Jeff talks about integral activism with Justin Miles, founder of the Miles Center for Integral Living in Baltimore. Justin is a former member of the Black Panther party, Buddhist meditation teacher, and therapist. Jeff also looks at the role of cynicism in our political discourse, and takes a couple questions from listeners.
“If we somehow can turn our attention towards our internal worlds, then we’ll find the strength to stand up in the face of injustice, and stand up in the face of the injustices that we commit against ourselves.”Justin Miles
After the last week’s podcast about the protests in Baltimore, Corey deVos, editor of Integral Life, put us in touch with a friend who lives there. “He’s an integral practitioner, a former member of the Black Panther party, a Buddhist meditation teacher and a therapist. Do you want to talk to him?” Um … yes!
It seems like the people making most of the noise—the protesters and the pundits—are the either/or voices, trying to blame or exonerate. So Jeff was excited to talk to someone with an integral perspective on the African American experience at a time when the conversation is so ripe.
Justin Miles shared a piece on Facebook that he called “Meditation for Militants” which stands out as an integral voice, calling not only for a look at the economic, political and social systems (the exteriors) but equally important, self-reflection among a community that feels so much anger that it can turn on itself.
While some voices insist they should use that rage and bring down the system, others assert that “violence is not the answer.”
As John Paul Brammer wrote this week in Blue Nation Review, the protests in Baltimore are “not a random, unprovoked outburst by a group of opportunists. This is how the unheard speak when words prove to be useless.”
Indeed, anger has a lot of energy in it. That is why, from a tantric perspective, it can be useful—but only if you have the anger, and the anger doesn’t have you. Justin tells Jeff:
The other side of that, I think, the part that maybe we’re not seeing, is the aspect of needing the anger in order to go beyond the anger. We don’t need to see anger as something that’s not useful or something that somehow we feel bad about. I say…let’s go with it. Let’s use that as our fuel.”
To be effective, an activist needs to know his own mind and heart. Otherwise he will not be able to tell the difference between his own demons and the injustices inflicted upon him by a system that is uncaring, and he will burn everything indiscriminately. This is where contemplative practice comes in. When you take a step back and look within, says Justin, “what is discovered is clarity, strength and mental stability, qualities that all revolutions are based on at their core. The ideas of social movements arise out of deep concern and connection with our heartmind.”
Justin’s big heart really comes through in this conversation, and we hope to have him back on the show.
Also in the podcast, Jeff looks at cynicism, and the role it plays in our political discourse. The integral perspective provides some relief from this tiresome outlook. Being aware of the fourth dimension (time) and taking multiple perspectives, “we become essentially post ideological. We become friends with life as it is, the world as it is, and we’re no longer comparing the world as it is unfavorably to some ideal…”
And lastly, questions from listeners: Mark in Tennessee is wondering about the ontological reality of visions, and Suzanne from North Carolina is questioning the legitimacy of astrology in light of her integral awakening.
Written by Brett Walker
Meditation For Militants
by Justin Miles
Everyone has ideas, as if ideas are the basis of or the solution for the issues in our communities. A deeply habituated and conditioned lack of care and concern for ourselves and by the American system is the underlying cause of our struggles.
If the central organizing principle of a movement isn’t based on inherent wisdom, the natural intelligence of the heart and mind, nothing will change. Resistance isn’t a blind response to our anger but using our anger in a manner that displays that we understand the root cause of our issues; a lack of trust in our basic human dignity. When we by any means necessary experience and affirm that, we will not only know what to do but will do it without fear of what happens to us.
If we decide to just talk about what’s happening in our city without going beyond hope, fear, doubt and anger this will just be another punctuation mark in this chapter of our evolution.
Militancy and meditation are two words that are rarely seen together but there is a genuine connection between them. Militancy means to resist in an unwavering manner. Meditation means to pay attention while resisting the urge to believe that the conceptual mind is the sole author and totality of our experience.
In meditation what is experienced is not just a soft, mushy, sucka like peace where one is numb. It’s actually quite the opposite. What is discovered is clarity, strength and mental stability, qualities that all revolutions are based on at their core; the ideas of social movements arise out of deep concern and connection with our heartmind. When we act out of a confused mind it’s easier to be destroyed, co-opted, controlled and separated from the inside and outside. When we see the mind as a tool of liberation that has no beginning or end it is unbreakable. That is the mind of Marcus, Martin, Malcolm and Huey. With that mind we are focused on what is necessary even if it is uncomfortable, scary or different.
With that mind we will use this as an opportunity to wage a protracted resistance to poverty, poor education, unemployment, under development, broken families, substance abuse, police brutality, declining mental health and violence against ourselves and others. We will both shut down this city until it responds to our demands and we will spend time building our societies in the way that we think it needs to improve.
Discover this mind with me, not as a means to stop the anger but to genuinely experience and express our anger in a way that is useful. At the heart of our anger is wisdom. We must feel angry to get there. Once we expose the wisdom then the question is what are the best means for us to get our needs met. That is the essence of the Black Panther Party, the UNIA, the Civil Rights Movement and all other movements combined. What happened in all those movements is a realization of our inherent wisdom and capacity to deal with our own problems when we trusted in our own inherent goodness. What tore those movements apart was moving away from our own inherent goodness, wisdom and strength through being convinced by outside forces to do so and by slowly decreasing our connection with the enlightened qualities of our minds on our own.
That which delights in temporary experiences of pleasure and aggression is called ego. Ego destroyed our movements and ego will destroy this one if we let it. If we only go as far as the dualistic mind of ego (the protesters are right/the protesters are wrong/the police are right/the police are wrong), if we think the solutions are based on more thoughts that inevitably stem from the egos tendency to embrace either pleasure, pain or indifference, the ability for this to turn into a genuine movement will fizzle out quickly.
In between the painful moments we have to practice returning over and over and over to the source of our liberation and our suffering, our minds, to make sure that we understand the difference. Then we can’t be fooled by ourselves or others. Then the city will know that it’s fucking with serious people who can’t be bought, placated or abused into silence. Then the city will know that there is a threat greater than violence; an unwavering, organized, educated and mobilized citizenry whose minds and bodies are in sync. Nothing can destroy that.
So please be angry but don’t act as if the only responses to anger are to protest or to be violent. That just displays that we have feelings. Neither one of those behaviors indicates that we know what to do with our feelings besides ask someone else to do something with them. Let us not reduce our anger. Let’s genuinely feel angry. Dive in. Look around. What’s it made of? Let’s know it intimately and not forget it.
Let’s act militantly in an unwavering stance against wildness as if that fixes anything. Let’s act militantly against being pulled into battles of the ego. Let us act militantly against the fear of resistance against the issues in Baltimore City, whether that means shutting the city down regardless of how long it takes, or getting arrested, or missing work or getting hurt. Let us act militantly in our own communities to explore and serve the needs of others. Let us act militantly and maintain warmheartedness, not descending into the mind of non feeling and coldness. Let us militantly be fearless by feeling fear and moving forward into resistance even if it means feeling afraid. Especially if it means feeling afraid.
Let the source of our struggle be that which has no origin, that which is not given not taken away, that which has no fixed position, that which has never known defeat; our minds. Realizing this as fact we are already victorious.
About Justin Miles
Justin F. Miles is the CEO of the Miles Institute of Integral Living LLC and provides mental health treatment to men and women in Baltimore City. Justin is a practicing Vajrayana Buddhist in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and teaches courses on Buddhism and meditation to individuals and groups. Additionally, Justin is a DJ, Beatboxer, Producer and Emcee and develops theories and practices to utilize the four elements of Hiphop as tools for increasing self, other and global awareness.
About Jeff Salzman
Jeff Salzman worked with Ken Wilber for several years in building the Integral Institute. He is a co-founder of Boulder Integral, the first bricks-and-mortar venue dedicated to the development of integral consciousness. These days Jeff provides integrally-inspired commentary on politics and culture on Integral Life and The Daily Evolver.