“Yes We Can”: A Call to Right Action

By Rev. Lauren Van Ham, M.A.

February 2009

“I am open and I am willing.
To be hopeless would seem so strange.
It dishonors those who go before us.
So lift me up to the light of change.”
—Holly Near, “I Am Willing”

Rev. Lauren Van Ham

“Yes We Can” is the new-retro mantra for America. As the dark time wanes and the sun shines longer each day, we are being called—each of us – to Right Action in 2009. Have you heard your call? What is the Great Mystery birthing in you to do?

In the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, “Right Action” is defined as our ability to discern action and activities which cause no harm. I am thinking of Right Action at an even more engaged level, however. The irresistible, undeniable presence of Right Action is within each of us, as if a mindful rudder, guiding us toward our Divine and Right Work.

“What does the Lord require of you
but to do justice,
and love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”
—Micah 6:8, ESV

The crisis we face today calls for every one of us to befriend our inner-activist. “Activism” and all it connotes is second nature for some and intimidating for others. Yet our planet’s current state is one of mythic proportions, and to bring health and wholeness to all that is broken, we must take Right Action—beginning with ourselves, and then modeling it for others.

Can we instill a planetary contagion; a cosmic wave of good actions? I believe, along with many of you, that this is already happening. And so, to spur all that you are already doing, and to encourage each of us to envision doing a little more still, I’d like to share four thoughts about Right Action.

First: the time for Right Action is NOW. We know action is desperately needed and the great news is that it is finally, FINALLY being called forth and supported! President Barack Obama has added his voice to leaders and teachers around the world, empowering each of us to play our role in The Great Problem-Solving for our country and planet. We have been given a giant charge to jump in and get busy, so there’s no excuse not to participate.

Does the word “activist” frightens you? Perhaps it doesn’t feel like an accurate description, or like something you can do. This brings me to my second thought: it is OK to feel fear about Right Action. Stepping into our “Highest Selves,” speaking our truth, or working to serve justice tends to put us on Holy Ground, a place that so often feels—and probably should—a little scary. Recall the words of Jeremiah:

 “Then the Lord reached out, touched my lips, and said to me,
‘Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak.
Today I give you authority over nations and kingdoms
to uproot and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah 1:7-10, ESV

Standing on Holy Ground, we can use our fear to confirm that we are moving toward Right Action, remembering always that Right Action —with a capital “R”—is informed by wisdom and compassion. It is action that is right both for you and for others.

And if, indeed, it puts you up close with your fear, I’m happy to share there is more good news. My third thought is that the creative strength of our universe is supporting you completely as you commit to planet-healing action. What do I mean?  I mean that our universe—a 15 billion year story—was born of a creative spark, and each of us carries within us that energy. We are sewn of that raw, exuberant, alive unfolding; and we are not alone. On the contrary, we are standing on the shoulders of fiercely creative, wildly intelligent activist-artists who, throughout the ages, have fostered change through art, demonstration, song, dance and community.

Our imaginations are the most powerfully creative tool we have. Let’s temper our fears through the power of our imaginations and make our activism beautifully, divinely, awesomely creative. And in the moments we tire, let us rest in the Great Mother, whose love, Holly Near’s lyrics remind us, is large enough to hold both our joy and despair:

“Give me a mighty oak to hold my confusion.
Give me a desert to hold my fears.
Give me a sunset to hold my wonder.
Give me an ocean to hold my tears.”
—Holly Near

My final thought is: with Right Action, change and transformation are inevitable. We are moved to take action initially so that we may provoke change outside ourselves, but also, action changes us from within. Consider the activists you most admire. Did they know where the journey would take them? Did they even know they were activists? Placing one foot in front of the other, and responding to each moment with right and true action, we will most likely arrive in places beyond our imaginations.

“What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too,
and not need names.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke

So, as you discern your Right Actions this year…this month…right now:

May the great “Yes We Can” draw you forward, through your fears.
May you feel support from the creative solidarity surrounding you.
And most of all, may your inner-activist stretch and lift you to the light of change!

Blessed Be.