09/22/2008 03:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Minding the Body Politic

Watching the daily presidential election news is like seeing Greek theater in your own living room. The archetypal tension between fear and hope, acted out respectively by John McCain and Barack Obama, parallels how we deal with hope and fear in our own lives. And slipping the chains of fear has never been more important for us personally, or for our country.

As my friend, social entrepreneur and author Jean Houston would say, "It's jump time, and we are the ones we have been waiting for." (By the way, check out this you tube video "We are the Ones" with music by the fabulous Karen Drucker:)

We are living in a time of great possibility, an unprecedented era of global change in which each one of us can make a profound difference. How can we live sustainably, in greater harmony with ourselves, the earth, and the rapidly changing world order? How can we create a future that brings the earth and all her people to a new level of cooperation and relatedness? The historic shift we hope for requires conscious intention, and the recognition that hope is more than a passive wish or empty words. To hope is to engage deeply with vision, and to make a strong commitment to action.

There are three parts to conscious intention:

1. Creating the vision for a future that is more coherent, compassionate, and harmonious than the current reality.
2. Discerning the difference between a vision based on fear and social pressure, versus one that is rooted in a greater good.
3. Forming clear, concise intentions that move vision into action.

The late Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan referred to intention as the "hope of attainment." He recognized that we all live with many hopes, some selfish and some altruistic, and suggested that we set our hopes on the "best and highest attainment possible for us." That, I would suggest, is to be the agents of what futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard calls "conscious evolution." The evolution to a wiser, healthier, more compassionate world has to start in our own mind and personal life. Then it will naturally be mirrored outwardly in the world that we help to create.

For intention to bear fruit it needs to be clear, specific, and powerfully focused. Let me give you an example. For years I've hoped for greater balance, since burnout and busyness take a toll on my health, happiness, and effectiveness. But this vague kind of intention didn't change anything. So I got more specific and created intentions that demanded accountability.

Specificity requires a detailed map of the territory, in this case balance. Where is balance found and what does it look like? Goals like working smarter not harder; moving toward financial freedom; finding creative ways to travel less while continuing to teach and make a difference; preserving time for rest, meditation, recreation, and exercise; and seeing more of my family were easy to wish for. But I needed to get real. For example, how does a person work smarter and not harder? Sounds good in theory, but how can you carry it off? If I'd known, I would have done it a long time ago! So the first practical step was hiring a business coach who knew the territory.

The concrete steps I'm making toward balance (a perpetual work-in-progress) are bearing fruit in two ways: both through the expected avenue of taking aim at a goal and reaching it, and also in a nonlinear, more mysterious way. Unexpected allies are appearing. Opening the morning's email is exciting (now that's a switch!) because new opportunities are flooding in. So how does this amazing grace manifest?

Hazrat Inayat Khan taught that the energy we project toward the object of our intention is just as important as the energy that comes from it toward us. The connection between what we hope for and our own self is a field of infinite power and potential that can open doors that seemed to be closed, or were invisible to start with. What we seek also seeks us.

This two-way attraction can produce results far beyond anything we can imagine, which is why discerning the "goodness" of an intention is so important. King Midas, for example, had the intention to become super wealthy. But when everything he touched turned to gold, there was nothing left to eat and no one left to love. Life became a dead wasteland. Similarly, George Bush had a strong intention to invade Iraq. But to what end, this war?

A personal intention that I've discerned carefully and over many months is to do everything possible to support the Obama/Biden ticket in the November election. Hence, this blog. Change is not a vague political rallying cry or mere wishful thinking. It is a laboratory for conscious, collaborative intention. This takes sustained work on the part of many people. But this I know. The work we all do will be matched by that mysterious force called grace. That's something we can count on unless we let the politics of fear, and our own personal demons, poison our discernment and sap our will.