Saturday, July 20, 2013

Activism - Two Types


By John Potts
Arriving Home at the Source (Dharma Name) 

   Quite a bit of changes have been instituted around the world due to citizens becoming involved in Activism to bring their desires for change home to the target government or institution.  There are two general types of activism which I would like to explain in this essay.  This information was recently put together to lead a mindfulness meditation group into an informative meditation toward changing violence and suffering around the world, including the earth itself, into peace and health.  Thus, you will see sample meditation instructions herein.

   First, there are at least two general types of activism:

I.Traditional methods of FRONT-LINE activism:

1.      Marches

2.      Demonstrations

3.      Putting one’s body in front of bulldozers

4.      Living high in a tree to protect the cutting of a forest, etc, etc…

These represent only the most immediate and direct expressions of action for social change. 

II.Subtle Activism:

1.     an activity of consciousness or spirit, such as:

2.     prayer,

3.     meditation,

4.     ecstatic dance or other types of rituals,

5.     intended to support collective healing and social change,

6.     grows from the idea that there are many effective ways – some newly emerging, many as old as humanity – to positively influence social change other than overt political action.

   It is possible to identify a spectrum of social action that proceeds from the more obvious or overt forms down a graded scale of increasing subtlety. At the subtlest level, even certain activities of consciousness or spirit can be recognized as forms of social action.

   A global meditation and prayer event, in which hundreds of thousands of people around the planet unite in silence and prayers for world peace, is a prime example of subtle activism.

   On March 15, 2002, over 600,000 Sri Lankans traveled from all corners of the country to the sacred city of Anuradhapura to participate in the world’s largest ever peace meditation. After a few brief spoken prayers by members of the clergy of various Sri Lankan religions, the event organizer Dr. Ariyaratne guided the massive crowd into a simple mindful breathing meditation.  Over half a million people settled into deep stillness and silence for an entire hour. The meditation was clearly a political statement, yet there were no placards or speeches – simply - silence.

Dr. Ariyaratne, who since 1958 had worked on refugee and rehabilitation projects with both sides of Sri Lanka’s bitter civil war, introduced the peace meditations in the late 1990’s in order to “change the psycho-sphere.” The American peace activist Joanna Macy, present at the March 15 meditation, called it

 “the biggest silence I ever heard…. I thought: This is the sound of bombs and landmines not exploding, of rockets not launched, of machine guns laid aside. This is possible.”

   During the Battle of Britain, Londoners of various faiths united daily for a minute of silence after the chiming of Big Ben at 9pm – a practice intended to strengthen the moral resolve of the city’s inhabitants during the ordeal of war.

   In recent years, the expansion of the global interfaith movement and the emergence of the Internet have given rise to numerous globally synchronized meditation and prayer vigils that link individuals and communities around the world for shared silence and prayers for peace. For example, in early 2003 during the buildup to the Iraq war, the Global Interfaith Prayer Vigil brought together over 100,000 monks, nuns and other committed practitioners of a wide variety of faiths for a fifteen-week vigil to pray for a peaceful solution.

Sample 20-minute Group Meditation

  Leader: You may, as always, use your own method of meditation, but if you would like to listen to my words to guide you periodically, during your breathing cycle – breathing in/breathing out – I will name aloud a location or social situation which is in need of collective healing or social change… you might want to try to visualize the situation I name and imagine the situation improving, or think projecting the words “Peace and Healing” toward  the place or situation, or otherwise emanate feelings of peace and compassion toward the location which I name.  The choice is yours. Feel free to add your own silently. Just don’t keep visualizing the tragic situation remaining un-improved.

 After a while, I will name several charities that work with our donations in needy areas around the world… perhaps you will want to send thoughts of generous donations to the charity and wisdom to use the funds where needed… and add the charities which you help support.

    After 20 minutes, we will come out of the meditation & I will add a few more thoughts to consider and then go around the room and introduce ourselves and comment on what this topic means to you as you desire. 


(Spoken at periodic intervals by the leader)

Apartheid & ethnic cleansing in Burma

Egyptian political and religious unrest


Al Qaeda and Taliban becoming peaceful

U.S. poverty and crime areas

Unity amongst Congressional members in the U.S. congress

Pres Obama’s wisdom

Hostility between Japan, China and N. Korea

China’s hostility toward Tibet and the families of those Buddhists who were celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday recently killed by Chinese soldiers in Tibet

Actions needed to be taken to reverse climate change

Sahel, Nigeria, W. Africa drought, hunger, malnourished

Military personnel in harms way 


Save the Children

Mercy Corps

Doctors w/o Borders

Amnesty Intl

If appropriate: Various local church outreach programs such as The Lighthouse, UN Global Justice Committee, UU Social Justice Light a Candle projects, Neighborhood Leadership Academy, overseas church partnership projects, etc.
(Bring the group out of meditation in accordance with local practice.) 

Further Thoughts on Activism

  Subtle activism is primarily intended for collective healing and social transformation. Meditating for one’s own liberation would not be considered subtle activism, but meditating for peace on Earth would be. Praying for the health of one’s personal friend is not subtle activism, but praying for a community struck by natural disaster is. It is important and wonderful to send healing to ourselves, our friends, and our families, but the goal of subtle activism is to encourage us to extend our healing focus beyond our local family to our greater community.

Forms of Subtle Activism

   Many kinds of actions can exert subtle positive influence on the social realm and thus might be considered forms of subtle activism. For example, certain kinds of intellectual contributions, and various forms of inspirational art and music are types of action that support positive social change through less overt or direct means than conventional approaches to activism (demonstrations, marches, lobbying, etc).

   Two kinds of Subtle Activism which I am involved in are

1.      Re-posting collective and social needs on Facebook, needs which are made public by charities, trying to get my FB friends to look out of their own situation into the needs of America and the world. 

2.     By signing petitions and encouraging my FB friends to sign the petitions for collective and social justice.

3.        I also help support Amnesty International with funds and also preparing and mailing letters to leaders of countries on behalf of activists and other victims who have been taken prisoner for their positive work and are being otherwise abused. 
4.   Meditation focused on collective needs.  

We are especially interested in the spiritual dimension of subtle activism, hence our definition:  

those forms of spiritual practice intended to support collective healing and social change.

“Spiritual practice” means prayer, meditation, ritual, or any other kind of spiritual or consciousness practice, from any tradition. It includes ecstatic dance, devotional chanting, and other kinds of expressive practices. We understand that the word “spiritual” means different things for different people. I consider a practice to be “spiritual” if it is oriented toward wholeness and healing and motivated by universal values such as love, compassion, and universal justice. It is not necessary that the approach be explicitly spiritual. For example, we would consider a practice that inspires awe and reverence for the Earth to be spiritual, even if the word spiritual is not mentioned.

Subtle activism also includes certain kinds of relational practices intended to help heal aspects of our collective shadow, especially when these take place in a sacred context.  

Individual Inner Subtle Activism 

In individual inner work, most approaches include some form of the following two dimensions:

   1) Making contact with our deeper essence through meditation, prayer or other spiritual practice; and

   2) Transforming our limiting beliefs and behavior patterns by working through critical issues from our personal history.

    Similarly, an important dimension of spiritual practices oriented toward collective healing and social transformation is a process of:

Bringing up to consciousness ancient wounds and limiting patterns of thought inherited from our collective history (e.g., racism, sexism).

   Leading examples of this kind of subtle activism include

1.     Women and men come together in sacred space to heal gender injustice

2.     People uncover their innate connections with each other and the web of life, and

3.     Working with groups that acknowledge and engage the political and psychological dimensions of issues that arise between members of the group.

I believe that there is enormous untapped power in these kinds of practices to support collective healing and social change.

   I consider myself to be a Social Activist.  I invite you to join me in these endeavors.  Showing talent, initiative, concern, devotion, becoming a pest… (as I am on Facebook) or just plain work are encouraged. 

I suggest that you make the following your own meditation/prayer focus to help compassion to radiate forth:

A Quote From The Digha Nikay

“I put away all hindrances,

I let my mind full of love pervade one quarter of the world,

and so too the second quarter,

and so the third, and so the fourth.

And thus the whole wide world,



around and everywhere,

I altogether continue to pervade with love filled thought,



beyond measure,

free from hatred and ill will.”

I Pray with love and compassion for all to live in peace and health.

I Give generously to heal the plight of the needy.

I Go into our world to bring love and compassion…We are all one! 
Some of these ideas have been compiled from the following web site:

Many thanks to!
(The above presentation was given by John Potts at the Mindfulness Meditation Group of Annapolis - Unitarian Universalist Church)
Go In Peace and Compassion
John Potts
Arriving Home at the Source
 (Dharma Name)

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