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A Collective Pause: Contemplative Community Development

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In the world of International Community Development, so much good work is being done. So many lives are being positively impacted. And so many of us are losing ourselves in the process. World Pulse published, in my opinion, the most important article for our field in 2010. Jane Barry and Jelena Dordevic’s, “What’s the Point of the Revolution if We Can’t Dance”, highlights the often unsustainable approach that we as activists and advocates take in order to make the world a better place.

Barry and Dordevic write, “…we are looking for more time. We are constantly trying to balance too much work with too few resources and never enough rest. We’re making choices every day about well-being—our own and everyone else’s. With so much to be done, and so many wrongs in the world to right, we almost always choose to serve others first. We don’t feel we have a right to rest.”

In response to this epidemic, I’d like to dedicate my blog posts this year to offering “A Collective Pause,” a chance for us to honor the notion that paying attention to ourselves is the first step in serving others. In each post, my intention will be to highlight a contemplative theme, to explore how the theme relates to the field of International Community Development, and to offer an action that will help to put the theme into practice.

I chose the title of my blog – “A Collective Pause” – intentionally: my hope is that these explorations and practices can be done in community, so that you can share your experience with others. In order to truly transform the pace of our field, we will need to be courageous and do so together. As well, reading my blog will not be enough, the hope is that you will find time to take a break afterwards- if only for a moment. I will offer guided practices that are able to be done anywhere, whether you work in a high-rise office building in Denver, an isolated palapa in Laguna San Ignacio, or a hectic community center in Mumbai.

This month, I’d like to look at the theme of “Contemplative Community Development.” In our work, we are inspired to empower individuals and groups by providing support and capacity building so they can create change in their own communities. Doing this contemplatively means inviting mindfulness awareness practices into our work so that we are able to deepen our understanding of both our own judgments and barriers, as well as to become more open to the priorities of the people we are serving. Often, when our minds are spinning with budgets, reports, email inboxes, and evaluations, we overlook an essential component to our work: our own intentions and the priorities of the people who we are serving. Slowing down, providing just a few pauses in the day, can often provide us with the space needed to see clearly and to act compassionately.

With that said, the practice for this month is simple, comes from “What’s the Point…” and speaks to the beginning phase of making a shift in the way you – and your organization – approach sustainability in International Community Development.

January’s Contemplative International Community Development Practice:
Take 5 minutes every hour to stop, drink a glass of water, meditate,
stretch, or do whatever is relaxing to you.

Katie Doyle Myers is Philanthropiece’s Director of Programs. She has an MA in Contemplative Education from Naropa University, and served as an Adjunct Faculty member in the program from 2004-2006. Her favorite mindfulness-awareness practices include vipassana meditation, contemplative observation, yoga, and spacing out.

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