Tapping into the right kind of energy to motivate and encourage our engagement with the world is crucial. If we’re to avoid the “dark energy” that I wrote about last week, without running out of steam all together, we’ll need to tap into something life-giving and energizing.
There was a time when I was a part of efforts that felt blocked in a very frustrating and undermining way. Fighting against those blockages was draining and discouraging, and things felt – ominously – like they were heading toward a climax of some kind. A couple of things happened at that moment: first, there were some uncanny events that had a ring of synchronicity (like when God, or the universe, conspires to help you feel on the right track at just the right time), and then came a conversation when someone, familiar but disconnected, heard about the situation and, out of his own experience in similar moments, said something along the line of: “Don’t waste your energy on the fight; just hit the gas pedal and do the right thing.”
How do we hit the gas pedal when we’re up against a wall?
It felt counter-intuitive. How do we hit the gas pedal when we’re up against a wall? But in spite of these internal arguments, I also saw a spark of hope. Maybe? Could that make sense?
The phrase “just hit the gas pedal” stayed with me, and increasingly it guided my (and others’) decisions and efforts. There were a few temptations to turn back toward the fight, but the gas pedal won out and the results were amazing – far beyond logical sense.
In a much bigger picture way, our present global situation feels like just that kind of time. There isn’t enough energy to spare on any unnecessary fighting. We have to hit the gas pedal and keep doing the right things. Yes, sometimes the right things will involve resisting and protesting, but I hope the bulk of our energy can be used to go forward and help create a more compassionate, just, peaceful and beautiful world.
In order to help focus my own efforts – to stay connected to the right kind of energy – these are some of the commitments I want to pay attention to:
1. Staying grounded in contemplative spiritual practices and community – For me this means spirituality that enables an honest facing of my weaknesses, mistakes and doubts while affirming celebration and acceptance. It means a non-authoritarian tradition that invites a rootedness with the past and a creative flexibility in engaging the present.
2. Loving my enemies – This means more to me than a commitment to nonviolence. You can nonviolently hate your enemies, but that doesn’t get us very far. I think it’s crucial that our efforts are aimed at eventual reconciliation with any that oppose us.
I have strong opinions and usually feel like I’m right. This is a problem…
3. Mutually educational relationships – I want my relationships and conversations to be based on learning from others and sharing what I’ve learned. I have strong opinions and usually feel like I’m right. This is a problem, and I know that I have to work hard to keep that as softened up as I can. (One of the benefits of doing less fighting and more “hitting the gas pedal” is less need to dig in my heels.) Thankfully, I also have an insatiable curiosity about people and systems.
4. Keeping a balance or rhythm between action focused on systems and on particulars – Fighting for just policies and feeding the hungry are both beautiful and both necessary. Some of us will be inclined to study systems and imagine or intuit better ways; others want to look someone in the eyes and hand them a hot coffee. So by balance, I don’t mean we do this equally. But I think we should all be a part of efforts aimed at each.
5. Keeping the right guideposts to aim for – There are a cluster of words that, especially when held together, orient us in the right direction: compassion, beauty, justice, honesty, peace, respect, courage, integrity, embodiment and trust. One of the central tasks of a community is to hold these up high and to guide the defining and expression of such central concepts in a way that ensures that they are not distorted and used for self-deception, self-protection, and exploitation of others. It’s so important that in our friendships and communities, we call each other out when we justify violence as a road to peace or propose oppression of one group as a way to find justice for another.
6. Be determined and committed for the long haul – To me, this means two things: 1) I’m expecting long periods of time when no results may be visible. Even better, I want to remember the ancient advice to do the right thing regardless of results. 2) I can’t take myself too seriously. Rest, celebration, and fun are not optional if we’re to keep hitting the gas pedal.