Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 42 – Rev Angel Kyodo Williams- Bridging Activism & Spirituality

Rev Angel Kyodo Williams

This week on, Metta Hour, Sharon has a conversation with Rev Angel Kyodo Williams about political activism and spiritual practice.

What is the interplay between activism and personal practice? In this talk recorded at the JCC in Manhattan, Sharon and Rev Angel Kyodo Williams, discuss the qualities of the two and what they bring to one another.
On this week’s episode, we learn how to make radical change happen and love everyone in the process.

Show Notes

10:20 – After a brief introduction to their live audience, Sharon leads a loving-kindness meditation to give a moment for everyone to fully “arrive.”

15:20 – Sharon shares a story about meeting civil rights leader Miles Horton. After sparking a conversation about meditation and loving-kindness, Horton recounts Martin Luther King Jr.’s beliefs on loving everyone. Horton insisted that he only had to love the people worth loving, but Rev King would say, “you gotta love everybody.”

This idea raises the difficult question of, what it to love everybody including those who we have a conflict with or wish to harm us? Just because we have to love everyone doesn’t mean we have to like them.

21:00 – Angel discusses her experience with activism and spiritual practice. She addresses the intersection of a mind that wants to change the world and a steady awakened mind which acts from a place of love.

25:45 – Sharon introduces the concept of generosity being a finite resource. How can we keep giving when we have nothing left to offer?

As Angel’s practice grew, she came more aware of the missteps in political activism that cause activists to burn out. This allowed Angel to see similar patterns in spiritual practice.

33:35 – Angel asks Sharron about her drive to incorporate activism into her practice. We get a history of Sharron’s interest in politics and her motivation to get everyone involved in the political process.

There is a tendency most of us have to make grand efforts to accomplish monumental tasks, whether it is politics or spiritual practice. We must avoid taking on big goals all at once. Instead, taking small steps like finding our breath.

39:20 – One of the things that the meditation community can learn from the activist community is the systems approach to things. When we give to a homeless person, we may only think about that person and their story. However, there are much grander questions to ask. Not just how did that person get to be on the streets, but what are the systematic conditions that led that person to be there.

51:15 – Sharon discusses how rare it is that we get vulnerable with one another. She shares a story about realizing how everyone has a fascinating story and we never know what the person next to us is going through.

Angel discuss her experience interacting with people in the spiritual community who have become insular to what is going on in the world. She asks what is it in our society that enforces self-centeredness and prevents us from seeing the suffering and hardship of others.

57:40 – The audience is invited to bring questions and comments to Sharon and her guest. The first question addresses getting in touch with equanimity to find love towards those who commit the greatest acts of cruelty toward others.

1:05:40 – In our society, we focus on having to like everything about someone in order to love them, and often apply this to ourselves. What do our speakers think of this and other systematic societal issues?

1:16:25 – The process of change takes time, how do we cultivate the patience to wait for change to happen?

This talk was recorded at the JCC Manhattan.

About Rev Williams

Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams, Sensei is a maverick dharma teacher, author, and founder of the Center for Transformative Change and co-author of her newest book, Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love & Liberation. She applies wisdom teaching to intractable social issues at the intersections of climate change, racial and economic justice. By liberating our own hearts from all forms of marginalization, our wisdom and compassion will be liberated to inspire a truly transformed and awakened society. Rev. angel notes, “Love and Justice are not two. Without inner change, there can be no outer change. Without collective change, no change matters.” For more from Angel, visit her website

Photo courtesy of Christine Alicino

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Photo via Christine Alicino