Heal Your Heart and Change the World
“When your heart is broken make art with the pieces.” -Shane Koyczan
The world is so full of heartbreaking stories and experiences it’s overwhelming to even the hardest of hearts. When you’re wallowing in the quagmire of our current age it can be hard to know what to do about all of this pain.
Classic activism is always the first step. Time, talent, and money are absolute prerequisites for significant change to happen. This is especially true for addressing the needs of the immediate-term.
However, there are limitations to this on the individual level. There are only so many hours in a week and so much money in the bank. Plus, the people most motivated to push for change (aka the ones affected) are usually the ones with the least free time and money to give.
Once you’ve taken the obvious steps such as calling a representative, donating, and volunteering, there is still something more you can do: commit deeply to your personal spiritual practice.
When done regularly, spiritual exercises such as meditation, yoga, or sacred sexuality are powerful ways to transform the world around you. These wisdom paths have the power to heal your distressed mind, body, and soul. By transforming your very nature into the sensitivity, compassion, and patience that our world so desperately needs, these traditions are key to long-term social justice.
This slow personal inner change is a form of activism because it works at the very root cause of so much suffering: your emotional wounds. Unless consciously healed, scars from your past will continue to haunt everyone’s present.
Though rarely intentional, these wounds within yourself can spread and bring suffering to others. They can make you react instead of respond to conflict, or cause you to make decisions from a child-like place instead of a mature adult one.
When you realize that you’re living on a planet with billions of people that are all carrying this type of conditioning, it’s easy to see why there is so much illogical callousness and meaningless pain. But there’s more.
Even though your story and your particular hurts are unique, there are sweeping patterns in what causes this deep emotional wounding. Many of these hurts come from a lack (or perceived lack) of love, safety, and/or belonging from birth on. These unmet emotional needs fester into scars that are powerful unconscious motivators of your behavior.
Here are some examples of how a lack of (or perceived lack of) love, safety, or belonging can trigger irrational behaviors that bring massive suffering on an individual and societal level.
Love: A person remarries after a nasty divorce. They bring into the new relationship a fear that their new wife will stop loving them someday. They see her carrying on a friendly conversation with someone else, triggering that fear. They react by throwing a tantrum to try to control her, becoming jealous and suspicious, or becoming violent.
Safety: During childhood, a person is taught overtly or covertly that those who are visually different from them are dangerous and a threat to their safety. Later in life when they feel unsafe in life due to job loss or other instability they react with racism and bigotry in an irrational attempt to protect themselves from threats they can’t control.
Belonging: When a human senses that they don’t belong it causes a fight/flight reaction. A high school student thinks their peers are rejecting them, triggering a fight/flight response. In a way that is logical to their fight response they bring a gun to school to “show them how it feels.”
It’s easy to see how the hypothetical individuals might have acted differently if their emotional needs were truly met. However, it’s impossible for every individual person to have all their emotional needs met by others in the unconditional way that they crave. However, by meeting your emotional needs yourself first and foremost, deep healing is actually possible.
Only you will never leave you. Only you will be there for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health. Your own mind, heart, body, and soul will be there from the moment you are born until the moment you die. You alone will be there for yourself through the totality of the rejection, rough patches, and traumatic experiences you will meet in this life.
Even those that love you the most, your family, your spouse, your closest friends, will someday die. They may get addicted to substances that obscure and twist who they truly are. They may develop dementia or other mentally degenerative diseases that destroy their self-awareness so they are no longer “there.”
You may get lucky and get to keep a few people for the duration of your entire lifetime. However, they will never be there for you 100% of the time. They have their own lives to live, their own battles to fight, and their own human imperfections that may at times hurt you.
With a regular spiritual practice, you can cultivate the capacity to meet your own emotional needs for love, safety, and belonging. By training your inner world you can learn to hold yourself through every bump in the heart’s road. There are ways you can inject love, safety, and belonging into your own psyche.
You can love yourself deeply by having compassion for every experience you have, both internal and external. You can get in the habit of speaking to yourself kindly and motivating yourself in a gentle way.
You can do your best to keep yourself physically safe by taking reasonable, mindful precautions. We can never be 100% physically safe, but you can do what you can to be “safe enough” by locking doors, learning self-defense, etc.
You can keep yourself emotionally safe by establishing boundaries, lovingly removing toxic people from your life, and finding places where you can share your feelings without judgment.
No matter who you’re with or where you are, you belong to yourself and to the Universe. You belong here because you exist. You belong to human beings because you are human. You belong to earth because you live on earth.
Giving yourself this internal sense of love, safety, and belonging is quite challenging to do, which is why you need to practice. Meditation, yoga, sacred sexuality, and similar methodologies are designed to help you cultivate this emotional home within yourself. Once your emotional needs are met in this profound way you can then stand on firm ground and extend a hand to those around you that need help the most.
This emotional strength helps you become exquisitely vulnerable so you share your most tender experiences to help others understand. It gives you the patience to listen when all you feel is anger. It empowers you to act from love instead of from fear. Which are exactly the kind of qualities this world needs to truly change for the better.
Through the personal transformation that comes from a regular spiritual practice, you can become a powerhouse for good in the world. The very energy of your presence will communicate what we’re fighting for. Your loving essence will scream from the rooftops of the word that you want to see.
On a practical level, this emotional fortitude will allow you the energy necessary for activism and not burn out or become apathetic. It will keep you sensitive and motivated, even during heartbreaking incident number 10,001. It helps you transform the fire of anger and outrage into a slow, steady burn that can keep you motivated for life.
All of this ripples out. The more calm, compassionate, and emotionally balanced you are the more the people around you will be too. As a solid base for your community, those around you will naturally start finding the love, safety, and belonging within themselves. Like candle flames, each awakened heart has the potential to light countless others.
This deep, soul-level transformation, when combined with powerful activist strategies, can truly be a force for good in this world. It’s good to share an important news story, spend a few hours volunteering, or donate to a cause when you can. But when these small actions are combined with individual spiritual transformation our world will become the one we long to see.
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