A new breed of sacred activists

Behold this three-part series that merrily suggests recent books to give this Christmas … or to add to your own reading list. The Charm Marm doesn’t approve of these ideas, but I do.

Calling all mystics and activists ...

Famed Rumi translator and scholar Andrew Harvey has created what amounts to a guidebook for caring for your soul and the planet. In The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism, Harvey aims to fuse the worlds of activists and mystics to create a balanced, passionate way of experiencing and contributing to the world. Mystics, he explains, often become reflective to the point of withdrawing from the world, whereas activists sometimes burn out or become dogmatic. Harvey models a new type of citizen — a “sacred activist” who has the contemplative template of a mystic and the change-agent tendencies of an activist. This previously rare creature can roam the planet realistically tuned into to the world’s problems in a way that’s both inwardly nourishing and outwardly effective. The Hope is a manual for becoming such a person.

One thing I love about this book is the graceful way Harvey brings together so many elements of spirituality and shows how to put them into practice cohesively. He illustrates how to balance realism with hope, service with self-love, dedication with joy.

Along the way, he looks squarely in the face of the world’s problems, from corporate greed to cruelty to animals. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by these issues, but Harvey’s response is rewarding on internal and external levels, which is what makes it sustainable. “Find your heartbreak,” he suggests — get involved in the cause that most splits you open. “What I have discovered for and in myself,” he writes, “is that allowing yourself to experience the kind of cosmic heartbreak I am describing, as long as you are grounded in spiritual practice and trust in God, leads not to death but a far more abundant life…”

For fuel, he references the poetic insights of Rumi as well as his own visions. He writes about the importance of not only discipline and fortitude but also compassion and self-care. He describes how striking a balance of action and meditation radiates outward and inward, so that sacred activists will care for the world and will care for their own souls and bodies as well.

This self-care component was missing from the Christian Charm School curriculum, natch. A huge, brimstone-filled hole of steaming unworthiness sat in its place. Harvey’s way of fusing productivity and pleasure is something charm school drop-outs everywhere can appreciate.

Harvey introduces seven laws for sacred activism, five forms of service and ten things everyone can do right now. He gets down to business, describing specific meditation techniques and forming “networks of grace” on his website, to make his model immediate. Seems as if Harvey’s put it all together, so sacred activists in the making just need to push a few buttons and get rolling. As Rumi would say, that’s freakin’ fantastic. OK, fine – he might be more likely to say something like, “Moonlight floods the whole sky / From horizon to horizon / How much it can fill your room / Depends on its windows.” You get the idea.

Read excerpts
Visit Harvey’s site
The Hope, $11.53


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