UUs, notes McTigue, “agree broadly that any religion worth the name should help shift our behaviors and actions toward the greater good.” This, she says, “is necessary and laudable, but insufficient.” McTigue explains five reasons we need to do the inner as well as the outer work.
1. Spiritual practices ground us in something bigger than ourselves. “We are connected to and are part of a vast unfolding that we cannot entirely grasp.” Living is not a private affair of the individual – we belong to each other and the universe. When we waste time, we are squandering the universe’s opportunity. This spiritual awareness also helps us attend to care for our fragile planet.
2. Spiritual practices help us stay in the present moment. Incessant stories play out in our heads. If you pay attention to it, you’ll be appalled at your “monkey mind” – the repetitive, boring, and judgmental running commentary going through our heads virtually every waking moment. “Spiritual practices help quiet the noise in our own heads.” This reduces our reactivity and thus reduces internal conflict within a justice movement that occurs when we trigger each other’s unexamined emotional reactions.
3. Spiritual practices cultivate the qualities we most want to bring forward. “Despite what we aim for in our moments of high aspiration, we get caught up in the small stuff. Spiritual practices help tilt us back toward our aspirations.”
4. Spiritual practices remind us that the things we most want to change in the world also exist in ourselves. “If deep inside us we are seething with anger, how shall we be peacemakers? If deep inside us there are the seeds of greed, how will we shift the grotesque chasm between the rich and the poor? Spiritual practices keep us hones, mindful of the fact that the change we want to work for in our world need to be undertaken with a willingness to be changed ourselves.”
5. Spiritual practices help sustain us through confusion and despair. “Despair, discouragement, helplessness, and confusion may all still go parading through our hearts – but spiritual practices help us hold them within a larger context. . . . In the long arc toward justice, our best efforts are just one small part. This allows us to hold even our despair within the larger frame of this lifetime work. Grounded again in hope, we can then bring that hope back out with us, to all the others who are struggling to find their way in this beautiful, fragile, difficult world.”
1. What’s your spiritual practice, and how does it integrate with your justice work?
2. Have you had experiences in your justice work where you later wished you’d been more spiritually grounded?
For my reflection/summary of previous chapters, click the title:
- Jennifer Nordstrom, "Intersectionality, Faith, and Environmental Justice"
- Paula Cole Jones, "The Formation of the Environmental Justice Movement"
- Sheri Prud'homme, "Ecotheology"
- Sofia Betancourt, "Ethical Implications of Environmental Justice"
- Adam Robersmith, "Cherishing Our World: Avoiding Despair in Environmental Justice Work"
- Peggy Clarke, Matthew McHale, "Becoming Resilient: Community Life for a New Age”
The Liberal Pulpit New:
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE.
Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE
Practice of the Week: Prayer with Beads Whatever else it might be – a conversation with the Divine, an internal dialog, a practice of calming and centering -- I think of prayer as a journey into and through the Mystery. The beads are strung in a circle, reminding us that our journey is neither linear nor a one-time-only event. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Honesty To get more muscles, use your muscles; acting confident helps you feel confident; per Aristotle, to become courageous, do courageous things. This is not about fooling others or yourself or pretending you know what you don't. It's about character formation, not expertise development. It's about being intentional and practicing it until it gets easier. Feeling compassionate may be the cause of an act of compassion -- or it may be the result.
Black Bear came to a meeting late and said, "I'm feeling frazzled after dealing with my cubs. What if I don't feel compassionate?"Hotetsu's Verse
Raven said, "Fake it."
"That doesn't seem honest," said Black Bear.
"It doesn't begin with honesty," said Raven
The stream occluded or not;
The fox hungry or fed,
The star shining steadily or exploding nova,
See how they never lie?
How they tell nothing but the truth,
Never concerning themselves with honesty?
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and Verse by Meredith GarmonZen at CUUC, Sat Feb 2: SEE HERE
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