“The next Buddha is community” – Thich Nhat Hahn
Can the world be saved?
I’m split. One half of me is a realist and thus agnostic. This part sees God and the Devil, neck-to-neck. The Devil surges ahead – DT rolls back environmental regulations, mental illness spikes among teens, wildfires blaze across the West coast – and I don’t want to leave my bed in the morning. We’re all dead, and Americans are (mostly) to blame. But then – amazing! – God makes a come-back: Christine Blasey Ford, new research on the pervasiveness of trauma, new voices of Indigenous resurgence, and – can it be? – cops are learning mindfulness. I bounce as I walk and the sky is atomic blue.
Back and forth it goes. Who can say who’s winning? The potential “data” to draw on at any one moment is infinite and infinitely subjective. From this point of view, until we literally explode the planet, all we can really say is the stakes keep ratcheting up. The world may not be getting “better” or “worse,” but it is definitely getting more intense and complex.
But I have another side too, an inner optimist. This optimist knows something my realist doesn’t: that hope galvanizes action more effectively than despair. It feels good to hope, and it feels even better to imagine we’re acting on the right side of history.
The movement my optimist is most excited about is this: all around the world, in millions of separate cultural and social niches, people are learning to take more responsibility for themselves. They are opening themselves to external feedback, they are examining their own biases, they are beginning to understand the intimate link between the care we extend ourselves and the care we offer others. This is a movement of sanity. And the explosion of research and interest in meditation and personal growth practices – both contemplative and secular – lie at its very heart.
And the CEC is doing its part. We just finished version 1.0 of our “Community Activation Start-Up Kit,” available for free here. The idea of this kit is to inspire people around the world to start up their own community practice groups, in a way that’s unique to them and uniquely responsive to their local needs and context. We share our own best practices about how to write and guide meditation, suggestions for how to work with different meditation and community-related challenges, plus other practical logistical information and the usual smattering of terrible jokes.
The kit is incomplete (for example, I’m still working on the trauma-sensitive mindfulness section- I missed my deadline!) But that’s fine, it’s all a work-in-progress, one that depends on you for feedback about what you’d like to see more of. So please have a look, and let us know what you need to start your own group.
I’ll leave the final word to Thomas Merton; his answer to external-facing activists impatient with inner-work:
“He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others. He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centred ambitions, his delusions about ends and means, his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas.” – Thomas Merton, Contemplation in a World of Action