Activism and Healing
"It’s not the great things you do that matter, but the small things you do with great heart." ~Mother Teresa
I am not an activist in the true sense of the word. I am a healer. I focus on restoration of health and regeneration. As a healer I wonder ‘why is it important for me to be an activist?’ Of course I know about the danger our trees are in, the state of the planet, the corrupt political powers that have been entrusted with our future. This is the compelling external reason for us to "get involved". But if this were enough of a reason, we’d all be out there, wouldn’t we?
There must be more.
Many of us are on healing paths. The work of healing oneself is primarily a call to relive the past, to remake the past and resolve the past. We courageously confront the pain and grief we have experienced in our lives and we work at coming to resolution and being in peace with ourselves, our families of origin, and our lives. We learn new options for being and interacting. All very potent stuff. Steps which are absolutely critical for becoming fully functioning individuals in the present. The energy it takes to be depressed or neurotic is enormous. When healing occurs, a tremendous amount of bound up energy is released, bringing with it the potential for transformation. As we heal, it is our option to drop unhealthy coping mechanisms, addictions, rigid thought and behavior patterns, dysfunctional relationships, etc. When that energy is released, it’s a tidal wave of power and it must be directed because it’ll surge somewhere whether we choose it to or not. Unfortunately, this incredible energy is often misused to create yet another trauma/drama that perpetually fascinates and involves us and those nearby. I am reminded of a dog I once knew. Years ago his leg was wounded. He was taken to the veterinarian and his leg was bandaged. The dog’s human family poured attention on their injured pet. Finally, the bandages came off and his leg was fine. The family was relieved. Do you know what that dog did? He tore at that leg until he opened up a sore. He limped more noticeably when people were nearby. He presented that wounded leg for sympathy as humans present their hand for introductions. He never let that leg heal again. The sore leg became his way of interacting with people, his identity.
This dog taught me a great lesson. We can all be like this dog. We can dote on our wound until we forget that we can heal. We can adopt labels such as survivor or former addict. We can perpetually attend support groups or workshops and adopt someone else’s philosophy or program of how we are to heal. My questions to you on a healing path are these: when are you healed? When have you worked on your issues enough? How much is enough therapy? When is yesterday over? And when does your wounded inner child get to grow up and integrate into you, the adult? When will you be here in the present? Ultimately, the path of healing never does end, but continues on in subtle ways throughout our lives. But there is a point when we need to shift our focus from self as wounded to self in the world.
Carl Jung said that we experience trauma so that we can know the soul, to give our lives meaning. The Dalai Lama teaches that the transformation of difficulties is the path to spiritual awakening. And we need to awaken as a society as well as awaken personally.
We are lacking a model for health, a model for how to use our energy to move forward to something positive rather than back to the past, back to our pain. What do I do with all of this newly released energy? How do I create a life that has meaning? What is the gift my soul came here to express? What is my life purpose? These are questions we should be taught to ponder as children and teenagers. Today we are fortunate to encounter these questions as adults. These are the questions that will lead us from the past to the present and help us to form a life sustaining future.
I can most easily speak of this phenomenon from a personal perspective, my own experience. Six years ago I left the corporate world because it was not my path. I awakened to my true passion, which was facilitating healing for others. I became a shamanic counselor and healer, did hundreds of soul retrievals and helped people find meaning and passion for life. I loved my life. It was magic. Then I feel asleep again.
I was fearful about the future, about financial security. My family of origin had taught me to be very concerned about money to the point of paralysis. I decided to go back into the corporate world so the fears would quiet down. But, I did not look forward to this work. I looked at work as a trade of time for money and I could not wait for the day to end so I could go home and recover from my job. I was living in the future, living for the weekends, the evenings, trying to fit too much into too little time. Always rushed. Ironically, the very path I had chosen to create financial security had created a disease that could have prevented me from reaching retirement age. I was not following my passion and my body knew it. Within a year I had cancer.
The cancer taught me to regain my passion for life or to give up my body to something that had more interest in living in the present moment. I confronted the possibility of death. And as a result, I developed a passion for the present. Despite my fears that were based in my past, I had to look beyond to what I was creating NOW. I quit my job. I began to remember how to savor my life. I woke up. Fortunately, all that is left of the cancer is a scar on my right shoulder and some grim memories of the surgery. But I have re-created my life. My energy is focused on my healing practice once again. Most importantly if someone was to ask me "what are your regrets?" I would have none.
I believe that the sanest act we can create right now is to live our passion. Find our purpose and move closer to it day by day. Identify priorities. Identify what gives us pleasure and joy.
We must engage with life as we engage with ourselves. It’s not possible for us just to heal ourselves, else we get caught in recycling our energies back to the same old issues. To quote Thich Nhat Hanh, "Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing?"
Once we are truly filled with ourselves, understanding our gifts and purpose, then we can act from a place of inspiration and cohesiveness. Then we will go out and work for the trees and the other causes we feel drawn to. The difference is we will be drawn to activism, not pushed by guilt. The ways to be an activist are infinite ranging from working with improving the soil in your yard to helping neighbors live in cooperation. As your circle widens activism can include the schools, the environment, and feeding the hungry. I encourage you to start small with what you feel a passion for and with what you can see as a possible first easy step.
There is no greater force than a person who is living their vision. We are all connected. My studies in shamanism have led me to know that not only are we connected, but also everything is alive and is sustained by a spirit or life force. Yes, everything. People, animals, the trees, the rocks, our drums, our houses, heck, even the computer I’m writing on has a spirit (but that’s another story...).
We are interconnected. We have to undertake personal healing and we have to undertake social action simultaneously. We have to find a way for what is finest in each of us to transcend hopelessness, bitterness and cynicism. The time for mere self-improvement is over. It is time to support the unending process of self-discovery that leads to world improvement. We can neither ignore the world until we get better nor ignore ourselves until the world gets better.
Copyright © 1998 by Alida Birch.