Oh, fire, what would we do without you?
On farms, crops do better after a fire has licked at the earth and burned off the top layer of old growth in the fields. In the forest, pinecone seeds only reveal themselves for fruition after fires transform the land to burnt ash and smoke, killing the parent trees and turning the shells of the cones to cinder. Somehow, all that survives is the seed, the potential of rebirth inherent in the plant, which had slept in the cool earth, waiting.
In today’s social movements, there is typically online organizing (“Click here to do this good thing”) and there is offline organizing (“Excuse me, ma’am, would you sign this petition to do this good thing?”). But hold on to your clipboards because I’ve seen the future. And I am here to tell you that a new wave of community organizing is dawning at a bar, dog park, spa, cupcake shop, playground, and yoga studio near you. Let’s call it “Deep Offline Organizing.”
Perhaps the most challenging campaign for a spiritual activist is the one for the health and well-being of our own inner environment. It’s a gritty grassroots endeavor that goes on tirelessly all day long: at the kitchen table, on the yoga mat, at places of worship. At times, it can feel challenging to forge and hard to fund, and we may sometimes fear we lack the skills to win. And even when we remember that we have the Divine as a partner in the work, this campaign may still seem drastically understaffed!
The idea of altering your mind through movement sounds almost metaphorical. Stretch yourself. Strengthen your core. Grow some backbone. Listen to your body.
Yet recent science has found not only that you can trigger a physical change with your mind but also that real transformation can start with your body: with movement, with breath, with shifting your physical habits, no matter what your age.
This week I was given an unexpected gift of clarity. I realized with surprise and shock that I was doing a bunch of work I didn’t really want to do. The kicker is that I’d volunteered for these tasks, and here I was, staring down a To-Do List that didn’t feed my spirit. How could this have happened?
It takes no great leap of the imagination to say that we are living in tough times. As a priest, professor, and psychologist, I see struggling parishioners, students, and clients who, even a year ago, would not have imagined that they would be where they are today. Many are unemployed and are facing the prospect of continued unemployment for some time to come. Others are struggling with the impact of an economic downturn that places too much stress on an already strained family budget.
It’s been five months since January 1, the day when many of us vowed to change some aspect of our self before the year’s end. Regardless of whether we resolved to develop new eating habits, cultivate a particular spiritual virtue, or quit an addictive substance, most of us have probably already fallen off the path.
A seismic shift is happening. The change that is underway is profound and will seem to most to be revolutionary. What is this shift? The historic paradigm that our self-worth comes from what we own is ending. We’re moving away from valuing multiple cars, multiple televisions, plastic surgeries, and saving little. This shift will underscore the false consumption-oriented economy that we in the West think is the key to prosperity and happiness. Finally, it is sinking into our collective head that our borrow/spend behavior does not make us happy.
There is no fixed you from which to be transformed, and no fixed you into which you can be transformed. There is just transformation, on–going never–ending change. While we often speak of having a willingness to change, the fact is, willing or not, change is the only constant.
Our sense of our self arises from the activity of a neural network self-representation in our brain, and this self-representation arises from neural networks that represent our experience. When we’re operating from a particular self-representation, it’s determining the information that our brain is using to create our reality, and it’s generating our behavior and influencing our future experiences.