By Lindsey T. H. Jackson
I had to do a lot of soul-searching, reading, and prayer to prepare for what I am about to write. The reason being that the answer is not as simple, and black and white as we would like it to be. In fact, the direction that the research and prayer led me to I really didn't want to hear.
But the more I sat with it and let the lessons really seep down into the core of my being the more I knew the power in them. I understood that the change I wanted to see in the world had to start with my desire to change the way I engaged as a person, community member and citizen. I had to learn to bring everything I know about the lessons of mindfulness and transformation to the practice of activism, and in dong so, forever change the way I reflect upon the process.
So here it is, my Mindful Protesting Cheat Sheet.
Step 1: Serenity
I know it's the last thing you want to hear when you are feeling scared, angry and tired, but the acceptance of the world and self as they are is always the first step forward. In this way we move away from fruitless emotions such as anger and resentment. These emotions only serve to cloud our judgement and mire the mind and heart in a bog of self-righteous indignation.
I remember when I was in Bali after the second Bali bombing. It was a state of panic like nothing I had experienced before. All of my senses were on over drive. I felt so far away from home... But when I thought of home, it made me think of Pittsburgh. When I thought of Pittsburgh it made me think of all the things I missed about it... Which randomly made me think of Mr. Rogers, a kid's tv show I had loved growing up. Well Mr. Rogers is famous for saying;
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
This all happened in the course of about three seconds, but it was enough to ground me. Thanks to dear Mr. Fred Rogers, I was reminded that the world is not all bad, and the world is not all good. The world simply is...
Step 2: Humility
Humility is viewed as weakness. Perhaps that is why so many people are quicker to throw a punch (or troll on social media) than they are to say, "I'm sorry," or "I was wrong."
However humility is simply the practice of accepting that the self is no more or less important than any other aspect of creation. So what does that look like in practice? Well, it means accepting that your version of the "truth" is no more true or false than any other person's version of the truth.
That's crazy talk!!!
Truth is, and will always be, purely subjective. It is inherently flawed as "truth" is an amalgamation of lived experiences, worldview, ego-identification, culture and etcetera. Trying to start a political debate with Uncle So & So at Grandma's ninetieth with the intention of swaying them to your version of the truth is a break from the practice of humility. Instead try approaching the discussion with an intention to connect. Humility is fertile soil for connection.
Step 3: Truthfulness
Here's the part of this practice I really did not want to get on board with. And yet, no matter how hard I try to ignore it, the lesson keeps appearing time and time again.
To truly delve into the work of mindful protesting - the work that transcends party affiliations, country borders, religious creeds, and ethnic groups - I must fully understand how I have contributed, perhaps even unwittingly, to the status quo.
I love this quote from the Urban Dictionary:
"Getting woke is like being in the Matrix and taking the red pill. You get a sudden understanding of what's really going on and find out you were wrong about much of what you understood to be truth."
Practice being radically authentic with yourself. Research words like: internalized bias, microaggression, privilege, partisanship and oppression. Then ask yourself how you have contributed to the status quo.
Step 4: Equanimity
Sometimes it is easier to fight our perception of what is evil in the world than it is to recognize and work through our own shame or pain. Many of us learn at an early age that there is inherently something lacking in us so we work to "earn" love, acceptance and belonging from a parent, social group or leader.
In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown writes;
"Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance." (The Gifts of Imperfection, page 26)
When love, acceptance and belonging are sought externally it can be very challenging to break from the pack and embrace new ideas and diversity. And, if gone unchecked we can cling too tightly to the ideals of the group as they are directly related to our identity and feelings of safety.
While working to advance the human condition we must pay close attention to our inner work and development so that we can maintain a level of equanimity - as no one creed or group is all positive or all negative.
Step 5: Participation
In the book, The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, as Celie prepares to leave her prison-like marriage to Mr. she shouts over her shoulder, "It's time for me to step into creation."
I always think of that quote when I travel to a new country or start to study a new culture or religion. I am reminded that the best way for me to spread love and acceptance through the world is for me to be a part of it.
If you want to change the world then you must be a part of it. Get off the phone, out of the office, and challenge yourself to expand your heart and your mind.
What you think you know, is only a fraction of what there is to know.
Step 6: Courage/Vulnerability
Usually, right about now I start to feel like it's all to hard. There is just too much to overcome. I think to myself, "I am just going to look out for me and mine!" But that's not the way we are wired. We are connection animals, and that is why you feel called to protest and to lend your voice to the cause.
However, you are also called to approach this work, the work of activism, in a whole new way. That is why you found yourself here, reading these words on mindful protesting. You are looking for another way. A way that is in keeping with your heart, and soul, and the work you have done to embrace shame, courage and vulnerability in your life.
I never said this work would be easy, but the other way is the path of cowardice. Each of us can lend our voice, granted it sounds different when approached through the lens of mindfulness, to the work of social justice. For in doing so, we help promote the connection we are all seeking.
Step 7: Sobriety
Mindfully advancing through the first six steps of this journey will greatly reduce the risk of "activist burnout." From this vantage point the activist or community leader is able to create a plan that is rooted in deeper and more meaningful experiences for his or her community.
Recently I've been applying this in my own #resistance by mindfully assessing what I realistically have to give each day while also attending to my own health and the health of my family. Each week I try to do these three things:
1) Force (literally force) myself to explore a piece of legislature or belief system that is the exact opposite of my own. I prefer to do it through discussion with a real person, as I am focused on finding at least one common theme in our worldviews. Believe me, it has been very hard and exposed me to a lot of personal discomfort but the outcome has been net positive. I have learned a great deal about my own internalized bias and privilege.
2) Check-in daily with friends, co-workers, clients who are directly impacted by legislature that impedes their equal right to liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness.
3) Research and donate through time or money to causes that align with my belief that every person should have a right and access to pursue their goals and desires.
Step 8: Innocence
The word innocence sounds out of place in a Mindful Protesting Cheat Sheet. However when you approach it from the context of what arises when you break from the traditional definition of protesting, as in to fight against something, and instead focus on the Latin root of the word pro-, indicating for, something new and subtle is allowed to arise.
What if we spent more time in this crazy ol' world focusing more on what we had in common and less on what made us different? What if we spent less time on the us versus them mentality, and didn't allow others to stroke our fear, shame, and pain responses.
We do this by breaking with our desire to be vengeful and hurtful, even when others hurt us, and by embracing the seemingly innocent and naive notion that we are all just little human beings starved for connection and belonging. Next time you think of calling someone a... something... instead look down your nose at them and say calmly, "I see you. I see all the ways you are searching for connection and belonging. I see it because I am searching for it too."
Step 9: Action
Now you are ready for the action of mindful protesting, and here is your daily mantra:
I free myself to live and pursue my own goals and desires and then, only then, shall I attend to another.
That is the practice of Holy Love, and it is at the root of my Mindful Protesting Cheat Sheet.
Lindsey T. H. Jackson is an Enneagram Practitioner, Leadership Coach, Storyteller and Entrepreneur.
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