Ideas for Contemplative Activists

It’s protest day today – Friday 7th April. People are marching along the roads with banners. So far things are peaceful, but I was disturbed by the veiled threat from the new Minister of police, saying, “We don’t want another Marikana…”

I feel so powerless. That doesn’t help anybody though. So here are some ideas of what to do when we can’t do anything…

  1. Meditate each day – transform your own anger into mirror-like wisdom, so that you can see more clearly, and from a longer-term perspective.
  2. Tithe – many spiritual traditions suggest this formula for giving, as of benefit to the world, but also self-protective and a skillful way to develop generosity. Give 10% of your income to others, and make that choice based on the changing needs of the day. Right now, we might consider donating to organisations that are pushing back against corruption, e.g. Freedom Under Law, Black Sash or OUTA.
  3. Act with Intention – Let each action be imbued with intention so that it takes on a far greater meaning. The other night I was giving out rice at the soup kitchen near Ellis Park, with the intention that this, in some way, could alleviate the hunger in the whole world. Of course it didn’t, but it did help 120 hungry people, and allowed me to do something small, yet constructive. 
  4. Volunteer – “Just because we can’t do everything, doesn’t mean we should do nothing.” Choose an organization within your own community and support their work with your time. When we connect with others, we honour the truth of interdependence and this gives us the resilience to continue, even when the work has no forseeable end. 
  5. Unite – find commonalities as human beings, rather than focusing on differences. We all have a frightened Trump or a greedy Zuma inside of us, but we don’t need to let them project out onto others and cause harm. And we certainly don’t need them to be ruling nations… but we need to work within the law. We also have skillful human qualities of love, compassion and wisdom. Let these be the qualities we nurture. 
  6. Practise – whether it is yoga, qigong, meditation, chanting… whatever feeds your spirit. Do this so that you don’t become overwhelmed and give up. An ounce of hope is powerful. Look at reality clearly, without buying into despair. 
  7. Trust your gut – listen to your intuition more than your social media feed. Remember that we are all susceptible to false news especially if it bolsters our own opinion.
  8. Pray – it may feel like wishful thinking, but it keeps us buoyant and hopeful, especially when we are in for the long haul. The Dalai Lama has not managed to change the political situation in Tibet, but he has benefitted millions of others through his time in exile, and prays for the Chinese each day.
  9. See deeply – these individuals making poor decisions right now are all human, ruled by their shadows of greed, fear and self-interest. Believe that they too can change, the way we know we can change. Give them a ‘get out of jail free’ card. 

And now I am off to protest by way of a Group Meditation and Mindfulness Walk… Thank you to Salochanee Reddy and Dr Ela Manga for waking at 4am with an idea, and making it into a reality. That is how things change…

Good luck everybody.

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