Bare Witness: The Good and the Bad Sides of Activism
I'm not suggesting this is easy to do! If this approach interests you, you must constantly check in with yourself and be lovingly critical toward your limited beliefs, assumptions and fears. You must call yourself out in order to grow. You must own, expose and be willing to be wrong. This is often very challenging and humbling. Sometimes in the field, I will experience something that challenges me. I might be confronted by angry and arrogant people or be judged, attacked and criticized. Perhaps I will find myself up against challenges that are beyond my experience or expertise. Sometimes my initial reaction is to fight back harder, scream louder, insult more cleverly, but I know that this continues the cycle of dysfunction and is only motivated by the limitations of my ego. Nothing changes, except that we each get angrier and angrier, more self-righteous and therefore further and further away from the truth and each other. This is a game I am no longer interested in playing. So I breathe, take responsibility, engage, do my best, forgive me, forgive them and continue to serve.
I have been working in marginalized populations in the United States and abroad for many years. Because of my own life experience, both my struggles and my privileges, I feel a desire to serve and be a part of the empowerment of my global family. I do this through Off the Mat and the seva (service) challenges that we've created. These challenges raise significant money that fund various projects to provide healthcare and educational opportunities to people in need of both. I have done service well, and I have done it badly. I have been patient and ignorant, resourceful and naive, present and disconnected. Regardless, I will not stop trying to engage and support developing countries and its people (or our own) because of negative backlash, judgment or fear (see responses from A Soul Enters The World), but I am always open to learning, growing and doing this necessary work better. What is the alternative? To continue to turn my back on my brothers and sisters who may be in need will only perpetuate the issues of lack and separation. To continue to engage with people from pity of even sympathy is disempowering and creates an unhealthy sense of hierarchy. The spiritual activist develops empathy. Empathy unites and creates understanding. The opposite of empathy is apathy, and any expression of apathy, which is the true "evil," can only manifest pain and suffering. Empathy is the key ingredient for the manifestation of peace and is developed when one is committed to the soul's journey and the reconciliation of the individual "you" and "I" to the universal, and therefore inclusive, "we."
Seane shares a story she admits is hard to tell, but will lead to growth