Contemplative Activism

Contemplative Disposition

I asked the question at the end of Sunday’s Contemplative Activist Sangha call, “Have we held this exploration of Patriarchy contemplatively?” What did I mean by that? What does holding a discussion or an exploration contemplatively mean? I was curious about whether we felt that we’d held this sometimes hot and uncomfortable discussion as contemplatives (and some don’t like this term} or was it just ‘a discussion‘ like any other? What qualities might holding something contemplatively have? I was genuinely curious. Although it felt, at times, more of a discussion than something else.

Contemplating this question and holding it with Carmen the next day, we came to something about the quality of holding. We can hold discussions contemplatively. What does that mean? We are not seeking to get anywhere. We are not thinking in terms of nailing something down, delineating, remarking, defining, or creating a closed definitive description. Rather we open, we are curious, maintain an attitude of not knowing, welcome ideas and feelings from ‘other knowing’ that might contradict or violate our sense of understanding. The difference, is the openness to welcoming the other, the unknown, or the stranger. It is radical hospitality, a Derridian way of being. It is a way of being that allows both our, and others, arising of otherness, altness, strange, and weirdness to come into the discussion as arising takes place. To be open to the mysterious maybe.
And being with the resistance to seeing or describing with words what is happening. A contemplative disposition allows that which is resistant to being named or described (you might begin to feel my discomfort at writing this).

I am curious about the place of arising. The place where otherness and mystery arises in/at/with what ‘I’ call ‘me’. And I wonder about this curiosity as a practice of unwisdom, unknowing, undefining that is so satisfying and so discomforting to the patriarchy. It troubles the patriarch in me that wants to ‘nail down’ define and create certainly- and shun and displace mystery and curiosity. Certainty and knowing are essential tools to the patriarchy and to colonialism. The lines on the map defining territory, the figures in a ledger that denotes wealth, the otherness that makes some people’s lives worth less than other people’s lives have to be clear and collectively agreed, otherwise colony and slave making are impossible.

I am curious about the arising and where the arising is not. I am curious about the calculating mind that is so dominant and the other-arising that is fugitive, gypsy, feminine, wild and free to enter on its own terms. I am curious about cultivating a disposition of paying attention to the arising and being with what can be found in the arising. Is that where our lostness, our abandoned children, and our trauma have hung out? Can we wait and quiet our minds— and our identities— that have been cultivated, valued and fed for so many years. And maybe we can be disposed to embrace our fugitive . Might this be a simple yet important 21st century way of being, which we our tiny little group is flirting with? I am curious about the way XR and Occupy has embodied this disposition and in the process reclaimed the shadow, and that which is anathema to our culture. I am curious about how we can possibly be an activist without this disposition of holding and welcoming our fugitive.

The Sunday Sangha most Sundays at 18.00 UK time:

We are meeting this Saturday January 9, 2021 at 18.00:

By Naresh Giangrande

Co Founder of Transition Town Totnes, & Transition Training. Celebrating a new cultural story while gracefully letting go of the old.