Who knew a symposium could be so intimate, deeply moving, and fun! ~ M.B.
There are moments in life that are so vivid and meaningful that we long to preserve and revisit them over and over to harvest their layered riches. Such were the hours that almost 600 of us spent at the Radical Aliveness and Belonging Symposium, held on September 27, 2019 from 1 – 4:30pm at UMass Amherst.
Intended as a series of conversations to embody and uplift connection, contemplation, and consideration of the intersections of spirituality and social change, the event created a sacred space for love and wisdom to emerge. In the course of the afternoon, all of our esteemed presenters and guests were invited to experience key elements of grateful living: surprise, opportunity, and deepened trust in life.
Little did I know that my time in UMass would be a pivot point in my life.
The afternoon featured accomplished, contemporary scholars, who are also spiritually-inspired activists and leaders, to engage the symposium theme in its many facets. Speakers joining Br. David Steindl-Rast included:
- Mirabai Bush, founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, co-developer of Search Inside Yourself at Google, and recent author of Walking Each Other Home with Ram Dass
- Lucas Johnson, Executive Director of On Being’s Civil Conversations Project and former leader of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, the world’s oldest interfaith peace organization
- Rachel Bagby, J.D. (Stanford Law School), award-winning performance artist, poetic innovator and creator of Dekaaz Facilitation™, and author of Daughterhood and Divine Daughters: Liberating the Power and Passion of Women’s Voices
- The Rev. Dr. Gregory Ellison II, Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at Emory University and founder of Fearless Dialogues, a non-profit organization that creates unique spaces for unlikely partners to have hard, heartfelt conversations on taboo subjects like racism, classism, and community violence
James Crews, mindfulness workshop and retreat leader, award-winning author of two poetry collections, The Book of What Stays and Telling My Father, and editor of Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection.
Local artist Tony Silva infused the afternoon with the aliveness of music, playing instrumental guitar before the start of the event and during intermission. Discover Tony’s soul-stirring music here.
From your vision and beautiful orchestration, to the joy of reuniting with long-time and new kindred spirits, to the inquiry that you engaged us in from the git-go, Brother David, to the honor of being a love-summoning instrument, to each penetrating, playful and insightful engagement on the stage, blessings upon blessings. I’m deeply grateful. ~ R. B.
The Radical Aliveness and Belonging Symposium was co-sponsored by A Network for Grateful Living and Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries.
We offer our deep gratitude to all those who made this event possible. We hope that the energy and inspiration of the gathering carries forward in ongoing conversation and exploration of ways we might all positively impact the world by showing up as our most awake, engaged, alive, connected selves.
I came away from the symposium so full of inspiration, hope and (yes) encouragement for the direction of our world. ~ J.C.
The symposium included a slideshow featuring inspirational quotes on spirituality and social change accompanied by stunning photography. We invite you to enjoy and share the slideshow .
The quotes in the symposium slideshow are from our Word the Day collection, which offers a daily curated quote 365 days/year. If you would like to receive an inspirational Word for the Day quote each day, a poem each month, or learn about upcoming events and featured content every couple of weeks, please subscribe here.
Lastly, please share any reflections from the event below. We look forward to continuing the conversation.
Please log in or Create a Profile to post a comment.
Yes. “We belong together!” I belong to Life. You belong to Life. We BELONG to LIFE.
At the start of the symposium, the first thing that came to me was the “chicken and the egg” question. I was wondering what comes first – participating in a movement for social change and justice or deepening into Love, Life, God. My answer was that each can be a catalyst for the other.
I thought of “angry” activists (counting my younger self among them) and contrasted with the folks on the stage. (Also the sharing about the decision in the 60s to lovingly “hold a mirror” was profound to me).
For me the Belonging Br. David spoke of is the key. It is a beautiful cycle. As I deepen my faith – remind myself and practice feeling MY belonging to Life, I extend it to others. And/or as I practice extending Belonging, through kindness and hospitality to another, I come to recognize my Belonging-to them and to Life. The more I practice, the more “active” I become. The more active I become the more willing I am to practice with people radically “different” than I. This is where the work of the presenters encourages and inspires me. Helping me be mindful and creative and free (belong to Life and mySelf) and giving me opportunities to interact with (belong to) “an other”.
The symposium was a much welcomed opportunity to hear Br David and see him “live”!! It gave me knowledge and a feeling of belonging but also called me to more consistent, persistent action.
I was so grateful to attend.
I am so grateful for the invitation to share about it.
That sounds wonderful 🙂 Yes! The belonging to Life and mySelf. I like that very much. Thank you for sharing.
Having been away from the site for so long I was revisiting some of my thoughts and this one stood out yet again:
Thomas Keating said, “Nobody thinks of you anymore. You’re forgotten, unwanted, unconsulted. Defeats, failures, humiliations, rejections, all of these things are treasures, planned by God with great love as stepping stones in the process of transformation, to deepen our surrender.”
I do enjoy seeing recognized people making a positive difference in our world but I also wonder sometimes that I rarely hear about where real change occurs. I have the privilege of working with people for whom the reality Thomas speaks of is vivid, tangible for those sensitive enough to the movements of the Spirit. They remind me daily of where the real activism is taking place, within each one of us. We are seeds, localized pockets of consciousness, the eternal fruit of which does not come into season until we return to the “Eternal Honeycomb” and that consciousness explodes out into the Ocean of Being to be born forth in a plethora new forms and movements.
There is so much we don’t know. Our ignorance is so vast that most situations and conditions (if not all) that seem to be wrong, detrimental, catastrophic even, on the surface of our current everyday consciousness, at the deeper levels are necessary parts of a much, much larger whole.
I didn’t attend this event though I wonder if anyone who did might comment on how that aspect of our activism was expressed? Sometimes I wonder about those unknown Buddhist monks living in the middle of jungles on the hidden front lines of change… I certainly know those I work with are and most will never even notice them in this life. They give me enormous hope for my own often felt impotence in regards to issues we really have very little understanding of.