Yous