Social Justice Program

Welcome to our Program Archive

This page is part of our archive of past program activities.

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society works to support the contemplative dimension of teaching, learning and knowing in higher education. We invite you to learn more about our current initiatives.


Social justice workers report that contemplative practices help them address the challenges of their work and contribute to the effectiveness and sustainability of their projects and organizations. While the benefits of such practices have been well documented for individuals, we have found that when used in an organizational context, they can also transform the ways in which people work together. We believe this has great potential to enhance the impact and effectiveness of social justice movements.

The Center’s Social Justice Program, active as a stand-alone program from 2004 through 2009, helped social justice workers:

  • Discover and develop sources of inspiration and transformative contemplative practices, supporting the integration of spirit in social justice organizing and activism to create a stronger, more sustainable movement for social change.
  • Create healthier work environments which value reflection, healing, balance, compassion, action and awareness, in which people can discover and develop their own moral and ethical values, sources of inspiration, and transformative practices.
  • Be supported through specialized workshops, retreats, trainings, and inter-generational mentoring.

The Social Justice Program created on-site, one-day or multi-day experiential workshops for leadership and staff on the application of contemplative practices to social justice work. We also offered training specifically for program facilitators.


The Contemplative Toolbox

Our Organizational Support Project enriches social justice organizations through a “toolbox” full of resources and materials focused on bringing contemplative awareness to the workplace. We’ve created an online version of our basic toolbox (when working with organizations, we co-created a customized version for each workplace). Explore the online toolbox.


Participant Responses

“Very good! Brings our big picture objectives down to the moment to moment of interaction. How to really listen–bringing in awareness so we can really listen to each other. Great focus question on passion of work fused the contemplative and our passion for why we do this.”

“Very centering and motivating”

“Will be very helpful in my personal/professional life”

~ Clean Water Action Leadership Conference, Appel Farm, NJ

“Thank you very much for a really productive and good visit with GreenFaith this past week. I feel that we accomplished an enormous amount of work during your time with us — we were able to put good plans in place for integrating contemplative practices into our work environment, into our programming, and into our board and visioning work. You offered us some very creative, rich space in which to consider these various possibilities, and you gave lots of good examples from other organizations that have engaged these issues. I also appreciated the chance to think and talk with you about our work, and to reflect about our goals and purpose.”

~ GreenFaith, NJ

“More than any specific learning, I feel like I was able to reconnect with how important contemplative practice and social justice are in my life—and that is incredible, special, unusual.”

“I learned that my work in the world begins with serious work on the self.”

“I learned tangible ways to integrate contemplative practice into my life and ways to justify the value of including it.”

~ Social Justice and Contemplative Practice Retreat Participants, Garrison Institute, NY

“The success of this retreat [is]…in motivating me to explore contemplative practice as a more integral part of my political praxis.”

[I liked] the options, [that is being] able to do yoga, meditation, movement classes, if we wanted to. The freedom of just being able “to be” was so appreciated.”

~ Social Justice Activist and Organizer Retreat Participant, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, NY

The Activist’s Ally: Contemplative Tools for Social Change

120 pages; includes a 13-track digital download of music and practice instructions. View sample .pdf

$20.00 plus $5.00 shipping. Contact us to purchase.


Books We Like

Awakening Through LoveAwakening Through Love
Awakening Through Love: Unveiling Your Deepest Goodness
Being BlackBeing Black
Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace
Brave HeartsBrave Hearts
Brave Hearts, Rebel Spirits
Civil SocietyCivil Society
Civil Society
Consciousness-in-Action: Toward an Integral Psychology of Liberation & Transformation
Direct Path
The Direct Path: Creating a Journey to the Divine Using the World’s Mystical Traditions
The Intuitive Way: A Guide to Living from Inner Wisdom
The Intuitive Writer
The Intuitive Writer: Listening to Your Own Voice
The Long Road Turns to Joy
The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation
The Love That Does Justice
The Love That Does Justice: Spiritual Activism in Dialogue with Social Service
Meditations on Everything Under the Sun
Meditations on Everything Under the Sun
The Spiritual Activist
The Spiritual Activist: Practices to transform Your Life, Your Work, and Your World
Turning to One AnotherTurning to One Another
Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Return Hope to the Future
The Way of Council
The Way of Council
Wherever You Go, There You Are
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
Working Inside Out
Working Inside Out



Past Events

  1. Accessing our Best Inner Resources for Service and Social Action: Meditations of Natural Wisdom and Compassion with Lama John Makransky, PhD Assisted by Julie Forsythe and Leah Weiss Ekstrom Saturday, November 14, 2009 First Churches, Northampton, MA
  2. Deep Replenishment and Connection: Meditations of Loving Communion and Presence for Social Justice Activism and Service with Lama John Makransky July 18-20, 2008 Garrison Institute, Garrison, NY
  3. Shifting Metaphors: Activism as a Path to Awakening with Rev. Ryūmon Hilda Gutiérrez Baldoquín June 13-15, 2008 Smith College, Northampton, MA
  4. Awakening the Heart: A Winter Retreat for Activists and Organizers with Nghia Trung Tran January 16-19, 2008 9 Mountain, Plainfield, MA
  5. Consciousness-in-Action:Toward an Integral Approach to Liberation & Transformation An Introductory Workshop with Raúl Quiñones-Rosado, PhD, author and founder of ilé | c-Integral October 20, 2007, 10 AM – 2 PM Hampshire College, Amherst, MA
  6. Awake to This Moment: A Zen Retreat for Activists and Organizers with Rev. Ryūmon Hilda Gutiérrez Baldoquín July 28-29, 2007 Smith College, Northampton, MA
  7. Transforming Organizing Culture: A Gathering for Emerging Leaders April 17-20, 2007 Trinity Conference Center, West Cornwall, CT
  8. Sitting in the Fire with Integrity March 3, 2007 The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, Northampton, MA
  9. Transforming the Culture of Organizing through Contemplative Practice: A Gathering for Emerging Leaders October 12-15, 2006 Menla Mountain, Phoenicia, NY
  10. Opening to the World: Transforming Anger into Compassionate Action a one-day retreat with Rev. Ryūmon Hilda Gutiérrez Baldoquín Saturday, August 19th, 2006
  11. Nourising Deep Being: A day for Activists to Reflect, Renew and Regenerate a one-day retreat with Terri Nash Friday, July 14th, 2006
  12. Transforming Organizing Culture through Contemplative Practice May 31-June 2, 2006 Menla Mountain Center, Phoenicia, NY
  13. Our Community Meets Raúl Quinoñes-Rosado: Toward an Integral Approach to Liberation and Transformation Sunday, April 2nd, 2006 Raúl Quiñones-Rosado, author of Toward an Integral Approach to Liberation and Transformation led a discussion drawing from liberation psychology, integral theory, and thirty years of community work, anti-oppression organizing and spiritual practice.
  14. Our Community Meets Faith Adiele On February 25th, 2006, Faith Adiele, author of Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun, shared her experiences as a community activist and diversity trainer.
  15. SpiritHouse Gathering On November 17, 2005 women of African ancestry gathered at the SpiritHouse Project in Washington, DC to analyze the current status of Black female leadership and activism as well as to develop concrete strategies to unify and strengthen Black female leadership, activism, and our common connections. Rose Sackey-Milligan, the Center’s Social Justice Program Director, was among 16 who participated in this daylong dialogue. Ruby Sales, Founder and Director of The SpiritHouse Project, puts it clearly when she says,”Ultimately, our mission is to cut across our differences and build a solid community of sisters and women, who work collectively with each other and our allies to create a common vision and agenda that build up our lives and the lives of our families and communities.” The SpiritHouse Project is a national organization that uses research, action, the arts, education, spiritual reflection, and analysis to bring diverse peoples together to build a just and nonviolent movement that moves us toward a beloved community.
  16. Storytelling Workshop with John O’Neal There are perhaps a hundred approaches to storytelling, and the Center believes in the power of story to transform lives and society. We also value storytelling itself as a contemplative act, composed of both deep listening and heartful sharing.

On December 4, 2005, the Center’s Social Justice Program (in collaboration with New World Theater, University of Amherst, MA) hosted Story Circles: Community Dialogues with John O’Neal, Artistic Director of Junebug Productions. Working with a group of 13 local activists and organizers, John O’Neal led the group through a 3-hour step-by-step experiential process called Story Circles. Junebug Production’s storytelling model uniquely combines three relational contemplative practices―storytelling, deep listening, and council circle. The experience was an enriching relationship building experience for everyone in the group, and at every turn, each saw the benefits of using storytelling as a tool for building and organizing communities on a range of social justice issues. Story Circles is the foundation of Junebug’s artistic and activist work, often dealing with issues of systemic racism. John O’Neal is a dedicated organizer through the Civil Rights Movement to the present day.

  • Transforming Organizing Culture through Contemplative Practice: A Gathering for Emerging Leaders September 22-25, 2005 Garrison Institute, Garrison, NY
  • Refugio Training SJP accepted an invitation to conduct a daylong workshop in the Refugio Training Series, a newly formed training cooperative run by New York city-based organizers. SJP staff co-facilitated a daylong fun-filled experiential workshop titled Mind Over Matter in collaboration with Akim Funk Buddha, who took the group through a variety of contemplative exercises such as meditative throat singing, meditation, freestyle movement exercises, and drumming. We look forward to working with this blend of the spiritual and urban again real soon! A total crowd pleaser!


The Contemplative Net Project was a research project conducted at the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society from 2001 to 2004. The goal of the research was to examine how contemplative practices are being used by organizations in secular settings, with a special emphasis on social justice organizations. The Contemplative Net research team interviewed 80 individuals and conducted 3 in-depth on-site case studies.

Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s programs, publications, and practice groups link Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion with progressive social change.

Earth Activist Training offers classes that help you transform the land, community, and political and economic system for the better.

the Foundation for Active Compassion works to empower people with profound, accessible spiritual practices that support their individual and collective work to become better people and to make a better world.

Lama John Makransky has led retreats and workshops for our Social Justice Program. A professor of Buddhism and comparative theology at Boston College, he is also a 2009 Contemplative Practice Fellowship recipient. Lama John is dedicated to serving social justice and social service workers and is the guiding teacher of the Foundation for Active Compassion.

Joanna Macy’s website offers a selection of wonderful Practices for Activists.

The Prison Dharma Network is a nonsectarian, contemplative support organization for prisoners and prison dharma volunteers.

Racial Equity Tools is a web site designed to support people and groups who are working for inclusion, racial equity and social justice. The site includes ideas, strategies and tips, as well as a clearinghouse of resources and links from many sources.

Rex Foundation aims to help secure a healthy environment, promote individuality in the arts, provide support to critical and necessary social services, assist others less fortunate than ourselves, protect the rights of indigenous people and ensure their cultural survival, build a stronger community, and educate children and adults everywhere.

stone circles supports leadership in the field of spiritual activism, provides training, retreats and workshops; offers resource material, and convenes gatherings for learning, relationship-building, and celebration.

The SpiritHouse Project is a national organization that uses research, action, the arts, education, spiritual reflection, and analysis to bring diverse peoples together to build a just and non-violent movement that propels us toward a beloved community.

Spirit in Action is a non-profit organization dedicated to building a successful movement for social change in the US

Tools for Change is a multi-cultural organization that promotes healing, leadership development, and sustainable democracy.

Turning to One Another, which complements Meg Wheatley’s book Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, provides you with simple processes for hosting conversations, and information about many other conversation initiatives around the world.

Valley Mindfulness offers workshops and classes on Mindfulness based stress reduction to both individuals and organizations.

The Veterans of Hope Project is a multifaceted educational initiative on religion, culture and participatory democracy.

Women’s Theological Center is devoted to the development of spiritual leadership.


Retreat Centers for Practice and Social Justice

Agape Community is a lay Catholic residential community with a vision of ministry in peace education and non-violence and an ecumenical and interfaith embrace.

Vallecitos Mountain Refuge is a wilderness ranch and contemplative reteat center for the nonprofit and public interest community. They have a schedule of retreats for activists.

Leadership Training

Rockwood Leadership Program is a non-profit organization that promotes social change through leadership training and consulting to progressive non-profits.

Hollyhock Leadership Institute provides training and strategic support to people working for environmental and social change.