Healing is part of an essential Trinitarian process of being — and to find healing, one needs a deep spiritual rootedness, which some call the contemplative spiritual path (or deep communion with God).
The core of the contemplative path is not just an individualistic process; it is about being a deeper part of the communal human family through the action of how we live out a just and radical spiritual truth, as Christianity was founded in the radical and revolutionary path of Jesus. The root of the Jesus story, of "becoming" his calling and path, is inherently about the integration of contemplation, action, and healing.
Jesus went into the desert deeply seeking the intimate heart of God. He journeyed through a dark night of the soul and into the testing of all his human provocations to finally embrace his own truth. In deep prayer and mystical revelation of God he found his calling, accepted his path, and came out into the world to enact radical and revolutionary justice, and to offer healing to the world.
We are not called into the desert just for ourselves, or just for our own experience of God. Likewise, we are not called to do radical justice without the deep spiritual intimacy in relationship with God that holds us together for the mission of organizing and activism. Neither center can hold — neither deep relationally with God or radical justice-seeking — without our ability to look at our broken places and find space to heal them, in ourselves and in communion with each other.
This trinity of wholeness provides a synchronized spiritual and emotional chemistry to help us sustain ourselves — for the pain of life, the grief of loss, and most definitely for the arduous path of organizing and activism. It is also not a solitary individualistic practice to find this balance.
We have become reliant on words like "self-care," which often become a mandate for solitary practice, sought out by an individual, and done in isolation. This is both counterintuitive to the communal nature of organizing and counter to the abundance of spiritual life. We are meant to be in community with each other — something often lost in our Western conception of society, where the self is both meant to strive individually and also mend individually.
Self-care that is done in a silo becomes a Band-Aid for greater pain that cannot be mended or healed by a single trip for a massage or nail appointment or walk in the woods. Although these things are beautiful care practices, and are certainly starting points to a rhythm of life that offers deeper healing, they are not the depth in and of themselves. When we send people off alone to do one-off self-care, we also set them up for failure. I have met so many activists who feel burned out, who have tried individual plans of self-care and felt deep shame and disappointment that within a short time they are exhausted and short-fused again.
Why can we imagine that faith worship happens in community, activism happens in community, yet healing should be siloed to independent self-care practices done alone? Deep healing also requires the resources of deep spirituality and deep community — rituals and practices that can be done alone but also shared, and become part of a larger rhythm of life that is beyond one practice and becomes a network of ways of being which move with us in every breath and heartbeat.
In monastic communities (across contemplative traditions and religions) the key to practice is that it is just that: a practice that becomes part of the daily rhythm of life. Often at its base this is 20 minutes of contemplative meditation morning and night. Finding elements of calm, restoration, and spiritual daily connection with God — that are not about the "doing" of life but the "being" with God — is an essential foundation of this healing rhythm.
Monastic communities also are built on a rhythm that is mirrored by and shared with our communities. How do our deep spiritual practices become part of our communities? How can we imagine our spiritual practices being part of our activism? What would it look like for communal healing ritual to be a part of the rhythm of organizing and a way to move through the hardest moments — shared together on the frontlines of justice?
We all have the capacity to heal, but we cannot do it alone. We need deep spiritual resources and communion with God, and we need our communities that we struggle alongside to also be space where we can find authenticity and vulnerability and dive deep into our spiritual and healing journey as well. This is how we make our path sustainable — individually and together.
Interested in more content like this? This article is part of our Faith in Action Newsletter. FIA is a monthly compilation of articles that empower people of faith to draw from a deep well and boldly advocate for a more just world. Subscribers receive monthly resources for prophetic preaching, practical insights for organizing, and reflections on spiritual leadership delivered to their e-mail. Subscribe here.