Simone Campbell —
How to Be Spiritually Bold

She became a national figure as the face of the "Nuns on the Bus." Sr. Simone Campbell is a lawyer, lobbyist, poet, and Zen contemplative working on issues such as “mending the wealth gap,” “enacting a living wage,” and “crafting a faithful budget that benefits the 100%.” She is a helpful voice for longings so many of us share, across differences, about how to engage with the well-being of our neighbors in this complicated age.

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is the executive director of NETWORK. She is the author of A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community.

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Is our so-called polarization a crafted perception? A truth-telling commentary on the problem with polls, the need for curiosity in public life, and a call for a new kind of conversation on what we believe — beyond either/or.

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Sr. Simone Campbell and Sr. Diane Donoghue lead the way as the the "Nuns on the Bus" arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

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June 12, 2015

I write having just finished listening to the latest episode of On Being with Krista Tippet. I have been a consummate listener for the last year and have drawn many inspirations and teachings from the show. It is a treasure in these times where the spirit is so quickly shoved aside in favor of surface ideals. I find myself running back to the show and its blog over and over for comfort and calm when I need a moment to myself.

I write because it has long been my goal to do so, and as I continued listening to Sr. Simone Campbell speak more and more ideas she was speaking of echoed through me as though she was on a lectern with a microphone inside my chest, blasting away these ideas that I already was aware of and fully believed. It was affirming to say the least. The episode closed with Sister Campbell reading a poem she had written, and as she began I couldn’t help but think of a poem I had drawn a month or so ago.

I write now as a response to several “nudges” I got while listening to the episode, and couldn’t be happier to follow them.

This poem has no title, simply the date on which it was composed:

May 6, 2015.

Today, I feel my life changing
I feel a burning in my chest.
What is that flame desires
I know my whole-heart holds.

Wind around me tells small tales
of unrest, my heart-body
hears love, laughter, life of many colors
while I sit and listen to the rain.

He feeds my third eye with ripe
fruits of labor and passion,
lays my path and holds me close
while I patiently align myself with I.

One clear day revealed the pristine
beauty of life outside me,
and my only words became
I am enough.

Josh Draves-Kellerman

Josh,wow, I couldn't have said it better! Your response to your own "nudges" reaffirmed "my nudges". And your poem is spot on. I especially like the title...It is my birthday!

Hello Josh, I too am fed, inspired and guided from my listening to On Being. Your poem touched me and gave me guidance to work on feeling that I am enough.

Thank you Josh for sharing that beautiful part of yourself. It spoke to me and Im sure everyone who reads this will find a part or the whole speaks to them as well. Keep writing please. You are more than enough, you have a special gift.

Just about a year ago I attended my first General Assembly (GA) of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA) in Providence, RI. Sister Simone Campbell delivered the Ware Lecture - a highlight of GA. I sat in a large auditorium among thousands of UU's (& others), totally captivated & inspired by her courage & refusal to accept the status quo. What a joy to once again be able to listen to her voice, her wisdom & her wonderful sense of humor. Thank you, Krista, for bringing this special program to your listeners. Many blessings!

Dear Krista and the Team at On Being,

I am a young nun at Blue Cliff Monastery in New York State, in the tradition of Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh. I started listening to On Being thanks to the piece you've aired about my teacher. Thank you. I've quickly been drawn into all of the episodes that refresh, engage and inspire me. Thank you. As a nun and a formerly active activist who now focuses on the inner revolution - this latest episode has brought me to tears of joy. These Sisters speak of the same heart that I seek to awaken everyday. I am so grateful for this episode and so many others - with Imani Perry, Mary Oliver, John Lewis and especially Father Greg Boyle - that reunite the inner life and the life in the world. I didn't even know that there were Sisters like these. My imagination has been stretched wider. This is such a gift.

"Making peace with insecurity." Yes! She is so clearly a Zen practictioner. And a Sister. And a human being responding to the reality of life today, beautifully. As I continue to mend the alienation I developed from my Christian roots as a teenager, this helps so much. Thank you for sharing about Sister Simone.

a lotus to you,
a Buddha to be

Sister Trăng Hải An
(Sister Ocean)

Excellent concept/execution...would like to see more stats and feedback on the effectiveness of this approach, reason being, seems we are loosing coordination among groups...this has negative affect on general perception that 'nationally' we can produce sustainable change

This was a great show, the unedited version even better.

One thing, the category, "Nones" as always misrepresented when people talk about the Pew surveys, can't honestly be talked about because it lumps together atheists (who are always granted the privilege of defining the category, in th emedia and online) agnostics and people who merely say they aren't a member of another given religious category. Though the Pew polls show that a large percentage of those shoe-horned into "Nones" pray and consider themselves religious or spiritual.

"Nones" as a category was invented by Barry Kosmin in order to not admit that in his own surveys being religiously affiliated was the norm.

Barry A. Kosmin was one of them. As the founding director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and a professor at Trinity College, Kosmin had been helping to conduct the American Religion Identification Survey for nearly three decades. Once they’d evaluated data from the 1990s, Kosmin and his team were determined to name a new category.

“Nonreligious” was a possibility. So was “non-faith” and “non-affiliated.”

But Kosmin rejected all of these. The “non” part bothered him. “Non-affiliated” would be like calling people “non-white,” he said. “We didn’t want to suggest that ‘affiliated’ was the norm, and every one else was an ‘other.'”

That Kosmin is, himself, a prominent person in the promotion of atheism in groups such as CFI and CSI (formerly CSICOP) and through such anti-religious venues as "Skeptical Inquirer" is certainly relevant to any conclusions about the validity of the practice of lumping people together like that. In real practice the "Nones" are a way of padding the figures against religion and for atheist polemics. I think it would be best if everyone stopped using it.

I usually find listening to On Being one of my favorite activities on Sunday morning. I'm going to sign off for a while, as I was appalled at Sr. Simone Campbell's crude reference to Paul Ryan and John Boehner as being some of "God's mistakes". How thoughtless, and her slight 'back-tracking' about Paul Ryan supporting her, was pathetic. Sorry, "On Being", I won't be tuning in any more.

i was not going to comment but ML OBrien brings up the Paul Ryan reference, and illustrates, I am afraid, the all too common response of shutting your ears to what you don't want to hear... so fast that you fail to understand what you heard. (and hearing understand not..)Mr Obrien, Ms Cambell's reference to Paul Ryan was overflowing with charity. She called her feeling about "God's mistakes" her sin.

She is right. It is also my sin, but I have much less charity.

The comment I was not going to write because I thought it out of place here, was that I heard Ryan respond to some reporter "You don't want me to get all wonky on you." This was a lie. Ryan was pretending he had arcane knowledge that the reporter too difficult for the reporter to understand, and too boring for him to listen to. I happen to know something about that particular topic, and I know, for a fact, that Ryan either does not know much about it, or lies about what he knows. I not only can't find, at present, charity in my heart for Ryan, I worry that Simone might be being seduced by fame and "high company" into a condition where she fails to see evil.... because it is charming, or sweet to her.

I don't expect anyone to agree with me. I am far too negative for this forum, and for normal people in general. But I won't be closing my eyes and my ears to avoid hearing what i don't already agree with.
IF it were possible, I would urge OBrien to listen again to Campbell and try to understand what she actually said. If he doesn't want to tune in to something, he should not tune in to me. I am the one with the ugly heart.

Hello Sister Simone ! I appreciate your dialogue with Krista so full of your insights and your efforts. Re your mantra "Please wake me up" makes me assume you're still finding your way towards an omega point of becoming Enlightened ? Of course that path is open-ended till our final days, if we indeed reach that point of development but I submit that for me Enlightenment is waking to that commitment to live by the Golden Rule, attempting to do the right thing as much as possible and to attempt to live with progressiveness to better Self and important relationships and stewarding my community, nation and the world as much as I'm able.

Best regards and good wishes, aloha,
Frank Luke

Sister Simone Campbell is too cool!

I once upon a time had the chance to spend time with Sister Marilyn Lacey, founder of Mercy Beyond Borders. Sister Marilyn forever impressed on me the strength and practicality of her mission, which is very much how I feel about Sr Simone having listened to her for the first time the other day on your program.

And how cool is it that you still publish those awful reflections of people with worn-out highlighters !

I am a young adult woman with an MA in Pastoral Studies after serving the Chicagoland area's mentally ill community through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. The interview with Sr. Simone, as well as her responses to the audience's questions were so inspiring. I appreciated the way she wove the reality of our call to create a world of love and justice with prayer and political action. Additionally, her response about being a woman in the Church as freeing really resonated with me. Thank you for sharing her work with me. I have gone on to share the episode with the other women I live in an intentional community with, as well as my colleagues of the all female, lay staff at the Jesuit retreat ministry where I currently work.

I listened to the episode on NPR, I found it very disturbing to hear a Catholic Nun as an advocate of using threats of government violence as a way of coercing others to accept her views. I thought Catholics were taught to be peaceful???

Listening to the conversation with Sr. Simone Campbell, I heard her mention a Zen meditation retreat that she found enlightening and enriching. I was wondering what that retreat was and if it is still being offered. Or, if there are others that this community would recommend.

On a separate reflection the analogy of stomach acid is profound on several levels.

Thank you On Being for this and all your programs.


HI Krista and Sister Simone!

Having attended a Catholic college founded by the IHM order of Catholic sisters, Sister Simone's drive to serve and easy-going wit felt familiar and true. Much to my surprise at the time, the sisters taught me how service can feed the soul of the giver as well as the receiver. It's a life lesson that has influenced my every step.

Now I am an art therapist who helps women and teens with anxiety, depression, and trauma to heal. I also have begun using to spread the word more widely about the power of creativity and the importance of self-care. I was really struck by Sister Simone's statement that she only gets tired when she begins to focus too much on herself and how she's doing. This is half of what I try to encourage folks to do!

As I thought about it though, Sister Simone does many things to care for herself and her soul. She lives in community. She prays. She attends religious services. She meditates daily.

I work with therapists and the general population who are so focused on meeting everyone else's needs and pleasing others that they never refill their own well.

Sister Simone is a wonderful model for us all, and gives me much thought about how to understand the difference between a life of service, contemplation, community, and prayer, and focusing on others' needs only. I so appreciated this interview.

Finally, I loved her reminder to embrace what shows up. It reminded me of Siddhartha, learning to hear the sound of all creation when he sat by the river and learned to really listen, rather than trying to work so hard to get here or there.

This was a joyful experience.
Thank you,