Arinna Weisman gets personal with the Lion’s Roar readership.
I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in the fifties, as apartheid became the policy of the Afrikaner government. During the next decade, my parents were very active in the anti-apartheid struggle and were arrested in 1960. When they were released, we went into hiding in Israel. After six months of weathering political challenges abroad, we flew to England and were granted political asylum. I then lived in the U.K. for the next eleven years. Growing up, I was supported by communities of activists. Their courage and camaraderie aided my understanding of taking a stand against the violence of the police state and colonialism. However, I struggled alone with the sexual violence in my family. These experiences called me to the dharma.
I’ve studied insight meditation since the late seventies. After ten years of practice, I began teaching. I was one of the first out queer teachers to lead meditation retreats, and along with Eric Kolvig, I offered the first insight-meditation retreats for the LGBTQI communities. Now, I’m the founding teacher of the Insight Meditation Center of the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts, and I live at the Dhamma Dena Meditation Center in the Mojave Desert.
My teaching and personal practices constantly interlink. People confront tremendous pain and suffering in their lives. It’s the potential for waking up from this suffering that has become the guiding purpose of my life. I’m passionate about integrating personal liberation with cultural and structural justice. We need to practice recognizing racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and homophobia amongst other forms of oppression in our communities and commit to changing these dynamics. B
Ruth Denison, who was empowered by U Bha Khin.
Favorite meditation practice?
The spontaneous flow of awareness.
What dharma books do you recommend?
A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma by Bhikku Bodhi; Awakening Together: The Spiritual Practice of Inclusivity and Community by Larry Yang; and Daughters of Emptiness: Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns edited by Beata Grant.
Your favorite virtue?
Your chief characteristic?
Your principal poison?
If not yourself, who would you be?
Your idea of happiness?
Being in communion with life, especially by an ocean or river.
Your idea of misery?
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Working at a dress store in downtown London.
Name three of your heroes.
Bishop Tutu, Dipa Ma, and Berta Caceres (a Honduran leader deeply involved in the protection of Indigenous land rights).
The natural talent you’d most like to have?
To be able to sing and keep a tune.
Your favorite author?
Your favorite musician or group?
Beethoven and Victor Hara.
What’s for dinner?
A motto that represents you?
Everything deserves loving-kindness.
Organic full-leaf Ceylon tea.
What is your current or next project?
I’m leading “Uncovering the Heart” retreats, which integrate awareness of social inequity with the dharma practice of liberation.