It is hard to talk about justice without talking about the activist work, intentionally or accidentally, which is needed to bring change in our world. While there are things that are going well and are worthy of being celebrated in the ongoing fight for human rights and justice, there are also numerous crises facing our world including extreme poverty, environmental destruction and depletion, emotional, mental and relationship disconnects in life. In efforts to bring about systemic and structural change, activists often feel discouraged and doubt their ability to make a difference. Building on the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Harvey offers an approach known as sacred activism, which engages compassion and love. Harvey offers eleven practices which we can do to engage in sacred activism in our daily lives. These practices call on us deepen and nourish our personal connection with spirit and then to use this deeper connection in our actions to transform this world.
1. Be Grateful. Harvey suggests that each day we write down one thing which make you feel grateful to be alive. It is amazing what a difference keeping a gratitude journal can make in your life. I have been doing this for years now. Sarah ban Breathnach suggests writing three things before you go to bed. I have found it more helpful for me to write first thing in the morning and I limit myself to five each morning. Doing so helps me remember how blessed I am and monthly, like Harvey suggests, I read over all I was grateful for that month and it deepens my connection to the wonders of the world and the blessings in my life.
2. Ask Yourself: What is Sacred to Me? At least once a month I do this, as my list is ever changing. Without thinking too much or editing your thoughts, make a list of ten things that are sacred to you. Doing so has helped me to clarify what my deepest values are and what is truly important to me. So here is my list:
i. Wisdom writings and teachers
j. Unconditional love
3. Cultivate Forgiveness. A few months back we spent the whole month focusing on forgiveness. Forgiveness is really not about the other person, it is about us. It is about us doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Holding on to feelings of hurt, anger, or betrayal harden our heart and harm ourselves. Forgiving others and forgiving ourselves assists us in becoming more compassionate and able to radiate love into the world at a higher vibration.
4. Read Sacred Words. Read something daily that inspires you. This is one of the reasons I post a thought for the day to keep us focused and inspired. One of my favorites is a quote from Lao Tsu about kindness. “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
5. Pray or Ask to Align with Love. Daily I ask that the Ultimate use me as an instrument in the world. Harvey shares four simple prayers from different traditions. Use one of these or create your own, asking it ten times
a. Lord, let me live to be truly useful.
b. Beloved, make me strong enough to do Your will.
c. Divine Mother, fill me with your passion of compassion so I can do your work tirelessly.
d. For as long as space exists and sentient beings remain may I too remain to dispel the misery of the world.
6. Develop a Spiritual Practice. Over the last several months we have been focusing on a number of spiritual practices. Pick one and make a commitment to practicing it. Or pick something like meditation or visualization and commit to doing that daily. Harvey shared a visualization he was given by a great Tibetan master
a. "Imagine that love and compassionate action has transformed you in a large brilliant diamond that radiates diamond-white light. Send that light to all the four directions, praying, with whatever words you choose, that all sentient beings everywhere be happy, well, and protected."
7. Make a Small Gesture. Commit to doing one thing for someone in your immediate circle who could you some love and support. Who do you know who is grieving? Ill? Out of work? Struggling financially? What is one thing you can do to lighten their load or help them through this challenging time.
8. Take a Baby Step for World Hunger. Skip one meal a week and make a donation to a reputable organization working to fight world hunger. Whatever you would have spent on that meal, send that money to them. Every donation, no matter how large or small, makes a difference. Here are a few organizations to consider
9. Reach Into Your Community. There are people outside of our immediate circle of friends in need. Identify a family in need. Then get together with six of your friends and make a commitment to help them with what they require. By working with others we begin to transform our communities and help them to become more compassionate and we change the heart of our community.
10. Choose a Cause. No matter how tight your finances are, and trust me mine are tight too, commit to tithing five to ten percent of what you earn to a cause of your choice. Doing so, helps us feel as if we are doing something to bring about change in the world. So find something you are passionate about and commit to that. Harvey talks about how he is working to keep the WhiteSiberian Tigers alive. I feel passionate about hunger in America, so I contribute to Feeding America.
11. Extend Compassion. Harvey shares this suggestion and example. One last suggestion because 11 is a sacred number and the number of the hexagram "tai" in the "I Ching" that means "peace." Make a commitment to always have some small change in one of your pockets to give something to one of the growing thousands of homeless in our streets. I learned this habit as a child from my grandmother in India, and over the years it has brought me into contact with some extraordinary people. For example, outside a temple in South India, there was a long line of desolate looking beggars and among them a very old woman, dressed in a ragged and filthy sari with no shoes. I gave her what I had on me--about a dollar. I watched in amazement as she walked unsteadily over to the nearest food-stand, bought herself a handful of chapatis, broke them carefully in two, and shared them with a dog as emaciated as she was. If we all knew what that penniless old beggar knew, the many, many children who die of starvation every year would be alive. There is hope. We can all do a small something to honor our hearts and extend compassion everywhere--right now.