09/01/2010 07:42 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

A Response to Today's Challenges: Sacred Activism and Heart Yoga

It seems like every day we're faced with more disturbing news about what is happening in the world. In these stressful and challenging times, our personal lives can also feel overwhelming. It can be difficult to see how to respond skillfully, and how to act effectively without becoming exhausted and burned out. Many of us are longing to find more peace and balance in our lives, and to feel more strength and courage to continue to work for healing, social justice, environmental balance, etc., in the world.

In the busyness of daily life, we can find it difficult to remain connected to a source of inspiration that will sustain us and help us remember the essential joy of life. A daily spiritual practice which unites body, mind and heart can keep us inspired by the joy that is the essence of our being, so that we are able to serve others joyfully. As it is written in an ancient yogic text:

"From joy all beings have come, by joy they all live and unto joy they all return."

In these chaotic times, the union of grounded passion and peace in the body and heart that everyone needs to keep strong, creative and inspired by love can be awakened by a spiritual practice such as yoga. A heart-centered approach to yoga, like Heart Yoga, unites an awakening into the luminous body with a meditative peace of mind. From this sacred marriage of body and mind, the heart is naturally filled with the holy desire to see all beings safe, protected and happy.

We all are now called to respond with compassion and wisdom to meet the challenges of our world, fueled by sacred energy to act to preserve our planet. This energy, burning in every cell of our hearts, minds, souls and bodies, will give us the courage and vision to heal and transform the earth. The Buddha, in his Fire Sermon, spoke of a humanity burning tragically in the fires of anger, ignorance, greed and delusion. Heart Yoga engenders a fire that meets these fires and transmutes them. This transmutation contains the key to the future of humanity, and is the alchemy that can birth the divine in the human.

All authentic mystical traditions proclaim with one strong voice: the aim of spiritual awakening is not merely to realize one's own divine identity, but to serve all beings with compassion and a commitment to justice. The enlightened life is one that balances ecstatic inwardness with dedicated action -- profound inner surrender with unceasing service to others.

A great Indian saint, Anandamayi Ma, once said, "Just as God is both utterly peaceful and utterly dynamic, so the being who realizes God is at once sunk in a calm that nothing can disturb and active with a love that nothing can defeat. It is so simple;" she added, "through sacred practice you breathe in divine inspiration, divine strength, divine peace and divine passion. Then you breathe them out in acts of wise compassion. This is the real life to which all of us are called."

To connect with this natural desire of your heart to love and serve, begin by sitting quietly and noticing how you are feeling. By listening to your body and mind, you can choose whether you need a heating, awakening practice or a cooling, restorative practice to support you to remember and experience this connection.

When you sense that you need grounding or extra vitality, or if you're feeling distracted, unfocused, or not present -- an active, heating practice can help you return to the strength of your body and restore your energy, intention and clarity. Strengthening yoga postures develop courage and stamina for the practical healing, creative and transformative service you do in the world.

When you're busy and not attending to the messages of your body, heart and mind, it's easy to feel overwhelmed, ineffectual, stressed or burned out. You can reconnect directly with your own source of inspiration with a relaxing, restorative yoga practice, bringing you to the place where the desire to serve others naturally arises.

Those who come to know and trust in the sacred heart, and act from its passion of compassion are Sacred Activists. Sacred Activists unite peace, strength and courage with the holy desire of the heart to see justice established everywhere. They work passionately to see the poor housed and fed, the environment cherished and protected, and all sentient beings revered as divine, and so in turn experience the joy of service.

With bodies infused with the inspiration of the transcendent, and with mystical awareness grounded in the present moment, those of us who are responding to the call to serve the creation of a new humanity will be able to devote ourselves to service whole-heartedly without growing exhausted. Through our ever-deepening experience of the power of spiritual practice, we will find the strength and wisdom to serve all beings, and to live in deep peace and joy.

Through living and serving in this way, we become the new humanity we are longing for. We both embody the light and serve the light's compassionate desire to illuminate and awaken all beings.

The practice of yoga, when united with a precise and luminous mystical consciousness, offers an unshakeable foundation for the great work ahead. This is the great work we have been destined for since the beginning: the birthing of a humble, generous, tenderhearted, illumined divine humanity on Earth. Through our own direct experience, we realize the ultimate purpose of embodying the light, which is to be a light for ourselves and others, and to serve all beings with a full and glowing heart.