On July 21, 2013, I was invited to deliver the sermon to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Eugene.
This is the text of my message.
Good morning. I am delighted to be here today to speak of spiritual sustainability, and its partner, social justice. But while we all want social justice, and we speak of social justice, do we really know what it means? What is the definition of the word “Justice”?
Theologian Matthew Fox in his book A New Reformation, said, “Sustainability is another word for justice, for what is just is sustainable, and what is unjust is not.” I know sustainability is the buzzword of the day, but it has real meaning when we bring it to the idea of social justice. Social sustainability.
We all know about material sustainability: carbon footprint, greenhouse gases, alternative energy sources and the like, but what about social sustainability? The way we elect our representatives? The way our governments handle our money? Our foreign policies? Immigration? Welfare? Are they sustainable? What are the values that underpin these systems? Can anything be sustainable without values?
Today our systems are beginning to fail because they are not built upon the bedrock of values. Some people have too much while others have nothing. Our kids are taking drugs, getting pregnant in high school, ending up in jail. As many marriages fail as succeed. What do we do? We implement more social programs to provide high school daycare centers, and drug treatment programs in jail, and cheap, no-fault divorces. These are not sustainable fixes, because we are addressing the symptoms, not the problem.
I believe the answer is in the power of our collective thought, and initiating and maintaining what I call spiritual sustainability.
It is my prayer that this morning we will all find a new way to participate in social justice for our community, our country and our world.
I would like to begin by welcoming all of our angels and the legion of unseen friends who are with us today, and thank them for tirelessly helping us navigate the uncertain waters of life on this planet.
This morning, let us consider the power of thought. Thought precedes intention. First there’s the thought, then there’s the intention, and finally, the act. Almost every act begins with “I think I’ll…” go to church. Take a class. Call my son. And before you know it, it’s done. This is the power of individual thought.
And then there is the collective power of thought. Walk into a room of angry people, of fearful people, of worshipful people, of celebrating people. You can feel the energy. Have you been to a football party when the Ducks were winning? Or losing? We can get caught up in the “spirit of the moment,” if you will.
How about just sitting with a grieving person? Don’t we begin to share that grief as well?
Because we’re all connected.
You think about calling your brother, and the phone rings. It’s your brother. Two scientists on opposite sides of the world share a Nobel prize because they both came up with the same idea at the same time. There is no question that we are connected. The evidence is everywhere, if we will see it.
But exactly how are we connected? What is the spiritual circuitry, if you will, that puts us in touch with one another?
Imagine for a few moments that there is actually a fabric that surrounds our planet, a fabric of planetary consciousness that holds the residue of every thought since humans had thought. Dark thoughts of anger or fear or resentment stain the fabric, as if we sent into it a drop of black ink. Light thoughts of love and happiness and prayer and gratitude lighten it, as if we sent into it a little drop of light.
Indulge me for a moment and close your eyes. Visualize our beautiful world, spinning peacefully in the cosmos. Feel your love for this world.
Now visualize the fabric of planetary consciousness that surrounds our planet like its atmosphere.
What color is the fabric right now?
The lightness or darkness that we add by the positive or negative quality of our thoughts only stays true for a moment, and then it is absorbed into the collective, like drops of ink in a glass of water. Is this how we’re connected?
In your mind’s eye, move the globe until you can visualize the color of planetary consciousness over Syria—where everyone is afraid. What color is the fabric of planetary consciousness? Now to Africa—where people are sick and starving. What color is the fabric of planetary consciousness? To Washington, D.C. where…well, who knows what they’re doing there, but it is without question contentious. What color? And now to Eugene, where blue skies and festivals abound, people still wear tie dye and flash the peace sign. What is the color?
Before we open our eyes and return to this room, take a moment to feel your desire for real global change to occur in the thoughts and actions of all of our spiritual brothers and sisters across the globe. Feel your desire for this tender fabric of planetary consciousness to become enlightened, worldwide.
Thank you. Please come back to the room and open your eyes.
This is where we can make a real difference. Not by posting happy faces on Facebook, but by actually uplifting our thoughts. We all have negative thoughts, angry thoughts, resentful thoughts, but we don’t have to feed them, we don’t have to dwell in them.
This is not easy. I don’t know if it is in our DNA, or the fact that we are of animal origin, but maintaining a positive attitude is difficult. At least it is for me. And therein lays its value.
We’ve all heard “be the change you want to see.” Well, this is how to go about that, by controlling our own thoughts. We are in charge of our thoughts. It is our choice to be angry or happy. It is our choice to hold on to resentment or to forgive.
It is up to us to change the color of the fabric of planetary consciousness, one thought at a time.
I learned in my twelve step program that I don’t really have much control over anything, but what I do have control over is my attitude. When a driver cuts me off in traffic, I can curse him (shake fist), or I can turn that around and wish him a nice day (peace sign).
We can pause and adjust our thoughts before we react and speak as we go about our day interacting with others. It is in this pause that we can change the direction of our thoughts like flipping a switch. See the switch in your mind and imagine the aura of your energy changing to a lighter color when you think and feel positive loving thoughts. If you fail and fall back into negativity, imagine the brightness of your energy fading and then adjust your thoughts and watch it brighten again to a healthy hue.
If we can learn to sustain this stream of thoughts of light, then the whole fabric of planetary consciousness will begin to lighten, which will lift the spirits of everyone and help everybody—all seven billion of us—sustain streams of thoughts of light. We sustain it and it sustains us.
So how do we go about sustaining a positive stream of thought? One way might be to visualize this fabric of planetary consciousness in your daily stillness practice. By knowing that your positive thoughts have a real and profound effect on people you don’t know, and have never heard of, thousands of miles away.
This is spiritual sustainability in a real global sense. It is something we can do now, right now. If you are sitting there worried about something, stop it. Worrying isn’t going to change the situation, but it is going to color your aura, your life, your relationships, the world situation.
If you are criticizing somebody in your head, stop it. You have the power to do that. You are in control of your thoughts. Send a blessing that person’s way instead.
This is the way that we can help members of congress change their attitudes from self-aggrandizement to true social justice.
This is the way that you and I can encourage dictators on the other side of the world to peacefully acquiesce to a more democratic form of government.
This is the way that you and I can ensure that eventually, every person on this planet will have fresh, free drinking water. Eventually, every child will be adored and cherished. Eventually, there will be no more war, no more famine, no torture, no greedy businesses that pollute our wonderful world in the name of profits.
This is how we can bring those who suffer out of the margins of society and enfold them, implementing programs of true social justice based on real spiritual values. We have the power to change hearts, to raise the vibrations of all thought, all from right here, right now, and as we go about our daily duties with love in our hearts and blessings on our tongues.
And when we do, the angels and other celestial helpers, the overseers of our world, spring into action to not only help us sustain, but to augment our efforts by bringing us together for meaningful groups, committees, and social structures to implement such systems based upon spiritual values.
Mother Teresa said, “If we pray, we will believe. If we believe, we will love. If we love, we will serve.”
We—right here—have the power for global change. Each of us is a shining facet in the diamond that is humanity. Love one another with a fierce and intense affection. Let your light — your literal light — so shine that everyone will glorify our creator, and let us live our lives in tribute to this astonishing creation and as examples of what life could be in a service-driven economy instead of a profit-driven one.
Together we can spread the benign virus of love until we reach that tipping point that will mark the end of our animal ways and usher in a new, spiritual age.
It is through our purposeful connectedness, the spiritual circuitry in the fabric of planetary consciousness, that we may actively, consciously, bring forth spiritual sustainability to our world.
This is my prayer.