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While all of my friends and family were focused on the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, the Women’s March and the issuance of at least a dozen distressing Executive Orders, I was on retreat. Retreats are an essential part of my inner work. They allow me time to connect to the source, grow my understanding of the inter-relatedness of all life and illuminate the purpose of my life. Anyone who has been on retreat knows there are ups and downs in the work of clarification and transformation. This was a particularly sober retreat. Given the world’s and especially our country’s challenges, I felt that was appropriate. While I accessed the core of being and nurtured inner peace, I also felt the disruptive energies coursing through the atmosphere.
I knew I would return to my daily life and reengage in the social and political world, and I wondered how I could maintain my center while returning to activism. I am no recluse; my life has been spent advancing public policies that support social justice and increase opportunity. Thankfully, during the retreat I was gifted with the insight of several steps that could help me maintain balance and beauty while engaging in civic action. These are my ways of supporting my work for a better world:
1. Create an experience of inner peace each day. Really touch peace. This is the first thing I do each day. I can’t do it in five minutes, but I can in 20. Meditation is my approach, but prayer, chanting, breath practices and contemplative movement can invoke a state of peace. We need to have a peaceful core when encountering injustice and divisiveness as we work to change the political arena. Anger, fear and frustration don’t support my work for a more respectful culture.
2. Remember the sacred each day. Amidst the ugliness and belligerence, the crudeness and crassness all around, I take the opportunity to sanctify my being before engaging with the world. The manner in which we touch the sacred can vary. Beholding the night sky elevates my inner state, invoking purity and awe. Music also provides a path to holiness – within seconds, Bach’s Mass in B Minor can lift my consciousness. Many other forms of music do so as well, and do certain images, rituals and walks in nature.
3. Monitor the impressions I absorb each day, especially from the media. I want to stay informed about what is going on but I do not want to become obsessed by the daily vote or tweet. Noticing my response to media informs me about the healthiest ways for me to stay informed. If my response to input is despair or anger, I pause, assess, and find another venue for that information. I have come to realize that, regardless of content, there are certain voices (i.e., vibrational tones) that disrupt my center. I find reading a more neutral way to absorb “news” than watching, and that I do best stopping the consumption of information hours before bedtime.
4. Engage in civic actions that speak to my heart. I want to work for social transformation, fostering a society of respect, sympathy and compassion that recognizes the inter-connectivity of all life. I want to build bridges between opposing perspectives and I want to support those who are oppressed. There is a tremendous number of areas that need reform, a plethora of policies to oppose and new directions to seed. However, I cannot respond to every issue. I need to be prepared to continue my engagement for the long haul. So I choose to engage in the areas where I have some expertise and that speak to my heart. I can contribute to the field of conflict transformation by helping people see from another’s point of view, building understanding and respect for all people.
5. Lift up examples of beauty, kindness, generosity, and decency. Identify these acts present in life, and name them. Share them with friends. I have to continue to see the beauty of the gift of life. Beauty and love are still here, even in these challenging times. Spending time in nature and with family are the easiest way for me to access beauty. But I are given many of opportunities to be kind each day.
6. Connect to community. Work on issues with friends, and share both frustrations and joys. Remember I am not alone, there is a vast network of like-hearted people who care about the environment and social justice. Find them and spend time together. They can bring both solace and inspiration.
Practicing all of these activities hasn’t changed the social or political landscape (yet). But it has allowed me to work for my ideal with integrity and authenticity. Perhaps you will find something of value in these steps.
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