Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 130 – Real Change Series: Joél Leon

In this conversation, Joel and Sharon discuss love as an agent of change in the world, reclaiming it from its more often romantic definitions.

For episode 130 of the Metta Hour Podcast, Sharon speaks with Joél Leon.

Joél is a performer, author, and storyteller who writes and tells stories for Black people. Born and raised in the Bronx, Joél specializes in moderating and leading conversations surrounding race, masculinity, mental health, creativity and the performing arts, with love at the center of his work and purpose. He is the author of “Book About Things I Will Tell My Daughter” and “God Wears Durags, Too”.

This is the third episode of the Real Change Podcast series. In this conversation, Joél and Sharon discuss love as an agent of change in the world, reclaiming it from its more often romantic definitions. Joél shares how he came to Buddhist teachings and how they have affected his life and art – especially now, during the Coronavirus quarantine in NYC. They discuss many of the themes in Real Change, especially the role that art plays in social change movements, and how differently that is viewed in eastern versus western cultures. The conversation closes with Joél leading a 5-minute guided meditation practice.

Proactive Love: Love as an Ability

Sharon invites us to redefine love. It isn’t something someone can give us. It’s already inside of us. Sharon and Joél ask us to start to see love as an ability, as a verb, as a skillset, and also as a responsibility if we would like to cultivate and nurture it. Love is something we can hone, like a muscle, and through that proactive process, we can learn to extend our love outwardly, no matter the scenario.

“Being able to view love as an ability allows us to stretch. You can maximize the opportunities in which love gets to exist. That ownership part of it is so important because we tend to forget we have autonomy. We have so much autonomy when it comes to talking about love, being in love, and being of service to others while in love.” – Joél L. Daniels

For an illuminating talk from Trudy Goodman on love, awareness, and cultivating inner strength, tune into Ep. 62 of the BHNN Guest Podcast
Dismantling Systems: Opportunity and Responsibility (16:15)

Sharon and Joél reflect on the suffering in the world. Joél , whose practice has become creatively dismantling systems that oppress marginalized people, shares that while there is trauma, pain, grief, loss, and suffering, there is also opportunity and responsibility. We can ask ourselves: How is patriarchy contributing to our oppression? How is misogyny contributing to our oppression? How is the way we talk about masculinity, race, and gender contributing to our oppression?

“There is an opportunity amidst the trauma and grief to show up in a way that is most aligned with where we want to go. It’s not a fixed view of that either. I can see the despair, pain, and angst, but I also know there’s something that lives outside of that that can be joyous, and I can hold space for both of those things.” – Joél L. Daniels

For more Real Change Series, tune into Ep. 129 of the Metta Hour where Sabene Selassie joins Sharon to discuss racial justice, cultural imprints, and unconscious bias.
We Are All Poems: Art and Social Change (26:08)

What is the connection between art and social change? Joél describes to Sharon how art encouraged him to be more active both in his community and in his own creative process. Through these outlets, he hopes to inspire a generation of loving free-thinkers. Joél believes that each one of us is a poem, and the less judgmental we have about how our poems manifest, the better we will all be.

“The more we just allow ourselves to be liberated and detached from the way we are ‘supposed’ to show up, the better we’ll be as a society, and I think art can be the driving force for that.” – Joél L. Daniels

Sharon Salzberg’s Real Change Series invites Sensei Joshin Byrnes to Ep. 128 of the Metta Hour to discuss cultivating resilience and joy within our activism.
Let It All Go: A Guided Meditation (53:10)

Sharon finishes by reading a passage from Joél’s book, A Book About Things I Will Tell My Daughter, before inviting Joél to close out the discussion with a short decompressing guided meditation.

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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.


Images via Joél Leon and Sharon Salzberg