"Love Wins" is the final weekly topic for CSL's Global Themes in September and offers a perfect opportunity to talk about how to combine principles with action to affect positive change.
There is a strange perfection to events which upset and disturb us because they get our attention and cause us to react and respond. They show us precisely where our healing work is to be done. When we become aware of this and prepare ourselves to respond consciously and deliberately, we can recognize and make use of these events as opportunities for individual and collective evolution.
Have you ever had a reflexive response to upset that shocked you? Did it happen so fast, there wasn't even a moment's contemplation? Did you regret what you said or did? We are wired to respond to danger this way, and that's a good thing. Yet we often respond from this primitive, unconscious place when stopping to think would avail us of higher reasoning and a more effective response. We end up amplifying and perpetuating the very problem we'd like to solve.
Back in 2010, I started researching spiritual and sacred activism, and in 2011 gave my first Positive Activism workshop. It was a big hit and has been each time since then. The challenge of how to do something "good" when something "bad" happens is a common one, and understanding a bit about the relationship between us and what shows up in the world is very helpful. With that understanding and a few simple tools, we can shift from a disempowered to an empowered perspective and be assured that we really are making a positive difference in our own lives and those of others.
Gautama Buddha taught, "What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” Jesus said, "...as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee." Sharon Mark writes, “...quantum physics suggests that our thoughts and emotions have a direct influence on the energy that makes up our reality." And we could go on. That's the funny thing about universal truth. It is found everywhere we look.
There is an undeniable connection between what we think, feel, imagine, believe, and experience. Even the slightest understanding of this will improve how we experience the events in our own lives and in those around us. The willingness to seek a different perspective, for example, will yield new possibilities we didn't even know existed. The willingness to entertain a different point of view can mean the difference between war and peace. The willingness to be curious can build bridges across great divides and forge unexpected alliances and bonds. And the willingness to be self-aware and think before we speak, or act can heal and strengthen all our relationships.
I saw a bumper sticker once that said, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention!" Yet how can we possibly have the presence of mind to do something constructive when we're outraged? We can't. Andrew Harvey realized this in his writing and teaching about sacred activism. We all need to do our inner work, our shadow work, lest our own un-healed stuff get in the way of effective change-making. Violence is a perfect example of unconscious acting-out. Taking the time and making the effort to shift our perspectives, our behaviors and our methods will get something done without un-doing us or others. Mother Teresa declined an invitation to an anti-war rally yet said she would gladly attend a peace march. If you've ever been in a march or seen one on the news, you know how easily peaceful demonstrations can turn into the opposite. It takes self-awareness, conscious choice and true commitment to embody goodness as you stand, walk and speak out for good.
Ernest Holmes, in his famous "Sermon by the Sea" said, “Find me one person who is for something and against nothing, who is redeemed enough not to condemn others out of the burden of his soul, and I will find another savior, another Jesus, and an exalted human being.” Whether you find that "exalted" state on a Christian path, a Buddhist one, one of science, nature, or something else, there is that within you and me which knows love because it is love and knows peace because it is peace. It is there to be found. It is there to be experienced. It is there to be known. It is there to be shared. It always leads us aright.
The late Congressman John Lewis often said, “When you pray, move your feet.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, after returning from the Selma voting rights march with Dr. Martin Luther King and being asked if he had time to pray said, “I prayed with my feet.” James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Thoughts and prayers are only part of a creative response. Accompanying steps and actions bring our ideals to life. How might you begin to "put feet to your prayers"?
Start by looking at what you think, feel, and believe. Are your perspectives serving you? Could any of them use an upgrade? Look for examples of people affecting positive change without compromising their principles. How do they do it? Pick an area to experiment with and hone your skills. There are lots of ways to create change in the world, and some of them are a perfect fit for who you are and what you love to do and are best at. What if your impactful niche is waiting for you to find it? Wouldn't it be wonderful to make a difference with love?
I invite you to embark on this experiment with me, and to share how it goes. I've heard that one of our possible outcomes is that we do "get there". Let's act as if that's so, "put feet to our prayers" and see where we end up!
Join us for "Positive Activism: Making a Difference without Losing Your Cool", Sunday, November 5 from 1:00 - 3:00 pm. Register here: https://cslgreenville.com/events/positive-activism