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

The very things we wish to avoid, reject, and flee from turn out to be
the "prima materia" from which all real growth comes.

— Andrew Harvey, Dialogues with a Modern Mystic

In this Issue

Embracing the Shadow: A tool for social justice workers


“It is ironic that while many dedicated people are passionately trying to bring about wholeness and sustainability in the outer world, in their inner worlds there may be fragmentation, injustice and oppression.” (Shields, Katrina. In the Tiger’s Mouth: An Empowerment Guide for Social Action, Australia: Millennium Books, 1991, p. 28.)


What Shields says is so true! Over the past two years, we have been constantly hearing from social justice workers that one of the primary reasons they do not take care of themselves is because they feel terribly guilty in doing so. They feel guilty, un-deserving and unworthy of taking time for self-care while knowing that the overwhelming majority of the people in the communities, with whom they work, cannot afford the time or money to retreat. It’s almost a sense of betrayal for one to take rest when many in your community are barely surviving, working 2-3 jobs, when welfare moms have no place to retreat to. Many have also mentioned that taking time for oneself feels selfish and a luxurious thing to do with one’s time. Yet deep down, many are keenly aware they are operating on the edge of exhaustion.

Shadow is a technique that helps us meet head-on those parts of our psyche that undermine our ability to focus on self care. This very simple practice requires us to reflect on self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors. By making these behaviors our friends, not our enemies, we begin to embrace our self and accept our humanity.  And in so doing, we disallow “the shadow parts of ourselves” from stopping us. Instead, we let it help us recognize that there is a time for rest and a time for action. This practice brings us in closer relationship with the cycles of the natural world of which we are a part.

For more information on this practice, visit Spirituality and Practice: Resources for Spiritual Journeys.

A recent gathering of social justice workers at Menla Mountain

Transforming the Culture of Organizing
a gathering at Menla Mountain Training and Conference Center, Phoenicia, NY
May 30th - June 1, 2006

Menla Mountain retreatOn May 30th – June 1, 2006, a multi-ethnic gathering of mentors and emerging community leaders gathered at Menla Mountain Training and Conference Center, Phoenicia, NY, to explore personal and organizational sustainability in these politically challenging times. Thirty-nine activists and organizers participated.

For the mentors of this retreat, we sought younger activists and organizers with solid experience with spiritual practice and action. These mentors were between the ages 27 and 35, all working in the social justice movement. Among them, they had close to 60 years of active engagement in various social justice issues and contemplative practices. Two were persons of color. Our intent was to create an experience of peer teaching and training. The teaching was fresh and energetic. Participants appreciated that we honored, valued, and acknowledged the experience and skill of their peers. In fact, upon seeing this, others were prompted to offer their practices and skills for upcoming trainings and gatherings.

It was an exploratory gathering, a place for us to try out something new and learn from it. Throughout the days, we placed greater emphasis on personal and organizational sustainability. We offered skill building in meditation, movement practice, time management, creative writing, application of ancient wisdom to social justice work, building healthy work practices, and creating a long-term sustainable vision for social change work.

The entire training was focused on peer-mentoring and designed to engage activists, organizers, and movement builders in reflection and action about sustainability. We approached the relationship between practice and personal and organizational sustainability directly and intentionally. This was the first time that a full day and a half workshop was designed to build these skills directly. Everyone left with a commitment to bringing more balance and insight into their personal and organizational cultures.

Recommended Reading

Romancing the Shadow Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf
Romancing the Shadow: A Guide to Soul Work for a Vital, Authentic Life
Ballantine Wellspring, 1999

"...Each of us has shadows that hold forbidden feelings such as shame, jealousy, greed, lust, and rage. Left to their own devices these shadows will become destructive saboteurs--causing us to betray our loved ones as well as ourselves. It is not within our power to choose whether or not to have these shadows; however, Zweig and Wolf believe that it is within our power to take responsibility for our shadows and put them to productive use...Rather than deny or destroy these shadows, the authors show readers how to confront and "romance" them in order to access the energy, vitality, and creativity that usually lie dormant within our dark sides." --   

Shadow DanceDavid Richo
Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power and Creativity of Your Dark Side
Shambhala, 1999

"The shadow self, the dark side of the personality, is hidden in the psyche. Others often see it, but we do not. As Jung says, "The shadow is the negative side of the personality, the sum of all those unpleasant qualities we like to hide, together with the insufficiently developed functions and the contents of the personal unconscious....[The shadow] also displays a number of good qualities such as normal instincts, appropriate reactions, realistic insights, creative impulses, etc." Richo has written an enormously useful book in which he introduces the reader to the conscious persona and the subconscious shadow. By helping the reader to befriend the shadow self instead of projecting it onto others in dysfunctional or destructive ways, the author performs a profound service, freeing emotional and creative resources through which we can manifest brighter, healthier lives." -- P. Randall Cohan,

Recommended Viewing

CacheHidden (Caché)
Directed by Michael Haneke
Sony Pictures Classics, 2005
Georges, a wealthy television host, begins to receive packages containing disturbing surveillance videos of his family. As he tries to discover who is responsible, his past transgressions are brought into light, but he refuses to admit any wrongdoing, insisting that his newfound discomfort makes him the only true victim.

Turtles Can FlyTurtles Can Fly
Directed by Bahman Ghobadi
IFC Films, 2005
This film highlights the negative impact of war and poverty in a refugee camp near the Turkish border in Kurdish Iraq in 2003.


WallWall (Mur), Directed by Simone Bitton
Lifesize Entertainment, 2005
This is a documentary about the wall dividing Palestinians from Israelis.

Upcoming Workshops, Trainings and Retreats

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society presents:

Workshop by Kyra Bobinet, MD: Human Development Mapping I: How does growth and change happen?
October 10th, 2006
10:00am - 2:00pm
Location TBD
This 3-hour workshop starts the exploration of the question, "How does growth and change happen?" Participants learn and co-build an eight life-stage map of human development built from Western, Eastern, and Indigenous models. 

See for more information

Transforming Organizing Culture
October 12 - 15, 2006
Menla Mountain Retreat and Conference Center, Phoenicia, NY

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

See for more information

Spirit in Motion presents:

Sustainable Organizing Training
Friday, Sept. 22 – Sunday, Sept. 24, 2006
Headlands Institute, Marin Headlands, CA

See for more information

stone circles presents:

Being Change: The Way of the Activist
August 6-11, 2006
Vallecitos Mountain Refuge, Taos, NM

See for more information

Spirit in Action presents:

Circle Leadership Network Training
September 13-17, 2006
October 18-22, 2006

See for more information

Submissions for the Next Issue

Submit a letter, a story idea, or tell us about events, conferences, retreats, websites, or articles that may be of interest to others. Do you have any favorite books or movies you'd like to share? Email your information to

We will gladly accept information on published nonfiction about healthy living, personal growth, and contemplative practices.

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 John Berry