Symposium 2015: “Remembering Our Wholeness”

Although through oppression and ignorance we may be at times broken apart from one another, and we may at times be broken and fragmented inside ourselves, we might remember our wholeness. And that’s an individual spiritual journey. That’s the great spiritual journey.” -Dr. Mushim Patricia Ikeda

On September 2nd, 2015 students, faculty, staff, trustees, graduates and community leaders gathered at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland for a day of study, dialogue, ritual celebrations, food, music, art and community-building at our 4th Annual Symposium. Convened by our provost, Dr. Ibrahim Farajaje, the gathering provided an opportunity for participants to learn, reflect, collaborate and celebrate the theme of “Remembering Our Wholeness.”

Dr. Farajaje delivered words of welcome to situate the gathering in the present moment, acknowledging the challenge of remembering our wholeness amidst the divisions we see in our world today.

The keynote address, “Mindfully Resisting Fragmentation: Rest in Your True Nature!”, was delivered by Our Honored Teacher, internationally renowned poet, teacher, and activist Mushim Patricia Ikeda. Seated cross-legged in a meditative posture, Dr. Ikeda gently, and at times humorously, reminded her audience of their intrinsic wholeness and interconnectedness through breathing exercises, personal stories, and quotes of wisdom. Following Dr. Ikeda’s address, audience members were invited to ask questions and engage in dialogue around the basis of faith.

At this point the Starr King community adjourned for an organic lunch provided by Oakland’s own Keena’s Kitchen before splitting into groups to participate in interactive workshops exploring the dynamics of somatic (bodily) and psychological wholeness

Taya Ma Shere, co-founder of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute and adjunct faculty member at Starr King, offered a workshop on “Sound as Nourishment.” She focused on the power that sound has to shape our lives, drawing from the history of mystics across the world celebrating the transformative power of sound to regenerate. Participants explored the power of embodied vocalization in community, engaging change as an expression of devotion, and discovered what is possible when speaking from a sense of expanded presence and singing as an offering of somatically-sourced prayer.

Patricia St. Onge, founder of Seven Generations Consulting and Coaching, core faculty at the Chaplaincy Institute for Interfaith Studies (ChI) and adjunct faculty at Pacific School of Religion, offered a workshop on “Remembering Our Wholeness: The Medicine Wheel as One Example.” She explained how the Medicine Wheel is used for integration as a person, representing elements of who we are; body, mind, heart, and spirit. Participants explored how the medicine wheel can be used as a frame for movement building; resistance, restructuring, repairing relationships, and re-imagining.

Jiwon Chung, former President of National Organization for Theatre of the Oppressed (TO), Artistic Director of Kairos Theater Ensemble, and adjunct faculty at Starr King, offered “Theater of the Oppressed Workshop: Mindfulness, Embodiment, and Liberation in Action.” This workshop explored the rich, deep and powerful techniques of liberation within TO, focusing on the somatic and energetic dimensions of oppression and liberation. Participants practiced a collection of games, techniques and exercises for using theater and art as a vehicle for personal and political transformation.

Rivka Shapiro, Registered Yoga Teacher and former staff member at Starr King, offered a workshop on “Embodying Wholeness: Soma Yoga for Freedom and Resilience.” The workshop focused on the hurtful, stressful, and oppressive aspects of life, while acknowledging the body’s natural tendency to become tense/drained of energy. Participants practiced SomaYoga as a coping technique to cultivate a source of strength and resiliency.

Music was provided throughout the afternoon by Starr King’s community singers and Our Honored Musician, award-winning vocalist Ahri Golden. Festivities concluded with an evening ceremony at the East Bay Meditation Center where Dr. Ikeda was awarded the honorary doctorate of Starr King. Additional coverage of Starr King’s Symposium is available on social media (Facebook and Twitter) using the hashtag #SKSMSymposium.

Here’s to another great Symposium in 2016!