Queer Confidence: A Panel Discussion – Podcast 100

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This discussion about LGBT identity in a post-Orlando world, and meditation as part of the journey of self-acceptance, was presented by Shambhala New York and QueerDharma.

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Acharya Eric Spiegel grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in a lefty family that he describes as “fundamentalist atheists.” In 1971 he met and became a student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. He has worked in the financial sector for decades and in 2002 he left Wall Street to devote more time to teaching. The following year, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche appointed him an Acharya, which means “senior teacher.” He is the Acharya for the New York Shambhala Community and teaches and has students in NYC, around the US, and internationally. He has worked extensively with people facing death and with issues related to death and dying. He also works and teaches within the Shambhala tradition on developing a more awakened attitude toward wealth and money.

Dr. Shanté Paradigm Smalls began her formal Buddhist journey at 16. After studying and practicing within different sanghas, and lots of non-practicing and non-studying, Shanté happened upon the teachings of Ani Acharya Pema Chödron and the Vidyadara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She’s been a Shambhala student since 2006.
In her working life, Shanté is a scholar, artist, and writer. Her teaching, research, and writing focuses on Black popular culture in music, film, visual art, genre fiction, and other aesthetic forms.

David Thorpe is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker. His feature documentary, Do I Sound Gay?, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014 (Runner-up, Audience Choice Award). In 2015, IFC Films/Sundance Selects released Do I Sound Gay? to widespread critical acclaim. Thorpe, who has appeared on NPR’s “Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” CNN Headline News and other media outlets to discuss the stereotype of the “gay voice,” adapted a segment of Do I Sound Gay? into a popular installment of the New York Times’ “Op-Doc” short film series. Before concentrating on film, Thorpe spent five years as communications director at the pioneering AIDS service organization Housing Works in New York City. For nearly two decades, he was also an editor and freelance journalist, writing about gay life, AIDS, and popular culture for publications such as Jane, OUT, Time Out New York, New York, POZ and O, and Oprah Magazine.

Director/editor Eric Rockey’s work straddles the worlds of technology and film. A Microsoft veteran, now at tech startup FiftyThree, he graduated from the New School’s Documentary Certificate and Media Studies MA programs. His first documentary short, Vulture Culture, premiered at DOC NYC in 2011. He was also the designer and developer for interactive doc and Webby Award Honoree, What Killed Kevin? directed by Beverly Peterson in 2014.  Pink Boy is his second short and has played at festivals around the world in the US, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, England and Mexico. The film won awards at multiple festivals, including Best Documentary at Palm Springs ShortFest and Best Short at both Nantucket Film Festival and DOC NYC. Pink Boy will premiere online on VanityFair.com in September and will be broadcast October 10th on POV on PBS.

Danielle Saint Louise is a co-founder and facilitator of Love Circle Sangha. The sangha is a commitment to offering safe(r) space for people of color and allies who are actively engaged in embodying a holistic approach towards anti-oppression work. Danielle aspires to hold space with mindfulness and meditation practices, to support embodied rootedness and dignity doing for individual and collective healing, and to increase access to the these practices in POC, LGBTIQ and marginalized communities. Having first taken root in the Tiep Hein Vietnamese Zen Tradition with Zen Master Thich Naht Hahn (TNH), Danielle has sat over 90 days on retreat at Blue Cliff Monastery (TNH), the Insight Meditation Society & Spirit Rock (Theravada), the Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka, and at the Brooklyn Zen Center. Danielle completed the Interdependence Project’s yearlong meditation teacher training in December 2015, and is currently the Executive Director of the Brooklyn Zen Center.

QueerDharma is an open community of meditation practitioners led by and for LGBTQIA [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual] people. Join us monthly at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York for meditation practice followed by discussion, light refreshments, and fun!


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Podcast production by sonamgray.com and by David McKeel