My New Year’s Resolutions: The Dance of Political Action and Personal Grow

My 2017 New Year’s Resolutions (The Short List):

  1. To practice metta once a week
  2. To use my compassion as a motivation for political action
  3. To meditate four mornings a week
  4. To use my insight to bring wisdom while I take action
  5. To pray at night for the safety, wellbeing and liberation of all beings
  6. To make my prayers reality by taking action
  7. To practice my sit spot, and use it to cultivate my deep sense of interconnectedness
  8. To use my interconnectedness to inspire me take action
  9. To cultivate my vitality by exercising and eating healthier
  10. To use my vitality to sustain my action

There is an obvious theme here: the dance between spiritual practice and political action. This will be my mantra for 2017 and, as we wait for Trump to become our president, and climate deniers and bigots are ascending to high office, I hope it will become many of our mantras for the year.

These two elements of spiritual practice and action are necessary and, are in fact, extensions of each other. Without reflection and growth, without the spiritual grounding in love and peace, our action will be unwise and unfettered. Our anger, our frustration, our rage—all of which are valid and incredibly helpful emotions— will take over and reproduce anger, frustration and rage through our actions.

But at the same time, unless we couple that spiritual growth with political action it becomes myopic and self-indulgent. During and since the presidential election, I have heard so much about the need for empathy and compassion and kindness and yes, we absolutely need those things. They are a wonderful and vital starting place, but that is what they are: a starting place. They must be lived through our actions that aim to create a more just and compassionate world.

This was, in fact, the path of some of our most renowned spiritual leaders. Take, for example, Mother Teresa, who said “you can do no great thing, only small things with great love.” It is easy to interpret this as saying that the path to a better world is through being kinder in our everyday interactions with each other, like being nice to your siblings or giving a few dollars to a homeless person. And of course, those things are valuable, but I do not think it was what Mother Teresa meant by “small things”. Consider Mother Teresa’s life: She devoted the majority of her life to caring for the most vulnerable and downtrodden members of society and founded the Missionaries of Charity, a global organization that has clothed, fed, bathed and taught literally millions. I do not think she is talking about just being nice to each other, but something far more radical. She is not talking about whether we take action, but rather how we do so, saying that we must approach it with humbleness and great love.

Dr. King is another good example. He said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” To many people, this quote means that cultivating love is the only thing that can heal the world. And I agree with that. But what did “love” mean to Dr. King? Consider his statement that “justice is love made public.” From his vantage, and mine, if you truly love this world, if you truly love your neighbors, if you live with compassion and lovingkindness, you must fight for justice and truth. And, it was not Dr. King’s role as a Christian minster that gave him enduring fame; it was his radical political leadership, grounded in deep Christian values of love and compassion, that led to his notoriety.

So, put it on your New year’s resolutions to better yourself. Pledge to go to Church, Temple or Mosque. Meditate, pray, do yoga, eliminate sugar from your diet and join a gym. Sign up for beautiful meditation retreats in Northern California or New England where you talk about your childhood pain and grieve for the things your life has lacked. Sleep in a yurt, listen to plants and do a diet cleanse.

Then, come back from these times renewed, ready to take on the ugliness of the world, ready to make it look more like the love and compassion you have cultivated in your heart.

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