There were two inspirations to create this event:
- A year after advocating for animals, I decided to devote my life to this cause. I sensed that it would take a lifetime to make significant changes in the lives of animals. At the same time, I was seeing many advocates come and go, and I realized it could help to provide resources so that advocates could continue to advocate for a long time.
- I attended a meditation session at the Animal Rights conference the previous summer. I appreciated connecting with a community of activists who wanted to deepen their compassion for themselves and others as they did their advocacy work. I thought of bringing a similar event to Minneapolis.
Overview of the Day
We incorporated the following activities:
- discussion about sustainable activism
- gratitude board
- qi gong
We began and ended the day with meditation, led by Gabe Keller-Flores of the Common Ground Meditation Center. At the beginning of the day, the meditation was focused on awareness and understanding what comes up and how to respond. At the end of the day, the meditation was focused on kindness and helping people leave with a sense of gentleness.
Next, I led the discussion about sustainable activism. We broke into small groups to discuss what challenges we face as activists and how to deal with them effectively. Then, we convened as a group and discussed the topic. Some of the key takeaways that came up were:
- We can’t determine whether someone will understand us, but we can always plant seeds that may germinate later.
- Humans are animals too; we need to have compassion for them and for ourselves.
- Anger is natural and can fuel us, but we need to find the compassion underneath it to engage productively. Soothe and care for yourself first, then re-engage.
We had 20 minute massages for attendees by professional massage therapists, Ashley Riddle and Natalie Brown. These massages were in a separate room to provide a peaceful environment. We had a gratitude board where we wrote up what we were grateful for, to help us focus attention on the positive aspects of advocating for animals. We had delicious and nutritious lunch catered by a vegan catering company, Root to Rise.
After lunch, we had a session of qi gong, led by Gabe Keller-Flores. This gave us an opportunity to move and loosen our bodies. Following this, we had a journaling session led by AmyLeo Barankovich, Director of Humane Education at SoulSpace Sanctuary. During the journaling session, we were given prompts: how we first connected with compassion that inspired us to be involved in animal advocacy, what obstacles we faced, and what we might do to re-engage with our compassion. We distributed a flyer of take home resources and attendees filled out an evaluation.
We had about 30 attendees. They were affiliated with farm animal sanctuaries, a vegan boutique, a vegan business, a dog rescue, a student organization, a group that focuses on dietary change, and several more who were not directly affiliated with any organization but volunteer for animal protection causes.
Many of the attendees knew some other attendees, and this event helped deepen the community. Attendees often expressed being overworked and frustrated in engaging with the public.
I decided not to share any photos publicly. I did not want to give attendees the sense that what they were experiencing would be on display, and they could authentically participate and be vulnerable.
Thoughts on the event.
Some things attendees said they wished had been different about the event:
- There weren’t enough visual materials
- The journaling exercise was rushed
- The building temperature was too warm
Several people had mentioned that it was too warm. I recognize that to improve the event, I could ask people for feedback as the day unfolds.
Here are some of the things that attendees said they appreciated about attending the event:
- “Being with like-minded people.”Wellness Day for Animal Advocates Take Home Resources
- A chance to “stop, slow down, and take a minute to be reflective/mindful”
- “I feel today was a ‘reset’ on my animal activism. An opportunity to let go of past resentments, and to proceed with care and intention towards the movement and myself.”
- “Spending a day away from my cell phone”
- “I’m very satisfied and happy I came. It was a very worthwhile use of my time.”
- “I appreciated the chill timeline; nothing was rushed and even with the schedule it was relaxing”
- “Food was awesome”
Some things that I learned about the event:
- I put little effort into promoting the event widely, and it filled up. However, we had many cancellations and no-shows. In the future, I would do more promotions to build a bigger waiting list, and there would be fewer open spots.
- If I were to do such an event in the future, I would want to promote it more widely to get people who are advocating for different kinds of animals including more companion animal advocates, wildlife advocates, and more. I would also like to offer the event to communities of color, glbt animal advocates, and other marginalized communities
- The event was very fulfilling for me to plan. I was able to learn new things and feel like I was advocating from a creative space. This was the first significant leadership role I have taken since 2016, and I am grateful to provide something meaningful to the movement.
- Amazingly, I felt relaxed during the entire event. I hadn’t made a conscious decision to approach the event with a calm attitude, but perhaps subconsciously I understood that I would be best as a host if I was relaxed. I have planned and executed many events in the past, and it is very rare for me to have felt this way.
I am grateful for the volunteers, donors, and practitioners who contributed to this event, along with the people who gave input on how to run the event.