Transform: Spirituality & Social Change — July 8

180_Liza180The first of four Tuesday night classes conducted by Rev. Liza J. Rankow, MHS, PhD on July 8 was very beneficial, for me anyway. With a diverse group of about twenty individuals, about half of whom were persons of color, a wealth of resources was abundant in the room. I was encouraged to be with such an impressive group of like-minded individuals.

During introductions, of particular interest to me was Joshua Gorman, who referred to his work with Generation Waking Up, a project with which I was not familiar. After glancing at their website, I am even more intrigued. Their site states:

GENERATION WAKING UP is a global campaign to ignite a generation of young people to bring forth a thriving, just, sustainable world. We strive to:
– Awaken in young people a clear sense of who we are as a generation, an understanding of the urgent global challenges and opportunities we face, and a calling to take action.
– Empower young people with the training, mentoring, and support needed to thrive as global citizens, leaders, and change agents in the 21st century.
– Mobilize young people locally and globally across issues, geography, and all lines of difference, unleashing the collaborative power of our generation.

During the discussion, Joshua asked if participants in the class would be able to interact directly with one another. In response, Dr. Rankow asked Jeremy Sorgen from the Center for Spiritual and Social Transformation, which is co-sponsoring the series with Dr. Rankow’s OneLife Institute, to reactive the comments feature of the class blog. I found that response to be an encouraging affirmation of horizontal communication.

At the end of my introduction, I said I hope to discover concrete, user-friendly tools that activists can use to support one another in their personal growth and political activism that gets at root causes, including the government in Washington.

One comment from the evening that I found especially helpful was a question that Evelyn Rangel-Medina asked: “Why is our activism not a form of prayer?” That statement rang a bell for me. It sums up “spiritual activism” in a way that challenges the conventional use of the word “spiritual” as referring only to inner work, when in fact action in the outer world can be spiritual as well. So, thanks to Evelyn, I no longer consider “spiritual” to be a synonym for “inner.” We can fully integrate the personal and the political.

That question led to other comments about the need to be “tactful” and to learn how to handle anger. Referring to traditional activism, one participant commented, “They’re so angry they’re not getting anywhere.”

Evelyn’s comment sparked in me awareness of one tool for nurturing deep community: language. We can stop referring to our inner work as “spiritual” and our outer work as “political.” Our whole life can be a meditative practice.

The same perspective leads me to question whether we can speak of a direct personal relationship with a “God” that is separate from the world. Rumi wrote, “There is no need to go outside.” But it seems to me that when we go inside we automatically go outside, unless we short-circuit the process with a mental construct. When we go down to the ground of our being we interact with all life.

Toward the end of the class, Dr. Rankow asked the students to select a daily spiritual practice “that stretches you a bit” and then “bring it into relationship with your work in the world.” I resolved to be more disciplined in my walking meditation and to re-start a daily journal.

On my first walking meditation, I reflected on my interest in peer-based mutual support and asked myself “What is a peer?” While alternating my reflections with awareness of my breathing, I came up with the following answer: a peer relationship is one in which no party considers herself or himself to be superior or inferior, tries to dominate, or is willing to submit.

That conclusion led me to a deeper commitment to “the priesthood of all believers.”

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