Political commentator, spiritual activist, and best-selling author, Marianne Williamson (Facebook) convened her monthly seminar, Sister Giant, on Tuesday, February 19th. This month’s topic, featuring special guest Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH), concerned the practice of mindfulness in the current divisive political landscape. The overarching theme of the discussion concerned the transcendence of personal mindfulness into public mindfulness.
Williamson grilled Rep. Ryan on his new book, Mindful Nation, which he wrote after an inspirational silent retreat in upstate New York. Following in line with his book, Ryan emphasized the benefits of meditation, and claimed that schools currently practicing quiet introspection improved test scores by 11 percent. He also distributed his book throughout Congress, receiving encouragement from his colleagues. Ryan affirmed that there is a growing interest in meditative practices throughout the United States – people just need to understand what it entails.
However, in an effort to steer Ryan away from statements that would simply “preach to the choir” of progressive listeners, Williamson asked the tough questions regarding how these personal practices can translate into a more just society. Ryan and Williamson eventually conceded that individual mindfulness is the seed to which comprehensive reform emerges. Practices of mindful self-awareness require patience, resiliency, empathy, and personal growth. Individuals in an activist organization must first become mindful and empathetic in order to effectively petition Congress. Likewise, Congress must practice the same in order to gain insight into which social programs can successfully bring Americans out of poverty, incarceration, and cycles of violence. To this effect, Ryan gave the example that mindfulness can not only influence members of Congress to pass an anti-Citizens United amendment, but collective mindfulness may also incite technological “crowd funding” to compete with the power of Super PACs.
The topic eventually culminated into the advocacy of mindful duality. Williamson summarized it best when she stated, “Power without love is destructive, but love without power is ineffectual.” The individual strength that arises out of focused and heightened awareness must embody the same “peaceful warrior.” But only the collective influence of these “warriors” can effectively produce positive change.
For more information on Sister Giant, visit their website: www.sistergiant.com. Tune into next month’s conversation titled Women Running for Political Office with Patricia Russo of the Yale Women’s Campaign School on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Anyone can listen in on the conversation by the dialing into the conference call number provided soon on the Sister Giant website.