I have been thinking a great deal about social justice as I put the finishing touches on the "Justice for All" unit for my 8th grade English class. In this collaborative project, students are researching social groups that have historically struggled for equality in America. Perhaps the "Occupy" and the "Black Lives Matter" movements are the closest expression we have today to the mass protests for civil rights of the 1960's. Witnessing these recent social movements gives me hope that the spirit of a government for the people, by the people is still very much alive. And although it may be dampened by what appears to be the overwhelming powers that "be," there are those beautiful moments when people are moved to step out of a climate of alienation and continue the great struggle for social justice. The mass out pouring of support for Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign is a perfect example of this. The true power of oppression is that it casts doubt on people's belief in themselves-- the belief that they are the ones who will make the world better, different. It creates apathy, not empathy, and causes many individuals to give up, blame others, and lose hope. And, of course, future generations are counting on us.
Gandhi has been reported to have once said "Be the change you wish to see in the world." But from my experience, this is much easier said then done. The "how to" part was not included in this quote. And in a culture that loves fast fixes, instant gratification, and slogans that can fit on coffee mugs, it can be difficult to imagine how this phrase can actually be a lived experience. I mean, come on-- we all have very real challenges to navigate in our everyday lives that take our time and energy. I can speak for myself--with the daily demands of my work, health, and general life maintenance, I often don't have the energy to be anything but a couch potato when I get home after a busy day. The truth is, I'm not really a "couch potato." I just take the time I need to rejuvenate, restore, and rest. But in a culture that values always "doing," we run the chance of forgetting the importance of self-care as a central part of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
So, I don't believe that Gandhi was suggesting that we "be the change" when it fits into our busy schedules. I suppose it might help if we could at first get Gandhi's message correct. In a NY Times article entitled, "Falser Words Were Never Spoken," Brian Morton sets the record straight stating:
'The closest verifiable remark we have from Gandhi is this: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.” '
This quote sheds a bit more light on the topic because it actuality gets down to our relationship to change--as Jeff Shetty explains in a recent Huffington Post video linked here.
In this video, Shetty suggests that taking the time to connect with ourselves "now" and reflecting allows us to pull the lens back on the big picture we call "life" and our relationship to it. Our very relationship to ourselves, our ability to truly know empathy and compassion, is then reflected out into our relationship with the world. It seems that the operative word here is "be." That it is our "being" that is the container for all our "doing." And, if our "being" isn't being attended to, the quality of our "doing" will suffer. So I ask, "Do I allow myself and others the space to "be?" We are a society plagued with a constant longing for the next best thing, and for many, it is often someplace other than where we are at in the current moment. However, I've found by committing to a daily mindfulness practice, I can often create a little more space in life to show up, right here, right "now." By pushing the pause button, I actively cultivate positive emotions like kindness, compassion, and gratitude for myself and others.
And, as I have learned from my own experience "now" is the only place from which I can take meaningful, informed action. If I'm living in fear about recreating the past or worrying about an imagined future, my energy is divided and my vision split. Mindfulness has allowed me to start seeing things a little more clearly, and that clear vision allows me to first change how I am with myself, and in turn, with others.
So join me, on this Mother's Day, in the mother of all movements--join the "Occupy Now" movement and begin, or continue a personal mindfulness practice. Find as many ways as you can to nurture and take care of yourself! Find space for joy!
Mindheart-space.com/ is just one out of many venues available to support your practice. And of course, mindfulness is just one gateway to inhabiting the space of your own mind and heart with joy, without the constant distraction the world demands of you. It's alright to say "no" once in awhile and take back your most precious resource--your attention. Check out my website for more information and for online and face-to-face class schedules. Thanks for reading!