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Recently Capital Hill was taken over by students from around the country who don’t want to inherit a world crippled by climate change. Change-It ’06 alumni Jackie Sargent was there and she’s sent us this dispatch from the front lines…
From Nov 2-5, nearly 6,000 students from every state in the nation attended Powershift, the largest national youth summit on global warming, which was held at the University of Maryland, College Park. Students attended workshops and panels and learned all about environmental initiatives and how to make their campus/city/state/nation a more sustainable one.
There were speakers such as Ralph Nader and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. On the last day, students went to the Capitol for a rally and more than eleven hundred students visited their local state representatives to talk about what matters most to them – the environment, social justice, and a better world for all.
Alright, that's the background. Now for my story…
I'm a student activist, and often times I feel like I'm much too active for my own good. Always running, never stopping. That was me, pre-Powershift.
While at Powershift, I saw a workshop entitled "A Tool for Sustaining Activism: The Practice of Mindfulness," with the caption beneath asking if you were "angry, tired or frustrated." Why yes, I thought, I am chronically tired and often frustrated too. I walked into the workshop hoping to become more mindful, and walked out an hour and a half later feeling exponentially more alert and aware. At the workshop, we arranged our chairs into a huge circle and simply sat in silence for five minutes. That was the first time in a long while, I realized, that I had done something like that. It was midterm season back at school and life was "busy busy busy." It didn't help that we had been cramming in speakers and events and meetings ever since we got to Powershift. These five minutes reminded me of the importance of slowing down, especially in my activist lifestyle. Sometimes I get involved in issue after issue after issue – because as soon as I realize an injustice, I can no longer ignore it and feel like I must do something about it.
I also learned that there are many things in life that can be enjoyable if you remove the end goal. In the workshop, we were each given one raisin (yes, one raisin) and told to do whatever we wanted with it for five whole minutes, but just not to eat it. So I sat there for five minutes with a raisin in my mouth feeling every wrinkle, tasting it, thinking about it, and really, well, getting to know it. In the midst of busy school life, I'm slowly becoming more aware. Now maybe I don't take five minutes to eat one raisin, but I do walk a little slower to class, and I do pay more attention to how I am feeling. I know this will help me become a better student activist and I'm feeling more at ease from it already.
So my challenge to you? Go find a raisin, sit in a quiet place, and examine this raisin. Then, I dare you to spend five whole minutes eating it. See how you enjoy the experience and become more appreciative of that raisin.