A highlight of a recent teaching trip Trudy and I took to France and England was working with members of the British Parliament. After observing working sessions in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, Trudy and I met with a number of members of the 85-strong Parliament Mindfulness Group.
Seated in a circle in an ancient wood-paneled room, hung with portraits of leaders of Parliament history, the legislators and members of the Oxford University Mindfulness Group that have supported them sat together in meditation and in honest conversation. This is a weekly group, whose members say that coming together to steady their hearts with mindfulness and compassion practice is one of the most helpful things that happen all week.
In our meditations and dharma conversations, we practiced envisioning great spiritual leaders of the past who joined wisdom and leadership, compassion and courage. Amidst the current political upheaval of the Brexit process, after first quieting their minds, these politicians from both sides of the aisle discussed how wisdom might guide them. Their openness with one another was surprising and moving. Apparently this is one of the most convivial and connected group meetings in their week, and they voiced how helpful and important was the inspiration of our practice together.
All this has grown from some years of brilliant work and partnership with Chris Cullen and others from the Oxford University Mindfulness Center. In Parliament, Chris Ruane, a warm-hearted and visionary longstanding MP from Wales has been the champion. Chris is deeply respected on all sides and has not only stewarded the Mindful UK movement, but has introduced it to politicians in 20 other parliaments around the world!
We were treated to a wide-ranging presentation of how members of Parliament, together with their Oxford Partners, have begun to incorporate mindfulness training into national healthcare, education, criminal justice, and other key areas of society.
Amidst the current divisiveness and fear being spread in politics across the world, and amidst the injustice, economic disparity and climate change problems, this meeting was a heartening model.
As the Buddha counseled, when humans come together and listen to one another with respect it brings benefit to the whole society.
In every part of our lives we have the opportunity to listen to one another respectfully. Even when others in our society are not yet doing so, we can model wisdom and compassion, and plant seeds of goodness trusting that good seeds are never lost…..in time they will inevitably bear fruit.
We can be the world we want to see.