In his beautiful book, “The Hope”, Andrew Harvey writes passionately and eloquently about the current world crisis – the desperation and desolation of huge masses of human beings all over the world.
At the same time, he writes of beauty and transcendence – and in “The Hope”, there are several of the most beautiful passages I have read on the dynamics of suffering and transformation.
He writes, “I believe that part of what the current world crisis is designed to do is to break open our hearts to the reality of cruelty and suffering. I believe, too, that if each person were to follow his own private heartbreak and then do something about it in his local community, a great lessening of pain would occur, replaced by an overwhelming surge of hope.”
I want you to understand what he is saying here: He is saying that this surge of hope will arise from OUR action in response to the calling of our own hearts.
He calls this, ‘Sacred Activism’, action informed by the sacred fire of our outrage, our disillusionment. He points to a model of Sacred Activism proposed by Christian contemplative, Cynthia Borgeault, who proposes two other kinds of Sacred Activists: “those who pursue a withdrawn, contemplative life but who radiate their energies into the world to protect sentient beings….. and “those who work at the occult level; who are inherently contemplative but seek to alter the course of events by contacting spiritual beings and occult forces and molding them with their contemplative power in ways that secure and safeguard the human future.”
To this, I would add a third quiet practice: focused, directed prayer sent to empower and uplift another. For example, when you add your prayer to the collective prayers after a disaster, like a tsunami; earthquake, or oil spill, you are turning the natural rising of compassion in your own heart toward a specific person, place or purpose.
You do this by visualizing this rising compassion that you already feel into a ray of light – a compassion stream, which flows from your heart all the way to its intended destination.
You picture it flowing out from you and arriving – you SEE your prayer arriving in your mind’s eye. And when you see it, your TRUST it – you know that this is real.
You know that it will make a difference.
This practice is powerful and has multiple benefits: it channels all of that rising energy you feel into something real; it flows very real energetic support to those who receive it.
As Andrew Harvey writes, “In this world crisis, every single human being from every walk of life is in danger, and each choice we make affects everyone else. the only possible response to this acute interconnectedness is what the Dalai Lama calls ‘universal responsibility’: the decision to be conscious in the core of our lives of the effect of all of our choices – economic, social political – congruent with our most compassionate beliefs.”
Working as a Sacred Activist, I experience myself as a cell in the tissue of the world, a living, breathing, thinking, feeling – and acting – cell in the wholeness of all that is.
This is the image that I hold in my heart today, as women in cities around the world rise – and march.
As Andrew Harvey writes, there is a Sacred Activism in which outrage becomes action; anger becomes passion – divine love expressed as fire.
He writes: “If you and I are not outraged by what is happening everywhere in our world, we will remain where so many find themselves, in paralysis, apathy and denial. Yet, if our outrage masters us, we may become irrational, violent and destructive… If we work with this anger and outrage, however, without repressing or judging or denying it, it can be transformed into a reservoir of purified passion, compassion and wisdom that will give us power and stamina.”
As environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill – best known for living in a hundred eighty foot tall California Redwood tree for 738 days – says, “In today’s world it’s not only our right to be angry, it’s our responsibility. The question is, do we act out of anger or love? That’s what makes the difference….
She says, My prayer is that I may be an open heart. When I become angry, I take it in and transmute it to love. “Anger through love becomes fierce compassion… I don’t want to lose the passion of anger. It’s a vital life force.”
She lets her anger rise and she breathes with it, saying, “Stress in, love out. I still have passion but I can look at someone who threatens to kill me and my heart melts. I see their injury makes them act that way… It helps me transform difficult situations.”
This is transmuting anger.
This is the practice that I use when anger overwhelms my emotions. I take a deep breath and I say: Take this rage, this anger, this heat from me. Transform it into love.
I wait until I feel a peace settle into my heart and from there I ask, What would love do here?
Because anger can also make us feel powerless, you know.
And we can become addicted to this powerlessness – we can respond to the world crisis by watching it on television, or sending money, limply without the prayer behind it…
Andrew Harvey and Julia Butterfly Hill challenge us to stand in our power – our greatest power – love – and face the things that we don’t like about the world, about other people, and about ourselves.
These are the shadows – the things that we hold separate, hold underwater. These things leave us vulnerable – because we are always on guard against them, always trying to stuff them in the closet. They feed our addictions to fear and to playing small. They hold us in repeating, dysfunctional patterns. They get us stuck.
Waking up means turning toward your challenges, toward your history, your broken heart, and your addictions to reveal what potentials are hidden beneath these scars.
Waking up means asking: What call am I masking? What muscle is asking to be strengthened? Where am I pushing? Holding? Resisting the flow of what is here out of the fear that I am not up to the challenge of meeting it?
Waking up means meeting this information in light and allowing it to teach you, to open you, to lead you back home.
Waking up means living in constant meditation, constant devotion – waking up means that you begin to walk a path parallel to the path of self-destruction and disempowerment others may seem to be on. Waking up means that you are asking, constantly: What would love do here? And how about now? And now…
It means listening for the answer and when the answer arrives, staying awake and letting the answer move you into action.
In this way, by asking what love would do and DOING it – you become love.
~ An excerpt from the Soul Caller Training