December 4, 2012,
Activism is a personal choice. It is a passion for a cause expressed
through actions, funding, communication, as well as prayer, rituals, and art.
Dear Friends and Supporters of a Global Conference on Women (5WCW),
A rallying symbol. Not a political statement!
Here is an excerpt from my writing-activism, Moving Toward the Millionth Circle: Energizing the Global Women’s Movement. It was inspired and provoked by reactions to the announcement of support for a global conference on women by the UN Secretary General and President of the 66th General Assembly (March 8, 2012). This little book is for heart-centered activists who are motivated to act by compassionate action, a sense of sisterhood, or fierce mother bear protectiveness which is a combination of love and outrage.
It takes work to be an activist of any kind.
There are twists and turns,
setbacks, large and small victories.
always much to be done
and more to do.
If you are called to be an activist
“take heart” applies.
It will be a labyrinthine journey that will test you.
Sometimes it will seem that the path is going straight to the goal,
and then it turns sharply and you feel back to square one,
as in a board game.
Will you give up or will you keep on?
Circumstances change, people who you counted on
may not come through.
May join forces with others, abandon ship.
Or just run out of steam.
It helps all concerned to be in a circle of support
with shared meaning at the center.
Activism is really not a job for a do-it-yourself action hero.
even if it depends on one person doing her job
at a particular moment.
When activism is your assignment in the way that I define it,
meaningful, fun, motivated by love,
then it also is soul work.
The idea of recognizing an assignment when one comes along grows through personal encounters with people whose lives and “assignments” are congruent, authentic, and involved in service. There are many, many good causes to become involved with, but the assignment about which I write is one that has your name on it, written so only you know that this one is for you. It is something you volunteer to do. Taking on an assignment is an aspect of individuation—of becoming authentically oneself, of being on a path with heart or on a chosen life path. It is doing soul work. And as many may tell you who began with something small but significant, one step leads to another.
The idea that an “assignment” could be your soul work begins with a premise that we have a soul as most everyone throughout time has assumed; if so, there must be some point in being here. An immortal soul comes in through the body of a biological mother, into a world of family, society, culture, and time, that is either welcoming or not. I remember the series of insights that led me to think that we are “spiritual beings on a human path, rather than human beings who may or may not be on a spiritual path” as I wrote in Close to the Bone: Life-Threatening Illness as a Soul Journey. Our lives are short, time passes quickly, and we will have our share of suffering and joy. Time, place, skin color and gender will greatly affect the expectations, opportunities, and limitations placed on us. And yet, if we have a soul, then what we do here in the time we have matters.
In this particular historical and cosmological time, the excesses of alpha male psychology and patriarchy has brought humanity and the planet to the brink, and some of the wiser men look to women to save the situation: “We men have made a proper mess of things, it’s up to women to save us,” from Desmond Tutu, former Anglican archbishop and Nobel Peace Laureate, or as the nineteenth-century philosopher Matthew Arnold foresaw, “If ever the women of the world came together solely for the benefit of mankind, it would be a force the world has never seen.”
I took on the assignment of advocacy for a UN Fifth World Conference on Women (5WCW) as a direct outgrowth of the idea behind the metaphoric millionth circle. My advocacy is not a goal in itself, but a giant step toward reaching the millionth circle—just as smaller conferences of women and gatherings with this intention also will be. Circles that form during a workshop, as well as ones I have been in for many years, continue to inspire me. I can say from my own experience that “Each circle supports each woman in it to believe in herself and live authentically, to be who she could be with support from the circle and spiritual energy from her deepest sources, and to live into her assignment.”
Definition: Assignment. (1.) Meaningful
Meaningful is an inside definition—no one else’s opinion matters here. There is aconnection between who you are inside, what you have experienced, and how being involved in this is meaningful to you. Very often there is some personal reason for taking this one on, which may have led to starting an organization or being part of it. For me, realizing what women’s circles with a sacred center can do to support the life, the creativity, and the activism of its members, came from being in a prayer circle for decades (irreverently called “the Sisters of Perpetual Disorder”) and the “mother circle of the Millionth Circle” for just over a decade.
Each year, when I attend presentations and panels given by women activists from NGOs (non-governmental organizations) at the United Nations, I become aware of how many of them as young women were in need of the services that they provide, and are survivors who work to end abuses. Examples abound, such as the women who once were trafficked and now work to rescue trafficked women. Compassion in action called many activist women who were moved by the plight of young girls.
Definition: Assignment (2.) Fun
Fun—when you are with others who share your values, and with whom you can celebrate, laugh, mourn, or cry together at the ups and downs of the journey. When what you do matters and you feel and see that it makes a difference. When it uses your creativity and you find the courage to do it. When you can be so involved and absorbed in it that you lose track of time. You may never have worked so hard in your life, and yet never spent the time with more satisfaction.
However, every heart activist or creative woman in for the long run also knows that the definition of “fun” doesn’t fit those times in which criticism rains down, when funds dry up, or worse, when people who you thought of as friends abandon, betray, or make fun of you. Or when you hear: “Who do you think you are?” During times that are clearly “not fun,” if the assignment is true one, it remains meaningful to you. Plus, there is truth in the saying, “activism is a cure for despair.” Even in the worst of times, if you continue to be an activist and understand the principle of tipping point—that when it is reached, it required all the actions and consciousness-raising that preceded it—you keep on keeping on.
Definition: Assignment (3.) Motivated by Love
Motivated by love—love for what you protect, or serve, or help—it could be a principle, people, animals, and nature. Love for beauty, for peace and harmony. To want for others what you are grateful to have. For many women who are becoming activists, spirituality came first. Love for the sacred feminine, for Gaia—the Earth as Great Mother, for Mother’s Agenda: for all children to have what every mother wants for her own child.
Love is the only source of energy that is not zero-sum: if I give you anything else, you will have more and I’ll have less. This is not so with love: the more love I give you, the more I have myself, the more you will have, and the more there will be in the world.
©2012 by Jean Shinoda Bolen.
Manuscript for Moving Toward the Millionth Circle