The prevalence of systemic racial injustice in America has once again come to the forefront of consciousness with the seemingly unrelenting killings of people of color while in police custody. This demand for social justice is not just about police reform. At Souhegan Insight Meditation we recognize the fight for justice begins with taking an honest assessment of our internal lives. Change begins with each one of us. We accept that we make our world through our minds and thoughts, and that those thoughts shape us resulting in attitudes and behaviors that are not easy to root out nor understand. Insight meditation asks us to confront our own implicit bias without flinching. This is not easy. We believe in the Buddhist principle of non-harming and of right speech. Right speech helps us recognize when it is wrong and harmful to remain silent. “You can’t think about something if you can’t talk about it”, says Eula Biss in her forthright, pull no punches interview, Talking About Whiteness (referenced below). If you can’t think you cannot change. But how much good can talking do? I have been asked this multiple times in my career. I have sat for over 30 years witnessing the dramatic changes that can be brought about though frank, sometimes ruthless, conversation. I have furthermore seen the manner in which personal change becomes communal through the continuing impact of dialogue.
Meditation is concerned with the cultivation of love and compassion, emotions that serve as ballast when facing and the dark side of human nature. Racial injustice harms everyone in a society. It is a pernicious invitation to not value, feel, or even be aware of the suffering of another. The opposite of not feeling is to allow ourselves to be deeply moved, to let out hearts break wide open when we view injustice. Buddhism asks us to turn into our feelings, no matter how difficult. Turning away is not an option.
James Baldwin, one of the most powerful and prolific literary voices of the last century who fought against injustice and hatred in all of its forms, states, “This fight begins…in the heart, and it now had been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair.” It is our charge to keep our hearts open and receptive, to see the recent events, the protests, and the demands for justice in the light of hope for a deeper more fundamental change, in ourselves and in our communities.