Applying Mindfulness to Systemic Challenges

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I just watched the doc film Feminists: What Were They Thinking on Netflix. I felt the film was well-done, educational, eye-opening, and inspiring.

Here’s a quote I wrote down from the film that I think all of us unpaid/low-paid creative/artistic/musical humans, community builders, change agents, and social activists would do well to hear and take to heart (over and over and over again):

“When you are doing something you love, it’s like throwing a rock in the pool because that love is hitting the pool and starts radiating out. And so, when you’re doing something that you love and sharing it with other human beings, you are doing something of benefit.”

– Meredith Monk
(American composer, performer, director, vocalist, filmmaker, and choreographer)

It’s worth mentioning that I watched the film as an intentional act of stepping outside of my comfort zone. When I’m confronted with the word feminist in any context, even if a dear friend of mine calls them self one proudly in a conversation we’re having together, I bristle and energetically and/or physically back away.

I hope this is assumed but just in case it’s not: it’s not that I’m against equal rights for women or feel as though as women we shouldn’t be rallying our voices or stepping into our own power. My issue has to do with the labeling and declaration of being a feminist. And to be clear, this just doesn’t just apply to feminism. I bristle at labels that I judge have an inherent quality of me-against-you mentality built in. If a word used for describing one self or a group of people ends in -ist or -ism there’s a good chance it makes me uncomfortable. I’m not saying this is a good idea or right, I’m simply being honest with where my inner processing is at and the judgements that come up for me.

For example, if I were asked to describe myself using single words, I would never include vegetarian in the mix or even Buddhist. In my view, these words have a high potential to cause separation and propel a certain level of me-against-you self-righteous energy. They are also relatively meaningless categories and distinctions when it comes to conveying who I really am. Labels can be dangerous and degrading. They serve to keep us tucked away in a certain box – and when we use them on our self, we limit our potential and our own power to shine forth our true nature.

I appreciate documentary films that afford me the opportunity to see things differently and gain a new perspective by way of hearing the personal stories of others. This was one such film. And it’s not that I now feel called to label myself a feminist but I do have some fresh grist for the mill, which I appreciate.

Systemic Issues

Last fall, I took a class series on White Awareness, where my eyes were opened up to the history and current challenges of racism. And I took that class because I knew enough to know that I didn’t know anything. That class has deeply affected the lens through which I see the world. And it’s not been limited to the systemic issue of racism. My awareness has now also been opened up to other systemic issues such as hierarchy and patriarchy, challenges I never gave much thought or attention to before.

And I don’t mind telling you that it’s a mixed bag, this new growing awareness. It’s akin to what I’ve heard others share in regards to starting a mindfulness or meditation practice, which falls along the lines of the adage: ignorance is bliss.

On Friday night, I attended a poetry reading and one of the poets shared this line in a piece she had written: “To carry what is heavy in the world is a blessing and a curse.” (I wish I could remember her name to credit her here.) And I find this to be true, as I’m sure many of us do.

Moving Forward

I am deeply interested and invested in being a perpetual student of worldly matters and the human experience. And, with the support of my mindfulness practice, I am also aware that there is only so much time in the day and energy in my body, mind, and heart. So my ongoing practice is to monitor and assess my own limits, so I can adjust as necessary and invest my time into matters that speak to me, for one reason or another, and take solace in knowing that I am part of a vast grid of humans doing good work and there are others to take on the issues I am unable or not called to. I do not exist by myself alone and it is critically impossible for me to tend to every damaging systemic issue that we are faced with as a global collective.

I practice to discover what my own work is. And then the very best I can do from there is to do the work that I’m called to.

I know this: I’m a work in progress – and if I ever get to the point when I’m NOT a work in progress, shoot…I’m in trouble.



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