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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?’”

In partnership with our friends at Spirituality & Practice, we are sharing practices to help us all “practice democracy” from the inside out. Visit Spirituality & Practice's The Practicing Democracy Project for more practices and a wide array of resources.


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Spirituality & Practice (S&P) is a multi-faith website devoted to resources for spiritual journeys. While respecting differences among traditions, S&P celebrates what they share in common.