Joy as Insurrection

“Joy does not betray but sustains activism.
And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful,
alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.”
Rebecca Solnit

Our world is facing three concurrent challenges – the climate crisis, the mental and physical health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and a crisis of consciousness. The collective decisions we make in the next few years will determine whether the earth is able to sustain human life for the generations to come. Anger and overwhelm seem like appropriate and inevitable responses, yet will they give us the on-going motivation to birth a global society that is racially and socially just, and ecologically regenerative?

Drawing from the ancient wisdom traditions of the East and Africa, contemplative neuroscience and psychology, this presentation proposes that the necessary work of personal and social transformation may best by fuelled by an ‘Uprising of Joy’. Based on the assumption that joy is paradoxically, yet inextricably, paired with sorrow, we’ll investigate how joy arises amidst adversity and most often emerges during altruistic and community-based engagement.

With case studies from tsunami relief work in Thailand, a school programme for orphans and vulnerable children in Botswana, and a community park initiative in Johannesburg, we identify the factors and relationships that enable sustained action, increase resilience and prevent burnout of change-makers and activists. Drawing on the archetype of the bodhisattva, who has reached enlightenment, yet stays on earth to help all sentient beings, we’ll identify a range of moving and sitting contemplative practices that we can cultivate in order to awaken. We’ll investigate which might be most effective for expanding our innate and immeasurable qualities of kindness, compassion and joy.



Cultivating Joy through Moving Meditation

Since Lucy first learned about the Four Immeasurables in 2005, they have been central to her meditation practice. While sitting practices have supported the cultivation of equanimity, kindness and compassion, it is through movement that she experienced the bubbling emergence of appreciative joy. Ancient cultures have long used dance to bring communities together, and to move beyond words into the realm of feelings and insights into interdependence. This masterclass will include a one hour Expressive Movement Meditation to music, where we explore presence and expression, then release what no longer serves us, and dream into our own future potential, and that of a life-sustaining world. We close with a period of stillness and serenity, in order to integrate, and then share the wisdom and joy that may have been revealed through our embodied mind.

lucy draper clarke


LUCY DRAPER-CLARKE PhD is a retreat facilitator, mindfulness mentor and researcher-practitioner in the fields of embodied awareness and compassion. With a background in secondary and tertiary education, she brought her personal and professional interests together by obtaining a doctorate in mindfulness and teacher education. She is now a Research Associate at the University of the Witwatersrand. The department, Drama for Life, utilizes the creative arts and somatic education for healing and transformation. With a focus on Contemplative Activism, she works with change-makers and activists to alleviate stress and increase resilience through awareness and compassion. Her own background in contemplative activism started with co-founding the North Andaman Tsunami Relief organisation in 2004, and then supporting the Orphan and Vulnerable Children programme at the Maru-a-Pula School in Botswana, where she was deputy principal. She now enjoys a community focus, offering talks and courses in Johannesburg, and holding popular retreats around Southern Africa, exploring the embodied awareness practices of yoga, dance and sitting meditation. As a practitioner with the Karma Kagyu School of Buddhism, she attends regular meditation retreats to deepen her own practice.


Although English by nationality, I was born in Sri Lanka, was educated in the UK, and then moved to Africa. My feet feel grounded in the Eastern wisdom traditions; my head in Western education, and my heart in Southern Africa. This is where I have learnt so much about the importance of community, and shifted my inner questions from, “What do I know?” to “How can I live well, in relationship to others?” I am guided by three words – joy, freedom and transformation – and use these to maintain a balance between my inner and outer worlds.