Have you ever wondered about the societal impact of your personal mindfulness practice—especially now, in this moment we are collectively facing? How does sitting in individual meditation have an impact on your family, community, country, or the human race? Many meditations, such as loving-kindness meditation, directly focus on how you feel about yourself and others. Learning to be present with yourself during a moment of societal turmoil may not seem like it is directly influencing efforts to create societal change, but it absolutely impacts how you show up, speak out, and protest.
The recent protests about police brutality against Black bodies have erupted in an already tumultuous social moment as we reckon with the public health and emotional effects of COVID-19. Taking the time to care for yourself in the midst of advocating for justice is not simply a form of self-indulgence but a vehicle to improve efforts in supporting social justice.
The practice of mindfulness has a lot to contribute to help you prepare for, be present for, and understand the significance your efforts have in creating change through protesting. Meditating on and about the subject you are protesting can deepen your awareness and experience of the subject.
Understanding the Relationship Between Mindfulness and Protesting
1. There is a dialogue between your internal and external wounds
Protesting is a practice that allows public acknowledgement of societal wounds. Mindfulness meditation is a practice that allows an individual to acknowledge their emotional wounds. The relationship between the two is integral, as the degree to which you have been able to connect and engage with your personal pain increases your capacity to feel and be with the pain of others. Your capacity to notice feelings in your mind and body serve as a template for how you experience and understand the pain of others within our society. There is a reciprocal relationship between the pain you have been willing to face and acknowledge within yourself that allows you to open to the pain you can acknowledge in others and in society.
Your capacity to notice feelings in your mind and body serve as a template for how you experience and understand the pain of others within our society.
By deepening into our own experience, fears, feelings, and internal dialogues, we discover what is true about ourselves. In this process, we connect to a sense of self that is able to acknowledge without judgment the difference between ourselves and others.
2. Mindfulness helps you observe your experience with racism
The impulse to respond and react impulsively can feel reflexive when we routinely see acts of violence against Black people around the world. Joining in mass protests with others can feel cathartic as you come together with others to stand up to injustice. We watched as the United States rallied in the largest and most sustained protest in the country’s history. The temptation can be to move directly into mobilizing before or without connecting with yourself.
Grounding yourself in your own experience in this moment may be incredibly painful. It will also likely help you grow in your capacity to observe the emotions you feel about racism that you don’t have words for, the ones you feel in your body, or that you notice in your relationships. As you allow yourself to touch in with these deep emotions, you may find you can name them: fear, anger, compassion, or a desire to be of service. Being able to verbalize your experience will deepen your capacity to show up to protests with signs that speak your voice and with a relational readiness to contribute to the group conversation. The observation that leads to verbalization also helps you distinguish your pain from others. This distinction allows you to speak and show up from your depths and deepen the conversations in your community.
3. Relating to your own emotions helps you learn from others
How we know and talk about our own experience provides texture to the landscape of how we hear and learn from others. The activities at protests offer many opportunities to share your personal experience and learn from others. Inside of and behind the collective voices chanting are millions of conversations happening between people who have gathered. It is encouraging to see people’s bodies show up to protests, and people come up with the most clever signs, but interfacing with the substance of their individual convictions meaningfully furthers the collective conversation.
Feeling the weight of the subject, meaningfully connecting with others, and showing up as yourself will help you move away from temporary virtue signaling toward a more permanent commitment to justice.
Mindfulness meditation allows you to protest with greater acknowledgement of your feelings. It also helps you recognize the feelings of others you are marching with, talking with, and learning from. The potency of knowing your own story deepens your capacity to feel the story of others.
It is not a magic solution to end racism, heal your pain, or assuage your guilt. However, feeling the weight of the subject, meaningfully connecting with others, and showing up as yourself will help you move away from temporary virtue signaling toward a more permanent commitment to justice. This integration of your own truth, within yourself and with others, will certainly help you show up authentically and keep from burning out.
Protesting mindfully is neither a call for peaceful protest, nor a condemnation of that virtue. It is an invitation to show up in an integrated manner. Every protestor is showing up with a degree of mindfulness in their protest. When we cultivate the practice of consciously being mindful of what and why we are protesting, this helps us create the society we want to inhabit.
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