Pick your road! We need them all
Every faith tradition pays attention to the cultivation of insight and calmness – inner peace – and also how we manifest ethics in the world outside our own bodies.
There are three potential forms of outer action. You can focus on the alleviation of immediate suffering: fundraise for the Maslow Project, crochet/knit warm things for the low-income or unhoused, collect or fundraise for the Food Bank; create and deliver hot meals, and many more. You can focus on spiritual donation — spending hours every week in concentrated prayer, distance healing through reiki, and other tools that have a strong intention of benefiting others who are suffering in mind and body.
Donating your healing services to a specific person or group has a measurable positive impact on the world. Finally, you can focus on political action, to effect change in local or national policies, including global problems like income inequity or climate change.
The roads that people choose usually shift over the course of a lifetime. In my 20s and 30s, the lure of political action was strong. Later my outer action was in (free) energy healing for hours every week. These days I focus on service to individuals, creating warm garments, prioritizing Food Bank donations in my personal budget, creating free online classes on mindfulness, creativity and other cheering, uplifting topics for local and far-away OLLI and our local Senior Center, and working on other local and immediately helpful projects.
How do you decide which road(s) to take?
Before you consider the how, one mental stance is absolutely essential: ALL three of these roads are equally morally valid and spiritually urgent. The instant you feel yourself – or hear yourself or someone in “your group” – thinking or mouthing a holier-than-thou frame, understand at the deepest depth of your soul that you are off the moral-high-ground rails.
Disparaging others who are diligently working on a different road is a wrong action/wrong belief. This ethical, spiritual challenge is particularly acute for the folks focused on political action.
It’s easy to think that we can help the largest number of people if we focus large-scale, which means shifting government priorities and policies. Very true.
Yet, the people who are cold and hungry, hopeless and despairing today would be ignored if we all turned our attention to political action.
And even with massive effort, political action can fail. When it does, it’s easy to start blaming the caring, compassionate folks who are building habitat, or knitting scarves and the folks who are diligently praying, reiki-ing or listening with love. After all, if those two groups abandoned their focus on right now and got behind the fight against climate change, then the world would be saved. Right?
No. Those with a focus on the quiet forms of helping, or immediate helping, aren’t inferior to those with a global outlook. We need forward action on all three roads at once. No matter how hard the road, we must not forget the self-care that is essential if we’re going to keep working with the calmness and peaceful love that we need.
We are all working diligently toward the same end goal. We’ll get there faster with constant and determined respect and encouragement from each other, pouring out our loving hearts to all those of goodwill and earnest caring, no matter which road they work on.
If inner peacefulness creates a heart filled with calm, steadfast love, then that love will cascade outward into one of the three rivers. Let those who are called to a particular river work diligently in that river, cheering on workers in the other rivers, until the entire world’s oceans are nourished and well.
Of course, the more kindly and diligently we work in our outer action, the more that action will feed our inner growth. Inner peace and outer action, feeding each other, in an eternal positive-reinforcement cycle, can defeat not only the demons of selfishness and uncaring, but also the temptation to criticize others who are caring on a different road.
If we can do that, we have already won – no matter the “outcome.”
Victoria Leo survived 2020 with Zoom-socializing, and grocery deliveries and fed her soul by creating new online classes and future-fiction, completing the first three novels in a series. Even in the 25th century, courage is the essential virtue and a sense of humor keeps you sane. https://www.amazon.com/Heroes-1-Pan-Galactic-Planetary-Confederation/dp/B08BWHQDLN. Send 600 to 700 word articles to Sally McKirgan firstname.lastname@example.org