How do you put compassion into action?

Punk rock. Divorce. Buddhism. Heidiminx explains how she developed her DIY approach to fixing the world.

7 July 2009

Punk rock. Divorce. Buddhism. Heidiminx explains how she developed her DIY approach to fixing the world.

Punk rock. Divorce. Buddhism.

Not three words that usually go together, granted, but for me, they were, together, the catalyst for something amazing, that I love: Built on Respect, the non-profit I founded that allows me (and you!) to help make sure that the people behind various other youth-run non-profits can keep on making a difference in their communities. It’s my DIY (Do It Yourself) approach to helping the world.

Built on Respect has always been a part of my life, but it has also changed my life. I guess I should explain:

I grew up within the punk rock scene, and no matter where I traveled in the world, I saw that punk’s underlying theme — respect towards each other, and questioning EVERYTHING.

10 years ago, I began studying dharma — which shares that underlying theme — and ‘question everything’ continued to ring in my mind. About two years ago, I got divorced, and yup — you guessed it, I began to question everything in an even more personal way.

So, I did what I do when I need to think: travel. I went to India to volunteer. I specifically chose Dharamsala because I wanted to be closer to the roots of my spirituality. After returning to the States — yeah, you guessed it — I was still questioning everything. What could I do? Why was I meeting people who had had to escape the situation in Tibet? Why had I not heard more about their stories in my dharma quest? Why, in the year 2009, 50 years after the occupation, was this not getting more attention? Why are Tibetans going missing? Why is it illegal to fly the Tibetan flag in Tibet? Why is every phone call monitored by the Chinese government? Why had my new friends been put in jail and tortured for sending an email? And most importantly, why hadn’t I been doing anything about it?

That one I could answer.

If I don’t like something, I don’t complain; I work hard to change it. So, Built on Respect became my answer.

With the support of the SOLO Foundation, I was able to turn Built on Respect into a non-profit, and now I currently live between New York and Dharamsala, raising awareness and teaching. In Dharamsala, I volunteer with several non-profits:

The Tibet Hope Center, working with board members on marketing and sustainability; Jamtse in Action, a fledgling group that supports the elders at the Jampaling elders home, and The Institute for Tibetan Thangka Art, a free school that keeps traditional Tibetan art alive.

In addition, I worked with two local artists to help develop their non-profits, met frequently with NGOs to discuss marketing and development, and also sponsored English classes for the monks of Ganden Monastery, all while teaching English and participating in conversation classes.

In the States, I devote a lot of energy working with influential bands and musicians — they provide invaluable support to gain awareness amongst youth worldwide.

I blog continuously while I am there; I’ve had the good fortune to interview HH the 17th Karmapa, the head of Students for A Free Tibet, the president of the Tibetan National Women’s Association, and the director of the Federation for a Democratic China. (Click here to view some of these videos.)

All of this, thanks to punk rock, divorce, and Buddhism. You see, I learned first-hand that if we take what we learn from take our suffering — and its antidote — we can really make a difference.

For me, I was never good “on the mat.” Sitting still, in any way, just is not in my nature. I used to beat myself up over this, until I really questioned everything, and realized I am most relaxed and happy when I am working — and not just working, but working toward something. I realized that I was practicing transforming by finding creative answers to fighting injustices. I despise cultural genocide from the core of my being, but I wasn’t helpless. When I was able to help sponsor an art school that teaches traditional Tibetan art, I knew that it was helping, in baby steps, to recreate the art that was destroyed in Mao’s absurd “cultural revolution.” So, I took the theory of putting compassion into action, and took it further. Volunteering, teaching, putting compassion into action – this is my meditation, my Tonglen, and my Lojong.

I’ll be heading back to India soon, and plan to share with Lion’s Roar readers some of what happens. In the meantime, I’d be interested to know: how are you putting your compassion into action?




Heidi Minx is the founder of Built on Respect, a non profit dedicated to raising human rights awareness through journalism and hands on action. She also works in the Tibetan community of Dharamsala to lend development support to local non-profits.