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Leading by Example

Life is not always fair. We are constantly barraged by news of war, terror, poverty, inequality – internal and worldwide – and all the fear and anxiety that these issues cause us. Reverend angel Kyodo williams, a guest presenter in Mindful at Work, explores how we can transform our reactions.

Every individual reacts to issues – situational or emotional. And our instinctive coping mechanism can often be the well-known “fight or flight” response. Some of us may choose to walk away, a self-preserving choice that brings guilt along for the ride. Others may want to help to repair the damage in some way. But where and how do we begin with such an overwhelming and seemingly impossible task to change the world?

As a social visionary and founder of the Center for Transformative Change, Reverend angel Kyodo williams firmly believes that “without inner change there can be no outer change. Without collective change, no change matters”. angel invests her time and energy putting into practice her unwavering belief that the key to transforming society is through the transformation of our inner lives. She encourages us to go beyond our self-preserving, deep-rooted fears and anxieties and embrace changes within ourselves in order to bring about effective transformation in society.

Typically, when we come across stressful situations that we have no control over, our healthy instinct is to internalize and become contemplative. We seek practices that will help our minds and bodies cope with the turmoil by focusing more on ourselves. We learn reflective practices such as meditation and yoga to guide us to attain inner peace.


However, as helpful as meditation and yoga can be, when we are actually experiencing pressure in a specific situation, every single one of us is going to have a familiar and repetitive reaction. We’re going to feel off-balance, out of control, anxious, angry. These reactions are not our fault because the reality is that every individual experiences some kind of reaction. However, Reverend angel encourages us to recognize that learning how to deal with these reactions without creating more conflict is our great responsibility.

Reverend angel points out that when most of us are under pressure, we react by becoming absorbed in the feelings that we are having. We internalize about how we feel about the situation, not about how it is affecting others who are also experiencing it. By concentrating only on ourselves and our feelings, we become more self-centered and helpless because we have no sense of control over the situation.

angel’s unique and thought-provoking approach to coping with these stressful situations is paradoxical. Instead of instinctively focusing only on ourselves, angel encourages us to expand our mind space, center ourselves and become totally present to the experiences we are having. By transforming how we perceive ourselves, we can begin to apply these principles toward our relationships with others within the framework of our society.

Only when we, as individuals and a society, have fully embraced the paradigm shift that “changes the way change is done,” can we begin to build a social justice movement that is the foundation for a just society.

Reverend angel Kyodo williams is an African-American Buddhist, activist, author, and founder of the Center for Transformative Change. As a fearless and passionate social visionary, angel is an early shaper and leading voice in transformative social change.

Ordained as a Zen priest, she is a Sensei, only the second black woman recognized as a teacher in her lineage. For over 15 years, she has deeply invested her time and energy to putting into practice her unwavering belief that the key to transforming society is transforming our inner lives. She has developed comprehensive systems for illuminating both practical personal change and the profoundly liberating potential of mindfulness, yoga, and somatic practices coupled with wisdom teachings.

angel’s critically acclaimed book, “Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace” was hailed as “an act of love” by Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker, and “a classic” by Buddhist pioneer Jack Kornfield. Her new book Radical Dharma explores the intersection of personal practice and societal impact.

In recognition of her work, Angel received the first Creating Enlightened Society Award from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

Reverend angel Kyodo williams

Founder, Center for Transformative Change

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