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  • From Strong Black Woman to Remarkably Relationally Resilient Woman:Black Christian Women and Black Buddhist Lesbians in Dialogue
  • Pamela Ayo Yetunde

The StrongBlackWoman is the woman of African descent in the patriarchal, sexist, and racist United States (as she may experience it), who chooses, as a psychological and physical survival technique, to guard herself against all forms of additional pain and suffering by seeking love, appreciation, and respect (consciously and unconsciously) in giving of herself to the point of exhaustion and illness. Psychologist, pastoral care professor, Christian, and African American woman Chanequa Walker-Barnes in her book Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength1 has written eloquently and persuasively about the multiple costs of being the StrongBlackWoman—where the effort to survive has become, in effect, the personality itself. When this happens, the effort to avoid additional pain and suffering and seek love, appreciation, and respect by self-sacrifice is automatic and pervasive—in other words, the StrongBlackWoman is in effect when there is no real threat of pain or presence of events that would lead to suffering, and where unconditional love may already be present. She is not mindful of the reality that she can "let her guard down" and receive the love that is present. The StrongBlackWoman is one "kind" of Black woman. I would like to present a healthier alternative to the StrongBlackWoman, called the Remarkably Relationally Resilient Woman as expressed in the lives of some African American women who are lesbians, queer, or same-sex-loving women who practice Buddhism in the Insight tradition.

In 2014, as part of my dissertation,2 I conducted a study of thirty-one African American Buddhist lesbians (AABLs) in the Insight Buddhist tradition. Though these women practice Buddhism, they all grew up in Christian churches. I utilized a mixed methods approach I call Sequential Nested Transformative Strategy (SNTS).3 Included in SNTS were demographic questions, spiritual narrative questions related to Buddhist concepts on self and non-self, and the Fetzer Institute's Spiritual Experience Index4 (SEI) of thirty-eight statements in a survey format, where research participants could answer the questions on a Likert Scale from 1 to 6, with 1 being strongly disagree, 2 disagree, 3 neither agree nor disagree, 4 somewhat agree, 5 agree, and 6 strongly agree. The SEI statements included: [End Page 239]

  1. 1. I often feel closely related to power greater than myself.

  2. 2. I often feel that I have little control over what happens to me.

  3. 3. My practice gives my life meaning and purpose.

  4. 4. My practice is a way of life.

  5. 5. Ideas from faiths different from my own may increase my understanding of spiritual truth.

  6. 6. One should not marry someone of a different faith.

  7. 7. My practice is an important part of my individual identity.

  8. 8. My practice helps me to confront tragedy and suffering.

  9. 9. My practice is often a deeply emotional experience.

  10. 10. It is difficult for me to form a clear, concrete image of absolute reality.

  11. 11. I believe that there is only one true religion.

  12. 12. It is important that I follow the religious beliefs of my parents.

  13. 13. Learning about different religions is an important part of my spiritual development.

  14. 14. I often think about issues concerning my practice.

  15. 15. If my practice is strong enough, I will not experience doubt.

  16. 16. Obedience to religious doctrine is the most important aspect of my practice.

  17. 17. My relationship to absolute reality is experienced as unconditional love.

  18. 18. My spiritual beliefs change as I encounter new ideas and experiences.

  19. 19. I am sometimes uncertain about the best way to resolve a moral conflict.

  20. 20. I often fear punishment in absolute reality.

  21. 21. Although I sometimes fall short of my spiritual ideals, I am still basically a good and worthwhile person.

  22. 22. A primary purpose of meditation is to avoid personal tragedy.

  23. 23. I can experience spiritual doubts and still remain committed to my practice.

  24. 24. I believe that the world is basically good.

  25. 25. My practice enables me to experience forgiveness when I act against my moral conscience.

  26. 26. It is important that my spiritual beliefs conform with those of persons...


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