Beyond Prayer and Meditation:10 Sacred Activities to Help Yourself and Others in Troubled Times

Petr Kratochvil via

In case you hadn't noticed, Homo Sapiens and its home planet are in a major pickle.

On the ecological front, there are too many of us, and we're killing our planetary host. We're fouling the air to the point that it has become unbreathable in many cities. 200 species of non-human animal are going extinct every day, poisoned, hunted, or crowded out of their homes to make room for agriculture. Wild ocean fish are going extinct, the Great Barrier Reef is 93% dead, and radiation leakage from Fukushima is decimating the populations of sea lions and other marine life in the Pacific Ocean.

On the energy front, we have extracted so much of the fossil fuel that supports our industrialized civilization that oil companies are barely breaking even. What began as a 100:1 EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested) in the middle of the 20th century has dwindled to around 3:1. And as oil and natural gas -- which are, on a human scale, essentially non-renewable -- become more scarce, this ratio will soon drop to 1:1, no matter how much new technology we throw at extraction methods.

In the meantime, in the U.S., jobs that for generations supported the middle and working classes are being outsourced or automated and replaced with part-time, minimum wage jobs that wouldn't support a goat. Over 36% of Millennials are living at home with their parents because they are unable to support themselves financially. Oh, and by the way? Pensions are disappearing, too.

Understandably, this trend is generating tremendous resentment on the part of millions of able-bodied workers who find themselves unable to feed their families. This frustration in turn is spilling over into hate crimes such as the harassment and killing of anyone who is "different" (or perceived as taking their jobs away), and the election of anybody who promises to "make America great again," and take the nation back to "business as usual," no matter how unqualified for political office they might be.

But there is no going back. "Business as usual" is over. Even though they are completely oblivious to it, our top political leaders and financial elites are victims of an out-of-control system that is flailing desperately in its death throes. And no one -- not even Donald Trump -- can save them.

If our political and financial leaders can do nothing to help themselves, much less you and me, what in Heaven's name can we do to mitigate the fear and darkness that is closing in around us? How can we follow the example of our enlightened teachers and take our spiritual practices from the cushion, the pew, or the prayer rug and bring them to a world that needs our solace?

Here are 10 things that we can start doing TODAY to give feet to our faith:

1. Read and share Dark Age America by John Michael Greer

One of the best ways to help others is to have a general idea of the road that lies ahead. This book is the best one I've read to date.

From the description on the sales page:
"Knowing where we're headed collectively is a crucial step in responding constructively to the challenges of the future and doing what we can now to help our descendants make the most of the world we're leaving them."
2. Protect the Vulnerable

Unfortunately, when societal structures fail, it is often the children and the animals -- the ones least able to defend or care for themselves -- that take the brunt of the hardship. For instance, in Venezuela, parents who are unable to feed their children are either giving them away or abandoning them.  In this zoo in the Gaza Strip, bombing prevented the caretakers from getting to the animals before they died from starvation and neglect.

If you know of an individual or family in trouble, share your food with them or help them get out of danger. Stand up to those who makes nasty remarks about gays. Take in an abandoned pet, or adopt one from a shelter. If the government founds a Muslim registry (and you're feeling especially ornery), register yourself as a Muslim and throw off their numbers.

3. Connect with Real People

Recently, I dumped Facebook and all other social media outlets. While I love my Facebook friends and am still in touch with many by phone or email, if the proverbial shit hits the fan, I am going to be unable to help people in New York, much less Malaysia or New Zealand.

Instead, I am redirecting my energy into attending local events and volunteering for local organizations. Meetup is a powerful way to begin connecting with people in your area with similar interests.

4. Grow Your Own Food

Even if you don't have a back yard where you can grow vegetables or raise chickens, you can sprout seeds or grow microgreens and even mushrooms easily indoors. Instead of planting an ornamental tree, plant a fruit tree. If you live in a rural area, check for volunteer opportunities at local farms, or join a local CSA. Any steps that you can take toward reconnecting with the production of  your own food and away from the fossil-fueled transportation of edibles to your dinner table from 5000 miles away is a step in the right direction.

5. Start weaning Yourself Off of Fossil Fuels

This can take the simple forms of walking, bicycling or using public transit as much as possible; limiting air travel, and travel in general; turning down heat; minimizing air conditioning; turning down water heaters, downsizing that gas-guzzling SUV... know, all of the stuff you've been taught since you were in grade school.

6. Put Your Elected Political Leaders on Speed Dial

Okay, maybe not literally ... but let them know the burrs that are under your saddle. If you're concerned about the cancer-causing poisons left behind by fracking, let them know. If overpopulation and birth rates keep you up at night, let them know. If gas-guzzling SUV's and pickup trucks drive you batshit, let them know.

Remember, your elected officials are YOUR representatives; they cannot accurately represent your interests unless they know what's on your mind.

Pro Tip: Don't just use your communications to whine; offer ideas for SOLUTIONS to the problems you're talking about. Even if your solutions are totally wackazoid (say, you propose keeping drugs off the street by shipping them to Mars), yours will be the one voice that stands out in a thousand, and they will respect you for your thoughtfulness and effort.

7. Entertain the idea of life without money

I don't know about you, but over the last 20 years or so, more and more of my dollars are buying less and less. Charles Hugh Smith calls this the Burrito Index. "The cost of a regular burrito from our local taco truck has gone up from $2.50 in 2001 to $5 in 2010 to $6.50 in 2016. That’s a $160% increase since 2001."

Here's a radical idea: Maybe money isn't all it's cracked up to be! Check out this guy for inspiration: The Man Who Quit Money.

(My husband and I just landed "minimum-wage" jobs at a retreat center that include room and board as part of the "payment". Jus' sayin'. You can read about it here:
Are We Crazy? 7 Reasons We're Abandoning Civilization to Live Nowhere on Nothing

8. Teach your kids about what is going on

Your children and grandchildren are going to inherit the world you leave behind. Try to anticipate long-term future trends: the outsourcing and automation of even more jobs; the further erosion of human rights; paying $20 for a burrito; how climate change is going to cause bigger, meaner storms.

Turn off the TV, take walks with them in nature, show them the delights of watching seeds grow into plants, teach them to be kind to animals, and encourage them to seek out real, live friends instead of spending all of their time staring at electronic devices.

9. Quiet Your Mind

Whether you spend daily time in meditation, prayer, or using a neurofeedback device such as this one to cultivate a stable mind, being able to remain calm while everyone around you is freaking out may very well be the difference between life and death for yourself and your loved ones.

10. Be kind

I once heard the most brilliant thing ever from a die-hard Republican (and he admitted this to a bunch of tree-hugging Democrats. Ya gotta admire his spunk!)

He said, "You know, groups of people on opposite sides of political and social issues will probably never agree with each other, ever. But we can be kind to the person sitting in front of us. And that's what I'm gonna do."

You may not agree with the Trump supporters, or the Democrats, or the hippies, or the CEOs, or the GLBTQs. But, we're all humans. We're all in this together. And the most profound way we can bring our spiritual practice into the world is to be kind.


Can you think of some other ways to take your spirituality into the world and help others as we face an uncertain future together? Take a moment to share them in the comments below!

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