Loneliness Stinks. Studying Together Can Help
It can be lonely out there for political activists grounded in a spiritual practice that sometimes gets pigeonholed as too “woo” for revolutionaries. Also lonely are we spiritual seekers who find the meditation cushion just isn’t enough for the liberation of all beings. That’s why it’s so refreshing to find those spaces where, those people with whom, we can bring our fuller selves.
This year, as part of The System Stinks curriculum, we will be supporting small study groups to come together. While study groups will self-organize and run autonomously, we’ll provide some basic support like helpful ground rules, ideas on how to plan a good gathering, and even offer a tasty recipe or two for snacks!
Having a focus for coming together – to read and discuss spiritual and political writings of common interest – can provide a basic structure for our group while we get to know each other and build trust. Peer-led groups give us all a chance to speak up, participate, and practice listening to our inner teacher.
Peer-led groups can also support us to engage with The System Stinks curriculum, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and socially engaged Buddhism in general in ways that don’t require us all to see eye-to-eye to feel like part of the larger whole. Instead of trying to form one large circle of consensus, we can find mutual aid and support by participating in one or more circles that feel close to home for us, and notice the ways our circles overlap and connect to form a larger whole.
In Person, Online: How do you want to meet with others?
Local in-person groups: When we can find others to meet with in person, we have an opportunity to build the kind of shared bond that might allow us to take direct action together in our local communities. We get to break bread together, see smiling faces, get hugs if we want them, and sit in sangha.
Online issue- or identity-oriented groups: Sometimes our physical loneliness is very real: we’re the only Nichiren Buddhist or queer anti-capitalist rabble rouser or Latina eco-justice warrior for 500 miles. When we find others who are “like us,” our bodies can relax, our insight and compassion deepens. Even if we can’t meet up in person (yet!), it’s lifesaving to find others with whom we share an affinity. Let’s use the magic of Skype, email, Google hangout, and private Facebook groups to help us build relationships of mutual inspiration (even if we don’t share a zip code).
Other formats? Don’t let us limit you. If you have an idea about bringing together a regional group, or want to see if there are enough people in your area to have an issue-oriented group that meets in person – go for it! The beauty of self-organizing is that you don’t need our permission to get people together for study.
What support materials do study groups get?
Each person who donates at the $45 level or more ($30 for all the Broke Bodhisattvas out there!) will receive full access to the curriculum of The System Stinks – 6 downloadable themed readers and 12 monthly national phone calls.
We’re making the contemporary writings solicited for The System Stinks freely available online at Turning Wheel Media. We want to help folks talk about these issues, regardless of ability to pay. When you donate, you’ll get additional, exclusive content delivered via email and password protected sections of our website including:
- summarized content from Turning Wheel Media, so you can know which articles are most relevant to read
- classic, thought-provoking, diverse texts on political theory and Buddhist teachings, selected especially for our discussion
- practical study guides with an intro/overview to the topic, and provocative questions to discuss with other political Buddhists
- access to national phone calls with prominent Buddhist teachers and political activists. It’s a precious and rare opportunity to connect with other Buddhist activists to explore these big questions!
We are putting together a Study Group Starter Guide to help you get started! The first installment includes:
- Ideas for starting a study group
- Meeting Questions & Ideas
We’ll also be adding sections on ground rules, group dynamics, fostering thought diversity, and dismantling oppression. Tell us what else might be helpful to you as you get a group started!
Let us know in the comments about the study groups you might start! Maybe there’s someone else already out there who wants to start the same kind of group. Let’s start connecting with each other!
Edit to add:
Here’s a map of location-based study groups that are starting. Click through to add your pin (click the red “EDIT” button on the left, then the blue pin icon near the top), or leave a note in the comments and we’ll add a pin for you.
View The System Stinks study groups in a larger map