Dr. King spoke of the need to build Beloved Community.
What happens when that community is torn apart, whether small scale or large?
Spiritual practices are often used to help us as individuals – to gain self-knowledge, to heal, to grow in strength or understanding. At their best, they also seek to help us build the Beloved Community in ways that are healthy, compassionate, and whole. At their best, they help us navigate crises. At their best, they help us to help one another.
Steady spiritual practice enables us to discern more clearly what action is needed. Practice helps us assess how to set intention toward action in the most effective way. Spiritual practice magnetizes and calibrates our inner compass.
Practice gives us a rudder to steer with during storms.
And it can feel like not enough. Terrible things happen. Young women are stolen en masse from a school in Nigeria. Other young women apply for secretarial jobs in Eastern Europe and are sold into sexual slavery in the U.S. Young men run from abusive households and end up walking the streets in order to feed and clothe themselves. Girls are forced into prostitution by men in their families. Drones bomb wedding parties. Profit driven corporations rape land and poison water. Dictators slaughter their own citizens. Animals are forced into smaller and smaller areas to live because of a lust for technological advance or food fads. People are killed in the streets. Governments lock up, torture, and disenfranchise generations, tearing families apart.
What happens to Beloved Community then?
These last few weeks, we’ve been focused on the terror that is Boko Haram. News cycles happen, at the convenience of agencies that can make money from them. Our emotions and passions are temporarily enflamed. We weep. We rail. We insist that something must be done.
But who is to do it? An army? A small group of concerned people? Global alliances? Parents? Children? Lovers? Temples?
And what does all of this do to our spiritual practices?
How do our spiritual practices help us to cope with the worst that humanity offers to itself and to the world?
We return to breath. We return to prayer. We feel our emotions. We drop beneath our emotions. We gather information. We think. Is our need toward action to feel we are doing something in order to assuage an emotional state? Or is it actually going to have some effect beyond the self? Will it help build Beloved Community, or will it simply inflame the sense of ineffectiveness?
We ponder this. We re-center. Then we ask some other questions:
How do we bolster strength, willingness, and compassion? What is the state of our inner compass?
What is our intention? What do we know about setting intention toward action?
How do we join with others, in concerted acts of will?
We can become as disciplined in our efforts to build Beloved Community as we are disciplined in building our muscles, or learning to expand our attention and focus our minds.
Emotions are important. Emotions need to work together with mind, body, and will.
To walk in love is to carry the wand of discernment and the blade of will.
We need our tools to be effective.
This work starts every day, with every conscious breath.
Pay attention to the world, yes. Reach out your arms. But do not let the next news cycle capture you, stealing your compass and your will.
Light candles, yes. Do rituals. Send prayers. Sign petitions. But mostly, figure this out:
What is the world you wish to inhabit? What does Beloved Community look and feel like to you? What discipline do you need to accept in order to best prepare to uphold, nurture, nourish and defend Beloved Community?
Life isn’t a news cycle. Building Beloved Community doesn’t happen in response to each fresh outrage or horror. The horrors are happening every day. All around the world. And…
Building Beloved Community happens every day.
How will we choose to build it? And what will we choose to build?
Here’s a great piece I recommend by Davey D on Bring Back Our Girls and the connections between events around the world, from Chibok, Nigeria to Oakland, California.