Green Sangha Chapter News
Posted on October 23rd, 2015 12:14 pm
Teri Gerritz, Green Sangha member and group leader, has been hosting meetings and retreats at her home in Berkeley since 2010. An avid hiker, bicyclist, and world traveler, she has worked on political campaigns, habitat restoration, and plastics awareness. She spoke with board member Jonathan Billig on Wednesday, August 12, 2015.
JB: How did you discover Green Sangha and why were you drawn to it initially?
Teri: I heard about Green Sangha from a friend who lives in Marin. Compassionate action is what really drew me to Green Sangha. My mother was an activist, but she was always in tears about the state of the world, and I didn’t want to be upset all the time as she was. I wanted to find a way to become involved that wouldn’t take such a heavy toll on me.
JB: What are some of the things that you learned through your Green Sangha experiences?
Teri: Finding common ground with other people instead of focusing and playing up on the differences is very helpful, and Green Sangha has helped me with that. I have a good friend whose politics are very different from mine, and her husband has VERY different politics, yet I can find common ground with him. Before my time with Green Sangha, I’m not sure I could have done that.
One of the things that I learned was that you never make anyone else into the enemy. It’s a matter of education, and we question ourselves and know that we might have something to learn, too. You can be a lot more effective if you hear where other people are coming from, and you might find a better entry point.
JB: What is your current involvement with Green Sangha?
Teri: The East Bay chapter meets at my house every month, even sometimes when I’m gone. I also work a lot of the events. Every meeting I provide the coffee and tea in my house and set up and clean up afterward. I also pay membership once a year.
JB: Are there any specific techniques that you have found useful?
Teri: Green Sangha gave me the meditation and the activism components of Buddhist practice. I did do a silent meditation retreat about ten years ago, but I had some trouble applying what I learned to everyday life because I wanted a more active process. Because of Green Sangha I have been involved with a regular meditation group, so the connections have been very helpful. I like Margaret Mead’s idea, that change can be significant even if it seems small, and it has to start with you, not with other people.
JB: How is your experience with Green Sangha connected to the work you currently do?
Teri: Well, for one thing I really like the Green Sangha principles. They’re on the wall in my office!
I work with an organization for retired teachers, and I’ve introduced some Green Sangha practices at the retired teachers meetings. I’ve found that the board meeting is more productive, calmer, and people listen to each other more after we do a simple body scan. At our most recent meeting, I led part of Jack Kornfield’s forgiveness meditation. I also share mindfulness with some of my students, many of whom suffer from anxiety. It helps them a lot.
JB: Do you have any advice for mindful activists or social-change oriented educators like yourself?
Teri: It’s easy to feel like we’re not doing enough, and I try to remind myself that I’m doing what I can and that other people are doing what they can. Mainly it’s Principle 5 from Green Sangha’s list: we meet injustice without becoming lost in it. That sums it up. I just think it’s a fun journey.
Also, I find that when you sit with other people it’s more powerful than sitting alone. Even if they’ve never meditated before, there’s something about the group energy. Something about being in that room together, and community – it’s very powerful.
Posted on October 12th, 2015 11:01 am
Each week, the Metta Center for Nonviolence sends out a daily “metta-gram” – a thought-provoking, heart-touching message connecting the life and thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi with issues of our day. Copied below is today’s essay, reflecting on the real meaning, and the real potential, of Columbus Day.
You may recall that Berkeley, CA, became the first municipality to change the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992. South Dakota preceded even Berkeley, re-naming the second Monday of October “Native American Day.” This year, Seattle and Minnesota joined the list of municipalities changing the designation of this holiday. Sixteen states do not recognize the holiday at all. In Arizona, we have one state legislator carrying the torch.
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“True economics stands for social justice.”
–Gandhi (Harijan, October 9, 1937)
Columbus Day, a national holiday in the United States, seems to be a celebration of Christopher Columbus, the man, the adventurous, courageous Italian explorer who convinced the Spanish king to send him on a sea-mission. Though really, it is a subversive celebration – a condoning – of his actions, his violence, and his economics. More than an explorer, Columbus was something far more problematic, and even emblematic of modern culture: he was what we would call today an “economic hit man,” opening an entire continent up for colonization.
Our national choice to uphold him as one of our “great people” only signals to us that we have yet to fully transform our consciousness around the need for ethics in economics. Is it any wonder the malls are packed with sales on this day? It’s a day to celebrate stuff, meaningless material goods with little regard for those who made them, or are forced to sell them. But, here’s the important piece: it’s not enough for those of us committed to nonviolence to stop with such a negative analysis. Our goal must be to understand why he was who he was and what we might do differently.
I wonder what would have transpired in world history, our collective legacy, had Columbus refused to dehumanize those whom he encountered in his travels. What would have been different if instead of a mission acting as a gateway to colonization, he spearheaded a goodwill mission for mutual interdependence and knowledge sharing?
But no one taught or trained Sir Columbus in nonviolence. No one gave him the insight that to be “manly” and brave meant anything else besides violence and dominance. No one helped him to understand that there was no such thing as cultural inferiority. He had only been taught that his identity was superior. If Columbus had learnt these lessons before taking off across the ocean, perhaps a holiday in his name would be worth celebrating. For now, let’s use the day to do better by those around us.
Experiment in Nonviolence:
What can we do differently today that would help to transform the values upheld by celebrating Columbus Day?