Archive for Spiritual Activism

Jul/29/14//CMcDowell//LoveLiberates, Spiritual Activism

Boston to Gaza

Last year, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing, I was facilitating a  group of students and faculty at MIT reflecting on the impact and meaning of the bombing.  The participants ranged from people who had been at the marathon site to those who witnessed it on TV.  All experienced the lock down that occurred in Cambridge and felt the impact of the death of eight-year-old Martin William Richard, and many of them shared something deeper, the trauma of being an unwilling victim and sometimes perpetrator of planned, unexpected, unwarranted or thoughtless violence. From a former Israeli solider, who asked “do I kill these 4 men in my line of sight because of the threat they may pose?” to a woman who survived a brutal rape, the bombing made visible the deep trauma so many people live with from day to day.

But something remarkable happened that evening. As we sat in circle listening to each story a young veteran spoke up about his experience with violence in the streets of LA and the deserts of Iraq.  He spoke with a deep passion that disrupted the quiet reflection of the group.  “We can’t just sit around and talk about this. If things are going to change we have to shift something fundamental in ourselves in order to stop the massive violence in our world.” He continued, “For me it is the following commitment I have made to myself and that I tell each person I am engaged with I Will Not Harm Your Children.” Then he stopped.


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Jul/16/14//Miriam Messinger//LoveLiberates, Spiritual Activism

The Fast of the 17th of Tamuz

I have never observed the Fast of the 17th of Tamuz. Yesterday, I did. I fasted in solidarity with others who were making a stand with our bodies for peace and in mourning lives lost in Palestine/Israel. At a time of horrific violence and avowed enmity between so many Muslims and Jews, it was a comfort to be fasting together, during Ramadan.


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Mar/18/14//Gibrán Rivera//Spiritual Activism

Mindfulness and Freedom

Mindfulness and Freedom

I am just returning from my very first visit to India. I had the unbelievable privilege of participating in the first “Four Noble Truths Event” hosted by the Sarnath International Nyingma Institute.  It was in Sarnath, at the “stupa” pictured here, that the Buddha offered his first sermon – 2500 years ago!

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Apr/19/13//IISC//Spiritual Activism

Days for Sowing Peace

May St Francis’ prayer be ours today and always.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


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Dec/17/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Spiritual Activism

Managing Effectively: Slow Down; It’s The Holidays

The following post has been reblogged from Pinnacle Performance Improvement Worldwide e-newsletter. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

“We need to slow down; stop, look, listen and appreciate the talent around us.” – Sam Zell, Chairman, Equity Group International

“Is there room for our souls in this holy season?” — The Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd III, Priest-In-Charge, Trinity Church in the City of Boston

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Dec/11/12//Gibrán Rivera//Spiritual Activism

Systems Thinking As a Spiritual Practice

David Peter Stroh hits the nail on the head with his recent post on the relationship between systems thinking and spiritual practice on the Leverage Points Blog.  Our ways of seeing and ways of being are profoundly affected by our interior condition.  Many aspects of systems thinking are deeply aligned with the wisdom of many spiritual traditions.

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Nov/05/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Spiritual Activism

Human connections, political divides

I don’t usually find listening to public radio overly stressful, but this weekend’s edition of This American Life had me churning. The episode Red State Blue State featured a series of stories of relationships among friends, family members, neighbors and more that were damaged or severed over political affiliations and whom they intended to vote for. In a country where most people live in communities that are largely blue or red, people with minority political views in their community need increasing courage to speak their convictions, or even, sometimes just to live their lives. I found the story of a pair of sisters especially heartbreaking.

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Oct/02/12//Gibrán Rivera//Spiritual Activism

Spirituality and Citizenship

I recently had the privilege of engaging in a public dialogue with Amy Edelstein, senior teacher of Evolutionary Enlightenment.  We were brought together to talk about the relationship between active citizenship and active spirituality.

The very idea of citizenship emerges in the context of a trajectory, a movement from less freedom to more freedom.  There is something aspirational in it, it is supposed to help us move towards an unfinished project – an ideal.

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Sep/07/12//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Spiritual Activism

Active Citizenship, Active Spirituality

If you’ve been reading Curtis’ blog posts this week, you might be considering what it means to be an evolutionary.  If you live in or near Boston, you should join us as we deepen this conversation.

Our friends at EnlightenNext Boston are hosting a dialogue between Amy Edelstein, senior teacher of Evolutionary Enlightenment and myself this Friday, September 21, 7:15pm – 9:30pm at Samadhi Integral in Newton Centre.

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Aug/27/12//IISC//Spiritual Activism

Take a Break

The following is a letter by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and member of the IISC Board of Directors.

Summer. Hopefully a time to slow down, find a beach or hammock and read all of the trashy books on the list. Time for ice cream and late night walks and sleeping late. Time to wear only comfortable, old at-home clothes.

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May/17/12//Curtis Ogden//Spiritual Activism

Feed the Right Wolf

A Cherokee Legend . . .

An old man is teaching his grandson about life.  “A fight is going on inside me,” he says to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old man simply replied, “The one you feed.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/05/11//Marianne Hughes//Spiritual Activism

Kip Tiernan

I first met Kip Tiernan in 1970. Her reputation for no-nonsense, wise-cracking productivity had preceded her. We were all a little bit intimidated. She was older than we were and had already had a successful career as a pianist and an advertising executive. Still, she always treated us with the utmost respect…as if we, too, knew what we were doing.

We were organizing the first political sanctuary to ever have been held in a catholic church. The sanctuary was for our friend Paul Couming who was a conscientious objector and draft resister at the Paulist Center church in Boston. Kippy was handling the press, the FBI was outside the building and we were singing Amazing Grace. It was the beginning of my life-long admiration for Kip Tiernan, who died on Saturday. Kip went on to found the first homeless shelter for women and worked tirelessly with and on behalf of the poor of our city.

In her obituary, her wife Donna Pomponio is quoted as saying:
“The tragedies in the world continued to propel her to fix things and make them better. She knew that as human beings, we could do better for each other. There was a support and strength that came from that woman, and having her by your side and in your life, you knew that you could do it, too.’’

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Feb/08/11//Gibrán Rivera//Spiritual Activism

States and Stages

I’m keen on developmental theory.  And I’m particularly interested in the implications of the Wilber-Combs Lattice.  I don’t want to distract you with the esoteric, but I do think the picture is worth including.

States and Stages

The most important contribution of the Wilber-Combs Lattice is the distinction between states and stages.  Stages (vertical axis) are developmental – they are sequential, you can’t skip through them and they progressively transcend and include each other.  States (horizontal axis) on the other hand, are available to all stages.

What does this all mean?  Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb/01/11//Gibrán Rivera//Spiritual Activism

Meditation and Climate Change

meditation climate

Yesterday I was privileged to participate in a full day of learning about Climate Change and EcoJustice with the Boston’s Barr Fellows NetworkGopal Dayaneni of Movement Generation and Doyle Canning of SmartMeme, did a phenomenal job of painting a much richer picture about what is at stake for humanity than tends to be available in the sound-bite politics that pass for political discourse in our day.  I expect to share more about what we learned, but I’m still doing a whole lot of processing.

Today I’m writing to make connection between the choices ahead and the practice of meditation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nov/01/10//Gibrán Rivera//Spiritual Activism

Start Today!


Do you want to start a meditation practice?  Why not start today?  It’s November 1, and we have about 50 people committed to meditating at least 5 minutes per day for the next 28 days!

Facilitative Leadership, our foundational philosophy here at the Interaction Institute, is based on a set of seven practices. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/06/10//Gibrán Rivera//Spiritual Activism

And Justice for All

Lords Prayer

This past weekend Samantha and I went to what I would call a “movement wedding.”  Our friends Justin Francese and Doyle Canning, who co-founded smartMeme, decided it was time to tie the knot.  It was a beautiful event and there are many highlights to share, but there is something in particular that has stuck with me since.  Towards the end of the ceremony they invited us to join them in praying “the liberation theology version of the Lord’s Prayer,” and I feel like I’ve been contemplating this line since – Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun/08/10//Gibrán Rivera//Spiritual Activism

The New Way

armsopenLast week I wrote a raving review of the Movement Strategy Center’s report on organizers transforming the practice of social justice:   “Out of the Spiritual Closet.”  I really think it’s amazing.  Here are nine themes that the report outlines as part of the emergent “new way:” Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun/01/10//Gibrán Rivera//Spiritual Activism

It’s all two both!

I’ve just read “Out of the Spiritual Closet,” a report out of the Movement Strategy Center, and it is one of the most exciting pieces I’ve read in a while.  It is a timely read, in tune with a lot of the conversation we have been having here on the IISC Blog for the last few weeks.  This persistent question of whether to take a “transformational” or a “structural” approach leads us to a false dichotomy – it really is “All two both!” Read the rest of this entry »

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Nov/24/09//Gibrán Rivera//Spiritual Activism

A Little Contemplation

I am just returning from a weeklong spiritual retreat for which the central focus was selfless service.  I literally spent the week gardening!  (And yes, those of you who know me are right to find that funny!)  I did chant and meditate every morning, noon and evening, but in this very special place selfless service is considered a spiritual practice on the same level as meditation.

I bring this up because it felt like as soon as I got there I had all sort of “stuff” come up.  It was like the minute my life became a bit more silent all of the things that lie below the surface came bursting up in an overwhelming rush.  I had real moments of emotional upheaval very early in my stay.

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Nov/02/09//Marianne Hughes//Spiritual Activism

Mindfulness and Social Justice

Mirabai Bush founded the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society in 1997. While no longer the Executive Director, Mirabai is steeped in the work. I had an opportunity to both see her in action and to have lunch with her and talk about bringing contemplative/transformative practice into our organizations and the work of social justice. The title of her talk was Bringing Mindfulness into Public Life where she looked back to the seventies as the moment of the great divide between spirituality and politics; the inner and the outer, the personal and the professional. Ironically it was the same decade when many great teachers from the east came to the United States to introduce the west to the power of meditation. The tool of meditation and mindfulness was quickly adopted by leaders in the alternative medicine field like John Kabat Zinn and Dr. Herb Benso and then taken out to the world.

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Oct/16/09//IISC//Spiritual Activism

Green Faith

Still vibing on the fact that yesterday was Blog Action Day, I want to share about this very cool documentary about the growing faith-based environmental justice movement in the United States, entitled Renewal.

A description of the film is as follows:

RENEWAL is the first feature-length documentary film to capture the vitality and diversity of today’s religious-environmental activists. From within their Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim traditions, Americans are becoming caretakers of the Earth. With great courage, these women, men and children are re-examining what it means to be human and how we live on this planet. Their stories of combating global warming and the devastation of mountaintop removal, of promoting food security, environmental justice, recycling, land preservation, and of teaching love and respect for life on Earth are the heart of RENEWAL.

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Sep/21/09//Marianne Hughes//Spiritual Activism

Simple Acts of Kindness

In the September Shambala Sun magazine there is an article written about Huston Smith, the renowned philosopher, now ninety, who introduced Americans in the fifties to “The World’s Religions” through his writing and his teaching. This was territory completely unknown to the culture at the time.

In this article he remembers another famous spiritual adventurer, his friend, Aldous Huxley. He quotes Huxley as saying: “It’s a little embarrassing to have spent one’s entire life pondering the human situation and find oneself in the end with nothing more profound to say than…try to be a little nicer”. When I read this quote I remembered being equally struck by something the Dalai Lama said: kindness is my religion. And, of course, from the Bible, “do unto others what you would like them to do unto you”.

And as is often the case, I sit here on this Sunday morning sort of dumbstruck, as if I’d been given the most complicated of Zen koans, pondering the depth of these words that are so profound, so demanding and so completely, utterly and entirely simple.


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Sep/09/09//Linda Guinee//Featured, Spiritual Activism

Lazy Days

A few months ago, I wrote a post called “Over-Working“, in which I was questioning the ways that I (and many of us) over-work. I am just now returning from a five and a half week sabbatical, thanks to the generosity and forethought of the staff and board of IISC and clearly, given what is happening to so many people right now, a great deal of privilege at having the kind of work environment I have.

It has been an amazing span of time, opening me in many ways and creating quite a space to build the life I’ve long been wanting. And so, in this returning to work (and, for some, school) time of year, I thought I’d reflect a little on what taking a break has meant.

About ten years ago, I spent three weeks at Plum Village, a Buddhist monastery in Southern France. The time there was primarily spent in silence – with long periods of sitting meditation, walking meditation, and even working meditation. (No surprise, I struggled with over-working during working meditation!)  One of the practices at Plum Village is that each week, everyone takes a “Lazy Day”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/22/09//Linda Guinee//Spiritual Activism

I Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident

As I sat down to write this morning, I was pulled in two different directions. And laughingly realized (again) that I am pulled, actually, toward creating the bridge between them. Recently, Ellen Gurzinsky posted a fascinating article on her Facebook wall by Derrick Jensen called Upping the Stakes: Forget Shorter Showers – Why Personal Change Does not Equal Political Change. Jensen describes in detail that we become convinced that our individual actions will be enough to address major issues like climate change – and in so doing, stop short of addressing the deeper structural issues at play, and the main culprits – capitalism, industry and agriculture. And so he advocates for changing our focus to structural activism.

I also read a fabulous article about a retreat Pema Chodron did in Seattle this week, in which she talked about Boddhisatva practice – and specifically about the importance of not “getting hooked” with emotional reactions that lead to our own and others’ suffering. She describes that this way of being in the world creates real transformation. And in her amazing way, leads us in the direction of personal transformation to bring about transformation in the world. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun/10/09//Linda Guinee//Spiritual Activism


Two weeks ago, some of us at IISC had the great fortune of participating in a WTC training called Leading From Spirit. During the training, we had some great conversations about busyness – the ways in which we, as social change activists, process designers and facilitators, find ourselves sometimes being overly busy, taking on too many responsibilities and running from one thing to the next. Some of us mentioned noticing that our ability to do things well sometimes seems impaired by this overly busy approach. (I would add that this is not something confined to those of us working for social justice and social change – but has a special twist when it’s combined with this work, which so requires us to bring forth our best selves.)

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Jun/08/09//Marianne Hughes//Spiritual Activism

Deep Change

It is Sunday morning and the last day of a conference that I have been attending called Deep Change: Transforming the Practice of Social Justice. We are at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the beautiful state of North Carolina. The South is a perfect location for this convening for as one of the participants said, “I long for the South to heal because if the South heals the United States heals and if the United States heals the world will heal”.

Eighty frontline organizers, intermediary organizations and funders have gathered here to learn together, deepen their connections to one another and thereby create a shared sense of identity and an expanded field of spiritual activism. This coming together is a fractal, a small slice of a movement renewed and re-grounded in “an ethic of sustainability, spirituality and a broader understanding of freedom’ committed to infusing spiritual practice into the pursuit of social justice.

I am one of the veterans here. My own activism launched 40 years ago as an anti-poverty community organizer on the Mexican border town of Laredo, Texas. Movement work at that time was inspired by and rooted in the spirituality of the civil rights, farm workers and anti-war movements. Many activists were animated by their Jewish understanding of social justice or of their Christian roots in the social gospel. As the movement and sector evolved political analysis and spirituality became disaggregated as the movement turned its attention to building effective organizations and leaders. This detour was probably an important leg of the journey but one that needs to be left behind as we seek new ways to build a just and sustainable world.

My own experience during that time had the wilderness quality of wandering and confusion for I could never understand how or why we had created this kind of oppositional thinking. I am so very grateful and inspired by this new generation of activists who are committed to re-integrating inner and outer transformation in the pursuit of social justice and transformative change.

As part of this extraordinary gathering we were enchanted and changed by our encounters with the artistry and talent of two of North Carolina’s best: Spoken Word poet, Glenis Redmond, and bluegrass musicians, Baby Cowboy.

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