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Conscious activism

Sunday, August 30, 2009 by Marianne Elliott

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Bali orphanage
Twee Merrigan (yoga teacher) watches Edo Kahn and Jo Mall (musicians, devotees and music therapists) play and sing with children living in an orphanage in Bali

Conscious activism is an idea that I've been playing with for a couple of years now, and here in Wellington I've had the joy of finding some friends and traveling companions who are also interested in practicing their own form of conscious activism.

The most signigicant discovery for me this past year has been the incredible gift of sangha, good company. On Thursday mornings I've sat in meditation with a handful of friends and strangers who have become dear friends. What we all shared was not only a commitment to supporting each other in our meditative practice but also a commitment to uncovering a mindful path of 'activism'.

Each of us had plenty of experience with social change, having been activists in various forms ourselves, and each of us was committed to grounding our actions in a solid base of simply being.

Over the course of this year I have learned so much from these friends and from the simple but profound practice of sitting in meditation with the people with whom you want to plan to take action to ease the suffering of all beings. I've found that there can be a transparency that develops between people who sit together. When you see someone once a week and what you do together is sit in silence there is a quality that develops to your relationship which defies the logic of our 'talk' culture. There is also a shared commitment to this process of sitting, even when we all dissolve into giggles for ten minutes, that gives us a shared – though silent – language.

So we sit. We each do the un-work that is sitting, letting go one by one of the thoughts and feelings that rise to the surface. Settling into the vast sky of the big mind. Sometimes struggling to let go, sometimes wondering how the others can possibly look so calm. Sometimes chanting together, sometimes in silence.

And then, at other times and in other places, we come together to plan actions for social change. We agree that it is important that our actions reflect our commitment to ease suffering, that we don't employ means that create more suffering. We recognise that generating and perpetuating a sense of 'us' and 'them' leads to the creation of more conflict. We choose instead to try to act with compassion, love, hope and joy in all our activism.

I imagine sometimes what my old colleagues might make of all this. Brave, committed but often angry people. I suspect some would find us naive.  But I know what I have come to understand, that if I want there to be more peace in the world – more joy, more hope, more compassion – then I have to begin with me. This is what conscious activism means to me.

What does conscious activism mean to you?


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2 Responses to "Conscious activism"

  1. Lubna says:

    Yes, it has to begin with me. I am slowly but gradually taking steps to move away from a corporate life and become a change maker. Have just started with a small story book collection drive, wish me luck. I hope it is a good idea.
    I admire you a lot, but am unable to take the sort of plunge that you do, straightaway, hence these baby steps.

  2. gypsy Alex says:

    I love this post, Mari. It brought me some fond memories of when I was more in tune with my yoga and meditation practice, and therefore, myself. I agree with you that conscious activism is an extension of conscious living… Even though my practice is currently at a miss, just by pursuing my dreams and giving room to what is most important to me in my life, makes me feel more prepared to contribute to the world. xo

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