Embracing the World
“We are fellow-helpers with God, co-creators in everything we do. When Word and work are returned to their source and origin, all work is accomplished divinely in God. And there too the soul loses itself in a wonderful enchantment.”
– Meister Eckhart
A spirituality that is only private and self-absorbed, one devoid of an authentic political and social consciousness, does little to halt the suicidal juggernaut of history. On the other hand, an activism that is not purified by profound spiritual and psychological self-awareness and rooted in divine truth, wisdom and compassion will only perpetuate the problem it is trying to solve, however righteous its intentions. When, however, the deepest and most grounded spiritual vision is married to a practical and pragmatic drive to transform all existing political, economic, and social institutions, a holy force – the power of wisdom and love in action – is born.
– Andrew Harvey
The most radical thing any of us can do at this time is to be fully present to what is happening in the world.
– Joanna Macy
What a glorious morning it is here in Chicago. It is as if Earth’s long-running fever has suddenly broken overnight at least here. I awoke to a cool breeze, low humidity, and a deep sense of relaxation. Now the windows are all open and the sunshine feels wonderful. I hear the sound of our upstairs neighbor’s new pet. I imagine a playful kitten scampering about. All is well.
But all seems far from well in the world at large. Afghanistan is daily falling back into the hands of the Taliban. And in many parts of the world, devastating fires fueled by climate change are at this very moment burning out of control. Drought conditions in the US are beyond severe in some areas. There is no sign of an end for the global pandemic, only a transition to a new chapter. Racial injustices continue. The list goes on and on. It is enough to tempt me to total despair. Is there nothing I can do to bring the world to rights? How is a person to live in this world? I know that many of you share my concerns and outrage. And you may share my question as well: how, then, do we respond to all of this? How are we to live?
I honestly don’t know the answer for you but I know that we human beings don’t do well if we lose our hope and health. Each of us needs to somehow balance feeling awareness of all that is going on with a focus on the here and now, on the work that is right here in front of us. We may be tempted to a kind of anxious activism, but if at the end of the day we are wearing ourselves down then we need to re-think. This kind of frenetic engagement is not sustainable, and we need an approach that we can embody as a way of life.
We might also be tempted to put on blinders and focus on our own personal happiness. I admit to feeling this way quite often. There is just so much wrong out there! Being aware of it all can feel like more than I can bear. Perhaps if I raise my vibrational frequency I can soar above the pain and despair? Perhaps I can find my own personal nirvana?
The conclusion I’ve come to is that there is just no way our little self, the ego-centric self, can face today’s complex reality by itself. It is just too much. The small self runs and hides, lashes out, numbs out or dissociates in the face of such pain. Luckily, we can develop access to a bigger Self. Call it what you will: the True Self, the transcendent self, the Christ Self, the self in union with all there is. This Self is ageless, timeless, deathless – it includes and transcends death and suffering. And to the extent that we can access this awakened Self, we can be with and embrace all that is going down in the world. And as we come to identify as this Self, we have an authentic center from which we can effectively and meaningfully engage with life without risking burnout. This is our only legitimate hope. For the world is not only more terrible than our little self can bear, but also more heart-breakingly glorious and beautiful! If we, as this Self, can relax into the radiant suchness and transcendent peace of this moment, from that place perhaps we can also embrace this world in all its brokenness, radiance, and glory.
You may say that all this talk about awakening to the True Self is all well and good, but what about those of us whose daily reality is one of hiding, outrage and frustration? That is certainly a situation we can all relate to. What are we to do on those days when being with it all is simply more than we can bear? Well, I hear you and believe me, I know this territory well. I think that we must be kind to ourselves while simultaneously praying for help in being the person we long to be in the world.
Here’s to your ongoing awakening!