It is hard to talk about justice without talking about the activist work, intentionally or accidentally, which is needed to bring change in our world. While there are things that are going well and are worthy of being celebrated in the ongoing fight for human rights and justice, there are also numerous crises facing our world including extreme poverty, environmental destruction and depletion, emotional, mental and relationship disconnects in life. In efforts to bring about systemic and structural change, activists often feel discouraged and doubt their ability to make a difference. Building on the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Harvey offers an approach known as sacred activism, which engages compassion and love. Harvey offers eleven practices which we can do to engage in sacred activism in our daily lives. These practices call on us deepen and nourish our personal connection with spirit and then to use this deeper connection in our actions to transform this world.
1. Be Grateful. Harvey suggests that each day we write down one thing which make you feel grateful to be alive.
For the last several weeks, our Wednesday night group has been listening to a five-hour workshop by Pema Chodrom about releasing fear and living with courage and compassion. In it, she has talked about how Bodhisattva training encourages us to give up our separateness and act upon our deep connections with others. Over the course of these conversations, we have focused on how similar we are to each other. Yes, we have things about us that are unique, but we have far more in common with each other then we often times realize. As we practice being compassionate, we begin the process of releasing our resentments and cravings, and opening our minds to new relationships, courage, and compassion for others. Chödrön demonstrates ways to practice the four limitless qualities of loving — kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Last week, we did a meditational practice where we began by breathing in relief for suffering for someone we were close to and exhaling peace and healing in their lives. We could have actually started with ourselves. However, in her workshop she began with those we would want to pray for, then to more neutral parties in our life, and finally with those whom we would resist praying for in our lives. Read more
Have you ever found yourself getting angry or irritated at someone? One of the things I learned about anger, and any emotion, is that it can only stay alive for so long on its own. So when we stay angry or irritated for a long period, it is because at some level we have made a commitment to keeping it alive. Did you know an emotion has a natural life of about 30 seconds? If it lasts longer than that, it is because we are choosing to keep it alive. So when we stay angry all day, or for years, it is because we are choosing to stay angry. There is nothing wrong with a feeling, however, it is important for a feeling not to control us or become our identity.
The other night someone asked me if I ever got angry. Read more
As many of you know, the theme for March has been about being present and the theme for April is about compassion. This week, I decided to talk about something which blends these two spiritual practices together. Being still is about being present and sometimes being present means that we have to be compassionate with ourselves as well as others.
Those who know me, know that being still is not something I do easily. I am generally always doing something. However, I am intentional about taking time in the morning to meditate, sit, and be still! Read more
The journey to find the
authentic self, the self you were created to be is not always easy. It is as W. Somerset Maugham wrote about like
the razor’s edge. This novel, The Razor’s Edge tells the story of an
American, Larry Darrell, who, traumatized by his experiences as a fighter pilot
in World War I, decides to search for some transcendent meaning in his life. This is the story of a man who refuses to
conform to the ways of the world, rejects conventional life, and searches for
his authentic self. This is the story of one man's
quest for inner peace and enlightenment.
It is the tale of one person’s spiritual journey. Read more
We had just finished healing harbor last night. I was
feeling spiritually fulfilled that we had been able to provide healing to so
many people. At the same time, I was physically exhausted, my body ached from
the rain, my eyes itched from my allergies, and every cell in my being just
wanted to crawl into bed. It had been a marvelous and enriching day and then
one of my healing staff said something, which just made the whole day a little
brighter. “I really like your hair like that.” All I could do was take a deep
breath and say was “thank you.” The funny thing was that I have wanted to shave
it all off again, but Zoe has been encouraging me to let it grow. Read more
Several years ago, someone asked me how I came to this space
of compassion for humanity in my life. I remember the question as if it were
yesterday. At first, I was not sure how I was going to answer the question, and
then this simple word floated up from my heart – LIFE.
I once heard LIFE was an acronym for Love Is For Everyone. The
simplicity of that message resonated with me because it was part of what I have
learned my entire life. It was a valuable lesson I learned from my parents who
made room in their hearts for an infant who was looking for a home. My parents
believed that their love, as parents, was for me and for my two brothers who
arrived a few years later. Love is for everyone.
week, I ended by asking how we use our status in the world to create a more humane world.
How do we, consciously or unconsciously, contribute to the inhumanity in the
world? How do we try to avoid and deny responsibility for our place in creating
a more humane world for all of humanity?
have this tendency in our culture to blame people for not having achieved as
much or done as well as others. We see things at an individual level and rarely
look at the systemic forces that make it more difficult for some to achieve or
have access to what seems within the grasp of others. Rather than be willing to
critically look at these issues and the ways they are embedded within larger
institutions and systems of injustice and inequality, people tend to try to get
off the hook by denying and/or minimizing the situation or blaming the
situation on the “victim.”
This might seem like a strange way to begin my first blog
for this New Year, but empty for me is an awesome space to be at in my life. I
am not talking about the stressful kind of empty like when you run out of gas
on the highway because you did not realize your gas tank was empty. Nor am I talking
about that space when you may feel like you are running on empty because you
have no energy left in your life. Nor am I talking about how you feel like your
life is empty of love, life, and meaning, although that too would be a great
focus for a reflection. Rather, I am talking about this state of happiness and bliss,
which comes when one is empty, and in need of nothing. Read more
It is not as if I have not written about compassion before. I have done so a couple of times in Compassion and Courage’s Friend: Compassion. However, I felt inspired to reflect on this spiritual value again for two reasons: the holiday season and the recent tragedies globally involving the deaths of children and adults. The recent tragedies at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and at the Chenpeng Village Primary School in the Henan province of China have begun conversations about weapon control and addressing mental health issues domestically and globally. These are the topics most frequently addressed by the media and on social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, surrounding these and similar tragic events in our world. Read more
What is compassion? When I was in seminary, one of my professors introduced me to a book called The Quality Of Characteristics. The author Ruth Gendler, describes compassion in the following manner.
Compassion wears Saturn’s rings on the fingers of her left hand. She is intimate with the life force. She understands the meaning of sacrifice. She is not afraid to die. There is nothing you cannot tell her. Compassion speaks with a slight accent. She was a vulnerable child, miserable in school, cold, shy, alert to the pain in the eyes of her sturdier classmates. The other kids teased her about being too sentimental, and for a long time she believed them. In ninth grade she was befriended by Courage. Courage lent Compassion bright sweaters, explained the slang, showed her how to play volleyball, taught her you can love people and not care what they think about you. In many ways Compassion is still the stranger, neither wonderful nor terrible, herself, utterly, always. Read more
Last night, students, faculty, staff, and members of the administration of SUNY Brockport gathered in in the Seymour Union Ballroom for a time of remembrance of an 18 year old, Alexandra Kogut, who was murdered by her boyfriend this past Saturday. The room quickly filled with students and the sea of students continued to flow in until there was not a seat, a spot to stand, or floor space on which to sit. What was also present last night were spiritual values, which bring communities together and are not always present in situations of domestic violence.
All too often, I hear stories of how people who were in abusive situations received no support from their churches or faith communities. Recently, I heard of a woman who had been assaulted and stabbed by her abusive husband. As she recovered from her injuries, she turned to her church, expecting pastoral care and support. She was not then employed because her husband would not allow her to work. Read more
A friend of ours is interviewing for a job in another state. As she has talked about the idea of moving, she has thought about taking up a temporary residence somewhere until she can decide where and in what neighborhood she wants to live in. As I have listened to the stories of those whose homes were lost during Hurricane Katrina, there was a clear sense that where I am at right now is a temporary situation, but soon I will be moving back to or into permanent housing again.
When it comes to where we live, most of us have a clear sense of when the place is our temporary and or permanent residence. So why is that some of us have trouble doing that with our feelings. Read more
Michael Beckwith once wrote, “The daily headlines describe a global culture that has been cur off from the soul.” One need not look farther then the headlines on any form of news media for stories about violence, whether it is overt, subtle, verbal, physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual. We manifest violence through our words, actions, and thoughts. Violence is associated with power, either the misuse of the power one has or an attempt to feel powerful in a world where they have felt disempowered. Violence can be individual or structural. We hear about individual violence in stories of wars, abuse, neglect, murders, rapes, bombings, terrorism, etc. Read more
So a many of you know Zoë and I legally were married this past Saturday after having been together for 10 years. Thank you to the State of New York for the great anniversary present. I love being with my wife. I also love being mother to my son Nicholas and all the others who have adopted me as a parent figure in their lives. I know all these relationships are part of who I was created to be and what I was created to do in this world.
However, there are moments when I am not in love with any of these roles and there are even moments when I am not too pleased with life either. Read more
We all go through times in our journey which if given the choice, we might choose to avoid. It is at times like this when I tend to hear my Bubby’s voice reminding me that when you can see the good in a bad situation, then you know you are going to be ok. I have done this with Zoë’s cancer diagnosis, during the times my son has struggled (like last night), during my struggle with Liftline, etc. As I have made a list of the blessings in each situation, the way I see them, what I choose to believe about them shifts from an Eeyore attitude to an attitude of gratitude. The more I focus on what I have to be grateful for, the more I realize how much I have to be grateful for. It is as if gratefulness begets gratefulness begets gratefulness. Read more
Yesterday I received an email that asked me what are you supposed to do while you are in the meantime. So here are a few suggestions of what you can do while you are in the meantime.
While you are in the meantime, help somebody. A poet once wrote, “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother, and I found all three.” Sometimes when we are feeling empty, we benefit immeasurably by serving people in need. As their strength is renewed, our cups overflow. Stop waiting for an invitation to get involved. Go help somebody. As John F Kennedy once said, don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Read more
It is no secret, to those of you who read my reflections on a regular basis, that I am a Chopped fan. I am not sure I have missed an episode since it first aired. I have learned a lot about cooking from watching the show in terms of techniques and flavor profiles and combinations. However, one of the recent episodes moved me to tears and touched me spiritually in a way that I was not expecting. It all happened with a single word. WAIT!
This episode, like a few of the others, was a redemption battle between four chefs who had come in second in their initial competitions. I remember each of them well. However, from the beginning, I had my two favorites Yohanna and Lance. I had remembered them from their initial appearances because of their humility, their grace, and their creativity. Read more
As adults, sometimes what inspires us are things that are deep and reflective. Other times, it is something that brings us back to our childhood, something simple like a kid’s book. Recently, at our Pizza & Spirituality Chat Night, I read a Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears A Who, to those who gathered to eat my first attempt at homemade pizza. If you have not read this book, do so or some of what is in my heart this morning may not make complete sense. There are a couple of things I love about this story. One is that Horton has this amazing capacity to love all of humanity. Horton believes “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” Another thing I have come to love about Horton is that he is an elephant of great faith. Horton is committed to protecting the people of who-ville, even though he cannot see them. However, protecting them is not as easy as it seems. Read more