When people ask us what Off the Mat, Into the World actually is, a fairly common reply is “a conversation”. The Line ofEnquiry each month recognises that fact and invites you to consider a bigger questions that we might address as a community.  Please consider introducing a topic that you would like to explore by sending a question and a few thoughts to kick things off to We’ll be in touch chat it over and let you know which month your thoughts might appear.

Cate Peters

Is ‘Activist’ a term we should apply to ourselves?

This question has been bandied around since the early days of Off the Mat in Australia. There is a lot of negative reaction to the word even within our community but first let me share Joanna Macy ‘s definition from her brilliant book, Active Hope :

“What is the opposite of an activist?  Is it someone who is passive? If so, it seems strange that the term activist should be reserved for just a few of us rather than being an identity we all take pride in or aspire to.  The practice of Active Hope involves being an activist for what we hope in this world .  We’re using the term activist here to mean anyone who is active for a purpose bigger than personal gain.“

Whilst I feel Joanna has nailed what we would all LIKE the term to mean I’m not sure she has exactly put her finger on why transitioning to this term here in this country and in our community hasn’t happened.  

The very word activism implies to a lot of us hard work and push push push. People have said is sounds aggressive, and suggests fighting against something and that we should perhaps be asking as yogis how we ‘pull’ rather than ‘push.’  Of course it is just a word and much like any inkblot, cup of tea leaves or piece of history, we are all entitled to project our own meaning onto it. 

Thanks to Sarah Ball for bringing my attention to this on topic statement from Byron Katie:

“I’ve heard people say that they cling to their painful thoughts because they’re afraid that without them they wouldn’t be activists for peace. “If I felt completely peaceful,” they say, “why would I bother taking action at all?” My answer is “Because that’s what love does.” To think that we need sadness or outrage to motivate us to do what’s right is insane. As if the clearer and happier you get, the less kind you become. As if someone finds freedom, she just sits around all day with drool running down her chin. My experience is the opposite.  Love is action.  It’s clear, it’s kind, it’s effortless, and it’s irresistible.“ 

How do you personally feel about the word ‘activist’ and do you feel other words might express the concept of bring about positive change more succinctly?  What about ‘activator’?… 

Head to ( ) to join this conversation and let’s see if we can take it somewhere help each other think alittle more clearly.