The Community of Mindful Advocacy is Born
–Laura Hunter, True Ocean of Teachings with help from Chris Petit, Peaceful Transformation of the Source
I have been an activist who has worked hard for environmental justice for 24 years in low-income and communities of color impacted by toxic pollution in Southern San Diego County and Mexico. I recently ended this phase of my work at the end of June, 2014.
I was tired and pretty spent. My first intention was to rest, refresh, and reconnect with myself, my practice, and the land. I did that–a little.
One of the reasons I stopped working was that I wanted to investigate some deeper issues about how we make social change. After decades of engaging in the mostly us-them-winner-loser combat of traditional advocacy, I have seen that this really isn’t getting us where our society needs to go. I also have experienced first-hand that the practice has immediate and effective usefulness to achieving environmental goals even in this context. It also is the only way I was able to preserve myself during the past 10 years. Without the practice, I would have given up a long time ago.
So, in April, an amazing event manifested. Thich Chan Phap Ho and a number of Dharma Teachers and OI members convened an Earth-Holding weekend at Deer Park Monastery. There, I met a number of people who are rowing their boats in the same direction I wanted to go. I had found my people.
We have created the Community of Mindful Advocacy. www.mindfuladvocacy.org. We are people who are active practitioners of mindfulness and active advocates for change. We aspire to share our skills, presence, and healing practices to help each other to:
- Transform the root causes and conditions of degradation and inequity;
- Address the needs of all people, animals, plants, and minerals–especially those who have historically borne a disproportionate burden of suffering;
- Enliven participatory democracy; and,
- Nourish systemic change.
We aim to:
- Promote self-care and well-being in lives of service;
- Extend care to allies and opponents to propagate happy, healthy, and well-functioning relationships;
- Promote practical actions that end harm and offer healing to earth and earthlings; and,
- Articulate an effective methodology for mindfulness-based advocacy, one rooted in fierce compassion
We are a diverse group of practitioners, from different traditions, looking into how to integrate mindfulness, deep-looking, compassion, etc…into government, politics, and make the practices available for our fellow activists if and when they are interested. We want to see how we can help the turning happen at more levels than in our spiritual community.
We are just starting out and need your experience, deep looking, and great ideas about how we can make change while sustaining ourselves, our families, and our communities. Our first focus is on self-care. On the par with “No Fish, No Fishermen” is “No advocates, No change.” First things, first.
‘Self-first’ is not an easy concept for committed social and environmental justice activists. We are used to giving our all—and then some. But, the reality is, if we are not in good shape, physically and mentally, are not cared for, happy, nourished, and stable we cannot change the world. In fact, we can make things worse.
After self-care, comes our families and communities that nourish and sustain us. We are encouraging activists to recognize those who surround and support us on a regular basis and to think about how we can seek refuge and be revitalized with them. This is where the sangha and spiritual communities become so important in sustaining us and the important work we are doing. Family should also be regarded as a precious resource for advocates. Too many times, family members of activists can pay a high-price for the work of the advocate and be overlooked and undervalued. These support groups can help provide perspective and refuge during challenging times and be very nourishing.. From that solid ground, mindfulness will radiate out, and changing the world will be an easier and a more joyful activity.
So these are a few of the things that we are looking into. At the Community of Mindful Advocacy our mantra is, Happy Advocates will Heal the World! We hope you’ll join us and we can get happy together. And, along the way, we can heal ourselves, our families, and our World. Please check us out.