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Written by: Anuka Gazara

I started my early career in HR working for an international organization supporting humanitarians in the field, working in situations across the globe in extreme conflict. These included war-ravaged areas and places of poverty and extreme human cruelty. I saw first hand people working for human rights in environments that put them under tremendous pressure and constant stress. In many cases, humanitarians or those working in international development do experience high levels of burnout. For me, my mindfulness practice supported me in cultivating resilience for this work through presence, compassion and clarity.

 

 

Clarity

My mindfulness practice stems from my Thervada Buddhist practice, and this early experience has always taught me that healing is a collective process and will involve moving forward based on the mindfulness principles of harmony, presence and compassion. Even if we have lived lives where strife and harm were the norm, it is possible to find a path where we can all achieve healing, from the person that causes harm to the person who experiences harm. When we face injustice with both inner and outer clarity, we allow ourselves the spaciousness to accept the full picture, enabling true reconciliation, with or without governmental or political intervention. When we are involved in conflict resolution work, using mindfulness enables us to build trust and allow ourselves not to be blinded by our own unconscious biases. This allows us to have real honest discussions without shame or judgment.

Presence

It is also important to note that by cultivating mindfulness in relationship to others, the process should be seen as a marathon, not a sprint. The moment we bring a true, patient presence to social activism, we start to ask deeper questions to uncover the unmet needs in the situation, both the needs of those harmed and the needs of those causing harm. This practice is often deeply missing in our society. Many of us are conditioned to not really think about what we need, but are so quick to label and judge. Whereas, when we are present, we are giving ourselves a lens for change that can actually meet the underlying needs of all parties involved.

Compassion

As a mindfulness practitioner and facilitator, I practice compassion daily, and this helps me hold the space when I am facilitating. When we are looking at resolving even seemingly impossible discord, compassion offers us this unconditional sensitivity to each person’s truth, allowing us to listen to others with a sense of empathy (even if we disagree), and stay with them no matter how awkward and difficult that may be in certain interactions. I often practice the “Seeing Similarities” practice that we offer in the Search Inside Yourself program at SIYLI. This practice encourages us to see a person we may initially see as ‘an enemy’ as a fellow human with a body, a mind, hopes and fears, creating a sense of genuine common humanity. With that commonality and shared understanding, we can move forward into a place where new unexplored solutions are possible.

In summary, bringing mindfulness to social activism offers us the ability to bring a deeper clarity and awareness to our own attitudes. It allows us to view people in their full humanity and look at causes and conditions of another human with openness and curiosity. Understanding thes causes with a mindful awareness shifts us from a deeply identified ‘I’ to a partner in dialogue, instead of just labeling the other people involved.

Feeling overwhelmed by injustice and lacking motivation is real, and can take a toll on mental and physical wellbeing. If you are curious about learning new mindfulness and emotional intelligence tools, check out our next in-person Search Inside Yourself Program on the 25th July 2024 where we teach practical skills that you can integrate into your daily life and work culture.

Are you someone who works with Environmental issues? You can find programs designed to support Environmental Activists here.

Unlocking the power of focused attention and self-awareness takes time but can be accessed through mindfulness-based programs. If you are unfamiliar with mindfulness and looking to learn new tools and practices to cultivate emotional intelligence in your life, please explore our free to access guided meditations.