Ethan Nichtern – The Road Home – Ep. 22 – Sebene Selassie

Ethan Nichtern - The Road Home - Ep. 22 - Sebene Selassie

Dharma mentor and writer Sebene Selassie joins Ethan for a conversation that touches on engaging with injustice dharmically, the direction of Western Buddhism, and the search for belonging.

Sebene is a dharma teacher, writer, coach, and consultant. She began studying Buddhism over 25 years ago and has an MA from the New School where she focused on race and cultural studies. She is the former Executive Director of New York Insight Meditation Center and is passionate about making the dharma accessible and relevant for our times. Learn more about Sebene’s offerings at

Origin Story

Sebene shares her introduction to the Dharma, the different paths she has explored and how that evolved into her current practice. She and Ethan talk about the many paths to awakening and explore the risks and rewards of pursuing more than one spiritual path.

“Any path to awakening, they are all going to meet. But I think that the trailheads start at many places.” – Sebene Selassie

Buddhism and the West (8:50)

Where does Sebene see the trajectory of Buddhism headed in the West? Sebene speaks to where she sees herself and the communities that she practices with are at. Looking at the places where she has seen Western Buddhism evolve for the better and where it doesn’t work. She and Ethan talk about the shifts in the hierarchy of leadership and the relational structure between student and teacher that has taken place in Western Buddhism.

“Some of the things I appreciate that I see happening (in Western Buddhism) is the integration of other truths. Many different types of teachings and practices are coming into contact for the first time.” – Sebene Selassie

Born to Belong (17:30)

How do we find belonging in the paradox of relative and absolute truth, where we are all one but also individual? Sebene shares how her own experience growing up as an immigrant in America affected her sense of belonging. Ethan and Sebene discuss the struggle to find belonging in spaces of practice as a minority.

“It’s about this very universal issue of belonging, the feeling of belonging and not belonging. Really looking at it in terms of this paradox of the two truths. The absolute truth that everything is interconnected and this relative truth that we are all separate. How do we find belonging within that paradox? – Sebene Selassie

Engaging Dharmically (25:30)

How can we respond to injustice in the world with social action that is in line with our Dharmic principles? Sebene looks at how we can work with anger towards injustice with an open heart and right intention.

“Taking a stand is really recognizing what is right. It is in line with the teachings of Dharma to recognize what is wise, what is right, and to really stand for that.” – Sebene Selassie

Rethink Dharmic social action with Ram Dass and Roshi Joan Halifax on Ep. 15 of the BHNN Guest Podcast
Teacher/Student (33:50)

Ethan and Sebene speak about the relational aspect of the student and teacher dynamic. They look at how the relationship between teacher and student has evolved in the West.

Find guided meditations and Dharma talks from Sebene Selassie like ‘Meeting Fear with a Caring Heart’ and ‘Race, Unconscious Bias & Mindfulness’ on the Liberate Meditation App – the only meditation app by and for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color community. Learn more: Liberate Meditation

Ethan Nichtern - The Road Home - Ep. 22 - Sebene Selassie