It’s a clear, cold morning, the bright beauty of the new year reflected in this translucent January sky. Sunlight gilds the rooftops outside my study window, and paints the mountains that ring the horizon a flat, grey-blue.
The beauty of this world takes my breath away. Love’s abiding promise fills me with hope, even as my tender heart oscillates between unfurling and closing – between the desire to drink in the glory of this world, to sing its praises and celebrate it with every heartbeat, and the imperative to protect it from the furies that would smash it to pieces.
There is so much at stake here.
Many of you have been sharing the depths of the fear and despair you feel at the state of our world. We are rattled to the bone by the turbulence that swirls around us, and that demands our attention and engagement if we, and the way of life we cherish, are to prevail.
The shadows of totalitarianism gather thickly, once again, pushing their way to the forefront of civic life in our homelands, and in those countries that we’ve (with some complacency) viewed as alien to our values and way of life.
In Canada and the U.S., Germany, Great Britain, Syria, the Ukraine, Iraq, Hungary, Afghanistan – in countries with stable democracies, long-standing traditions of freedom, great wealth and prosperity, and in countries that remain primarily tribal societies or feudal fiefdoms — the most vulnerable among us are bearing the brunt of the unleashed power of elites who believe they can now act with impunity to further their own, perverse ends by violent means.
Gravestones desecrated with the vilest of racist graffiti. Governments assaulting and massacring their own people. Men, women and children terrified for their lives, dragged out of their homes and brutally beaten or killed by those who view them as less than human because of the colour of their skin or the ways in which they live and worship. Constitutional rights, which generations fought and died to bring into being and to uphold, stripped away and demolished.
There is so much at stake here.
The story of our species is a discontinuous narrative of violent collisions between reactionary and evolutionary forces. Each of these is ultimately an expression — no matter how distorted — of fundamental human needs: for safety, stability, belonging, certainty, predictability, structure, conservation, cohesiveness on one hand :: and for adventure, exploration, generativity, fluidity, creative expression, artistry, mystery, diversity, freedom, on the other.
We have to find ways to hold these seemingly disparate needs in peaceful relationship with each other — first, in our own hearts, and then in the heart of our social, political and civic life. The more actively I engage with the politics of creative dissent, the more I find myself needing to address the reflection of these societal divisions within my own body and being.
For me, this has meant — among other things — holding a daily summit with my inner selves. In particular, with those of my inner selves who value and desire solitude, privacy, spaciousness, soul communion, inner tranquility … and the ones that embody creative joy, engagement, cross-pollination, communication, power, and action.
At first, they identified themselves in binary ways. My Being selves were both repelled by and vaguely imagined themselves superior to the selves who value action. The Do-ers, on the other hand, were dismissive of and appalled by what they viewed as the neurasthenic complacency the “let’s just be” selves.
As I held the space in which these inner selves could talk, listen, be heard, and explore their true desires together, those binaries dissolved. My Being selves discovered, to their surprise, relief and chagrin, that they also love to act – just not necessarily in the same ways or in the same sequences as my Doing selves.
My Doing selves discovered that their Being has always anchored and made possible their ability to act powerfully and effectively without losing focus or direction.
As each part of me embraces the patterns of wholeness of which it is a fractal, those excruciating inner divisions that have sometimes wrenched me apart this past year heal and yield to an unforced, organic unity. I breathe more deeply. My shoulders drop into a kinder relationship with gravity. My spine becomes more fluid. My mind quiets. Urgency yields to sovereignty, freedom and choice.
The foundations of freedom are indeed being blasted by forces that would drag us into their own nightmare version of a hopelessly fractured, starkly black-and-white world. Fear, anger, despair, violence, hatred saturate the very air we breathe, making it acrid in ways that profoundly affect our biology. People are being murdered — in the name of ideology, tribal loyalty, religious and racial sanctity — around the globe. Their deaths invade our sleep, even in our incredibly privileged corner of the world. And so they should. The agents of destruction wear alarmingly ordinary faces. They look like you and me.
There are no innocent bystanders here. We either find ways to uphold the freedoms and privileges we hold most dear, or we contribute to the dismantling of culture and civilization as we know it.
It isn’t easy, this task of knowing how and when to act, how and when to take a step back to replenish ourselves. Creative action emerges from the ground of our being rather than from an inflamed reactivity. It takes patience, persistence, devotion and commitment to the cause of wholeness to be the peace we want to see in our world.
We can neither withdraw into the airy citadels of disembodied spirituality, nor bloody ourselves into unconsciousness in battle with the forces that oppose us. We must find a way to stand firm and hold the line, over the long haul. We must find ways to remain warriors for peace without losing the peace that resides within us. We must find ways to sustain this stance, for as long as it takes, for the rest of our lives.
It takes faith, and practice, to keep turning to our souls for guidance. It takes practice, commitment and daily devotion to turn to the sacred for all that we need to embody the strength and power to act from a love so fierce, so deep that it will not permit the abusers of power (including the ones that live in our own hearts) to destroy what love has built.
It takes discernment, wisdom, skill and yes, daily practice, and the support of loving communities, to manage our inner kingdoms effectively, to establish and hold clear energetic boundaries in the face of powerful forces that would tear down our sovereignties and freedoms.
The challenge remains what it always has been – to act with presence, power and skillful purpose while holding inner ground of equilibrium, humour and holiness.
In meeting that challenge in your own life, you may find this post from my archives helpful. And, in this podcast interview on Faith In Times of Uncertainty, with the lovely Koren Motekaitis, I share a practice of sacred activism that is powerful and generative.
This year, as I have for each of the past 35 years, I renew my commitment to support you in developing those capacities and skills that serve your soul, your business, your creative heart, your community, and your contribution to the work of peacemaking, wholeness making, and love making in our world.
For those of you who wish it, I offer my gifts as a potent ally of your soul, and a devoted servant to all that is most powerfully creative, sacred, and generative within you.
Whatever it is you want to create and contribute to your world, I hold with you a space of miraculous possibility in which your soul’s desires can unfold in full bloom, and in perfect timing.