Film – Raising Compasssion

“Compassion is secular..universal”
- Prof. Dr. Tania Singer, director of the Department of Social Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science, Leipzig.

‘In a series of informal conversations about compassion, initiated by neuroscientist Tania Singer and artist Olafur Eliasson .. a diverse group of neuroscientists, mental health professionals, and Buddhist monks .. discuss the public perception of compassion, talk about compassion-training programs at various research centers, relate their experiences about working with prisoners and in hospitals, and promote the practical uses of compassion-training in dealing with social and political issues’

View more information about the exchanges, and read an extensive PDF at the compassion-training webpage.

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Joy, Passion & Parties for the Environment

by Patrick Groneman
Follow Patrick on Twitter

[Originally posted on the Huffington Post blogs Sept. 25,2012]

Last weekend a group of Eco-activists, Buddhists & Buddhist Eco-activists convened for a three-day conference to discuss the intersection of “eco-dharma,” sustainability, and “to look towards a future of spiritual communities that take the issue of the environment seriously.”

But … not TOO seriously.

Continue reading

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National Council of Edlers: Greensboro Declaration

Image The National Countil of Elders, a newly formed group of veteran social justice activists (many of whom were active in the civil rights movement of the sixties) released a statement to the country today called the Greensboro Declaration.   (‘Greensboro’ after the famous anti-segregation sit-in from 1960.. ) I was lucky to attend the inspiring announcement today at Liberty Plaza in NYC.

“The struggle has to be intergenerational..we will not rest until we know the torch has been passed” 

The NYC gathering was one of three happening nationwide to announce the declaration, which served as a rousing of spirit and “passing of the torch” to a new generation of activists.   The heart of it all is a commitment to non-violent / peace-force means to inspire change.

From the statement:

“As a new era dawns, we are challenged, therefore, to not only hold political and social leaders accountable, but we, the people, must strive, with love at the forefront, to forge more democratic, just and creative structures and ways of living that are consistent with the emerging era that affirms the dignity, worth and unrealized potential of all the people in our country..”

The statement goes on to make specific points of contention with the current state of affairs in our country, and concludes by rousing hope that non-violence, compassion, community-centered leadership and a “revolution of values” can help “bring a greater measure of justice, equality, and peace to our country and to the world.”

Read the full statement online here:

http://nationalcouncilofelders.org/declaration.html

And sign-on to endorse it here.

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Awakening as a Political Act

Event at The Interdependence Project • Co-Sponsored by Off the Mat Into the World, and the Occupy Wall Street Meditation Working Group

Friday April 20th, 7pm – 9pm @ The Interdependence Project NYC


“The problem with modern institutions is that they tend to take on a life of their own, as new types of collective ego.” —  from The Three Poisons, Institutionalized

The basis of transformational social engagement is the need to work on oneself as well as on the system.  So many revolutions & reform movements end up simply replacing one gang of thugs with another.   If we have not begun to transform our own greed, ill will and delusions, our efforts to address their institutionalized forms are likely to be useless, or worse.

Join professor David. R. Loy for a lecture and conversation about how to approach the need for both  personal and social transformation in order to address our current economic, social and ecological crises.

David R. Loy
is a professor, writer, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism.  He is author of several books including Money, Sex, War, Karma, The World is Made of Stories“, co-editor of A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency, and The Great Awakening.  He has a PhD from from the National University of Singapore, and was most recently in residence at Naropa University with a Lenz fellowship.

More info about David available on his website

Event Details here

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#J15 March to Candlelight Vigil on Sunday Needs Mindful Spotters

On Sunday 1/15/2012 there will be a worldwide candlelight vigil to honor the life work of Martin Luther King Jr.

Here in NYC there will be a march from Liberty Plaza to Riverside Church from 2pm-7pm, and a candlelight vigil at the Church from 7pm – 8:30 pm

The march is needing mindful spotters to bring groundedness and mindful presence to the action.  Esentially this means you would be walking with the intention of maintaining mindfulness, like doing a walking meditation, but with a bit more going on.

There will be a brief training for this at 1pm for anyone interested in this.   Meet at Liberty Plaza beneath the large red sculpture near Broadway.

More info on the march here:

http://www.nycga.net/events/event/j15-mlk-march/

Also, If you’re planning to participate in the vigil, there is a request for lots of candles.  Please bring some if you can.

More info about vigils from around the globe:

http://communityrelations.nycga.net/2012/01/13/list-of-j15-vigils-around-the-world/

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Silence in the Occupation — A Model to Share?

by Patrick Groneman
(Follow Patrick on Twitter)

(originally posted on the Hufftington Post, 12/9/2011)

On the evening of December 3rd, about a hundred or so Occupiers congregated around the steps at the East end of Liberty Plaza for the Occupy Wall Street NYC General Assembly meeting. Now that the nights are cold and the occupation has no permanent home at the park, the assembly meetings have slimmed in size, attracting only the most dedicated occupiers. And on Saturday night the assembly was silent. The sound of the traffic on Broadway echoed through the plaza as the christmas-light-wrapped-trees illuminated the group of occupiers — some standing, some sitting on the cold granite blocks. For nine minutes they remained in silence together, listening and contemplating.

As someone who has been studying meditation and contemplation throughout my young adulthood, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the power of silence and listening. In the Buddhist tradition in which I practice, spending time in silence cultivating mindfulness and compassion is a crucial component of personal well-being and inner harmony.

As an activist, director of a not-for-profit organization, and member of the OWS Meditation Working Group I also have interest in the effect that silence and contemplation has on group dynamics. If meditation and contemplation can help cultivate inner harmony on an individual level, is there a corollary when the techniques are applied on a group level?

One of the frequent criticisms of the Occupy movement has been that it doesn’t have clear goals. In my opinion, that criticism is missing what I feel is actually the core of the movement. It’s not just about offering clear goals (of which there are actually many), but on a more basic level, it is simply offering the possibility of something different — a fresh canvas on which to paint a new image of our social being.

On Saturday December 3rd, an opportunity arose to investigate how silence could play out on this blank canvas. Myself and several other leaders in contemplative practice communities across the country organized a national day for “Nine Minutes of Silence”. The spirit was to create a time and space for Occupy communities to connect to contemplative practice communities through shared silence, contemplation and intention setting. Local groups were to determine the exact time and place of the silence, and how best to integrate with local Occupy groups.

In New York City, our coalition of meditation, prayer and yoga communities decided to begin with a silent march from Foley Square to Zuccotti Park. Nearly sixty folks braved the winter weather to walk, two-by-two, down Broadway behind a placard stating “Peace is an Action, not an Ideal.” Walking in silence is not a rare occurrence in New York City, people here do it all the time, but focused silence with a large group is dramatic.

2011-12-05-OWSSilence_Walk2.jpg

Afterwards, a volunteer photographer for the event noted, “That was a surprisingly moving march. I never thought silence on quiet streets could mean so much.”

This moving quality is what I feel is often missing in our busy lives. Silence and focused intentional activity that connects us to our deepest values is nourishing to both ourselves and our community. And this needn’t be a “Spiritual” endeavor, it’s can be as basic as something like brushing your teeth or washing dirty dishes in the sink — routine maintenance for your mental health.

So being silent is one thing, getting other people to be silent with you is another. It’s relatively simple to ask people who already meditate to congregate and be in silence together, but how could one inspire silence in a large gathering of people with unknown backgrounds?

Well…you could always just ask.

And after our silent marchers arrived at Zuccotti Park on Saturday, we joined the General Assembly, and that’s exactly what we did. I stood atop the steps with chimes in my hand, and explained how being silent together might help with inner nourishment and support group cooperation. The facilitator asked the assembly if they wanted to proceed with nine minutes of silence, and a sea of hands were waving back at me with fingers pointing towards the sky — the gesture to indicate approval.

(Note: Our group had communicated with the facilitation committee before hand to have this ask on the agenda, we didn’t just show up unannounced.)

So we had, nine minutes of silence together. Three minutes to contemplate the past — what lead us all to being there that night? Three minutes to rest in the present — listening to sounds of the street and the feelings in our bodies. Three minutes to aspire together to non-violence in our future actions.
2011-12-05-OWSSilenceGA.jpg

To close, I read a dedication, which I wrote for the occasion, the words echoed back by human microphone:

“May all beings come to know peace,
May our social systems come to know justice,
May our path embody these goals,
For the benefit of all.”
(Full dedication text here.)

After the nine minutes ended, the meeting agenda continued. We heard from union representatives from Morocco, Canada and Colombia expressing solidarity with the occupiers. Soon we were onto budget proposals and back into the business of organizing a social movement.

I spoke to several attendees after the meeting closed, and most everyone expressed that the silence was grounding and supportive of the group dialogue that followed. In my experience, spending time in silence makes me feel more connected to myself, and more able to communicate my needs to a group without being pushy or dumping my emotions onto others. If any bit of that was felt by the group on Saturday, then the implications of bringing silence and contemplation into group dynamics could be quite large.

It makes me wonder about the houses of Congress and our bite-sized cable news debates. If these arenas of dialogue were so inspired to invite silence in, would the quality of our civic conversation change? Could the gap between individuals be more easily bridged?

Our quality of life and future on this planet may just depend upon it.

** Many thanks to all who participated across the country.

(Photos Courtesy Michael Coniaris Photography)

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#9mins of Silence with Occupy – Saturday Dec. 3rd, 2011

Calling all Transformative Prayer, Meditation, Yoga, Wellness and Contemplative groups in NYC…

As a part of a national call to Nine Minutes of Silence (http://on.fb.me/tntrzX), We invite you to join our NYC coalition from 6pm – 7:09pm to practice and offer NineMinutes of Silence with Occupy Wall Street.

The goal for Nine Minutes of Silence is to offer a period of time for both Occupiers and folks from transformative practice communities alike to share a moment of contemplation and group intention setting together. It will take place in three parts:

- Three minutes to contemplate the past—the causes and factors that led us to this point.
– Three minutes to rest in silence.
– Three minutes to aspire to continue in non-violence.

The NYC Meditation Working Group is organizing a silent contemplation walk from Foley Square to the NYC General Assembly meeting this Saturday Dec. 3rd.

We plan to meet at Foley Square at 6pm, read a dedication of intention (http://bit.ly/uSg6SS) and walk in silence to the NYC General Assembly Meeting at Liberty Plaza. If approved by the GA, we will kick-off the meeting that night with nine minutes of silence. (Confirmation of approval to come later this week).

If nine minutes of silence are not approved by the GA, we simply have our nine minutes of silence outside the meeting before it starts, then proceed into the assembly as a group.

If you can’t join us in this walk, you can participate by practicing in silence wherever you are, reading the dedication (http://bit.ly/uSg6SS) and/or participating in a nine minutes of silence at 3pmEST/12pmPST. More info on those options on the national call to action event page: (http://on.fb.me/tntrzX)

If you don’t live in NYC and want to participate, check out the national call to action here. (http://on.fb.me/tntrzX)

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Best,

Patrick

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