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10 Things You Can Do Right Now to Become a Sacred Activist
When the inner joy Mother Teresa spoke of, the joy of compassionate service, is married to a practical and pragmatic drive to transform all existing economic, social, and political institutions, a radical and potentially all-transforming holy force is born. This radical holy force I call Sacred Activism.
A Sacred Activist is someone who is starting to experience the inner joy and outer effectiveness of this force, who knows that the profound crisis the world is in is challenging everyone to act from our deepest compassion and wisdom, and who is committed to being, in the face of growing chaos, suffering, and violence, what Robert Kennedy called “a tiny ripple of hope” and a “center of energy and daring.”
Let me offer you 10 things you can do right now, or within the next 24 hours, to start to align yourself with the power and hope of sacred activism. The first six will invite you into deep, nourishing connection with your spirit; the last four will help you express the compassion and joy this connection awakens in you in action.
1. Write down now one thing that today has made you feel grateful to be alive.
It could be something as simple as the taste of the bagel you had for breakfast or the sight of squirrels gamboling in the snow in the park. Set aside a small notebook and make the commitment to write down one thing every day that has lit you up with joy. At the end of a month, sit down and read the list out loud, slowly, to yourself. You will discover that it will remind you how blessed you are already just by being alive in a world full of ordinary wonders. You will discover, too, it will awaken in you a passion for life and a hunger to protect and preserve it.
2. Now write down, without thinking too much or editing yourself, just “off the top of your heart," 10 things you would say are “sacred” to you.
Today my list is: friendship, all you who are reading this, justice, cats, the first roses of summer, all religions, wise elders everywhere who share their wisdom tenderly and tactfully, India, my brave and wild mother, and the voice of Maria Callas that has guided me for 40 years into my own truest passion.
What is your list? You will find that just by writing it down you will start to be inspired by your deepest values, beliefs and sources of emboldening joy.
3. Think of someone who has hurt you or betrayed you and make a commitment to work on forgiving them.
Imagine them, now, in front of you, surrounded by light, happy and well, and pray for them to realize their life’s purpose. Just to do this once with humble sincerity will unveil in you your innate strength of compassion. You taste its truth and freedom and the desire that is born from it to see all beings happy.
4. Read a short text from any of the world’s spiritual traditions that inspires you with the love-wisdom of those prophets and mystics that know God directly.
The one I use daily is from Rumi:
“O Love, o pure deep Love, be here, be now
Be all; worlds dissolve in your endless stainless radiance
Frail living leaves burn with you brighter than cold stars
Make me your servant, your breath, your core.”
5. When the text you have chosen starts to light up your spirit, pray a short prayer that aligns you with the “pure deep love” that is longing to use you as its instrument in the world.
Here are four, from different traditions, that I use at odd moments throughout my day:
- Lord, let me live to be truly useful.
- Beloved, make me strong enough to do Your will.
- Divine Mother, fill me with your passion of compassion so I can do your work tirelessly.
- For as long as space exists and sentient beings remain may I too remain to dispel the misery of the world.
If none of these inspire you, or reflect your beliefs, make up your own spontaneously and say it 10 times with passion, in the core of your heart.
6. Make now a real commitment to spiritual practice.
If you do not yet have one, start now, simply. Just sit, with your back straight and watch your thoughts for three minutes and allow your mind, however briefly, to fall silent. In that silence is your greatest treasure, one that will unfold its gold in you if you commit to 20 minutes of simple sitting in the morning and evening before you go to bed. Don’t believe me; try it.
If you find sitting and watching your thoughts boring, try this visualization that I was given by a great Tibetan master who recommended it to be used “anytime, anywhere":
“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.”
Over time this will awaken you to your own deepest sacred desire to see all beings living in harmony and true realization and your deepest sacred courage to express it in action. When you have begun to experience the beauty of this practice, start doing it at different times in your day “anytime, anywhere.” You will be amazed at its power to bring you home to your most compassionate self and its hunger to help.
7. Strengthened by prayer, practice and inspiration, turn now to your life and the people in it.
Everyone, especially in a time like ours, has friends who are in grief, or ill, or looking for a job, or are in real financial difficulty. Commit now to ringing one of them up, and ask him or her what you could do to make their burden easier. Do this soon and be happy that you can.
8. Make a commitment to miss one meal in the coming 24 hours and send a check for the money you would have spent on it to a reputable organization dealing with world hunger.
I strongly recommend Buddhist Global Relief (BGR). BGR focuses on providing food aid to the hungry of the third world and on supporting projects aimed to develop better long-term methods of food production and management; it is run economically and by devoted people. Turn to its Web site www.Buddhistglobalrelief.org for further details. ANY check, even for $5, will help far more than you can imagine. Never forget that almost 2 billion people live on less than a dollar a day.
9. The world-wide financial crisis we are now in is plunging people everywhere into financial distress.
There will be families in your immediate vicinity who are suffering. Make a commitment to find out who they are and what they might need and ring six of your friends to make a commitment with you to begin supplying them what they require. In acting like this, you will be helping to activate the kind heart of your community. In my experience, more people than you may imagine are longing to be of help; take the first step now yourself, and be surprised and heartened.
10. Make a commitment today, even if you are in financial difficulties, to tithe between 5 and 10 percent of what you earn to a cause of your choice.
I recommend choosing one particular cause that deeply moves you and sticking to your commitment, whatever happens; over time, tithing like this will give you a great and healing sense of being of use, and the cause you are helping will become more and more precious and personal to you, and you will want, naturally and simply, to do more. I have tithed for several years now to the cause of keeping the white Siberian tigers alive; it gives me happiness to think that because of the little I can give, two or three of those magnificent and noble creatures might be able to live easier. Because of my passion for animals and my distress at our continuing barbaric treatment of them, I would like to recommend that you consider giving to one of the many wonderful organizations that are trying to help them and that are all struggling for funds.
Whatever cause really moves you, move to be of help now. Don’t wait. There is great suffering already all around us, and it is likely to get worse. Responding now will immediately empower you.
One last suggestion...
And one last suggestion because 11 is a sacred number and the number of the hexagram Tai in the I Ching that means “peace” and that in the words of Richard Wilhelm’s commentary “denotes a time in nature when heaven seems to be on earth.” Make a commitment to always have some small change in one of your pockets so you can always 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. One in particular I would like to celebrate here. 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 hundreds of children who have died of starvation while you were reading this would still be alive.
Reprinted with permission of Hay House from the book The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism by Andrew Harvey. © Copyright 2009 Andrew Harvey.