“All action is prayer.” -Neem Karoli Baba
I have found that this is only true if I actually take time in my day for contemplative practices. These practices not only spirtualize my activism, but they make it more effective. The more I get in touch myself, the easier it is to see where I am caught. This widens my perspective and fine tunes my awareness. I can begin to see more clearly the oppression in our culture and to resist it in the wisest and most skillful way.
But to practice with the wrong perspective can actually strengthen my narcissism rather than to dismantle it. My time in meditation and payer can be become an escape, and this can further enhance the view that I am the center of the Universe. Activism, service and Dharma help remedy this and make my contemplative practices more honest, real, and alive.
Thus I have found that contemplative practice and social engagement are both strengthened by the spiritual worldview, and in turn this worldview is fed and informed by these two practices. If I am ever going to successfully overcome my selfish tendencies of mind, I am going to need the full force of the spiritual life to do so. And until I do, I am just another cog in the wheel of the dominant, exploitative, capitalist culture.
I offer workshops and mindfulness trainings to activists, social workers, and others who are doing the much-needed work of easing suffering and transforming society. This can take the form of workplace mindfulness, deep listening, or my most recent offering- Dharma and Love: a night of kirtan exploring the central themes of the Bhagavad Gita and how to deeply engage with a world in crisis.
This is vital work, but its not easy. It doesn’t seem to matter how many retreats I go on or how much I practice, burn-out is always right around the corner. Sometimes it can all be too much- too much stress, too much suffering. It can be unbearable.
So in these workshops I don’t offer anything close to a cure for this. However, I strongly feel that there are powerful contemplative practices that can help us develop a healthy relationship to stress, to anger, and to suffering, both in others and our own.
For social workers and other direct care staff, these practices can help us to truly be with the person we are caring for. By learning to be with our own self, we can learn to do the same for others, and this offers a quality of authenticity and richness that nourishes everyone involved.
For political activists, I think many of us have been turned off from spiritual practice because of the way we have seen it manifested in our culture. I think it can be revelatory to learn that these wisdom traditions are actually quite radical when stripped clean of their influence from our dominant, exploitative culture.
This is not self-help, and its not a distraction from the unbearable atrocity that exists in this world. Its a way to face atrocity head on, a way to bear the unbearable, and a way to gain the energy, courage and compassion necessary to continue this sacred work.
If you’re interested to talk to me more about this, write to me.