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2005 Active Compassion conference: Exploring the relationship between spirituality and social justice
with Jann Jackson

The spiritual
Although its origins are in Buddhism, the vision of Shambhala is deeply non-sectarian. Active Compassion will reflect both of these factors. An emphasis will be placed on introducing meditation practice and providing time to gain familiarity with the purpose and experience of meditation. At the same time, Active Compassion will seamlessly integrate ecumenical dialogue. On Saturday evening an interfaith panel will enrich our discussion by providing an opportunity hear and ask questions of representatives from a variety of faiths as they talk about their inner experience and the perspective of their tradition on social engagement. We look forward to hearing the unique perspective offered by these different traditions and hope to reveal the deep consistencies that exist while honoring the differences and preserving the integrity of each.

The Active
There are many ways to work for the benefit of others by engaging with the greater society. It is one thing to have a benevolent vision for society, quite another to realize that vision. The challenge is to be able to discern what is needed, what we as individuals are suited to and capable of, and how to effectively accomplish our aspiration.

We are extremely fortunate to be joined once again by Jann Jackson as the lead trainer for Active Compassion 2005. Her years of experience and many accomplishments, both as a meditator and an advocate, have led many to regard her as a genuine authority in both fields. Her emphasis will be on sharing practical methods to strengthen our work in the world. She will draw on her own vast experience in presenting a curriculum that incorporates a variety of sources.

 

Teacher


Jann Jackson Since 1995, Jann has worked as the Executive Director of Advocates for Children and Youth. Prior to that, she worked for 14 years as the Associate Director of The House of Ruth. She has been at the forefront of groundbreaking developments in both arenas. Whether through direct social services, legislative initiatives, developing and presenting professional trainings or raising public awareness through education she has been a leader in bringing genuine systemic change. She is recognized locally and nationally for her outstanding contributions and continuing commitment to creating a truly just society. Jann has been a teacher of buddhist studies and meditation since 1978 and has taught Shambhala Training since 1985. She was the Resident Director of Shambhala Training in Baltimore from 1985-1990. In 2002, the Baltimore Shambhala community requested Jann to serve as the Dean of the Shambhala Training Sacred Path program in Baltimore. Jann began her Buddhist studies with Tibetan meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1975. She is also a student of the Sakyong, Mipham Rinpoche and for the last ten years has studied very closely with the beloved female teacher, the Venerable Khandro Rinpoche.

 

Proposed fourfold framework for the weekend:

 

1: Walking the path of noble virtue
(bridging self and other)

1. Political and environment events of 2004 have led many to increased feelings of despair and depression. Many are losing confidence in their competence. Feeling estranged from their country and neighbors.

Reading: State of the world.

2. Important that we not become isolated. Need to strengthen our mindfulness/awareness, seek out the community of others, to listen, learn and connect. We need strong reminders that it is possible for us for strengthen and manifest noble virtues in our personal and public life.
Review examples from the group of the following: being moderate in means and generous to others

disciplined in body,speech and mind

willing to learn and able to teach

modeling cooperation and compromise; forgiveness and reconciliation

fearless in advancing the public good even at great personal expense

skillful in the art of real politics - arising from the ashes of defeat, learning and moving forward

Activities: Mindfulness awareness practice, contemplation on equanimity ( building bridges by understanding the sameness of the human condition), talk where the group is engaged in identifying transcendent virtues in the public sphere and examples that have inspired us.

Reading: Chief Seattle

 

2: Seeing with the eyes of wisdom
(bridging outer and inner world)

It is possible to look deeply into the world and identify hidden forces at work that connect the so called "outer world" to the 'inner world". Seeing deeply allows us to see the connection between moment to moment choices that each of us makes with the very social conditions we are trying to either oppose or promote.

Activites: Contemplation practice, Saturday group discussion, critical thinking exercises.

Reading: Coming of the Revolt of the Guard

 

3: Joining wisdom and compassion with fearless action
(bridging insight with action)

We must have hope that change is possible. We will identify moments when history has taken a different course. What led up to it. We will identify people at the fulcrum of the change. How did their spiritual training shape their work? What leadership strategies did they use? What were the unintended consequences? What can we learn?

Activities: Sunday panel, Sunday group discussion.

Reading: On State and Society. Elements of Advocacy.

 

4: Returning to openness, arising with spontaneity
(bridging action with letting go)

Social activists are prone to burnout and fixed view. Practitioners are prone to inner absorption. As those seeking a unified path of contemplation and engagement, how can we keep in touch with the ground of openness each moment, hone our critical thinking based on ever changing circumstances and act in ways that are truly courageous and beneficial to others?

Activities: Talks will incorporate more teachings on mindfulness/awareness practice in everyday life. More to be developed here....

 

Priliminary Readings

This weekend program will consist of meditation practice and community-based experiential learning. We will explore together a context for social action grounded in the Shambhala teachings and practice contemplative social action and peacemaking skills, such as deep listening, appreciative inquiry, nonviolent communication and the way of council.

These following readings will be most useful if they can be read in advance of the conference (or at least the discussion to which they pertain).

Peace Is Every Step
Thich Nhat Hahn

Shambhala: The Sacred Path of a Warrior
Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

Ruling Your World
Sakyong Mipham

When Things Fall Apart
Pema Chodron

Bearing Witness
Bernie Glassman

Dharma in Hell
Fleet Maull

Instructions to the Cook
Bernie Glassman

 

 

Schedule

 

FRI

7:00 pm            Registration

7:30                 Gather in the meditation hall and settle

8:00Talk # 1:    Establishing the Ground

9:15Announcements:     Announce schedule for the weekend

 

SAT

8:00 am            Sabbath prayer service

9:30                 Continental breakfast

10:00               Foundation of active compassion is the practice of mindfulness/awareness. Instruction on mindfulness sitting practice will be given followed by a period of sitting for 20 minutes. Then instruction on walking practice and walking for10 minutes. Then a second cycle.

11:00               Contemplation on equanimity: Bridging self and other
(Handout will be pages 107-108 in A Socially Engaged Buddhism by S. Sivaraksa)

11:30               Appreciative inquiry

12:30 pm          Lunch

2:00                 Meditation

2:30                 Contemplation on loving kindness: Bridging how you are with how you want to be (Handout will be Precepts for the Happiness of All by Steve Armstrong)

3:00                 Talk # 2: Walking the Path

4:00                 Break

4:15                 Discussion groups

5:00                 Dinner Break

8:00                 Interfaith panel

 

SUN

9:30 am            Continental breakfast

10:00               Mindfulness practice. Sit with community in the main meditation hall

11:00               Gather in community room
Contemplation on compassion: Bridging contemplative life with social action. Contemplation on how to manifest the ethics of restraint, virtue and compassion.
Reading: Ethics for the New Millenium by HH. The Dalai Lama

11:30               Discussion

12:15 pm          Lunch

1:30                 Deep listening exercise

2:00                 Contemplation on joy: bridging social action with sacred view. Journey as goal

2:30                 The group will engage in an exercise that brings together the themes of the weekend. Reading: Elements of Advocacy

4:00                 Tea

4:30                 Talk # 3: Glimpsing the Fruition

5:30                 Reception

 

Interfaith Panel Saturday, April 2 , 8-9:30 PM

 This discussion will inform the overall experience of the entire weekend by providing an opportunity to hear representatives from a variety of faith traditions speak about the fundamental tenets of their traditions, the inner experience of practicing those teachings and how it guides activity in the world. While there are many differences between the various traditions, there is a great deal they all have in common. In many ways, the things they share are far more important than the differences. In order to raise awareness about what these traditions actually say, and some of the different resources and methods available through each of them, we will present this panel discussion. The content of the evening program is below.


8 PM

“The Islamic Social Vision”

 

a 45 minute introductory talk by a representative of Islam – Daoud Nassimi

8:45

Panel Discussion including representatives from:

 

Islam - Daoud Nassimi

 

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) – Donny Gann

 

Protestant Christianity - Reverend Kwame Abayomi

 

Judaism - Rabbi Charles Arian

 

Catholicism - Chuck Michaels

 

Buddhism - Judy Wolfer

 


Panelists


Judaism -- Rabbi Charles Arian
Rabbi Charles Arian is the Jewish scholar on staff at The Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies. His varied professional and personal experiences include a position as resident scholar in a Trappist Cistercian Abbey; Executive Director of the American University Hillel Foundation, in Washington, D.C.; and the Director of Student Religious Life at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, California.


Protestantism -- Reverend Kwami Abayomi
Dr. Abayomi is the pastor of Unity United Methodist Church and formerly served the sixth district as Baltimore City Councilman. Dr. Abayomi was the first African-American clergy elected to serve on the City Council in the history of Baltimore. He is a graduate of the University of the District of Columbia, Wesley Seminary, where he received his M.Div. He received his Doctorate degree from Howard University Divinity School.

Dr. Abayomi is a former vice president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (IMA) and a PEW Scholar. Dr. Abayomi was honored with the Whitney Young, Jr., Award in 1995. He is married to the Reverend Carolyn K. Handy, and has four children and four grandchildren.


Religious Society of Friends -- Donny Gann
Donny Gann is a politically conscious research assistant at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health


Catholicism -- Chuck Michaels
Chuck Michaels is an attorney living in Baltimore and has been involved in peace and justice activities for more than 30 years, beginning in college activities. He was involved in programs on peace and social justice at the parish level since the mid-1970s. In 1982 to 1986, he was full time Justice and Peace Coordinator for the Baltimore Archdiocese, working with the (then) Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission and with (the late) Bishop P. Francis Murphy. In 1985, he co-founded and is still Coordinator of Pax Christi/Baltimore, the local Chapter of Pax Christi USA, a national Catholic-based peace and justice education and advocacy organization. The local Chapter is observing 20 years of activity in 2005, and has been involved in presenting a wide range of actions, vigils, programs, services, conferences, and events in the Baltimore region on a variety of peace and justice issues. Mr. Michaels is a member of the planning committee for the annual Archdiocesan Social Ministry Convocation, and a member of various local peace and justice organizations. He is a member of ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild, and occasionally represents or provides legal advice to local peace activists.

He is the author of "No Greater Threat: America After September 11 and the Rise of a National Security State" (Algora, 2002). The book contains an analysis of the entire USA PATRIOT Act and a review of 12 common characteristics of a national security state and how close America is coming to fulfilling them in this post 9-11 environment. See www.nogreaterthreat.com. A major update of the book is in process.

Mr. Michaels is a graduate of Brandeis University (B.A. 1975, magna cum laude with additional Honors in Politics) and of University of Maryland School of Law (editorial positions on Law Review and Law Forum).


Buddhism -- Judy Wolfer
Judy Wolfer has worked for three and a half years as the lead trainer of the legal staff at the House of Ruth.


Islam -- Daoud Nassimi
Daoud Nassimi lives in Herndon, VA. He is married and father of 4 children. He is originally from Afghanistan and he has lived in the U.S. for the last 22 years. Nassimi is the vice-chairman of the Council of Muslim Organizations of the greater Washington, D.C. He gives Friday Islamic sermons at various Islamic centers of the DC area and he lectures on Islam at the universities, schools, companies, and churches. Nassimi has worked as an electrical engineer and senior project manager in the telecommunications industry for the last 18 years. He has his B.S. and Masters degrees in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University in Indiana. Also, he has a second Masters degree in Islamic Studies from Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences. Currently, he is doing his PhD in Islamic Studies at University of Birmingham in England. He broadcasts a weekly TV session on channel 30 about the Quran in DC area.


Organizers Active Compassion has been organized by a diverse group of activists and members of various spiritual traditions.