Provision #421: Embrace Justice

Laser Provision

Spiritual wellness is not just about personal enlightenment and faith. It is also about global justice and passion. If your life lacks a sense of passionate purpose then this Provision may make your heart sing. It offers a formula, based upon the witness of seven spiritual leaders, that anyone can use to make their life and their contribution in the world both more positive and more fulfilling. Read on to find out how.

LifeTrek Provision

We have only two installments left in our series on spiritual wellness, and we would be remiss if we failed to make plain the justice connection. There’s simply no effective way to pursue wellness for oneself without pursuing justice for all. The two are that interconnected.

Perhaps that’s why so many of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders have also been known for their courageous work on behalf of oppressed peoples, global ecology, and world peace. Consider seven of the better known voices.

— Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, peace activist, and author of Being PeaceThe Miracle of MindfulnessAnger, and many other books. He lives in a monastic community in southwestern France called Plum Village, where he teaches, writes, gardens, and works to help refugees worldwide. He conducts retreats throughout the world on the art of mindful living and has conducted special retreats for American Vietnam War veterans, psychotherapists, artists, environmental activists, and children. He seeks to unite the practice of personal and social transformation. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 Click.

— The Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is traditionally both the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the temporal leader of Tibet. As such, he embodies the connection between spirituality and justice. This connection was heightened when the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, fled into exile in India in 1959 to escape political oppression. Since that time he has inspired many with his teachings on spiritual wellness and global justice. In 1989 he received the Nobel Peace Prize, with the Committee noting that he had “developed his philosophy of peace from a great reverence for all things living and upon the concept of universal responsibility embracing all humankind as well as nature” Click.

— Mother Teresa. Who has not heard of Mother Teresa? This humble woman of Albanian descent was as distinguished for her piety as for her work with the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. From there, the order that she founded has spread all over the world as a Christian relief organization. In every instance, their spiritual practices are as important as their public witness. “The fruit of prayer,” she once said, “is a deepening of faith. And the fruit of faith is love. And the fruit of love is service.” Given her impact on the world, it becomes clear that the fruit of service is justice.

— Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s hard to believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated at the age of 39. He was snuffed out far too early in life but far too late to stop the movement of faith-based social action that he epitomized. “With his Bible in one hand and the Constitution in the other,” observes Jim Wallis in his book God’s Politics, “King persuaded, not just pronounced. He reminded us all of God’s purposes for justice, for peace, and for the ‘beloved community’ where those always left out and behind get a front-row seat. And he did it • bringing religion into public life • in a way that was always welcoming, inclusive, and inviting to all who cared about moral, spiritual, or religious values. Nobody felt left out of the conversation.”

— Thomas Merton. After a precocious childhood in France and an out-of-control young adulthood, Thomas Merton became a Catholic monk who spent most of his days cloistered at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Bardstown, Kentucky. From that unlikely place of deep silence and solitude, Merton became a profound commentator on the society around him. “Removed from the world’s motives, profits, and purposes,” writes Joan Chittester, “Merton saw them in the clear light of day and began to speak out about them. Where other spiritual writers emphasized the distance between things of the spirit and things of the world, Merton saw one as an attendant to the other.” He was especially outspoken in his opposition to the Vietnam war and in his respect for Eastern monastic traditions.

— Oscar Romero. The authorities thought Oscar Romero was the perfect choice for bishop in El Salvador. Born a peasant in 1917, he had been brought up in and was indebted to the Catholic church. He became a friend of the religious and political establishment who did not fancy himself as a crusader for justice. But he did seek to be a person of faith. And that made all the difference. Over time, as the establishment unjustly and violently persecuted the church, Romero was transformed. He could no longer preach about the reign of God to come without demonstrating the reign of God in the here and now. So he spoke out on behalf of justice and, like many other such voices over the course of history, he was assassinated for his efforts. But the truth could not be silenced.

— Mohandas K. Gandhi. This shy child from a traditional Hindu Indian family was born before each of these others and rose up to instruct and inspire them all. Hanh, Gyatso, Teresa, King, Merton, and Romero all acknowledged their debt to Gandhi. Perhaps that’s because Gandhi so fully embodied the connection between spirituality and justice. “I have only three enemies,” Gandhi one observed. “My favorite enemy, the one most easily influenced for the better is the British nation. My second enemy, the Indian people, is far more difficult. But my most formidable opponent is a man named Mohandas K. Gandhi. With him I seem to have very little influence.”

This recognition of dealing with both the enemy within and the enemy without, and of how we are often our own worst enemy, lies at the heart of spiritual wellness. Both enemies require transformational coaching and nonviolent resistance if we ever hope to see the light of day. And it is there, at the point of connection between justice and wellness, that these leaders and we ourselves find the sense of passionate purpose that makes life worth living.

One of the books that I discovered on my vacation at the Chautauqua Institution is the Pursuit of Passionate Purpose by Theresa Szczurek. She makes an excellent case for passion arising from the intersection of our values and our gifts. Values, she notes, define who we are and what is meaningful to us. They include our “core beliefs, ideology, ethics, morals, attitudes, and ideals.”

Our gifts, on the other hand, mold how we can uniquely contribute. They include our “talents, experience, abilities, aptitudes, education, and traits.” Although there are more than 6 billion people in the world today, no one else has our unique mix of personal characteristics. Just as no one looks exactly like us or shares our exact DNA, so too does no one else have our exact same gifts.

Passion, Szczurek notes, arises when we can use our gifts in the service of our values. In these moments our hearts sing and we feel fully engaged by the pursuit. In fact, we are often more passionate in the pursuit than in the attainment of something. Anyone who has lost a large amount of weight, trained for a marathon, or pushed to achieve any other significant thing knows exactly how this works. The morning after you achieve your goal, the “Now what?” question looms large in the continued search for passionate purpose.

Although the intersection of our values and gifts describes well the playground of passion, Szczurek observes that its takes a third circle, the needs of the world, to awaken passionate purpose. Drawn as three overlapping circles, it is the intersection of our values and gifts with the needs of the world that put us on the path to greatness. When spiritual wellness and global justice embrace there’s no telling what may shake loose, both for us personally and for the well being of the world.

Of course the needs of the world are many and great. And we live in many worlds at once, both inner and outer. Our inner worlds include all things mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Our outer worlds include our families, friends, neighborhoods, communities, countries, planet, and universe. Now that’s a lot of worlds! And they all have needs. When you discern a need you can meet, perhaps with the assistance of a coach, that will express your values and use your gifts you will have entered the zone of passionate purpose that both spiritual wellness and global justice require.

In his book, God’s Politics, Jim Wallis reminds us of the primary position many spiritual traditions give to the issues of poverty, ecology, and violence. These needs represent the big three when it comes to the needs of our planet. In his sermons and lectures at Chautauqua, Wallis frequently reminded us of how a child dies due to hunger somewhere in the world every 3 seconds. Click your fingers, every 3 seconds, to get a sense of the gravity of this need.

Wallis also pointed to the problems associated with development and climate change as well as war and terrorism. These are the things that preoccupy both world leaders and ordinary citizens. Unfortunately, they do not always get the resources and creative attention they deserve. In other words, they do not always enter into the conversation with our values and gifts. But Wallis argues persuasively that this is the place we need to go if we hope to experience spiritual wellness.

So don’t just think of spiritual wellness as the path of personal enlightenment and faith. It is also the path of global justice and passion. The more often we can bring our values and gifts to bear on the needs of the world the more often we will experience wholeness in our life and work.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you know your values and gifts? How could they be brought to bear on the needs of the world? Would talking with a coach assist you to be more clear and active in this endeavor? How could passionate purpose become a more common denominator in your everyday life? What is the work that would make your heart sing?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..

I too was at Chautauqua last week, and am looking forward to two more weeks. I especially enjoyed Friday’s lecture by Daniel Pink. Too bad we didn’t know each other were on the grounds together. I, like you, run marathons and we could have gotten in some runs together. Maybe next year! (Ed. Note: Indeed, we’ll be there again Week 2!)

Your description of Chautauqua and of your vacation gave me the opportunity to “see” this beauty for myself…to share mindfulness with a parent or child…when the past is gone (good or hard) and you might not have a future is to embrace and receive a gift. I am heartened that you had and took advantage of this beauty.

A recent critique I heard defined vulgar as that which is lacking in knowledge and appreciation of beauty. It was used in the context of a commentary on the increasing vulgarity of our public discourse and entertainment. Your Provision “Embrace Beauty” provided a compelling antidote to that spiritual sickness in our society and in our world today. Thanks for the reminder to stop and drink in the beauty all around us! 

This weeks Provision speaks of a Chautauqua lecture that helped you change your diet, will you share with us the name of the lecture and the speaker? Blessings to you for sharing your gifts. (Ed. Note: It was the speech by S. Boyd Eaton Click. I have also written about this myself in many Wellness Pathways, especially #237 on the Paleolithic Diet Click and #238 on the Anti-Inflammation Click.) 

It has taken me a few weeks to get to your most recent Provisions but the one on Embrace Mystery was fantastic and more than worthy of forwarding to several friends (which I did). You have a remarkable gift. Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your writings.

Do you have a Provision that would encourage my boss? She is about to have a second surgery and she is fearful. Can you help by telling me what Provision to pass on to her? (Ed. note: I would urge her to read Provision #401: Avoid Anxious Thinking Click as well as Provision #321: Release Fear Click

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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