Practicing Justice

This past week Ginny guided our reflections, exploring the deep connections that arise between our formal practice and our engagement with our communities, large and small. How does our practice on the cushion support our vibrant presence amidst a challenging world? She played excerpts from Angel Kyodo Williams and Natalie Goldberg to provide different perspectives on the question.

in search of SANGHA

When I came to Vermont – almost 10 years ago, it was in search of sangha – of community that was bringing together the practice of meditation with the work of creating a more just society. In retrospect – I think I was searching for respite from the pain and challenge that facing injustice required.
Waking up to ideas around privilege, what it means to be a white person in this country with its history of stolen land and slavery, I found myself tapping into a well of shame and fear that was paralyzing.

“It is probable that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the earth.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

My early response was to “be good”. To do the “right” thing (nothing new here – a lifelong pattern). And really that was about my own comfort and sense of self, and my need for belonging and approval. In my early meditation practice I was seeking peace, goodness – relief from suffering. It was separate from work, another path, in part because the spaces I was in did not integrate spiritual practice and work for justice.

My practice has become one that allows me to be with suffering, deepening understanding, being with what is, rather than seeking to avoid it.

WELCOMING

Today my practice has become one of continuing to welcome the feelings and stay with them, rather than turn away or avoid the fear. To create space for the exploration of history – to create space for the pain and experience of others – to create space for the enduring tensions that cannot be solved or fixed in my lifetime. To turn toward, rather than turning away from the truth of suffering.

“Welcome the very thing that we don’t want…SO that we don’t prevent the healing that might occur when we give it space and time.” Gil Fronsdal
Audio Dharma – https://www.audiodharma.org/talks/audio_player/9120.html
Gil’s Talk – Dharmette, Welcoming from 7.18.2018 – through 9:40

PRESENCE

Vibrant presence – moment by moment – welcoming all of it.
The gift of being present – to ourselves and one another. Instead of needing to fix things, taking on the responsibility of centuries of oppression and harm.
This is relevant in the smallest things – and in the enduring challenges of our time.

Page 98 Radical Dharma

“It turns out that far from dragging you down, one of the most liberating things you can do is the come to terms with the fact that some form of you suffering will always be there. To really be present with that unhooks us from the constant anxiety of trying to make it go away. Paradoxically, one we release the proposition that we are going to get rid of suffering, then the potential to alleviate the suffering becomes possible.” Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Sensei

Tenderness – and compassion come in when I am able to allow myself to fully experience something. To be fully present to it. By not turning away from the history of injustice, from the terror and pain that has been wrought by the dominant culture – there is the potential for healing, and liberation.
Again – that idea from Gil
“Welcome the very thing that we don’t want…SO that we don’t prevent the healing that might occur when we give it space and time.” Gil

LOVE

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word love here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.” James Baldwin

The Place Where We Are Right
~ Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood