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The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
Fall 2006 e-Newsletter - Social Justice Edition
Summer 2006 banner

But if by some miracle, and all our struggle, the Earth is spared, only justice to every living thing (and everything is alive) will save humankind.
— Alice Walker


Social Justice Activism: A reflective practice

How can we allow our activism to become a practice for personal and social transformation? This is an interesting question and which can be answered from a variety of perspectives.

According to Cesar Chavez, “An organizer's job is to help ordinary people do extraordinary things.” With consistency and focused intention our work for justice can become a practice if we accept the path of serving and helping humanity while holding loving-kindness in our hearts. If our work for justice ascends from a place of compassion for those we perceive to be the oppressor and the oppressed, then we may experience a qualitative change in texture of activism. Thus the possibility for individual and societal transformation becomes even greater.

As a social justice activist, adhere to your strongest commitment to speaking the truth. Claim as your daily affirmation, “I will speak the truth about living beings.”
Take courage in naming and speaking out against injustice whenever you see it.

One’s work for social justice becomes a practice for personal and social transformation when we can commit to supporting others in creating change as a whole community. Each day offer respect and kindness to everyone with whom you interact, including your adversaries. Choose love over hate and courage over fear."

Your work for justice can become a practice when you hold as your mantra the inherent worthiness of all living beings and humanity, as the indigenous people say, "all my relations in the plant, animal and human world.

Finally, let all your actions be guided from a place of humility and love. As Che Guevara said, “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality."

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Reflecting on Anger: a response from the one day retreat with Rev. Ryumon Guiterrez Baldoquin
August 19th, 2006
by Carrie Bergman

Anger and frustration often lead me to do things I later regret. Hoping to get some insight on how to feel more in control of my temper and behavior, I attended Ryūmon Hilda Gutiérrez Baldoquín's workshop about Zen Buddhist approaches to dealing with anger on August 19th in Northampton.

The day began with alernating periods of sitting and walking meditation, which provided me ample opportunity to observe how my mind churns out small frustrations with alarming regularity ("...the floor is so uncomfortable...Why is everyone sitting so close to me?...I can't move, ugh!..."). After several hours of tuning in to the workings of my mind, Ryūmon gave a dharma talk about her own approach to dealing with anger: to observe it, and not allow it to control her actions, while at the same time, not suppressing it...just feeling it, being the anger...and breathing through it as it dissipates.

During a helpful question-and-answer session, participants were able to clarify their own approaches to anger and how to deal with anger-producing situations. Ryūmon's suggestions seem, in hindsight, like solid common sense that you should've known all along (always a good litmus test for advice, I think!): the next time someone is speaking in a way that makes you angry, try putting up your hand and simply asking if they could please stop. Don't let yourself react out of anger; make sure you address the problem, but not until after you've regained your perspective on the situation. Don't feel guilty about being angry; it's a natural feeling, and can help you address difficult problems and reach deeper insights.

Ryūmon's teaching on "peeling back our layers" to examine the source of our anger was particularly helpful to me. As I peel back the layers of my anger, I find that it's often based in fear and self-protection. I get defensive, my mind points fingers to find someone to blame, and I heat up. Through mindfulness (cultivated by meditation practice, like Ryūmon taught at the workshop), watching my mind in difficult situations, I'm able to see the fear underneath my anger, and when I can get in touch with my underlying feelings, I have a better perspective the situation. The "story" of my anger, as Ryūmon describes it, loses its relevance, and it becomes easier to calm down and see things as they are, rather than as my anger-driven mind sees them.

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To pursue the path of healing for our nation, we need to remember what we have endured. But we must not simply pass on the violence of that experience through the pursuit of punishment. We seek to do justice to the suffering without perpetuating the hatred aroused. We think of this as restorative justice.
— Archbishop Desmond Tutu quoted in Soul of a Citizen by Paul Rogat Loeb

Recommended Reading

Blindfolds Eye

Ortiz Diana and Patricia Davis
A Blindfold’s Eye: My Journey from Torture to Truth
Orbis Books, 2004


Upside DownGaleano. Eduardo
Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World
Picador USA, 2001

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Recommended Viewing


The Road to Guantanamo
Directed by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 06/06
DVD/VHS, Feature Film, R-language, disturbing violent content.

This flick unveils the human rights story of the mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Andrew Harvey

Andrew Harvey: Sacred Activism
Directed by Kathy Close
Harvey Film Foundation, 11/05
DVD/VHS, Special interest Film


Directed by Lars von Trier
Genius Productions, Inc., 10/05
DVD/VHS, Feature Film. Not Rated

In this film you will find deep insights into race-based social relations in the U.S.

The Farm

The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison
Directed by Jonathan Stack, Liz Garbus
A and E Home Video, 05/99
DVD/VHS Documentary, Not Rated

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Recommended Listening

Raise Your Voice

Raise Your Voice! Sweet Honey in the Rock
Earthbeat! Records, 2005

Upcoming Workshops, Trainings and Retreats

Sitting in the Fire with Integrity

Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
Northampton, MA
March 3, 2007
New York City [location TBD]
April 21, 2007

A joint workshop of the Center for Contemplative Mind and the Zen Peacemaker Circles
Co-led by Margi Gregory and Rose Sackey-Milligan. How can we find strength and peace within chaos, conflict or just plain busyness? How do we connect with and manifest our deep selves in our daily life? A workshop for those working at the stress points of our society. Reflection on our core values, meditation and authentic communication techniques, including council and "matrix". Applications to families, the workplace and other groups. Support for creating on-going circles of friends if desired.
For more information, contact

Transforming Organizing Culture: A Gathering for Emerging Leaders

April 16 - 20, 2007
Registration Deadline: March 1st, 2007
Trinity Conference Center
West Cornwall, CT

This is an intergenerational gathering of northeast activists and organizers exploring the integration between spiritual practice and social action.

Please note: This event is part of an ongoing retreat series. Although new applicants are encouraged to apply, preference will be given to returning retreatants.

For more information visit
To Register for this retreat:

The Struggle for Freedom:
Thomas Merton, Civil Rights and Democracy
a talk by Vincent Harding
Thursday, February 22, 2007
7:00 pm
Frazier Hall, Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY
Free and Open to the Public

Vincent Harding was an associate of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and now serves as Professor of Religion and Social Transformation at Illiff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. He has written numerous books, including Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero.

Before Illiff, Vincent Harding taught at Pendle Hill Study Center, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and Spelman College. Among his publications are The Other American Revolution; There Is a River, Vol. 1; Hope and History; Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, and We Changed the World (with R. Kelly and E. Lewis). Dr. Harding has had a long history of involvement in domestic and international movements for peace and justice, including the southern Black freedom struggle. He was the first director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center in Atlanta and served as director and chairperson of The Institute of the Black World. He was senior academic consultant to the award-winning PBS television series, "Eyes on the Prize".

He currently serves as co-chairperson of the Veterans of Hope Project: A Center for the Study of Religion and Democratic Renewal at Iliff, and as Vice President of Institutional Transformation.
For more information please visit:


Sheroes: Womyn Warriors Calendar, the Only Publication of its Kind

The Boston-based Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights, Center, a national non-profit organization devoted to the eradication of race, gender and other oppressions, announces the publication of a unique 13-month calendar. The 2007 series honors strong womyn of the past -- radicals and revolutionaries of their times –- who are virtually unknown in current history books. The calendar is the only publication of its kind in print. Among the remarkable women featured are Maria Barbudo, Puerto Rican patriot; Nannie Helen Burroughs, African American educator and anti-lynching advocate; Lillian Masediba Ngoyi, South African apartheid pass-law resistor; Anna Louise Strong, radical pacifist American journalist; and Yamada Waka, Japanese journalist and activist. See for details on the calendars’ availability. Visit ( for more information about the Center.

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The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
199 Main Street, Suite 3
Northampton, MA 01060 USA
phone: (413) 582-0071
fax: (413) 582-1330

top image by Rene Theberge