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Thoughts on Maintaining a Peaceful Heart While Becoming An Activist

(In other words, finding balance in crazy times!)

Back in January, during the Women's March, I really enjoyed the signs.   They were clever and funny and heartfelt.  

I also recall my overwhelming realization that they covered . . . So. Many. Issues.

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I remember just standing there, just kind of gobsmacked, that this wasn't just a march for women's issues.  Or access to health care.  Or clean water for Flint.  Or saving Planned Parenthood.  Or protecting LGBTQ rights.  Or immigration and refugee issues.  Or support for public education.  Or doing something to slow down climate change.  Or environmental protection.  Or preserving first amendment rights.


I realized it was - suddenly - about ALL THE THINGS.

Because ALL THE THINGS were at risk.

All at once.

Those signs, for me, just brought that fact home.

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I've explained here on the blog that after the shock of the election last November, I felt an overwhelming desire to . . . DO SOMETHING . . . in a way I never had in my life before.  It was like - overnight - an activist was born!  And since the inauguration in January, I have done things I never imagined I would do.

I started joining all the lists and sending all the postcards and making all the calls and reading all the news.


My approach was wearing my down.  Because I don't like being on High Alert all the time.  I've realized that I can't be an activist . . . for All The Things . . . All The Time . . . without sacrificing my internal peace.

Without losing my BALANCE.

I recently found this quote by Richard Rohr of The Center for Action & Contemplation:

                "We need a contemplative mind in order to do compassionate action."

This gave me great pause . . . to stop and think and re-evaluate my chicken-with-her-head-cut-off approach.

Because a contemplative mind is not motivated by fear.  Or urgency.  Or my Facebook feed!  Because, well, y'know. . . that just leads to stress, a feeling of impending doom, and RE-action.  Not compassionate action.

A contemplative mind, rather, takes in the situation.  Learns about the situation.  And lines that up with personal values and goals.  In short, a contemplative mind allows for (wait for it) . . . comtemplation! 

Which is HARD.

But necessary.  Because we need to act from our best and most peaceful place.

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I'm working hard to foster a contemplative space for myself (and - trust me - some days it's much easier to do this than others).  For me, this means that every day, I try to:

  • Meditate (inviting a peaceful heart)
  • Move (working out some of my frustration)
  • Get outside (changing my environment)
  • Limit my news consumption (because overload)

It helps.

By creating space to think, I'm better able to discover and discern just what kind of compassionate action to take.  Because much as I might want to do All The Things, I simply cannot.  I need to choose.  I need to focus.  I need to take aim at specific targets.

I'm finding that having a bit more balance - between my peaceful heart and my new activist mind-set - helps me feel better, speak from the heart, and act more effectively.  By prioritizing my issues, I feel like I'll be able to DO SOMETHING in a way that keeps my values, my passions, my gifts, and my energies in better alignment.

(Balance, my friends!  Turns out it's all about balance.)

"It's not possible to save the world by trying to save it.  You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer before you can make it a better place.  Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge.  The offering of that gift - your true self - is the most you can do to love and serve the world.  And it is all the world needs."
                                                                        ---  Bill Plotkin in Soulcraft


Quiet your mind.
Discern your priorities.
Take compassionate action using your own gifts.
Find your balance.

It's the best we can do.





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Reading this post I firmly believe you are on your way to being reflective and compassionate. Now to discover that place where your hands and your heart will make a difference. You got this!


I hear you! I was just thinking today how heartbroken I was at the rollback of the law allowing hibernating bear cubs and wolf cubs to be killed, and how I wish more people had worked passionately against it. Then I realized that sadly at the moment there are Just.So.Many.Things, and people are scrambling as it is, because they feel they have no chance to take time to focus.

So yes, we all need to find our causes and our balance. And hope to God that others will take their passions to the other ones.


What a moving post. Thank you so much for these valuable insights on issues so many of us are struggling with now.


Fabulous post Kym. I feel as though so many have been running around to do Everything, and no one Can do Everything. I particularly like how you've broken it down to making time each day to meditate, move, get outside and limit news. That is healthy! And balanced. As Juliann said, you've got this!


I'm glad you wrote this. I also felt called to action in the beginning, signed up for all the lists, and made so many phone calls and in-person visits that the staff in my congressman's office knew me and that I was concerned about every.single.thing. I just couldn't sustain it, so I've also had to prioritize and calm down. I can't get rid of Betsy DeVos, but I can listen to and help elementary students practice reading. I can't help the EPA directly, but I can volunteer at our community garden. I can't change the horrific proposed budget, but I can make monthly donations to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and PBS. Compassionate, balanced action is the best we can do, for our concerns and our own sanity.


This post gives me a sense of relief. I started out by responding and reacting to all the causes and quickly found that I couldn't keep up; I began to feel a sense of despair in response to Facebook and all the news. For my Lenten observance, I gave up Facebook and have limited my news intake to PBS Newshour & the weekend NY Times and use that time to learn what it is that I am called to respond to. I'm discovering that my actions are more effective when I am calm, confident, and focused. Thank you!


Yes. Yes! Yes!! Yes. Yes!!

That Bill Plotkin quote might become a mantra.


Yes... this. All this struck home hard for me this weekend - we learned of a nearby immigrant community that has several hurting families. Their bread winners has been detained and a need was identified - they needed food. It felt so good to have an action event that did not involve calling someone who did not want to hear from me. It might seem very small, but it was huge to me and I hope it will give these families the feeling that not everyone is against them. That some of us actually are glad they are here.

The other benefit was that the simple act of getting some rice and beans fueled me as well - I was more eager to pick up the phone and call this week.

Balance... the only way to get through this!


Yes! You have a way of putting into words, and in living through example, what needs to be said and done. The quotes are perfect. Balance is so key to how we will survive and thrive through "this".

Barbara S

Yes, yes, yes....All. The. Things...so exhausting. I really think that's what the new administration wants...everyone exhausted and running in all directions...frantic and accomplishing nothing. But clearer heads, like yours, will prevail. Focus and contemplation...do what you can when you can. Thank you for another lovely, well-thought out post.


I agree 1000%. Trying to do all of the things, I'm afraid, would result in burn out and then none of the things would improve. I'm also reminded of this concept: it's a marathon, not a sprint.


thank you, Kym. this all makes perfect sense as I read it ... and I'm looking forward (tomorrow? soon?) to parsing it out and using these words to help me figure out where I really am (and what's next). March has thrown me some curve balls...


Kym this is a wonderful post! Thank you. Richard Rohr really has a way with words. I get his daily emails and they are full of food for thought. I have had a bit of family crisis over the last several months, with some real knocks in the last week, that have me looking for that contemplative peace you refer to. Somewhere along the line it has left me, or maybe I've left it. I decided today that I have rise above the mess and look for that peace again. Thanks for the reminder and sharing your thoughts and practice. Peace...


Thank you for sharing your process, thoughts, and actions. You are an inspiration to me. I am ashamed to admit that I have had zero interest in anything political my entire life. I am now about to turn 60 and instead of being crazy upset and emotional during the entire presidential campaign, I decided that if I was informed, perhaps I'd feel better. Of course that's ridiculous, but now I can't stop watching and reading about the issues every day, because there is so much happening every day. But you're right, it is too much, and just in the past few days I've needed to back off. I need to find my balance again. Thank you, your post was perfectly timed.


I agree that reacting all the way, to all the things, will not work. I've been blessed with a job that serves refugees, so, though these days have been heartbreaking, I've had my center. I know I'm making the same small difference I've been making all along. So, I try to take care of myself, so I can do that.

Purpose is the place where your deep gladness meets the world's needs.
- Frederick Buechner

I hope you find that spot -


Back in January or so I read something, maybe on Scalzi's blog, that led me to this same conclusion. It was something like, "You cannot do everything, so pick the thing that is most important to you and work on it. There are millions of people who will be working on all the other things." Personally, I have been lax for the last month or so, probably because I am a volunteer tax preparer, and that seems to take way more time than the two mornings a week I *work*. After April 18 I shall become active again.

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