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Why Do Political Activists Burn Out?

Claudia Horwitz of Stone Circles teaches activists to engage in a spiritual practice.

Claudia Horwitz was a young political activist who worked to raise awareness around hunger and homelessness.  She found a high burn-out rate among activists she worked with it. Through her career, Claudia saw people drop out of political organizing for a variety of reasons, such as exhaustion, lack of progress, illness and addiction.  

Horwitz, herself, struggled with depression and migraine headaches. 

“I had to eventually stop for a little while and take care of that," she said in an interview on The State of Things.  "It was really humbling and I’m so glad I went through it.  Now when I see other people who struggle with their own health, I have so much compassion.”

Horwitz wanted to find a way to make activism itself more sustainable.  She took up meditation and yoga, which transformed her political activism.  She started traveling around the country, holding workshops at conferences about creating a spiritual practice.  At these conferences, people lined up out the door to take part in the conversations. 

“A lot of activists came out of the closet as really desiring more of some kind of healing and spiritual grounding,” Horwitz said. 

She founded Stone Circles at the Stone House where she works to teach other organizers how to lead more sustainable lives.  Horwitz and others on her staff live at the Stone House, where they grow their own food, practice “radical hospitality,” and hold spiritual retreats for other activists.

This show was originally broadcast on May 20, 2013.

Shawn Wen joined the staff of The State of Things in March 2012 and served as associate producer until February 2014.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.