From 1997-2016, my colleague, John, and I developed and taught an innovative course at the University of Virginia on the thorny topic of racism in the U.S. We gave it the title, “Story and Healing” to signal that we were putting the sacred into educational activism to examine and transform the harms of separation mind carried by all of us.
We acted out of a fundamental understanding that negative biases based on differences of appearance, language, culture, society, religion, or nation is rooted in no small part in a collective soul wound that extends transgenerationally and into the multidimensional vibration of human consciousness. As I have said and will continue to say many times, when violence–whether in subtle and overt forms—is left unhealed, it creates a vibrational field filled with all the confusion, hurt, pain, suffering, and illusions that arise out of trauma.
This is why I believe that to have a truly dramatic and powerful effect not just in individuals, but ultimately at the level of the collective in every arena where we are challenged—from climate change to social justice—we must work at all dimensions of human experience and beingness—body, mind/emotions, soul and spirit. This is the sacred quaternity of all life. By removing obstacles to the perception of these levels of consciousness, we can powerfully change the destiny lines of humanity and the planet.
As one example of how to do this, “Story and Healing” was not an ordinary course that relied solely on the usual academic tropes of society, economics, psychology, culture, and politics. The wounds of separation mind that creates division and bias, whether conscious or unconscious, can be more quickly transmuted when connected fully in the sacred dimension of soul. So it was that, in addition to lectures on slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movements, and on systemic racism, we incorporated into the curriculum the spiritual practices of mindfulness and loving kindness meditation from Buddhism, individual and group art projects, self-contemplation and journaling, storytelling, deep self-inquiry into personal suffering, and ceremonies adapted from Native American spirituality.
When dealing with a topic such as racism that is so charged and triggering for everyone, these tools provide a variety of important benefits: they foster an atmosphere of safety and support and gradually dissolve fear and distrust; they ground the body and quiet the mind; they open the heart; and they lift and expand individual and group vibration. This further allows a release of the heavy energies taken into the energy body from the deep smog of racism in our society that creates powerful disturbances and confusion in emotions and thought.
Lastly, they build and strengthen a connection to our higher consciousness existing outside of duality and separation in the great field of oneness. From here, we can step out of reactive mind and emotions and not just see, but feel—know—experience—a bigger view. The natural pathways of healing that are ever and always available to us are accessed. Heart-to-heart communication is made possible. Defensive and offensive reactions are lowered and insight enters in.
This then heals trauma, effects a powerful transformation in perception of self and other, and builds the fires of compassion and love—not just in individuals, or even just in the class. The most powerful effect of bringing the sacred into activism is that we understand that even as one mind and heart is changed, so it has a ripple effect in the multidimensional matrix of reality. Thus, we are actually, one step at a time, contributing to the transformation of human consciousness—hence, the healing of division based on perceived differences and thus oppression and violence enacted towards any aspect of our human diversity.
Without the sacred in activism, there is a potential risk of merely continuing the cycles of harm. Without bringing the wisdom, tools, and perspectives arising out of soul and spirit to the causes of ending poverty, oppression, the violation of human rights, environmental justice, the ending of war and genocide, and turning the tide in climate change, the outcomes of our work are exponentially less in their impact, both in the present and for the future.
On a more personal level, drawing on the tools of the sacred in activism for peace and ending violence, mitigates burnout and secondary traumatic stress. Meditation, ceremony, prayer, sacred song, sound, and drumming are deeply nourishing. They build inner resources and expand our view of the state of the world beyond the appearances of conflict, hatred, and harm to the greater vision that transcends time. Our lives are like a small flash in the eternity of time. The sacred allows us to rest in the great mystery of the potential impact of our actions and thoughts. In other words, we may not see the end of racism in our singular lifetime, but in our understanding of the ripple effect in the cosmic soup of consciousness, the change will come for future generations.
Therefore, take heart! With the sacred in activism, peace is assured.
Rachel Mann, PhD is a sacred activist, social scientist, healer, and spiritual mentor. Through her Institute for Sacred Peacemaking, she provides an intensive 1-1 Mentoring Program and offers courses and retreats supporting passionate individuals with a vision to integrate the wisdom gained through their own healing and spiritual study into creative service to others as a healer/therapist, spiritual teacher, writer, artist, and/or socially conscious and spiritually awake entrepreneur. Through consulting and programs, she also provides businesses, NGOs, and nonprofits wishing to expand and anchor into the sacred values of positive inclusion, compassion, and a renewed, spiritual ethics with consulting and programs. Find out more at rachelmannphd.com.