Posts Tagged social change

Being Peace / Protesting War

Peace March at Golden GateNow that I’m working at the intersection of social activism and Buddhism, I get to articulate my previously mostly silent but internal feelings that Buddhist thought has much to offer social activism, and social engagement in the world has much to offer a Buddhist who can get stuck on the meditation cushion.

Today, the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11, I walked the Golden Gate with hundreds of others, declaring peace in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the US that were waged in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. It was my first demonstration bringing my Buddhist face as my primary face, and I found myself curious how it would feel different.

I woke this morning glad to have sat several days of meditation in the past week, as I was strongly in touch with the depths of kindness in my heart. In other times, I may have contemplated my anger and bitterness at Bush and other political figures who started these wars. Instead, on my bus ride in to the city, I tapped in to feelings of peace, safety, kindness, and compassion.

When I walked in to the rally space, I felt ready to rally for peace. On the inside, it seemed markedly different than showing up for an anti-war rally. I looked at people with a silent smile, felt confident and strong despite awkwardly holding a 6-foot banner by myself. I didn’t feel the need to do, to run around and feel anxious about what was happening or not happening. I just felt the need to be peace.

It’s a different path to change, to believe that the greatest influence is to first embody that which I seek. There is a lot of comfort in this, as it’s entirely in my locus of control, while changing the policies of my government feels mostly outside of my control.

Yet I don’t completely relinquish the power I do have to influence government and other social systems by focusing my attention only on internal peace. I bring whatever peace I have, even if it’s not fully perfected, to the rally. I mindfully walk in our march across the bridge, feeling each movement of my walking as I shift weight, lift my right foot, move it forward, and place it heel first. Another shift of weight, then the left foot lifts, moves forward, and gently comes down on the concrete. As we approach the middle of the bridge to stand together in solidarity, I find my own blend of both lifting my voice with others in wise speech for peace and holding a noble silence of meditation practice. These practices helped me stay mindful about where I was, why I was there, and kept the link to peace and peacefulness strong in my heart.

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Pinch Me

Someone pinch me – I think I’ve magically landed my dream job!

Wanted: A nonprofit leadership position in the San Francisco Bay Area. An organization interested in trying out new models of leadership and governance, building on the power of shared leadership rather than the traditional board-ED-staff hierarchy.

Organization must be committed to building a more inclusive version of itself. And it can’t be scared of me trying out mindfulness practice, a balance of the brahmaviharas, an analysis of the Three Rootssuffering, impermanence, and non-self – in the work we do. – From my journals, September 11, 2010

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Buster Benson asks, “What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family?”

I believe that Buddhist teachings on mindfulness and lovingkindness hold the keys to transforming our world to be peaceful and just. – From this blog, June 3, 2011

Enter the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, a community of primarily dharma practitioners established to support socially engaged efforts of visionaries of compassionate social justice and dharma-based organizations for social change. A community people working right at this intersection of Buddhist practice and social action.

I started today as the Operations Manager, and will be supporting BPF for at least the next few months as they (we!) sort out the next version of the organization. I’m super excited to be part of this transformation, and am already brimming with enthusiasm about supporting this work.

I’m also excited to see how this blog can be useful in processing the transitions and transformations as they come to pass. It’s exciting to have a real live organization with whom to think through some of my big questions – how can care of the self be connected with caring for the world? How does changing organizational structure change what an organization can accomplish? What do Buddhist teachings on mindfulness and compassion have to teach us about creating a more just and peaceful world? How does an organization include a diversity of voices, and grow stronger when those voices conflict?

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One Strong Belief

I’m participating in the #trust30 challenge to reflect on quotes and writing prompts from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self Reliance. I hope to develop more trust in my writing, more self reliance that what I write is worthwhile, even if just to me.

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It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Buster Benson asks, “What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family?”

I believe that Buddhist teachings on mindfulness and lovingkindness hold the keys to transforming our world to be peaceful and just.

I have been fortunate to have amazing friends who share many of my political views and understandings of life. Right now, I have a set of friends working actively on creating a more just world, and a set of friends engaged in Buddhist meditation – but those circles have little overlap. Whatever circle I’m in, I have work to do to make my beliefs understood and I often feel like I’m on the edge of lecturing people about things they don’t really want to hear. Like when I had lunch with some Buddhist friends, and started breaking down the dynamics of sexual violence when our conversations meandered from living in France, to the sexual mores of France versus the US and how that relates to each country’s perception of DSK’s rapes of multiple women. Or when I’m with activist friends who cringe at training activities that get a little “woo” – especially if they slow things down and ask us to be mindful of the body. I’m overjoyed when I meet people who find interesting the overlap between social justice and meditation.

I chafe at Emerson’s love of the independence of solitude. As a community organizer, it goes against every cell of my being to just hang out with my solitary beliefs. If I find an idea compelling, I want to share it. Preferably not in a dogmatic way, but in a way where others can interact with it and tell me where it’s not quite right. And when it speaks to them clearly, I invite them in to my life as co-organizers, as friends, as family so we can work together to spread this idea, and change the world.

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Rooting Nonprofits: A Purpose Statement

Why do I blog?

Writing about my experiences in nonprofits helps me make better sense of what is working in nonprofits and what is not. I’m passionately committed to the kinds of social changes that nonprofits are trying to make in this world, and I can’t stand watching us squander our time and resources on anything that is not our best possible work.

What do I blog about?

I am most interested in how we structure nonprofit organizations – how does our organizational structure help us or hurt us from reaching our mission? I’m disappointed that the Executive Director leadership model is the best we’ve come up with, and I’m intrigued by other leadership models that spread leadership across a broader set of people.

I also love all things that help rejuvenate us as nonprofit workers, and all things that help us see the interconnections between our intertwined movements.

What do I want to become known for through my blog?

I would love to be a source for folks looking for new ideas and new energy about how we can be more effective in being the change we wish to see in the world.

Thanks to Rosetta Thurman’s 31 Days to a Brand New Blog challenge for the questions!

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