action is a new, modern, urban term. It is a term that has come into use
in our population centers, our urban corridors, a city term that country
folk did not recognize. In the country, at least when I was growing up
in the Mid West in the 1950’s, we simply took care of our own locals who
were struggling for any cause through the churches or the Kiwanis Club
or Lions Club or Boy Scouts, etc. Though there were charitable
institutions who also helped, the front liners were those who lived in
the community. There was an immediacy, a clear connection between the
giver and the givee. It was the same with action in the broader arena of
the world as well. Only it was the national office that was taking care
I did not know what an activist was growing up. I had never met anyone
who took action to change conditions in the broader world until I was in
my mid 30’s and moved to the East Coast. There, in Massachusetts, I met
a number of folks who were working to make a difference. They were
primarily from the UCC and UU churches. By that time I was not
personally an activist or a pacifist, I was just plain passive. It would
never have occurred to me to attend a demonstration, write a letter, to
my Congress person, or put myself on the line for any cause up to that
time. I did learn how to give money to worthwhile causes, but I had no
training or inclination to hit the streets.
In addition to my small town training, I am, both by nature and nurture,
an introvert. The thought of going out into the world and holding forth
on any subject sends fearful chills up my spine. Not that I can’t speak
comfortably here with you, but taking a stand out there seems daunting.
There is also the problem of propriety. I was raised to believe that it
was fundamental to treat every person with respect, whether you agreed
with them or not. What I saw out in the streets was far from respectful.
It was raucous and in your face and impolite. It was outrage pitted
against outrage. I did not see it changing much. And, it did not give me
a model to inspire me to join up.
I care about the same things that many of you care about. The endless,
soul killing war in Iraq, the inequity of life for rich and poor in this
country and around the world, the discrimination suffered by GLBTs, the
plight of Native Americans and other minorities, the daily tragic
wounding of Mother Earth, and on and on. I watch, I care, but I have not
put my foot in the water much. My nature holds me back. Activism does
not suit me. Where was the love? Where is the sacred, holy nature of
life served through outrage alone?
Enter Andrew Harvey. Andrew is the well known English author of
spiritual books, over 30 all together, who travels around the world
making a difference. A very unselfconscious gay man who knows and
regularly appears with the Dalai Lama and other spiritual leaders, he
came to Denver a couple of weeks ago and led a workshop on Sacred
Activism. When I saw the title I thought, there, that’s what I want to
be inspired to….SACRED activism. I’m going.
What I learned, I found, I already knew. But it was very empowering
hearing it from Andrew.
Here’s a quick summary. May it be helpful to us all as we prepare our
selves to be more and more active in the world of social action.
SEVEN LAWS OF
1. In order to truly make a difference, we must work humbly and
incessantly to connect with the Divine through our own forms of sacred
practice ... imageless meditation, walking meditation, and a mantra
meditation (for when the going gets rough, to calm)
practices ... Buddhist meta, tangman (sp?) Tibetan. Need them in
face of terror.
physical exercise ... Yoga, tai chi, Reiki, some sacred dance so
that we will be centered physically as well as spiritually.
NEED ALL THREE!
2. Act in the
world but give up the fruits of your actions to the Divine. We do not
know what the outcome SHOULD be. We must be fed from a deeper spring
serious about evil. Evil here described as “enjoyment in holding power
and causing pain.”
effective we are in making a difference, the more resistance we will
Need great discrimination….understand that those in power will
flatter in order to manipulate you. Mohammed’s prayer was, “Lord,
show me the way things truly are.”
Trust your animal instincts.
Surround yourself with protection….Buddha, or Christ, or power of
the universe, and/or light.
4. Deal with the shadow side of the mystic and the activist.
The light/positive side of the mystic, like me, as I have described
myself, is the spiritual grounding that we carry. The shadow side is our
The light/positive side of the activist is….they get things done! They
are the change agents.
The shadow side of the activist…Demonizing others, THEY are bad and we
are good. It is a self righteous position.
According to Harvey, the activist in this inner position doesn’t want to
face those parts of himself.
There are rewards for doing the inner work that creates a balance of
mystic/activist (i.e. the sacred activist). These include:
human, like everybody else
We give up
compassion for all.
There are no
enemies anymore. Only fellow humans. (the CEO across the table knows
when he is accepted as a fellow human, or is being demonized like a
non-human…..the Dalai Lama.)
5. Transform anger and outrage. Is necessary. If you do not master
this, you become ungracious. Turn outrage into fierce compassion.
6. The great changes in the world won't come from lonely heroes.
Errol Flynn attractive in a movie in which he frees Burma without
mussing up his hairdo, however he knows that "networks of grace" are
actually what work together to solve problems.
Transformation will be in a style of "synergy" or "Jazz:" Networks
7. The world won't be changed by the guilty or the angry ,but by
those who are living in divine joy
is always born in joy bliss "ananda"
greatest spirits currently on earth are: His Holiness the Dalai
Lama, Desmond Tutu and Jane Goodall. All of them ooze hope and joy
despite the awful things they have witnessed.
work humbly with "great selflessness and compassionate mischief"
I offer you this as a guide, a template, a model, for activism that can
strike at the deep roots of evil, hate, and inequity in the world. A
sacred way. It is a way that I pray I will have the strength and wisdom
to follow well.
Mother's Day Proclamation - 1870
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.