July’s Learning Resources
Taking Action in the World
This month’s theme: Taking Action in the World. Expanding from our own communities to the world at large, we consider what matters most to us, the issues that we care about, and how we define ways to help ease the suffering of others and bring happiness. We examine three essential questions: “What do I care most about?” “Who do I care most about?” and “What am I going to do about it?”
📚Suggested Resources and Activities:
It is easy to get caught up in day-to-day life with our routines, the seemingly never-ending to-do lists, family responsibilities, and more. Sometimes it can feel like we live in our own little bubbles. We may hear about the suffering around our country and the world and fall into the mindset of, “That doesn’t affect me,” or “I don’t have the time or energy to do something about that,” or “What could I possibly do to make a change in this world?” The truth is, we are all interconnected, like waves on the ocean. When one is suffering, we all suffer. Knowing this, how can we shift from our individual practice to taking action in the world?
📚Suggested Resources and Activities:
- To Discuss: What injustices in the world am I most passionate about eradicating? What issues matter most to me? (Social justice, environmental justice, human well-being, etc.) What actions am I currently engaging in that bring benefit to the world? What actions am I currently engaging in that could be contributing to harmful results in the world? How do I feel about the way my resources (time, finances, etc.) impact my ability to contribute? How do I practice generosity, and how can I expand on my current practices? What are actionable steps I could take to bring me closer to this goal of “Taking Action in the World”?
- To Read: Love Everyone: A Guide for Spiritual Activists by Sharon Salzberg and Rev. angel Kyodo williams (lionsroar.com)
- To Watch: How I became an activist through FGM | Isatu Barry | TEDxColumbus (TedX Talks YouTube Channel)
- To Listen: On Buddhism and Blackness featuring an interview with Valerie Brown by Sigal Samuel (Future Perfect Podcast, vox.com) (audio and transcript)
- Namchak Blog: Be Brave: Awaken Your Heart-Mind
- Lama Tsomo’s recommended book of the month: From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want by Rob Hopkins. From Lama Tsomo: Hopkins is a founder of the Transition Towns movement. In this book he gives us lots of stories of people getting together to dream up and then beginning to manifest the new paradigm in their towns.
✨Monthly Learning Circle Spotlight:
This month we are happy to introduce you to Suki Sun, who is a member of our newly-formed Forest Wisdom Sangha. This Circle formed recently after having completed 12 weeks of the Connection Despite Distance Course( Now called Stepping into Meditation & Community.) Suki shares some reflections about this Circle:
“The name of our Circle was inspired by the wisdom of the “wood wide web” from the Extended Round Robin Meditation led by Lama Tsomo that we did during the last online class of Connection Despite Distance. In our weekly check-ins, we always ask the question “Is there anything that you have learned this week from nature?” This gives me a totally new perspective about my relationship with nature, I become more mindful and grateful to the magic healing power of nature, so subtle yet profound, as long as I keep opening my eyes and mind to notice, embrace, and interact with it.
Some things that are inspiring me from my Circle right now are that one of our members mentioned she did a 3.5-hour salsa dance since the pandemic, which makes me want to find a dance class to move my body in a group setting. Also, a member experienced the loss of a family member recently, but her practice helped her find the peace and acceptance during this difficult time. I really cherish the opportunities to practice mindful listening with such inspirational and rich collages of life stories.
This Learning Circle is definitely my spiritual highlight each week. We are currently reading Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling and going through the workbook together as a Circle. I have never read any books in a group setting, and I am so grateful to have this group to keep me accountable.”
One Community Activities
Framing for Discussion (10 min):
- To help frame our discussion today, we will read an excerpt from an impactful piece from Sharon Salzberg and Rev. angel Kyodo williams called Love Everyone: A Guide for Spiritual Activists (lionsroar.com). This article touches on the exploration between spiritual practice and activism. (Choose one or a few members of your Learning Circle to read the following excerpt.)
Rev. angel Kyodo williams: Most of the people who are driving structural activism are doing it, at least initially, out of their own experience—either personal necessity or their relationships with people suffering oppression. So we have a challenge because meditation and mindfulness have largely landed in a privileged community of older white folks.
I’m obsessed with the question of how we shift that. How do we not let our own circumstances determine where we focus the lens of our practice?
If our lens stays within our privileged circumstances, then we turn our compassion only toward things that are personal and interpersonal. Rarely does that lens focus on systemic problems, because the personal need to do that doesn’t exist. People aren’t going to deal with things like racial injustice and white supremacy because they’re not affected by it personally.
We need to solve this. We can’t let such a powerful tool as meditation be limited by people’s personal circumstances. We don’t have the numbers to move this country toward greater social justice if the only driving force is whether or not people are feeling the pain personally.
I think there’s something in our social order that contributes to this. There’s something in the way we are practicing Buddhism that actually seems to make us more insulated. Even this practice that is supposed to be about how we relate to the world and to the people around us becomes hyper-individualized. It’s time for us to cut through that.
Group Share (10 min):
- Does anyone have any reflections, questions, or insights around this excerpt? Take a few moments to share with your Learning Circle members.
Activity- Watch Video Clip (5 min):
- We will now watch a short clip from a longer video, Mindfulness for this Moment: Inner Change and Social Justice, which was released in June of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. This video discusses how our worlds have been upended by a coronavirus, economic upheaval and a historic movement demanding social justice. Join the founding editor of Well, Tara Parker-Pope, for a conversation and mindful meditation with Rev. angel Kyodo Williams, about the inner work we all must do to cultivate a liberated life and usher in social change.
- Click HERE to watch this video clip from minute 18:31-24:03.
Journaling and Discussion (20 min):
Take a few moments for your Circle members to individually reflect/journal about any or all of the following questions. After you finish journaling, you are welcome to move into smaller break-out rooms with your Circle (about 10-15 minutes) and then rejoin to have a full group discussion.
- What stood out to you from this video clip?
- What are your thoughts on “meeting a problem” vs “fixing a problem” in the context of your meditation practice and social change?
- How do you feel about supporting communities outside of your own personal and interpersonal communities?
Meditation (10 min):
- Tonglen to Cultivate Empathy with Lama Tsomo (6 minutes)
- After this practice is finished, invite sharing amongst your Circle members.
- How was that practice for you? Did you have any insights you would like to share? Anything in connection with our theme of Taking Action in the World?
Closing and Dedication of the Merit (1 min):
Through this merit, may all beings awaken and be happy. May all beings everywhere benefit and thrive from these practices. May all beings everywhere experience justice, peace, and love.
Modern life brings unprecedented stressors, from personal challenges to global ones like climate change. Shamata helps us expand our mental awareness of the causes of stress, allowing us to cultivate a greater sense of calm in our lives and find the joy that is always available.
Practicing Inclusion + Nonviolent Communication
Examining race and identity, empathetic connection with others, what is life really like for others. Drawing from How to Be An Anti-Racist, we’ll take a closer look at the practice of Loving Kindness. Treating people of all backgrounds and identities with fairness and respect is an ongoing journey for most of us, including our team at Namchak. We share our experience with the practice of non-violent communications, which teaches us how to listen deeply to our own needs as well as those of others, helping us connect to our innate compassion.
Our personal practice isn’t just for ourselves, but for the benefit of others too. We dive into the meaning of work, consider our gifts, and examine work as an environment to practice being in community and contributing to the greater good.
There is no going it alone. We live our lives with others, part of interconnected communities, known as “Sangha” in Tibetan Buddhist practice. We explore the ways we can cultivate awareness within ourselves and grow as we engage with those around us, ultimately living happier and more meaningful lives and contributing to the same for others.