For episode 128 of the Metta Hour Podcast, Sharon speaks with Sensei Joshin Byrnes for the Real Change Series.
Sensei Joshin Byrnes is a Zen priest, teacher, activist, and the founder of the Bread Loaf Mountain Zen Community in Vermont. Joshin maintains a core practice of bearing witness to homelessness by offering street retreats in cities around the country and has spent much of his career working for social change nonprofits in the areas of AIDS and HIV prevention, child welfare, and community-based philanthropy.
This is the first episode of the Real Change Podcast series. In this conversation, Joshin and Sharon discuss some of the themes from her new book, Real Change, exploring the ways that meditation practice can inform social action. They discuss working with anger, pathological altruism, finding long term resilience and joy in activism, and working to find balance. To close the conversation, Joshin leads a ten-minute meditation practice on equanimity.
The Winding Path Inward
Joshin shares his journey of integrating contemplative practice into daily life and the work that he does in the world serving others. He speaks about how finding Buddhism allowed him to overcome the burnout and initial challenges that came with his service work.
Transforming Anger Into Action (14:55)
How can we convert emotions like fear, anger, and helplessness into positive change in the world? Joshin offers a look from his own life at how contemplative practice has changed his relationship with anger, fear, and social justice.
“As an activist, I think you are right that there is anger in activism. Last year I got arrested protesting the caging of children at the US border – which is really an outrage, right?
I have been angry about that situation and the direction that the country is going. But, it feels different to me now than it did in the ’80s and ’90s. I am not sure if I knew then how to honor that anger – to see down more deeply into it, to reveal a set of deeper values. To even realize for me what I cherish most.
Realizing what it is that this anger is telling me about my values. About what I feel like I want to stand for in my life and this particular world we live in.” – Joshin Byrnes
Explore the ways that our inner work is intertwined with the service and social action we put into the world on the Awakened Heart Blog: Ram Dass on the Need for Inner Social Action
Seeing Through the Frenzy of Doing Good (26:45)
Sharon and Joshin speak about making sure that our activism and service are coming from the right place and that we do our work from a place of compassion.
“Violence in activism is a real hindrance to watch out for, where all you are doing is reinforcing a violent system. There is another aspect of activism, which is really being medicine to the system. Can we position ourselves that way? Where we are a kind of antidote?” – Joshin Byrnes
Honoring Where We Are (46:05)
Joshin closes the podcast with a ten minute guided meditation aimed at bringing equanimity and clarity to our service and activism.