First of all, a mindfulness practice can bring us greater awareness. If we look deeply into our own suffering, it will help us understand the causes of the suffering we see around us. Once we truly understand the causes, we’ll have a much better sense of what kind of solution is needed.
Then, when we’re ready to take action, a mindfulness practice can help us to stay grounded rather than ground down, fired up rather than burnt out. Or, as Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, “strong enough to handle the deep pain within ourselves and the world.”
He mentions his own work with injured children during the Vietnam War, as well as people who’ve found healing through helping victims of the same traumas they’ve undergone, or perpetrated. (He gives the example of a Vietnam vet who turned his guilt over killing five children into a vow to help as many suffering children as possible.)
In order to be good, mindful citizens, we may need to make some sacrifices and take some risks. We may need to let go of things that are bad for our mental and physical health. We may need to reorganize our schedules to make time to serve others. We may need to find the courage to speak out.
But we don’t have to do it all by ourselves. It’s important, he says, to find a loving community of people committed to the same goals: “Each of us can do something to help relieve the suffering in the world, but none of us can do it alone.”
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Mindfulness as a Way of Life (interview)
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
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