Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 185 – Jacoby Ballard

Sharon welcomes social justice educator, yoga teacher, and author Jacoby Ballard to the Metta Hour for Episode 185.

Jacoby has taught Queer and Trans Yoga since 2006. In 2008, he Co-Founded the Third Root Community Health Center in Brooklyn as a healing and social justice space. His first book, “A Queer Dharma: Yoga and Meditations for Liberation,” was released in 2021 from North Atlantic Books.
In this conversation, Jacoby and Sharon discuss:
• How Jacoby began his practice in high school & college
• The release of Jacoby’s new book in the time of Covid
• Applying dharma teachings to explore identity
• The path of liberation for those targeted by systems of oppression
• Addressing the trauma in the room
• Noble silence versus silencing
• Lovingkindness in Queer communities
• Acceptance and anger
• Forgiveness is not amnesia
• Jacoby’s self-care practices
• How to find the therapist for you
• Guidance for Queer and Trans meditators
• How to be a better LGBTQ+ ally
The episode closes with Jacoby leading a guided Mudita (joy) meditation practice. To learn more about Jacoby’s work, you can visit his website.
Jacoby’s Story

Jacoby Ballard was first introduced to meditation in high school. Meditation helped him focus in sports and helped him cope with being bullied for his queerness. Later, he took a yoga class in college. He was shocked at the ways the body could bend and move despite age or ailments. He thought it was beautiful how meditation, practice, and sangha bring people together.

“Meditation made me an unstoppable free throw shooter, and less consciously to myself, it enabled me to survive the bullying, just teaching me that there is something inside that can not be harassed.” – Jacoby Ballard

To hear more from Jacoby listen to Ep. 63 of The Road Home:  A Queer Dharma with Jacoby Ballard.
Transformative Work (15:40)

Having a mindfulness practice helps us open our hearts. Specifically, a loving-kindness practice can show us how to relate to those we may struggle with. Jacoby says it is difficult to advocate for loving your oppressor, but investing in the transformative work of loving-kindness may change the world one person at a time. If the oppressed person is unable to perform that work, perhaps someone else can. As Sharon says, it might be the oppressed person’s work to just survive. What can you do to help open the heart of someone who seems rooted in hate? We can all play a collective role in finding the good.

“There’s so many things that we can do out of our privilage that is invisible to us. So then out of our loving-kindness can we seek repair, knowing that we’re going to make mistakes and misteps and allow that to protect us, that devotion to loving-kindness that eventually we can win one another’s trust.” – Jacoby Ballard

Acceptance, Anger, Forgiveness (27:15)

Sharon and Jacoby have a conversation about acceptance and anger. Social justice workers/advocates may find it controversial to practice acceptance and instead be empowered by anger. The thought frame of social justice often pushes that acceptance means compliance. It seems more valuable to have anger because that means you are paying attention to the oppression. We do not want to dismiss or silence the suffering and anger of those who are oppressed, but we can incorporate healing through acceptance. We can hold onto the wisdom from our anguish so that we do not put ourselves in further danger while practicing forgiveness for our own healing. 

“If I maintain armor around my heart, that’s not just going to be present when I’m in the face of my enemies. That’s going to be present when i’m in bed with my beloved” – Jacoby Ballard

For more wisdom on validating anger check out Ep. 379 of Mindrolling: Feeding Your Demons with Lama Tsultrim Allione.
sharon store wide
A Message for Queer and Trans Folks (47:05)

If you identify as queer or trans, Jacoby wants you to know that there is absolutely a space for you in the spiritual community. There are teachers (such as himself) that anticipate you and welcome you. Jacoby suggests that people, specifically queer and trans people, should be choosy when selecting a teacher. Much like finding a therapist that is right for you, you need to find a spiritual community that is right as well. Find a teacher that is ready to hold you in your fullness, accept you, and nourish you. Do not settle for someone homophobic or someone trying to change you. Stay tuned in for a guided meditation at the end of this talk.

If you want to be an ally for trans and queer people, consider fighting for their rights in state, federal, and local governments. Get involved with your kids’ schools, your parents’ assisted living facilities, and support queer organizations. To educate yourself and immerse yourself in queer culture, Jacoby suggests reading:Transcending: Trans Buddhist Voices.


Photo via Jacoby Ballard