self + society: a radical response - an overview

We believe that helping to empower individuals and communities to tread a path where committed social engagement goes hand in hand with radical personal transformation is an important task. We see the combining of inner work with outer engagement as the basis for a radical response to our times. That’s why Ecodharma work with individuals and organisations to offer courses and trainings that explore that terrain.

“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise.” The Earth Charter

This quote gives an indication of where we feel we stand right now. Without succumbing to horrified apocalyptic anxiety, or an intoxicating utopianism, it is clear that significant dangers face our society and ecosystems, and yet there remains real scope for finding creative responses.

It is clear that a meaningful human response to our times must address both the transformation of society and of individuals. Our personal and social liberation are bound closely together. One without the other cannot do justice to either our times or ourselves. By working simultaneously with both we can develop a truly radical response.

Climate change, peak oil, economic precarity and social injustice are shaping the endgame of the industrial growth era. Attempts to engage with these social and ecological dimensions need to be resourced by deep awareness, self-knowledge, and emotional intelligence. Those who have tried know that trying to work for social change without looking at our own inner conflicts and unhelpful tendencies, often compounds the problems we seek to address. Meanwhile, spiritual practice that doesn’t turn to face the social and ecological conditions of our times, runs the risk of falling into narcissistic escapism. Working solely on our own personal development can dig us deeper into the individualistic and alienating traps that our atomising and fragmented social realities thrust upon us. As they say “Action without wisdom is blind; yet, wisdom without action is lame.”

Working simultaneously with both the personal and inter-personal aspects of our experience can empower us and our communities. It sets up both a necessary creative tension and a supportive framework, which can bring forth the best in us for the benefit of ourselves, other people, and the other species we share this world with.

We run courses and trainings designed to address two broad groups of people:

  • One range of trainings is for activists and organisers looking for an approach set in a secular framework: Effective-Sustainable Activism. The core of these trainings is the Sustaining Resistance: Empowering Renewal series, which offers personal and inter-personal tools to help activists and their groups stay sustainable and effective in their work. It looks at burnout, motivation, conflict and more… It also includes our week long training on collaboration, organisation and working in groups: Transformative Collaboration.
  • The other range of courses and retreats are for committed Buddhists or people with an interest in a more explicit Buddhist approach: Engaged Buddhist Training Series. These draw explicitly on Buddhist Dharma and methods, exploring how these offer valuable perspectives for social transformation and enable us to draw on our deeper creative potential. This range of courses includes our Engaged Buddhist Training and more…

All of these courses and retreats work on three levels:

  • They equip people with practical tools supporting personal and inter-personal work. These fall into four broad catagories: i) Key elements of social empowerment training, such as effective decision making and organising methods, communication skills, and conflict transformation tool; ii) tools supporting reflection and analysis drawn from popular education; iii) methods derived from deep ecology and ecopsychology; iv) and body based and meditative approaches that support direct working with mental states.
  • They support increased self awareness, emotional resilience, and psychological integration, which help us recognise and change unhelpful habitual patterns which undermine our effectiveness. Providing space and methods for deeper reflection on the underlying conditions of our experience, also helps us tap into deeper sources of nourishment and inspiration, finding balance, openness, and strengthened motivation.
  • They help us to explore the underlying views and assumptions which we bring to our experience, and which can often trap us in limiting strategies. Asking deeper questions about who we are, how change happens, and the way we construct our realities, helps us to develop an approach that is continually open to learning from our experience and the experience of others, yet which is decisive and responsive.

Our approach draws on:

  • Dharma practice and perspectives: We draw deeply on the methods of the Buddhist tradition. We are concerned with what is genuinely transforming and supportive – focussing on the principles and not getting too hung up on the forms. Our approach engages Buddhists with a committed practice, but is also accessible to people who want to learn and use the approaches but can be wary of “isms”!
  • Holistic Participatory Learning and Popular Education: Drawing on the excellent work of people like Paolo Friere and Miles Horton, we approach learning in a way that empowers and draws out the wisdom from participants’ experience. We do this in ways that engages the whole self – cognitive, sensing, and feeling, influenced by the Work That Reconnects and other holistic approaches.
  • Deep Ecology, Radical Ecology, and Systems Thinking: Asking deeper questions about who we are and how our society sits within the ecological web, these approaches challenge the paradigms of the industrial growth era and help us vision and gain experience of very different kinds of relationship between people and nature.

Sustaining Resistance: Empowering Renewal tools for effective-sustainable activism
Engaged Buddhist Training
Transformative Collaboration