spirituality is humanitarianism of the soul
"Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”
It’s natural for humans to want to turn away from pain. Our own suffering can sit under the surface for years - affecting us every day through its residual effects. Our suffering can block us from feeling the joy and love that is always available to us because truly acknowledging it, seeing it, and sitting with it can feel too overwhelming and burdensome. If you’re on a spiritual path, a path of self-awareness and understanding and compassion, you’ve had to face this shadow. You’ve been able to see that, once we look at it and see it for what it is, it becomes less scary, less intimidating. We can extend grace and compassion to our past selves, and therefore provide healing to our present selves.
This healing is available collectively, but first, we have to look at where we exist in our privilege. If we don’t have the access to be able to sit with our suffering, then healing cannot happen. I am privileged because I’ve had the luxury of being able to take my time with this process. I’ve had a home space that has allowed me to comfortably look at my suffering, to break down, to weep, and to build myself back up. I’ve had a support system, I’ve had the food and nourishment that I’ve needed, and I’ve been provided for financially, through my work. I was privileged in accessing an educational program that provided me with insight, with healers that guided me, and with an exploration of my own inner life.
Without those structures in place, I wouldn’t have been able to begin the process of healing as I have. I think about all of the people in the world that haven’t had the opportunities that I’ve had, to allow me to sit and be with myself. To know that there is something within me that felt broken and unseen, and that I could dedicate the time to healing - and, to know that I will continue along this path, as the work is never complete.
It’s especially common for people to want to turn away from the suffering of others, because we can so easily feel helpless as individuals. It takes stamina and compassion to look at suffering. It takes courage to stand up for what is right, particularly when it goes against the norm to do so.
I see this happen frequently within the spiritual community. It breaks me. To be compassionate, to extend your love through recognizing the connectedness between all people, calls us to action. Brene Brown defines spirituality as “recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.” Therefore, spirituality and politics are inherently intertwined - both are about our interconnectedness and how we agree to treat one another as a society. Political and social activism is a component of living your spirituality.
If we are to live this, we have to fight for the rights of humans that live in our spaces, in our country, on our planet. When social stratification and privilege structures obscure what is possible for any person, there is injustice. There is work to be done - and this work is spiritual at its core.
My friend Zubeda said to me recently that “spirituality is humanitarianism of the soul.” As an Aquarius moon, this struck me deeply. I’ve felt the truth of this statement in my heart since I was aware enough to understand unequal access. We are inextricably tied to one another and, as a spiritual community, we have an obligation to be humanitarians. To fight for one another. To use our lives, our voices, and our privilege to create more access to freedom and healing for all people. You and I are not separate from the children being kept in cages at our border, or the 24 million Yemini people in crisis, or the Muslims that are currently in concentration camps in China. Our physical separateness from these crises presents an opportunity to fight for change in a space where are voices are able to be heard, where we can donate money towards organizations fighting for human rights, where we can call representatives and communicate with our government about what we will and will not allow. Being born on the other side of a border does not give the excuse to revel only in the freedoms that we have, but gives an obligation to fight for the freedoms that don’t exist elsewhere.
We belong to one another. If we don’t use the resiliency, faith, and hope that a connection to the Divine gives us to one another in the face of adversity and oppression, we are making poor use of this connection. If we use spirituality only as a way to connect with those who live in the same bubbles that we do, to go to yoga and meditation retreats, to eat delicious and fun vegan food, we aren’t utilizing the gift of our connectedness for the sake of humanity. Don’t get me wrong, I love these things and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying them! We absolutely should. This world is beautiful and life is exciting, and joy can be found in every day. But, if we focus too much on these pieces and become forgetful of the greater suffering that exists and our responsibility to one another, those pieces are meaningless.
I use the term spiritual in a broad sense. For me, this includes those that identify with any religion that believes in the connectedness of humans. This was something that I was taught as a child growing up within Chrisitanity, but rarely saw reflected in the actions of those I knew in the church. It breaks me that I know so many people who have volunteered their time in second or third world countries, that do not speak out about these issues or prioritize them. That see the torture of members of another religion and turn their backs, as though they too were not made in God’s image, and do not receive the love of God. We all receive this. We all must do our duty to ensure that everyone around the world has access to live a life free of persecution for who they are. When you turn your back on those that are facing these large kinds of suffering, you turn your back on the teachings of Jesus, of loving-kindness, of love itself.
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For tangible ways that you can take action about the Uyghur internment camps in China, check out this resource.
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