Loving Activism: How to Joyfully, Effectively, and Sustainably Heal Society

Photo credit: Melanie Jacobs from Rooster Redemption

This talk was given by Freeman at a retreat for animal advocates in Janesville, Minnesota on May 12, 2018. However, the principles of truth, love, and mindfulness discussed apply to any anyone who seeks to create a more kind, compassionate, peaceful, and harmonious society. If you are an activist, reformer, or healer of any kind, this talk is for you. Enjoy!

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Loving Activism: How to Joyfully, Effectively, and Sustainably Heal Society.

This article is a brief summary of some of the major points touched upon in the talk

Have All Actions Arise from an All-Inclusive Love

The key to being an effective, persistent, and joyful activist is having all of your actions be motivated by love. Love can be thought of as a desire to help and serve others.

Moreover, this love must include in its scope all of life. It is not enough to merely have love for the victim of abuse or injustice. Our love must also extend to the perpetrators, the bystanders, ourselves, other activists, and all other life forms. Our love must be fully inclusive to be effective. By considering the needs of all life, we can act skillfully and effectively in ways that allow all life to heal and thrive.

Before we go on, let me define what I mean by skillful. Skillful actions do two things: firstly, they do not harm any life. Secondly, they serve and benefit some or all of life. Finally, there is no judgment around what is skillful and what is unskillful. This means the skillful are not superior, better than, or more deserving that the unskillful. Nor are the unskillful less than, or less deserving than the skillful. All life belongs and has a purpose, and needs to be respected, honored, and loved. 

As activists, we are called to repair and heal the broken relationships between people and other people, people and animals, and people and the natural world. Love in all its forms is a powerful healing force. Love leads us to act mindfully and skillfully. When we act from love, we model healthy, sustainable ways of relating to people, animals, and the environment. When we act from love, we can help heal these broken relationships. Let’s turn now to talk about love.

There are four kinds of love: kindness, peace, compassion and joy. When we act from these kinds of love, our mind is balanced and spacious, our heart is open and connected, and our body is as calm, relaxed, and tranquil as it can be given the circumstances.

The Body Will Guide You to Truth and Love

Body awareness helps guide us as to when we are acting from love, and when we are acting from delusion or ego. When we act from love, there is a sense of peace, ease, balance, and joy. When we act from ego, there is a sense of stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, depression, hatred, judgment, anger, vengeance, or other afflictive emotions. In this way, being mindful of bodily sensations and mental moods helps alert us to whether delusions are active in us or not.

There are two ways to understand emotions. The primary way that people interpret emotions is that they are created based on what they experience arising in the external world. This is how most people understand their emotions. This is actually delusional, and it leads one in a never-ending quest to control all aspects of their external world in a failed attempt to be happy.

The more skillful, accurate, and truthful way to understand emotions, is to recognize that they arise when we believe a falsehood. Then, when we are unhappy, rather than turning to our external world to find happiness, we turn inward to examine our mind and what untrue stories we are believing that is causing the afflictive emotion or mood to arise. In this way, we see the delusions, stop believing them, and slowly weed the delusions from our mind. This leads us to living more peaceful, happy, and loving lives.

Know the Delusions That Cause Us to Suffer

As activists, there are many delusions, or falsehoods, that we fall prey to. I say this based on my own personal experience which each and every one of these delusions I mention. Some of these delusions are: overwhelm, judgment, arrogance, dogma, and clinging to desired outcomes. In the talk, I explain in more detail what each delusion is, and why it is both untrue and unskillful, as well as a more skillful, truthful, and loving way to see these situations that allows us to remain mentally and emotionally balanced.

In general, these delusional states are toxic to the mind and body and lead to burnout. These states arise because we are believing a falsehood. When we believe a falsehood, afflictive emotions arise within us. These afflictive emotions drive us to behave in unskillful ways that harm ourselves and others. Through mindfulness of the body, emotions, moods, and thoughts, we can see these delusions operating in us, see how they cause us to suffer, and experience how they incite us to act unskillfully. Seeing all of this clearly, and out of love and compassion for all life, we let go of these delusions, and embrace peace, joy, and skillfulness.

Evaluate Your Actions Based on Loving Intentions and the Skillfulness of Your Actions

As activists, we often evaluate the effectiveness of our behavior by the results we achieve. However, the results we achieve arise due to various factors we have no control over. This means of evaluation keeps us trapped in the delusion of greed or wanting, which serves no one, and keeps us miserable.

Better to evaluate your actions by these two standards:

1. Are the intentions behind my action arising from love and compassion for those who are harmed, those doing the harming, myself, and all life?

2. Are my actions skillful? Do they cause no harm to life while helping to serve, heal, and benefit life?

You have more influence and control over these two things. Also, when these are the measures you use to evaluate your actions, you are letting go of your attachment to the results.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but when you let go of the need to achieve certain outcomes, your outcomes generally get better outcomes. Why? Because the delusion of wanting creates needless stress, impatience, fear, anxiety, and drama that distract you from giving your best, most focused, loving, and effective attention to what needs to be done in the present moment to succeed.

When you let go of thoughts of the future, you can be focus on the now. This allows your activism to be more peaceful, joyful, sustainable, healing, and effective. You will know you are being successful at avoiding the delusion of wanting when your mind is peaceful, spacious, and balanced; when your heart is open and connected; and when your body is relaxed and calm.

Meditate to Liberate

To put into practice what I have discussed, a meditation practice is extremely helpful, if not vital. Through meditation we can learn the mindfulness required to see delusions, see how they cause our emotions to arise, see how they incite us to unskillfulness, and learn how to refrain from letting them take us over.

Meditation also allows us to see our thoughts and feel our emotions without taking them personally. Instead, we see thoughts and emotions as lawfully arising, impersonal and temporary visitors to the mind and body that we can embrace, acknowledge, and feel without believing or acting them out unskillfully. When we are mindful like this, then it is our loving intentions that drive our thinking and behavior, rather than the often unskillful conditioning we have received.

The Boundless Love Project offers free trainings and resources to help get you start, expand, or continue your meditation practice. We have a series of talks on the four kinds of love, and expanded discussions about the various delusions we fall prey to that cause us to suffer and behave unskillfully. Find out more at BoundlessLoveProject.org.

Many Blessings to You All

May all of your activism be motivated by an all-inclusive love for all life. May you be peaceful, happy, and skillful in your activism and all of your life. May your activism be successful in healing the damaged relationships between people and other people, between people and animals, between people and the planet, and between yourself and the various aspects of yourself. I wish you boundless love, health, joy, and success!


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