I live with this ever present ache of love for life.
Sometimes this ache finds its expression in sharing practices of affirming worth and value that we might call yoga or meditation.
Sometimes this ache finds an outlet in a long hug.
Often in Song.
Conversations with deep listening and authentic sharing.
In spontaneous dancing.
In happy crying.
In sharing meals and delicious snacks.
Sometimes my heart breaks at the enormity of suffering especially when that is brought about by the cruelty or indifference of humans.
Reading the news this morning hurt my heart. Wildfires in Australia. Possibility of yet another war.
Heartbreak enters into the space alongside love. There is room for all conditions and states of being in the heart.
I facilitated a workshop last week on Sacred Activism where we call upon Holy Imagination, Holy Heartbreak and Holy Acts of Rebellion to not bypass suffering but to face it with a sense of grounding and openness. Here there is an invitation to step outside of isolating oneself to find clarity around how the systems of domination and oppression, namely capitalism, white supremacy and the patriarchy have influenced our own beliefs and hence our thoughts and actions.
This is also about understanding and observing the systems of capitalism, white supremacy, the the patriarchy. They are all connected and support the mutual existence of each system. It is challenging to know where they begin and end and how much we are socialized into these formative beliefs from culture that permeate our being and these beliefs that inform our actions and interactions with each other. Psychology of yoga informs us beliefs (called samskaras ) permeate all layers of our existence. Neuroscience confirms beliefs can be understood as deeply embedded neural networks in the brain.
The values of capitalism are about production and consumption. People are valued by their ability to produce. children and the elderly do not produce so the occupations that support the care of this demographic is at one of the lowest ends of the pay scale.
If you produce and consume a great deal, you are ranked and valued higher. Productivity and efficiency and transactional relationships are valued more than interpersonal, relationships of mutual support.
The values of white supremacy are more challenging for white people to recognize because their whiteness and the privilege that extends from that are largely invisible to white People. Many if not most white People see racism as an individual belief ( and one to take a workshop on). To bypass structural, cultural and institutional racism it is easier to adopt a color blind attitude that completely negates the experience of navigating the world created by white people (able bodied white men) as a person of color. White supremacy is part of all of our institutions of government, law, education, voting laws, how people are or are not able to access credit, live where they want, our churches and faith communities have whitewashed Jesus…and so on…..most of the language around these are race neutral but the application and impact to people of color are not in any way shape or form neutral.
And the patriarchy. Last but not least. Values here objectify bodies, rank identity and use power and domination as a means of establishing one’s superior identity. Homophobia and attachment to heteronormative identities and relationships are also part of this.
Interconnected, this looks like hyper focus on the individual, perfectionism, accomplishment, martyrdom, fear of failure, exhaustion,, inequalities in funding schools, programs that serve people on the margins, false urgency, and more,
There is a great cost to our own ability to empathize, to authentically connect with ourselves and other beings, even to the point of impaired cognitive function with bypass and overwhelm when we live tired and wired. Here we lack vision, imagination, and passion.
Shifting from a mechanistic and analytical world view that is driven by these systems to one that has a holistic, organic view of the world based on both the laws of biology and the teachings from both the Abrahamic faiths and ones that arose around The Indus Valley, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikkishm and Buddhism as well as indigenous beliefs and practices.
Joanna Macy writes eloquently in many of her books about this shift. This Great Turning towards life.
Generally biology shows us that nature self organizes and does so in a way that is coherent and constant and elegant from the sub atomic level to mental and social systems as well.
Systems self generate from adaptive cooperation between its parts for mutual benefit. Systems contain parts that are whole in and of themselves and part of a greater whole.
Order and differentiation go hand in hand as they coordinate roles and generate new responses.
We learn through neuroscience that the mind is a vast complex neural network that is replicated in systems found in nature.
We are nature. We were created as reflections of nature.
There is so much to explore here and the resources of Joanna Macy, Matthew Fox with Creation Spirituality, Loretta Pyles with Healing Justice and both Adrianne Maree Brown, Zenzu Earthlyn Manual have a lot of beautiful words around unpacking how we see ourselves and our relationship to Earth/God/Community in both the languages of science and spirituality.
So, our challenge is to have an awareness of how we have been socialized and find ways to practice unpacking this and Sacred Activism offers some tools and practices to do that and grow in community and mutual respect for one another.
It is because I love life so much that this work is so important. To be able to move towards the full realization of my own humanity and see that in others, it is necessary to move beyond our conditioning to ground, take time to be still and silent and access the holy imagination where we can vision new ways of being that are relational rather than transactional. Ways of being where all beings have access to essential resources to thrive, can freely and safely navigate in their bodies as they show up in those bodies and live in peace with one another.
With holy heartbreak, instead of numbing or bypassing using privilege to turn away from our own suffering and that of others, we lean into that so it breaks our heart wide open and transforms through Metta, through Tonglen, through praying without ceasing into awareness of connection that leads us into embodying compassion. Here we meet suffering without pity, but in a space of acknowledging the worth and value of all beings, a space of interconnectedness.
Holy acts of rebellion can be what fuels the journey. Napping in our consumer based, high production society is one of the ultimate acts of rebellion. Loving beyond barriers, borders. Stepping outside consumption to set up alternative economies that share resources. Pursuing sustainability rather than unchecked growth.
The blessed beings that made up our workshop, we did this together imagining, visioning, refusing to allow suffering to shut our hearts and numb our souls to ourselves and each other and claimed rebellion not from a place of being “against” but for what we are claiming that which lies beyond dominant cultural narratives.
The next decade is likely to offer us many opportunities to make choices about values, about ways of living and loving that may look very different than where we are now. My hope is relentless here that there are many others who live with this ache, this love for life and want to explore what that looks like, feels like and how we can connect around new ways of imagining living and loving.
Where do we start?
Right where we are in this moment, in this day.
Today I showed up and loved life.
I loved people.
I loved even in the face of suffering.
Today this was simple.
Today this was also hard.
I did it anyway.