Read time – 5 minutes.
When he was born, the doctors named my partner ‘Siren of God’ (or ‘Aazhir Allah’ in Farsi). He was born to the sound of Saddam Hussein bombing his city in Shiraz, Iran. They called him the Siren of God, because every time his mum went down to give birth to him, the air-raid sirens would go off and the birth would be delayed. It happened countless times. It kind of fits his vibrant, fiery and charismatic personality that he came into the world that way.
Now, there’s no doubt that Saddam Hussain probably needed more hugs as a child, but I’m guessing that if you said to the people of Iran during that time, “Just think positive thoughts about him and all will be fine,” then it wouldn’t have gone down too well. The thing is, there are times in history where we just need to change our perceptions about what is going down and suck it up, and there are times where we need to take direct action. It doesn’t take a genius to work out which kind of times we are in right now.
The challenge for me is the growing number of ‘spiritual’ individuals who are saying that they feel that now Trump has been elected, we should just focus on the positive. I know my partner is relieved that nobody around him said that when Saddam was in rule, and I feel the same about my grandparents in WWII.
“I’m Spiritual, Not Political.”
I’ve heard this message many times since the 2016 elections and from some of the people that I respect. And I get it. I really do. I think we all have a period of living in our ‘spiritual bubble’ and thinking it separates us from the world. I’ve definitely had that period in my life, and it was probably a lot longer than I would like to admit.
But the situation that we are facing now is not one of politics. It is one of humanitarian issues. It is one of civil rights. It is one of ensuring that the steps our ancestors took to create our freedom and our civil liberties aren’t stomped upon or over-ruled, regardless of where we have come from. It’s one of ensuring that we don’t devolve where we have evolved. That’s what we are facing right now.
Ensuring that our fellow human beings experience equality. Ensuring that they aren’t racially profiled or mistreated because of their sexual orientation or gender. Ensuring that they feel safe in their homes and communities and that we provide shelter for them in times of crisis. You can’t really get any more ‘spiritual’ than that.
Spirituality or Personal Development?
There has been a period of our evolution where spirituality has been enmeshed with personal development. It’s been tied up (and sometimes even confused) with self-improvement and bettering ourselves. And it’s true, that in order to evolve, we have to go within, take a deep look, see what’s there and face ourselves. But it doesn’t stop there. If we stop there, and think that’s the end of the line, we only take half the journey. We get stuck on a never ending loop of “I, me and mine.” Because the piece that comes next is the question of how we take what we discover within us out into the world so that we can create more equality, fairness, expansion, love and freedom for all, and not just for ourselves.
Stepping Back into Activism
To be perfectly honest, I thought my activism days had been and gone. As a daughter of a laborer and a union man growing up in the North of England, I saw my fair share of action in the ‘Thatcher years’. There were many months spent on strike, resources were limited, and I remember countless days of fearing for my father’s life as he left the house for the picket lines.
In my teenage years, and into my twenties, I took the injustices of the world personally and the march was the perfect place to express it. I marched against fox hunting, I marched for women’s rights, I marched for the environment, I marched against McDonalds, I marched against war. If stuff was going down, you could pretty much count on me to be there on the frontline. But as I took on more spiritual values, I marched less and less. Something Mother Teresa said about going to a peace rally rather than an anti-war demo really stuck in my heart, and the more I softened, sobered up and woke up, the more ‘peaceful’ I became.
But what I came to realize this time around is that the most damaging thing we can do is have a list of ‘spiritual clichés’ or a predetermined way of responding based on our spiritual conditioning.
Beyond Spiritual Clichés
It’s way too easy to get caught up in spiritual clichés and stereotypes. We think that in order to be spiritual we have to be in one single mood of peace, joy and bliss all the time (hands in prayer position, eyes rolled reverently to the sky). We feel we can’t challenge anything or anyone from this place. We practice our gratitude and our affirmations. We tell ourselves, and those who will listen that, “Everything is as it’s meant to be,” and that “We just need to see the positive in all,” or that “What we resist, persists.” We don’t rock the boat. We don’t want to attract anything by stirring things up. So we remain neutral. We remain silent. But as Desmond Tutu famously said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
A reminder that Gandhi, Tutu, King, Mandela, Mother Teresa were all spiritual beings who didn’t take anything lying down. In other words, they saw the injustices of the world, they got up and they kicked ass in order to create change. But we don’t just need to look to the past for our inspiration. One of the most touching pieces in this current climate has been how leaders from all faiths – from the Pope to the local Pastor at the ‘Hipster’ church in Brooklyn, from Rabbis, to Reverends, to Priests and Priestesses, to Swamis are saying a big “No” to the segregation and xenophobia that is occurring around the world today.
Practicing On and Off the Mat
It’s crucial that we don’t take a position of privilege and decide that it has nothing to do with us. I totally understand those that say they are already tired of it and wished that it would go away. Believe me, I’ve never hugged my partner so fiercely as in these current times. I think there’s a part of me that feels that if I hug him tightly enough it won’t affect him (as an Iranian living in the US) and it will all go away. But we don’t have an off-switch for this. So instead, we have to learn how to navigate it skillfully.
We definitely need to spend our time on the meditation mat, practice yoga, pray, do our gratitudes, and whatever else we do. In fact, they are more important than ever at this time, because that’s where we center ourselves, remember our core and get clear. Our practices enable us to get our nervous system into a place where we can respond from love and not from fear. They enable us to be proactive rather than reactive. And then, if we can, we go out into the world and stand for what’s true from there.
That’s the spirituality that I know and love. And that’s what I’m standing for in these current times.
For the past decade, Sasha Allenby has been a ghostwriter for some of the greatest through-leaders of our time. Her journey started when she co-authored a bestselling book that was published in 12 languages worldwide by industry giants, Hay House. Since then, Sasha has become a ghostwriter for thought-leaders worldwide and written over 30 books. Since the 2016 elections, Sasha turned her skill set to crafting social messages. Her latest book Catalyst: Speaking, writing and leading for social evolution supports thought leaders to craft dynamic messages that contribute to change.