Politics in challenging times: Zen meditation and compassionate action

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PUTNEY — Zen meditation and compassionate action At Putney Moves, 133 Main St., is an exploration of how to embrace a "politics of compassion" at a time of great pain and suffering.

Participants will begin at the individual level investigating the politics in their hearts and minds. Through the practice of Zen meditation, examine the perplexing question of "who are we?" and how our "sense of self" is related to political beliefs and attitudes.

Participants will then move from our particular place in the world from a "systems perspective" to the larger political realm and how we fit into it.

The series seeks to help build people's meditation practice while helping them find a way to engage in the world with love and kindness.

The series will be led by Tom Redden, PhD, a Professor of History and Politics at Southern Vermont College, in Bennington.

Redden is also an ordained Zen Buddhist priest in the Zen Peacemaker Order and has maintained a 39-year daily meditation practice.

The classes will combine talks on meditation and politics as well as periods of sitting meditation. Beginning meditators are especially welcome. We will meet four Tuesdays in May and June.

Transforming Anger/Anxiety into Compassionate Engagement, Session I on May 23: Developing Mindfulness. This meeting will focus on learning about Zen meditation practice, how to "sit" (meditate) and apply a moment-to-moment "mindfulness" practice to daily activities.

Participants will analyze the Buddhist view of "sense of self" and show how an understanding of "self" can help with anxieties and stress in our lives.

Session II, Clinging to Opinions, on June 6: Participants will continue with a further focus on zazen (sitting meditation) and introduce walking meditation, a more active form of meditation.

Participants will discuss the role that opinions/concepts/ideas/judging play in our lives often leading to great suffering for ourselves and others.

Session III, A Buddhist Politics, on June 13: Redden will introduce what he calls, "a Buddhist politics," that seeks to move beyond the traditional conservative/liberal paradigms that dominate political discourse today.

By applying the Buddhist principle of "alleviating suffering" to political decisions, participants may discover how they might develop a political vision that speaks directly to the reality of people's lives.

Session IV, A Bodhisattva Army, on June 20: The final meeting will attempt to tie individual lives and spiritual practices together with political/social engagement, whether we are activists or not.

Participants will explore "the path of the Bodhisattva," the archetypal figure of compassion in Buddhism who "hears the cries of the world" and commits herself to a life of service to help heal the world.

Free, by donation, and open to the public. All sessions will be held from 7:15 to 9 p.m.

For more information, call 802-387-0633.

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