“Our practice is not selfish. We don’t practice for ourselves alone. As we change, the world changes. Our practice is a powerful form of activism that makes the world better.”
These are words I say to my fellow meditators at the end of the meditations I lead. And I believe in them. I really do.
Yes, I teach mindfulness, a millenary practice that helps reduce anxiety and stress. This is good, isn’t it? Calmer and less reactive people are better for everyone, right?
We live in a violent environment of oppression and exploitation of the many by the few. And, yes, mindfulness can be used by “The System” to make more docile, less combative, and more productive slaves.
But who can say that mindfulness is not also allowing people to see reality more clearly? Who can say that mindfulness is not making the hidden forms of oppression and exploitation more visible? Who can say that that mindfulness is not waking up a crowd of sleepwalkers from the vain promises of achieving happiness through non-stop consumerism? Who can say that mindfulness is not challenging senseless and pointless living? Who can say that mindfulness is not allowing us to realize that we are both oppressed and oppressors? Who can say that that mindfulness is not augmenting the contingent of wiser activists for social justice and preservation of our planet?
In general, mindfulness begins with close attention: one-pointed focus on where we are and what’s going on inside and out. Over time, though, this will bleed into a wider awareness that sees connections and explores what drives us and what effects we’re having on the world around us and the people, plants, and animals in it. It brings us into direct contact with our values, and the fundamental aspiration all of us have to make a better world, the part of us that cares. ~ Barry Boyce, Editor-in-Chief of Mindful and Mindful.org in “Is Your Mindfulness Practice a Political Statement? Mindfulness brings us into direct contact with our values and our desire to create a better world.”
The practice of mindfulness does not makes us oblivious and indifferent to injustices and perils. I argue that it has the opposite effect. Mindfulness practice makes us more aware of them, of the damaging impact of our way of living and the perilous path of extinction our civilization is on. Mindfulness makes us aware of our interconnection and interrelation, or as Thich Nhat Hanh would say, “Mindfulness makes us aware that we inter-are.”
“We are not separate. We are inextricably interrelated. The rose is the garbage, the soldier is the civilian, the criminal is also the victim. ‘This is like this, because that is like that.’ No one among us has clean hands. None of us can claim that the situation is not our responsibility. The child who is forced to work as a prostitute is that way because of the way we are. The refugees who are forced to live in camps have to live like that because of the way we live. The arms dealers do their business so that our economies can continue to grow and they can benefit. Wealth and poverty, the affluent society and the poor society, inter-are. The wealth of our society is made of the poverty of the other.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh, The Other Shore
I, like so many others, believe that we need to change the way we see life, the way we understand the world, the way we treat each other and all sentient beings. The way we live on this planet needs to change, and the practice of mindfulness meditation, as well as other similar practices, by changing our paradigms, is the best way I know to promote the beginning of effective, healthy change.
I say to the detractors of mindfulness, “One does not exclude the other. Practice meditation and work for social justice, and see what happens. Go to the silence and be surprised by the changes in the ways you see and behave. Knowing that the most effective nonviolent civil disobedience and active resistance initiatives — the ones that brought about lasting social change — were inspired and carried out by those who had deep disciplines of introspection and inner work, choose to be like those who have used the formula effectively. Be like the Buddha, Jesus, Thoreau, Gandhi, Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Thich Nhat Hanh, and others. Go to silence and then come out and change the world.”
I always remember that we, practitioners of mindfulness, are bringers of peace and sanity during moments of turmoil. I like to tell my students, as an encouragement, that “In a boat full of fearful and agitated people, one sane, calm, and steady-minded person can find the way through the fog and the storm, through the winds and the waves, and sail the boat to a safe harbor, saving not only his or her life, but also everyone else’s lives. Practice mindfulness. The world desperately needs more steady-minded individuals.”
Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect and write, and who not only aspires to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches Mindfulness Meditation and Mindful Living, and the acclaimed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He leads mindfulness silent retreats and organizes Silent Peace Walks. He lives in Florida, USA. Join his Mindfulness Meditation and Mindfulness Living sessions at Yoga Source in Coral Springs (Sundays at 9:00 AM) and at Shiwa Yoga in Deerfield Beach (Thursdays at 6:30 AM and 12:30 PM)
Take a look at these books at the Peaceful Ways online store
– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”
– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”
– “Silent Peace Walk”