28 Sep 2012

What Spiritual Activism Is… and Isn’t

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This week, I received a Facebook message sent to a bunch of women. It said to post a heart on your Facebook wall and not to tell anyone what the heart was for. Just post a heart. It also said to forward the message to all your female friends and get them all to do the same thing. It said again, don’t tell anyone what this means, especially guys, because this is about female solidarity. Oh, and also, all this somehow has something to do with Breast Cancer Research Week.

Um… what?

Pseudo-activist movements like this pop up every so often, and honestly, they don’t accomplish a whole lot. Don’t get me wrong, the intention behind them is beautiful; everyone should be aware of the effect breast cancer has on women and their loved ones. But what exactly does posting a heart on your Facebook wall accomplish? How do people know it’s related to breast cancer research? And how can anyone’s awareness be raised if half the population—all men—is kept in the dark?

A crowd of yogis at Global Mala

Global Mala 2012: Spiritual activism at work

We all have a natural desire to be agents of change. We all have causes and issues that speak to us. We want to change them, and we want others to know how important those issues are. But we often get overwhelmed by the scope of those problems and feel powerless to do anything. So acts of mini-activism, like the Facebook heart, take on meaning because they give us the feeling of having “done something.”

I used to feel totally powerless to create change until I learned about a concept called spiritual activism. Spiritual activism has many definitions, but generally, it’s defined as intentional desire to create positive change on a social or political issue, working from a grounded, centered, balanced place. It’s active, not reactive—meaning that it’s not about telling the other side their position sucks or working from an angry or rageful place. It’s about a deep desire to connect and improve.

Spiritual activism may sound like and overwhelming undertaking, but it can function on a small or large scale. Anyone can be a spiritual activist. Here are some steps to help you find your inner spiritual activist:

  • Be intentional: Have a specific goal in mind. What’s the problem you’re trying to address? What are the factors that affect that problem? What outcome are your working toward?
  • Be realistic: You don’t have to change the whole world all at once. What’s manageable given the resources, timeline, and scope of the project or initiative?
  • Be inclusive: Invite everyone to the table. True spiritual activism doesn’t operate from an “us versus them” place. It welcomes all viewpoints and honors everyone equally.
  • Be open: Practice satya and be truthful about your intentions. Don’t hide or work covertly (like using secretive Facebook codes). Make sure anyone who wants to know about what you’re doing can get information freely.
  • Be heartfelt: Work on issues that speak to your heart. If you feel compelled to work on animal rights issues you probably won’t be content writing letters to save the trees (although that’s great work, too). Make sure your issue of choice truly resonates with you.
  • Be boundaried: Make sure you save some time and energy for yourself. Don’t give everything out for the cause. Know when to say no, or when to say, “I’ve done all I can today.” Keep yourself strong so you can work from a strong, centered place.
  • Be together:Don’t try to create change on your own. Find groups of like-minded people and create a project or initiative together. Rotate leadership positions so no one person gets burnt out. Support each other in creating your vision.

    Group of women smiling and doing yoga poses

    Some of the amazing women behind The Envision Project

Right now, the Universe is blessing me with a unique opportunity to work with a powerful group of spiritual activists right here in Birmingham. It’s called The Envision Project, and it grew out of our most recent session of Yoga in Action. The Envision Project unites

yogis, meditators, and mindful souls to use the power of focused intention to create positive change. Once a month, we’ll meet somewhere in Birmingham to meditate for healing and change on a particular topic. It might be related to the environment, homelessness and hunger, peace in the Middle East, or some other issue that month’s leader feels passionate about. Stay tuned here to learn more about the Envision Project in future posts.

Changing the world doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking, but it’s not about mindless Facebook games either. Big or small, intentional, heartfelt action of any size can go a long way to making the world a better place.

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