Liberate Meditation App: A Review

Article in English and Spanish. Artículo en inglés y español.




Update (12 August 2019):

Recently, it was brought to my attention that this app is part of a for-profit business, owned by the developer and ran by 10 select employees. I do not know if this represents a change (I never checked Liberate's legal classification in the US), but I do know that this is not what was originally presented. To the best of my knowledge, BIPOC teachers were asked to donate their teachings for free distribution (under the Buddhist practice of Dana or similar secular and religious principles). To the best of my knowledge, the donated teachings (via the app) currently remain free. However, at a minimum it seems that the teachings and app are being used as a method of promoting the business to BIPOC, and it is highly unlikely that any of the teachers agreed to such.

In other words, a minority group within Buddhism (in its many, global forms) that was already struggling with visibility and even anti-Blackness in some quarters (in addition to the general prejudice that we receive) was targeted, free content was obtained, and now laity (so to speak) is being targeted for sales. And in my honest opinion, this was done by leveraging trust that was extended to a fellow POC who presented a shared concern with social justice.

At SBA, we are fine with nonprofit fundraising. (We've just started doing it ourselves.) We are fine with transparent and ethical for-profit ventures (e.g. a teacher selling their book). But this does not appear to be either and comes on the heels of multiple other red flags. We fully support the contents of the app - after all, it is the work of great teachers. But that is the extent of the support we can offer towards this.

On a personal level, I worry for our community (meaning something broader than even SBA or Secular Buddhism, but POC, Buddhists).

BIPOC, Buddhist or not, are not a niche market to exploitatively farm. We exist. Authentically. In all of our diversity. At intersections. Intelligent. In quiet Temples and in loud protests. Phenomenally! ...and we don't need an app for that. No matter what happens, we will survive as we always have, and, heck, we'll thrive. So, anyone out there reading this - please be careful, please don't give up, please keep growing in Dhamma.


(Spanish translation coming / Acabo de empezar la traducción al español=




This app first appeared on my radar by appearing in my social media timelines dozens of times, lol. (Please refer to the amplifying piece published by Lion’s Roar here.) So there’s this part of me that wants to assume readers instantly know what I’m talking about, but I will resist it:

Liberate Meditation is a new app. It is FREE in the stores for both Android and iPhone. As of this writing, it consists of a collection of talks and guided meditations from close to 30 POC teachers including: Bhante Buddharkkhita, JoAnna Hardy, Kaira Jewel Lingo, Lama Rod Owens, Mushim Patricia Ikeda, Ruth King, Sebene Selassie, Dr. Valerie Mason-John, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel… and more.

The app’s developer, Julio Rivera, identifies as Afro-Latinx, and it turns out, he was a member of the Black Buddhists Facebook group that I created a while ago. When I used that space to also amplify Liberate Meditation, I spoke to him for a bit.

I have not gotten an opportunity to directly learn what his background in secular mindfulness meditation (or possibly Buddhism) may be or what led him to develop this app, but he’s a programmer who is trying to put in that "Right Effort" to make the best app that he can, very passionate. When I first tried Liberate Mediation app, it was a couple of teachers, a dozen talks… now it’s an order of magnitude more teachers and a range of categorized recordings from addressing the specific needs of various marginalized communities (e.g. “Queer Pride & Love” by Dr. Mason-John) to less specialized recordings on gratitude, mindfulness, etc.

As I’ve told some who have asked, I recommend that everyone download and try Liberate Meditation. Everyone has something to learn from the content available there. And in fact, one person, Secundra Beasley, (an African American Buddhist and regular at North American Buddhist Alliance) wrote me that “... I was deciding if I could stay [on with her practice and/or with various groups when]...out of the blue (and not aware of what was happening)... the [L]iberate app. I have not watched a video but just looking at the teachings and the Facebook page, I feel I can continue on….”

This app single-handedly kept someone on the Path. ::raises fist in affirmation::

On the other hand, there are still areas for learning, care, and growth. One need only be in communities (or if you do need to actually read up on it, here is a good place to start) to know how much pain Asian/Diasporic communities are in due to cultural appropriation that can occur within both Buddhism and secular mindfulness meditation. Likewise, anti-Blackness, unacknowledged privilege, and a lack of intersectionality can be further sources of harm. So far, these have not been prioritized, and without them, there is no true social justice. ...And without them, we urge caution in interaction. Perhaps with time this will change, but for now it is a source of concern.

In the meantime, this app has great potential to bring much needed visibility to the diversity of Buddhists, to recharge those who are working to create the conditions that facilitate Nibbana for all sentient beings (e.g. social justice activists), and to encourage those currently inactive to become more active. May it continue to learn, change, and grow.


Screenshot (Foto de mi cell)


Applicación Liberate Meditation: una crítica 

Español (Nota - todos los enlaces son artículos en inglés y todo el contenido de esta app está en inglés - el programador no habla español):

Esta aplicación logró mi atención cuando apareció en mis redes sociales más que una docena de tiempos (jaja). (Visite el artículo de Lion's Roar que amplificó a Liberate Meditation aquí.) Entonces, tengo la tentación de suponer que cualquier persona leyendo este artículo vaya a conocer a la app, pero voy a resistir esta tentación:

Liberate Meditation es una app nueva. Por ahora es GRATIS en las tiendas por Android y por iPhone. En el momento en que escribí este artículo, es una colección de lesiones y meditaciones guiadas de casi 30 líderes POC, incluyendo : Bhante Buddharkkhita, JoAnna Hardy, Kaira Jewel Lingo, Lama Rod Owens, Mushim Patricia Ikeda, Ruth King, Sebene Selassie, Dr. Valerie Mason-John, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel… y mas.

El creador y promotor de la app, Julio Rivera, se identifica como afro-latinx, y aparentemente era miembro de uno de mis grupos en Facebook, Black Buddhists. Cuando eché el artículo de Lion’s Roar allá, conocemos.

No he aprendido directamente la historia de Julio, detalles de su práctica (relativamente reciente) o porque decidió crear esta app, pero es un programador quien está tratando de poner un 'esfuerzo correcto' a fabricar la mejor app que pueda. Tiene pasión. La primera vez que abrí la app, contuvo unos enseñadores, una docena lesiones - pero ahora contiene un orden de magnitud más enseñadores y grabaciones diversas - de las más especializadas por las necesidades específicas de miembros de comunidades normalmentes marginalizadas o maltratadas (e.g. “Queer Pride & Love” / “ Orgullo y Amor Queer ” por Dr. Mason-John) a las más generales sobre gratitud y mindfulness.

Como dije a una persona que me preguntó, sugiero que cualquiera persona descargue la app y actualmente pruebela. Todo el mundo puede aprender algo del contenido disponible aquí. Y, como me dijo Secundra Beasley, otra budista negra y líder en el North American Buddhist Alliance, (cita originalmente en inglés), "...Estaba tratando de decidir si pude seguir (con mi práctica y como parte de varios grupos)...cuando como sorpresa entera... la app Liberate. No he mirado ni un video, pero simplemente a ver la lista y a Facebook, he ganado la fuerza a seguir...."

¡La app apoyó a alguien a mantener el Camino! <3

Pero por la otra mano, todavía hay áreas en que pueda ser mejoramientos. Es obvio a gente en cualquier comunidad budista o de meditación secular que comunidades en Asia (o comunidades diaspóricas las cuales tienen raíces en varios partes de Asia) sufran profundamente cuando apropiación cultural es permitida en comunidades budistas o de meditación secular. (Y si actualmente no conoces de este sufrimiento, empieza a aprender aquí). Al mismo tiempo, prejuicio contra los con raíces claramente de África o con piel más oscuro (inglés: anti-Blackness) que puede manifestar aún entre otra gente POC, privilegio no reconocido, y una ausencia de interseccionalidad también pueden ser fuentes de daño profundos. Por el momento, estos asuntos no son pegados la importancia que merecen, y sin esta importancia, no hay justicia social. ...Y sin esta priorización, instamos a la precaución aquí. Es mi esperanza que con tiempo, esta situación vaya a mejorar (aunque sea una preocupación grave por ahora).

Pues, por el rato, esta app tiene la potencial a crear más visibilidad a la diversidad de budistas, a energizar a los que son ya tratando de crear las condiciones necesarias para facilitar la Nibbana de todos los seres humanos (como activistas sociales), y a animar a los que todavía no son activos. Deja que la app y todos impactados por la app aprenden, cambien, y mejoren.

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