I know two people who are environmental activists. One comes from a more peaceful place. The other from anger. Both are effective in what they do. However, people enjoy being around the one whose words are more measured and thoughtful. They feel stressed with the other whose demeanor is indignant and enraged.
I see myself in both of them. I became a children's therapist and advocate out of compassion and anger. I was outraged at how our law enforcement, social and legal systems ignored and minimized the plight of the sexually abused kids I counseled at our Mental Health Center. I asked a woman in a neighboring county who had started a Child Sex Abuse Task Force in the early 80s to help our community. She graciously agreed.
Five families with a child who had been molested courageously agreed to share their stories anonymously with a reporter from our local newspaper. Thanks to our newly formed Child Sex Abuse Task Force and a number of powerful newspaper articles the children's allegations were taken more seriously and the sex offenders prosecuted.
So began my life as an activist. I took on other issues such as civil and woman's rights, environmental protection and argued against the death penalty. Injustice was everywhere. Most of my passion was fueled by anger and outrage. Over time it took its toll. Although I reminded myself that yes America has made progress our citizens have more rights, I felt disillusioned, depleted, depressed and burned out.
While backpacking alone in the Georgia Mountains in the early 80s I had an experience that changed how I see the world. I had a spiritual awakening where I realized God is not a big daddy in the sky but a loving presence permeating everything. For the first time I experienced joy and the power of peace, divine love and forgiveness.
While alone I realized people like Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and other spiritual and social leaders who have had an impact on the world did not come from a place of fear, anger or revenge. They did not take the injustice against them or others personally or see the world as good against evil. They came from a place of inner peace and were not attached to the outcome.
It fascinated me that many of the great spiritual teachers spent time alone in the wilderness before they started their ministry. Christ went into the wilderness for forty days and nights to fast and pray before he began His ministry. Buddha spent six years alone in the forest and later with a band of ascetics, practicing self-control and self-denial before his enlightenment under a fig tree. He then went back into the world to teach for forty-five years. Mohamed spent fifteen years meditating in a cave, sometimes all night, before he heard the voice of Allah and wrote the Koran, the Muslim Bible. His writing was a miracle since he had never gone to school and could barely write his name.
Having glimpsed a Truth about the universe I thought I'd arrived. Little did I know the battle had just begun. Now it was not with others and the world but within me.
I saw how many of my actions were fueled by my unhappy childhood. How I projected my feelings onto others and at times wanted revenge. My ego always wanted the next thing to react against, to feel annoyed, disturbed or outraged. Like a drug I was addicted to anger and upset. I had no idea my constant reacting against everything strengthened my ego and sense of self importance. Each time I complained it made me right and the other person wrong.
The more I made my thoughts, beliefs, story and identity the Truth, the more I cut myself off from the spiritual dimension within.
As I became more aware I realized there was something in me that took pleasure in negativity. My ego was a master of selective perception and distorted interpretations. The moment I noticed this there was a shift from ego to awareness. I became more aware of the difference between the event and my reaction to the event. In time I discovered the best way to differentiate between fact and opinion was not through my thinking but my awareness. As my victim identity diminished I stopped seeking people's attention and sympathy. I became more accepting of what happens.
Spending time in solitude to reflect, meditate or pray helps me see more clearly about what needs to be done and how to act more fearlessly. I call it a blend of inner peace with loving action. Others call it “God, intuition, the 'still small voice' grace or presence.”
When I “simply sit” and “not do, but “be” I become one with the fullness of Life. The natural world helps me realign with its wholeness. As my ego dissolves, emotions like resentment, anger, and fear have no place to lodge. I still feel them but only briefly. When I base my actions on inner alignment with the present I feel empowered. This is why I take note and trust the thoughts, ideas and decisions that come to me while writing, doing yoga, meditating, sitting or walking in the woods.
I believe the world's problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness they were created. Now when I see worthiness, I praise it. When I see unworthiness I try not to judge. I trace it back to the person's unique history and back to myself. I usually find what I dislike in others is somewhere in me.
I now believe spirituality has nothing to do with what we believe and everything to do with our state of consciousness. Since consciousness transcends thought it is the dimension within ourselves that is infinitely more vast than thought.
When I stop feeding my ego's illusions I feel a profound joy and connectedness with all of creation.
Instead of waiting for change in the future I enjoy the present. The joy does not come from what I do it flows into what I do. Awareness allows the world to become a mirror. The more I love without conditions the more loving the world appears. The spiritual realization I am not my thoughts, feelings, body or story but pure consciousness is freeing.
I believe there is only one question when we die. It's not about our degrees, power, social status or money. It's “how well we have loved.”
Our lives are a tiny blip in eternity. Carlos Castaneda in “Journey to Ixtlan” said it another way, “A man of knowledge has no honor, no dignity, no family, no name, no country but only life to be lived. He lives his life as if it matters knowing it doesn't matter.”