In this interview Zen teacher, activist, and author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace, Rev. angel Kyodo Williams Sensei, talks with Omega about the path from inner work to social change.
Omega: You’ve said, “The heart that hurts is the very same heart that heals.” How do we build a bridge from personal to collective healing, and apply inner gentleness to systems and structures that urgently need to alter?
angel: I think it’s incumbent upon us to wave our flags about inner work during such a pressing experience of social ills and destabilization to respond—at least as best we can.
One main challenge of approaching transformation in society through inner work is that people think it means focusing on others: “If I feel this way about that person....” Then we’re up against a struggle to navigate all the people, not in our tribe or chosen collective. Our society is broken and we are challenged with a systematic structure that has kept us divided. We mistakenly think the way to get beyond it is to have compassion for other people in a sort of bland way and it’ll all get better, but that hasn’t been working.
My sense of the path from inner work to social change is for each of us to be much more intimate with our own self, and the brokenness and suffering that we ourselves experience.