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Engaging Your Spirit: A Resource Guide for Social Change

By Kaliya Young

Weaving a compassionate world—my mission on Earth—leads me to share with you some of the brightest hopes for humanity for creating communities and a world that “works for all.” These humanitarian ideals combine spiritual practices and principles with initiatives for social change and politics. I hope you will find some organization or network that inspires you to participate in this movement.

“A world that works for all” is a phrase coined by Buckminster Fuller, who formulated the challenge of “making the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.” This sums up well the intent of those exploring the path of socially engaged spirituality.

My first introduction to socially engaged spirituality was in Professor Michael Nagler’s nonviolence class. For 25 years he has taught Gandhian nonviolence at the University of California at Berkeley. I had learned about the challenges the world faced while pursuing my degree in political economy and human rights, and I was rapidly losing faith in the future. Through exposure to his deep insight and knowledge about the inner working of spiritually engaged nonviolent action, I finally saw a path and philosophy that could actually lead us to a better world.

There are hundreds of local organizations working through spiritual activism, and there are many streams of consciousness changing the world. This list is just a sampling.

Michael Nagler's book, Is There No Other Way? The Search for a Nonviolent Future, covers both his own spiritual engagement and the principles of nonviolence. A study guide is available from his nonprofit METTA Center for Nonviolence Education at http://www.mettacenter.org.

The Spiritual Activist by Claudia Horwitz is a great resource for getting started as a spiritual activist. Ten Principles of Spiritual Activism is available on-line at http://www.stonecircles.org.

Sharif Abdullah’s Creating a World that Works for All articulates the need to shift our consciousness and actions toward inclusion— “We are One” —to end the mess we face as a species. He actively works to create this consciousness shift through the Common Society Movement. He partnered with the Sarvodaya movement in Sri Lanka to end their 17-year civil war. Take a look at Sri Lanka Peace Work on his Web site at http://www.commonway.org.

The Millionth Circle project, at http://www.millionthcircle.org/, is another resource and was inspired by Jean Shinoda Bolen's book The Millionth Circle: How to Change Ourselves and the World. Wisdom Circles, at http://www.wisdomcircle.org/, is one of the circle networks they incorporate, and they also have a listing of circles around the world.

Marianne Williamson is also editor of a visionary book, Imagine: What America Could Be in the 21st Century. Full of three to five page essays by leading social change visionaries and activists and covering every aspect of American society from family life to foreign policy, it is a great inspiration to envision a better world. She gives many related links at http://blog.marianne.com/journal/links.php

If one is already connected to a spiritual community circle and would like to explore contemporary issues, the Northwest Earth Institute, at http://www.nwei.org/, offers discussion courses on voluntary simplicity, exploring deep ecology, discovering a sense of place, and choices for sustainable living.

Pace e Bene Nonviolence Center, at http://www.paceebene.org, offers workshops on active transformative nonviolence. They have published a curriculum/study guide, From Violence to Wholeness, that is adaptable by any faith tradition and incorporates scripture teachings designed to bring the text alive for that religious community.

The United Religions Initiative, at http://www.uri.org, is a bridge-building organization for the religions of the world. It welcomes all those committed to the values of their charter’s purpose of founding Cooperation Circles—groups of seven from three different faith traditions—and welcomes individuals or organizations as affiliates. There are currently more than 200 Cooperation Circles representing 88 faith traditions in 47 countries.

Since 1915, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, now on the Web at http://www.forusa.org/, has been taking action to heal the world by working to find and support nonviolent alternatives to conflict. It has affiliates in 40 countries and 15 affiliated Religious Peace Fellowships. These fellowships include Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Episcopal, Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran denominations. Fellowship of Reconciliation explicitly states on their site that they are open to founding additional peace fellowships from other religious traditions.

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship, at http://www.bpf.org, deserves particular mention because of its extensive network and active engagement with social issues. It produces an excellent journal called the Turning Wheel with articles by leading socially engaged Buddhists, including Joanna Macy. Visit her Web site at http://www.joannamacy.net.

The Attitudinal Healing Connection, at http://ahc-oakland.org/, works compassionately with issues of racial healing and is dedicated to the eradication of fear and violence in America. Its founders, Aeeshah Ababio Clottey and Kokomon Clottey, are the authors of Beyond Fear: Twelve Spiritual Keys to Racial Healing.

The Spirit in Action, at http://spiritinaction.net/, is one of the most diverse organizations working to bring spirit into social justice work; articulate a collective vision; and take action for individual, cultural, and systemic change. Contact them to find out about upcoming Circles of Change facilitator training. Founder Linda Stout is author of Bridging the Class Divide and Other Lessons for Grassroots Organizing.

California Senator John Vasconcellos founded the Politics of Trust Network at http://politicsoftrust.net/ to inspire a new human agenda.

[Added by the Editor: Check out author Andrew Harvey’s Institute for Sacred Activism at http://www.andrewharvey.net/. Sacred Activism is a transforming force of compassion-in-action that is born of a fusion of deep spiritual knowledge, courage, love, and passion, with wise radical action in the world. The large-scale practice of Sacred Activism can become an essential force for preserving and healing the planet and its inhabitants.]

[Published in Aquarian Times, Summer 2003]