who is nisi?

updated August 7, 2022

When i first started this blog in 2018 after receiving lamp transmission to be a dharma teacher in the plum village community of engaged buddhism tradition, i asked the question Who is Nisi? At the time I gave a nebulous response regarding identities, ancestors, impermanence, etc. Looking back it reads a bit formulaic and  trite. Any buddhist practitioner might read that answer and hear nothing new, certainly nothing about me.

Since then Covid-19 happened. George Floyd was murdered by a policeman with his knee on  George Floyd’s neck. Protesters have been beaten, tear-gassed and shot. White nationalism and voter suppression have risen to alarming levels. Roe v Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court. We are witnessing increased intolerance and violence toward the LGBTQIA community–especially against trans and qtbipoc people. Our planet is in a state of collapse. Thich Nhat Hanh passed away this year.

For over ten years,  Dr. Larry Ward has been saying we are in the midst of a new society. Within the Plum Village community, we have seen retreats for people of color; and  Wake Up, Earth Holder, ARISE, and Chrysanthemum sanghas. But, he says, “the society that you and I would be happy living in, and most people I know on this planet would be happy living in, is not yet here.” Consider this:

    • A horrifying war in Ukraine, with the threat of nuclear escalation.
    • Wars create refugees with no place to go. According to data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, we are in the midst of a global refugee crisis, with an estimated global refugee population surpassing 30 million people in 2022—a global high.
    • Police violence in the US, which, according to the 2021 Police Violence Report from policeviolencereprt.org includes:
      • 1,136 people killed by police in 2021—more than any other year in recent history.
      • Most killings begin with police responding to suspected non-violent offenses or cases where no crime was reported.
      • 117 people killed after police stopped them for a traffic violation.
      • Black people more likely to be killed by police, more likely to be unarmed and less likely to be threatening someone when killed.
      • Year after year, police disproportionately kill black people.
    • Women’s reproductive health and rights to body autonomy challenged and criminalized across the country with the overturn of Roe V. Wade by the Supreme Court. This includes all people who are capable of becoming pregnant—cishetero women, intersex people, queer women, transmasculine people, and nonbinary people— who may have a need for full-spectrum pregnancy, family planning and abortion care.
    • Today we’re faced with reports that tell us we have less than two years to even partially avert the planetary upheaval and devastation of climate change.

The Plum Village community is not exceptional, or removed from the troubles and disasters plaguing our planet and its beings. Questions of personal and operational ethics even beyond the mindfulness trainings when they do not adequately address power, privilege and vulnerability; white awareness; radical inclusivity; and social action are central to our community identity and demand investigation and response from individual practitioners, leaders and the larger community. We cannot hide behind the teachings or trainings if our application of them does not serve people who are not in positions of power.

Nisi is white, female-bodied, cis-gendered, hetero-normative, and of northern italian and swedish descent. The question who is nisi, who am i, who am “I” has never been more important for me to ask myself right now. I am searching to understand and embody the aspiration and commitment to my own internal moral/ethical compass within the context of gross inequities between the global north (me) and south, and people of colonizing descent (me) contrasted with those suffering the immediate and generational effects of colonization, even as they manifest within the Plum Village community.

How can i actualize my commitment  to do no harm, prevent harm, and reduce the causes and conditions leading to harm wherever i am and whenever i can? The re-working of this blog space is my attempt to explore what this means and hold myself accountable to act with a fierce heart, given the particulars of my own life and the world around me.

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