With the election of President Barack Obama, millions of Americans opted for "change you can believe in." But now as our country faces the tough job of redirecting a host of entrenched and interactive infrastructures that don't well serve the majority of regular people, many are wondering whether the major shifts we need can occur. And if so, how?
At an event I attended last Monday night at New York City's Marble Collegiate Church, where the late Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale regularly exhorted his parishioners in the "power of positive thinking," Deepak Chopra and other speakers proposed their answer, "Be the change."
Many people feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the changes required. Is there really anything any one of us can do as individuals?
The speakers affirmed that there very definitely is.
As one example, Deepak Chopra identified a common struggle of many parents and families. "We can't change children's behavior by educating them. The only way to change your child's behavior is to change your own behavior," Chopra counseled, citing mirror neurons, recently identified nervous system cells which cause us to mime the behavior we see automatically.
Deepak Chopra counseled that small changes made by every single one of us can build to critical mass and a paradigm shift.
The Reverend Robert Chase, Director of Intersections International, a co-sponsor of the event, told the assembly gathered, "God has given us sufficient resources. What is at issue is our stewardship of them. (Changing that) requires a reframing of how we look at ourselves, others and the world around us. This is critical, because in our media saturated world, frames are thrust upon us and assumptions are made about us that inhibit us from pursuing pathways of transformation."
That's why Chopra advises that the first step is taking a long hard look at yourself--and choosing to change your own attitudes or actions. Whether it's your anger, your family stuff, your conflict with your landlord, or your lack of self-care, face it and deal with it.
After frankly facing up to what's required to get over yourself, then you can next elect one little corner of the world to clean up, support, or contribute to, finding specific ways to connect, offer compassion, and help others in need. Chopra advises choosing what speaks to you. Allow yourself to be moved by whatever moves and motivates you.
Marble Collegiate Church's Senior Minister Dr. Michael B. Brown views these small acts as the core of true religion and spirituality. "Anything done in the name of religion that is unkind is sacrilegious. It's impossible to be unkind, prejudiced, or hateful and be a person of faith," Brown offered. "Mutual love and support is a godly effort."
In Chopra's view, whether it's global conflicts and hotspots, or healing personal trauma or interpersonal conflict, we all need to become peacemakers--but paradoxically there's no point in acting from outrage. Until you tame your own anger, you're just an angry peace activist.
"The worse injustice in the world has a context, ecological, historical, and collective," Chopra points out. Acknowledging that context breeds compassion, which he views as the fundamental to real change.
In my work with Clearing Ancestral Patterns (www.collectiverealm.com), people make peace with their families, coming to terms with core traumas, and ancestral losses, abuse, and acts of harm that have created ongoing disconnection and suffering. Time and again, compassion melts the pain--if we cultivate it and water it with our tears.
The bottom line is that we all need to help each other. That's why in 2002, Chopra founded the Global Alliance for a New Humanity (ANH) so that people could become the change on three different levels:
• Personal: Whether your path is meditation, or giving a hug, do it consciously and often
• Serve and Make a Difference: Find your way to contribute to the wellbeing of others
• Connect and Share Your Passion: the ANH connects people internationally through sharing their stories of change, action, and hope
You can connect with its activities and participants worldwide at www.anhglobal.org
Recently returned from Israel, where his Arab and Israeli guides called each other "cousin," Deepak invited the assembly in the packed church to share their own stories of activism with each other. "The more we share our stories of change, the more we have the possibility of reaching critical mass," he said. As people turned around in their pews and dialogued with their neighbors, an exhilaration filled the air.
"Yes, we can!" is not a one-time slogan, but a daily reminder and renewal for the work ahead.
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