Work coming out of the Boston area (initiated within Episcopalian circles, and informed by Swarm) is resulting in a template for tight-knit communities that build the bonds necessary to take risks together and engage in social resistance and transformation for the long haul.
We can learn from these social experiments. If you are ready to build deeper communities of resistance and resilience, we encourage you to organize a circle like this. Make a commitment to practice together for at least 3-6 months (at which point the group can consider continuing, changing the structure, or disbanding). Below is the basic template and vision.
Please note: While we have borrowed the name “contemplative action circles”, what I’m sharing here is not formalized by the Boston group, but rather inspired by their process.
- intimate circles / approx 10-15 people
- meeting in a home, or another intimate setting
- shared food, prepared by participants
- 3 hour meetings, 2-4 times a month
- when possible, make this a “whole community”, multigenerational experience (child-focused activities that take place separate from adult-focused activities may be necessary for portions of the time)
A program for time together that includes:
- spiritual practice
- this can be based on shared practice of participants, especially when participants are all coming from the same religious tradition or spiritual community
- can include singing, reading from sacred text, meditation, or any other spiritual practice
- elements of the White Awake Manual can be adapted for this small group format
- White Awake will be building out potential community practices as part of our resources, and in collaboration with SURJ DC leadership healing team
- sharing a meal together
- personal storytelling, and empathetic listening
- see Relational Uprising video for inspiration
- White Awake is committed to building out our toolkit of relational practices; again, many practices in the Manual section can be adapted
- dedicated discussion, role-playing, or other activity that builds skill set, knowledge base, and commitment to engaged social action
- in the beginning you may want to designate a couple people who research avenues of involvement in your area
- you may want to work with other circles of support to build a network in your area that did not previously exist
- consider the work of organizations such as: SURJ; MoveOn.org; Standing Rock solidarity; Cosecha; The Movement for Black Lives; 350.org; Fight for $15; localized Muslim support networks …
- study materials such as Momentum webinars, or This is an Uprising, that educate group members on effective, broad-scale civil disobedience and/or local community organizing
- train together in Direct Action, Active Bystander, and other organizational/movement-based skill sets
- that these communities of practice would engage in action/activism together
- communities that include middle to upper class members would work together, and within their networks, to support resource redistribution (see Resource Generation for analysis of resource distribution in the context of collective liberation)
- these communities could become building blocks in local/regional transformation (inc sustainable food networks; municipal models of participatory democracy; solidarity and resource redistribution between over-resourced and under-resourced neighborhoods; etc …)
- these communities could be central aspects of national organizing and solidarity
Your contemplative action circle can be white affinity, but it does not need to be. Regardless of group demographics, awareness of power dynamics between individuals, the development of a shared anti-oppression lens, and group norms around conflict and the expression of trauma are all important to the healthy functioning, and social engagement, of the group.
This development of group culture will of necessity incorporate aspects of study, and key resources already present in White Awake may be helpful in this process. We are actively working on resources that support building a healthy, relational culture – including conflict resolution and sensitivity to trauma. Please contact us if you have any questions.