THE BLOG

Recharging Activist Batteries

05/10/2013 10:13 am ET | Updated Jul 10, 2013
Getty Images

I have engaged in sacred activist work since I was a teenager. Whether it was joining altruistic student groups in high school, heading an Amnesty International club in college, or collaborating with Deepak Chopra to promote his book, Peace is the Way, in graduate school, I have been hard at work. For what have I been working? I have worked and still work for, what Pastor Jim Wallis might call, "the common good."

I seek to promote actions, and their consequent ripple effects, which enrich and heal people's lives. I choose to term my work, "Sacred Activism," (referencing religious scholar Andrew Harvey's phrase), because my actions stem from my connection to the divine, or what many call "God." In my view, meaningful action and spiritual connection are inseparable.

Without a lived experience of feeling enriched and healed by grace, I would not have the chutzpah to believe that I can enrich and heal others. At best, I would be spreading myself too thin. At worst, I would be a hypocrite -- pretending to grant others what I have not first gained for myself. As Sister Simone Campbell has said, "Spirituality and activism is like breathing; it's one movement with two little parts." And in practical terms, renewing our will to act, as activists, is imperative.

Why is this so? It is imperative, because many of us have witnessed activists, who, once devoted to a plethora of causes, eventually grew tired of the work and perhaps resentful of their ongoing efforts. Some activists actually become traumatized by what they are exposed to, as a result of their pursuits: it's not easy to be frequently exposed to humanities' shameful secrets. In short, for a variety of reasons, "activist burnout" is a real condition. This condition threatens to put even the most enthusiastic of us to the test... and to rest. Of course, this is understandable; we are all fallible human beings, attempting to surmount, what seems to be, increasingly insurmountable situations.

Yet on the other hand, conscious activists are needed now more than ever before. Absorb daily news headlines, and one can conclude that "the common good," must be defended with great courage, wisdom and love. What is the solution? What is the remedy that can both prevent "activist burnout," and alleviate it when it occurs? The remedy is: regular re-Sourcing. Just as our techno gadgets require recharging, due to consistent use, so we activists also require recharging.

Of course, all of us have the innate need to recharge our internal batteries. However, activists ought to be especially aware of this need, as we share so much of our personal energy through service. We deeply need to spiritually recharge, and we can only be sustainably recharged by Source. Call it our Maker, call it Spirit, call this Higher Power what you will... I often call it Source, as this name reminds me that I require re-Sourcing from the Ultimate Power Source. Again, just as a car must be refueled so that it may properly function, re-Sourcing is a requisite for all of us to stay well. Therefore, contemplative practice and thoughtful service go hand in hand. Whether we consider ourselves to be deity-focused activists or not, our commitment to upholding "the common good," necessitates some kind of consistent re-Sourcing.

Many simple practices can allow us to re-Source ourselves. The more broadly spiritual among us may prefer a practice of mindfulness deditation. The more devotionally oriented among us may be attracted to particular songs, chants and prayers. Those of us who are more physical in mentality may enjoy a daily Hatha yoga practice. But the most important piece here is that we all weave in some type of discipline into our lifestyles; these disciplines enable us to not only give to the world, but to also become vessels for receiving divine energy. As we receive divine energy, we additionally receive the will to act, to be activists. This strategy is the only one I know of that really works for the long haul. A dedication to re-Sourcing ourselves will keep sacred activists like you and I employed for a lifetime.