763rd Week: Subtle Activism—Practices We Can Do When We’re Overwhelmed
When the world is so filled with suffering and chaos, we can sometimes feel not only overwhelmed but pushed into collapse and fatigue because of how helpless we may feel. One of the practices I’ve been doing for quite a while that now has a name is “subtle activism”. Subtle activism involves activities such as prayer, blessing, sending healing thoughts, intentions, and images, radiating gratitude and other life-affirming qualities into the world. Subtle activism involves anything we do with our imagination and our heart-felt emotions that orients to wholeness, healing, easing of suffering, and fundamental well-being.
One of the qualities that many people believe is healing in and of itself is love—love for life, love for the planet, love for all beings—however that may express in any of us, along with a recognition that everything we encounter anywhere in life arises from the same sacred source as we do. Here are some thoughts that others have had about subtle activism, love, and the importance of the recognition of the underlying sacred in everything:
From David Nicol, author of “Subtle Activism: The Inner Dimension of Social and Planetary Transformation”:
“Subtle activism can be understood as a set of practices that allow us to connect, in the depths of our being, with our love for the world and our longing for it to reflect the highest potentials of human nature…[It] represents the intention to cultivate this force as a transformative presence in the world…underlying and informing all [our] actions is a shift in consciousness involving a deeper awareness of our essential interconnectedness.”
From Jocelyn Mercado:
“Ancient humans felt (and many indigenous people today feel) a burning responsibility to show their respect, honor, and gratitude to Nature, to the Universe, and to Mother Earth which gave them life. And so, they created rituals involving singing, dancing, lighting fires, and different types of prayer. These activities raised the vibration of the Earth and all life. Their actions, carried out with great love and gratitude in their hearts, reinforced and strengthened the forces of nature all around them. In turn, the Earth and the Universe protected and supported the humans, sharing with them the great abundance of existence.”
And from Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee:
“…I always find it strange that somehow we are very keen on working with ourselves as a sacred being but we do not realize that this sacred being that is ourselves is part of a much bigger sacred being that is the world, that is creation.”
Here are some of the practices that fall under the category I would call Subtle Activism:
Tonglen, which I’ve written about many times. This practice involves breathing suffering into the fiery love of the heart, allowing the fire to neutralize what is breathed in, and breathing out qualities such as love, compassion, ease, peace.
Offering blessings, which I’ve also written about many times. Moving through the world offering blessings is a powerful form of subtle activism because of the inherent positive impact of our healing intentions.
Gratitude practice, which I’ve written about before, also engages the heart, as do the above practices, and heart-oriented energies and qualities are inherently healing and surprisingly dynamic and powerful.
One of the other practices I have is to call on and imagine healing in the heart of humanity so that more and more of us can awaken to the underlying oneness that is a most fundamental reality. Orienting to oneness is also a heart-based practice and carries this healing intention into our collective life.
If you already have a prayer practice, take a moment to remember that your prayers become part of our human collective consciousness as you say or think them. They automatically nurture the prayers of all others who focus on the same things, creating an impact in our collective consciousness.
While there may not be ways at present to scientifically “prove” the impacts of these forms of subtle activism (except, perhaps, for the research that has been done on the effects of prayer), I have found that when I engage in these kinds of practices at least I don’t feel so helpless. I also feel more connected with others who also hold healing outcomes on behalf of all life forms on the planet, as well as for the well-being of our world.
And so, for this week, I invite you to engage in whatever forms of subtle activism appeal or are natural to you even a bit more often than you may have done in the past. See which ones allow you to feel that you are contributing in some way to healing the current crisis, and that you are willing to connect with our collective suffering and bring to it your healing intentions.
We are all in this together, there’s nowhere else to go, and our own well-being is supported when we have available ways to move out of overwhelm and collapse and into compassionate action.