Selfcare and Worldview
What happens when a young, important movement still lies on the fringe in society? What are the common challenges that it faces? I would like to focus this section on two challenges that are usually associated with the infancy of a movement: self-care and worldview.
Bringing a movement into the mainstream requires a lot of courage, resilience, and skill. On certain days when you are met with walls of resistance, it can seem like the movement is hopeless. This can cause stress, anger, defensiveness, and depression. How these bleak times are approached can define a movement. Through self-care, applied to individuals and the group as whole living entity, emotions can serve as teachers that uncover insights about the individuals and the movement. If these emotions are not identified and addressed, it can be infectious and produce a good deal of suffering; it can even endanger the movement.
Tension among and within movement leaders can be strong. You can feel the weight and pressure they experienced at the forefront of the movement. They know the benefits that could happen locally and globally, and they wanted the principles to be adopted as soon as possible. Sometimes its important to extend the ‘incubation period’ which calls for more self-care, self-reflection and patience. In systems thinking, this introspection is critical. This allows the group to set reasonable goals based on an accurate assessment of group’s resources. Without self-care, everyone involved participates in a vicious cycle of setting irrational expectations and feeling a slew of unpleasant emotions for not meeting them.
Being on the fringe can make a group feel like they are on the outside of the ‘normal’ bubble. They question why others do not see the world as they do and, more importantly, do not want to take the same actions as them. This can trigger emotions such as anger, hate, stress, and distrust. Individuals or groups can become desperate and take unskillful actions that may even contradict their original values. (Example: During the Vietnam War anti-war protesters became violent with U.S. military). This Hypocrisy Between the Ends and Means along with ‘End of Days’ Talk to Motivate Action are two common challenges with movements. In both issues, the external manifestation is a direct reflection of internal pain – we have created a world of mirrors.
Barring a large asteroid or all-out nuclear war, the Earth is going to live on. It is an amazing example of a extremely complex self-regulating system. The atmosphere may change and the sea levels may rise but the earth will continue to evolve. In one million more years of life (just .025% of its current age), the earth, as we know it, will be unrecognizable. However, since the early beginnings of human civilization, there has been talk about the ‘End of Days’. It is a tactic to generate some action, whether religious or environmental, fueled by fear. Rather than empower, inspire, and promote creativity, the strategy enslaves and restricts people to one option…or else. As it applies to the environmental movement, ‘End of Days Talk’ translates into “Save the Earth” – if we do not adopt certain principles, the earth will die. I do agree we need to make significant change to our way of living but provoking these changes through fear will only plant new seeds of suffering within everyone. We already are in many ways, especially subconsciously, consumed by fear. And if we embrace the view of what is without is within, then this feeling of despair is really how we view ourselves deep-down. So really instead of “Save the Earth” or, what it seems to be saying, “Save Us”, we should consider “You Can Create Inner and Outer Harmony”.
Sometimes when we want something (i.e. environmental change or peace) so bad, we will do anything to get, even adopt different values than what our end objectives promote. It is classic consequentialism, “The ends justify the means,” our long-lived western modus operandi. However, what the greatest change agents of our time (i.e. MLK and Gandi) have proven is that “the ends is the means.” In Buddhism, it is called karma – action and reaction.
If we act out of hate, we will not receive love.
War will not produce peace.
Healing will not happen by inflicting pain on another.
In times of crisis, deep understanding and wisdom is needed. Hostility only deters finding a solution. When activism is taken to the extreme like violence, the ‘targeted’ entity is not thinking about finding a solution or changing their views, they are taking protection or planning retaliation. In short, the wall that the activists were trying to break down, just got bigger. What’s worse is that once the movement ‘crosses to the other side’, their integrity is shattered, and they are more likely to adopt the same measures again or even up the ante. I personally believe they have just found or created a vehicle to expressed their deep-rooted pain, anger, and hatred within their hearts and it does not specifically have to do with what they are fighting. I personally believe that truth, wisdom, compassion, and love is the only method of true change and healing. A classic example is the difference between the movements of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. In the movie below, examine not only the language of each man (especially at 7:14), but the eyes and hearts of each man. We can identify and promote this same truth in ourselves and others.