In June 2018, Spirituality & Practice and our partners for The Practicing Democracy Project, the Fetzer Institute, convened a gathering of 24 spiritual leaders at Fetzer's Seasons retreat center in Michigan. The leaders represented a spectrum of religious and spiritual traditions. Our intention was to bring the wisdom and practices of our respective paths to bear on the challenge of reinvigorating the U.S. democracy.
Along with mealtime and evening informal conversations and group experiences of spiritual practices, the participants brainstormed in small groups how they could "practice democracy" in specific scenarios. The sharing of the small groups' comments with the whole group was recorded. From the transcripts of those conversations, we've collected their ideas. We then went through Spirituality & Practice's collection of spiritual practices to find matches to their suggestions for each scenario.
“You are watching the news, listening to the news on the radio, or browsing the Internet. You find yourself distressed about what you are learning or what you see happening in your local area, your country, or our world. What spiritual practices do you turn to? What activities might help you manage your feelings or expand your awareness? Practices to stay calm? Practices to ask for guidance? Prayer? Compassion practices?”
Using this scenario as a starting point, the spiritual leaders at the convening asked: Given that we live in a news-saturated world, how do you handle what you're learning about? What practices have been helpful to you or would you like to learn more about? This feature outlines the suggestions from the convening — from getting your bearings in advance to finding sources of gratitude afterwards.
- Take responsibility for which sources of information you choose and for your frame of mind as you engage with the news. One way to do so is to get grounded, especially before turning on a device.
- If you realize it's not the right time to take in the news, allow for a break. For instance, you may want to shut off your computer or television in the evening so that you do not end your day with the negativity of the news cycle. Here are some insights into fasting from the news.
- When you watch the news, allow and name the loss and pain you feel. It reflects the depth of your connection to all living beings.
- When the news understandably makes you anxious for change, these patience practices can help you build the endurance you need.
- Take time to examine your motivation for exploring the news. Is it primarily to bolster your own point of view, or are you looking for ways to increase your understanding and the common good?
- Use your insights from the news as a catalyst to practice compassion.
- Develop your ability to be sensitive to others' feelings, even when their beliefs and opinions differ from your own.
- Assimilate the news by writing, chanting, creating a personal prayer book, or listening to music.
- Allow for any anger, despair, or fear that's arisen by cradling your feelings.
- Reflect on the choices you have as you mindfully consider suffering, recognizing that continuing to reverberate painful news isn't always wise.
- Practice gratefulness, remembering that the "great fullness" of the world includes sadness and joy, difficulties and breakthroughs. Give thanks for the opportunities and learning available to you in all of it.