“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
“If you think you are too small to make a difference,
try sleeping with a mosquito.”
– His Holiness the Dalai Lama
It’s a good question especially given that we usually attribute to meditation a clearing of the mind. The simple answer though is that the world is already in your mind. Your heart is full of the love and pain you feel for what is happening out there, your thoughts cycle through the various news stories you’ve heard or seen in the media. Even if you’ve shielded yourself from watching “the news,” it creeps in. Whether it’s boys trapped in a cave or the latest outrage from the boy-men in power. You are part of this world and there is really no escaping that; you’re in the world and the world’s in you.
About six months ago I started offering free monthly guided meditations with the theme, “Meditation With the World in Mind.” We have been able to meet in the beautiful environment of The Open Spirit in Nyack. My sense was (and is) that we need to come together to align our consciousness with the deepest life force of love and compassion. We need to counter in ourselves and the world the destructive influences that often dominate the trajectory of human activity.
It is possible to see these meditations as healing moments for yourself, to release the negative reactions to “the news” that may cause you to feel hopeless, depressed or stuck in anger and cynicism. On the other hand, you may see these meditations as a form of activism. After all, your mind-state is a part of the collective mind of humanity. Actively changing your mood, your attitude, your emotional-mental condition has an effect on the field of human energy that we all live in.
Further, practices have been developed in all the world’s wisdom and spiritual traditions that offer ways of aligning our personal healing and awakening to that of others. Native Americans use the phrase, “Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ,” meaning “all are related,” or “all my relations.” It is invoked in ceremonies and prayer rituals and calls attention to the experience that what is intended is not for the individual or small group alone, but for all life. Similarly, meditation practices can be learned to bring awareness to this reality of inter-connectedness and that the benefit of the meditation is for all beings.
Meditations are generally scheduled for the 3rd Monday of the month, 7 – 8:30 PM. But please confirm.
Activists embody the archetype of the Warrior. Not the warrior as soldier in an army (though that is one way the Warrior archetype expresses itself), but as one who engages the world with an intention to change or transform it. In his book, The Six Pathways of Destiny,Ralph Metzner relates the Warrior to the Guardian, the Reformer, and the Activist. He goes on to describe this life-path as “those who function to protect and defend the integrity and well-being of any natural system – an individual organism, a group, a community, a society, an ecosystem – against threats from without (by infection, invasion, or oppression) as well as threats from within (by corruption, toxicity or stagnation).”
From a holistic perspective, when you are strongly drawn towards a way of being in the world – whether as an artist, scientist, healer, organizer or activist – it is understood that this tendency comes from your Soul. You are motivated from within to focus the direction of your attention and actions. Being an activist in the world taps you into the Warrior stream of spiritual power that gives you the strength and courage to carry on in the face of resistance and opposition. This stream of energy guides and nourishes you and moves you to act for a higher purpose.
We learn through meditation and other spiritual practices that the wellspring of our being, the Source of life within, gives you direction yet is not attached to the outcome of your actions. As the highly respected spiritual teacher, Ramana Maharshi said, “Work performed with attachment is a shackle.” In other words, attachment to the outcome of our efforts creates suffering for ourselves and often for others. The implication of this teaching is that you can be an agent of change in the world and still not be emotionally dependent on how things turn out. As you attune to and express your deepest inner nature you are freed to enjoy the process, and I would add from my experience, you are more effective.
This can be a very challenging notion for activists who in their passion to change the world become fixated on the success of their program. (I include myself among those who find it difficult). However, this basic idea accords with the widespread meme attributed to Gandhi, “Be the peace you wish to see in the world.” Cultivating awareness of the Self fosters the ability to witness with detachment yet act with compassion and love. This becomes a priority for the holistic activist whether you are protecting or healing an individual or working to transform the world.
Another facet of holistic activism is learning to focus your actions in harmony with your personal life. Our email inbox tends to be filled with messages urging us to donate money, make calls, sign petitions, and come to meetings, vigils and demonstrations. Learning to find our own way, one that is in balance with the health of our unique mind/body is very challenging. Of the infinite issues that call out, what truly calls you?
In an article that I wrote for the online Four Winds Journal, “Doing and Being While Facing the World Today,”I offer suggestions for getting in touch with your own direction as an activist (whether or not it is your primary life-path). First off, it’s helpful to avoid pre-conceived ideas of what being an activist should look like for you.
It may be that at some point in life you need to focus on your emotional or physical health. When you take time for this you may confront self-defeating internalized messages telling you that spending time on your own well-being is selfish. It’s helpful to know that you deserve your attention. For one thing, you are part of the body politic – the very part upon which you have the most influence.
On the other hand, you may feel called to participate in direct action related to climate change, racism, war or some other cause. If so, you’ll need to gather up your courage to act on your sense of what is right. There can be a great deal of resistance to taking action. It’s helpful to draw upon the energetic support of allies in the related movements as well as the Spirits of all those who have struggled for a just and peaceful world throughout the centuries.
To sum up, holistic activism places a primary focus on the consciousness with which you act – learning to BE that which you seek to bring into the world. Additionally, it emphasizes finding your unique way of confronting the problems and suffering in the world, a way that is in harmony with your mind, body and spirit. Finally, the holistic activist acts with intentionality and courage without attachment to outcome. Not easy. It helps to keep a sense of humor. The key is that you have choice.
 The Six Pathways of Destiny, by Ralph Metzner, Regent Press, Berkeley, 2012
 The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharshi, Shambhala Publications, Boulder, 1972