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meditation used as a form of activism…engage you consciousness

meditation used as a form of activism…engage you consciousness

by October 8, 2012

It’s probably safe to say that most people who meditate do so because it provides a sense of inner peace. We know, scientifically and anecdotally, that it relieves stress, changes the way our brains function, and can even make us more tolerant and patient in circumstances that would otherwise tick us off.

In other words, meditation is very personal; it works on the individual from the inside out. But meditation is more than a tool for self-improvement, and its impacts can extend  to advance the “greater good.”

To begin with, it’s reasonable to expect that the more happy, emotionally-centered people there are, the better off society—and our planet—will be. But we can take that implication a step further, for meditation also has the capacity to serve as a form of activism.

Activism is a word that often triggers thoughts of protests, boycotts, and so-called “radical” causes (think Save the whales! or Workers of the world, unite!). However, activism can take many forms. Recently, I came across a term that nicely summed up the less confrontational aspects of activism: Subtle Activism, defined on the Gaiafield Project website as

“…an activity of consciousness or spirit, such as prayer, meditation, or ecstatic dance, intended to support collective healing and social change. Subtle Activism grows from the idea that there are many effective ways – some newly emerging, many as old as humanity – to positively influence social change other than overt political action.”

This view of activism throws the door wide open for increased numbers of people to become “activists”—including people who may not have the personality, the time, or the resources to be involved in causes they care about to the degree that “traditional” activists are.

For example, there’s a widely-held belief among meditators and spiritually-oriented people that if you get enough people meditating at the same time, and with the same intention, a “critical mass” can be reached which not only affects the people meditating, but also influences the mood, perception, and behavior of entire communities. With enough participation, the impact can be worldwide.

One such occasion was a 2011 gathering in Berlin, during which Ravi Shankar led 70,000 people in a meditation for world peace. Many of the participants who were interviewed described a feeling of spiritual energy and “interconnectedness” much greater than what they experience during individual meditation.

There are also plenty of organizations and movements working for peace, social justice, the environment, and other causes, based on this premise. For example, America Meditating is sponsoring a Pause for Peace program, in which you take a few moments, twice a day (7am and 7pm), to reflect on world peace and the role you can play in advancing it. In fact, there’s a Pause for Peace app available on iTunes that reminds you when it’s time to take those breaks.

Even those who prefer to be more actively involved in their preferred causes can use meditation to supplement their activism, keep themselves focused, and maintain enthusiasm during challenging times. Joanna Macy, for example, is an eco-philosopher and Buddhist scholar who’s written a number of books on environmental issues. She also offers  training to activists based on what she calls the “transformation of despair.” In Macy’s view, meditation can transform negative emotions like anger, frustration, and despair—commonly experienced by activists—into a much more positive, inspiring, and productive energy, preventing burnout and enhancing creativity.

Whatever your values, your personality, or your desired level of engagement, meditation can be a powerful resource to support your personal style of “activism.”

What role does meditation play in your engagement with causes that matter to you? Are there any organizations or movements that you admire? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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