December Practice: Defining and Defending

Man sitting on rock formation

Photo: Evan Kirby via Unsplash

We believe that democracy as a way of life can be strengthened and deepened through spiritual practices—both those traditionally considered to be "inner work" and those that require active engagement with our neighbors and communities. In partnership with our friends at Spirituality & Practice, we are sharing monthly practices to help us all “practice democracy” from the inside out.

Self-observation and conscious awareness are classic spiritual practices that are very helpful for those who want to “practice democracy.” You need to be aware of where you are coming from in order to determine where you might be more open and where you need to stand your ground.

This practice is from Zen teacher Jan Chozen Bays in How to Train a Wild Elephant and Other Adventures:

“Become aware of how you define yourself and defend yourself and your personal territory. For example, do you see yourself as a Liberal or a Conservative? An East Coast person or West Coast person? How do you defend that position? Notice how quickly a mug, parking place, or seat on the subway becomes ‘mine,’ and how you react when someone else takes it."

“Check in on this process several times a day. In particular when you get irritated or upset, ask, ‘How am I defining myself or my personal territory at this moment?’”

Visit Spirituality & Practice's PracticingDemocracy.net for more resources.PracticingDemocracy.netPracticingDemocracy.net