Practice Two: Practicing Contemplative Action
The ongoing exploration of diversity opens the door to action. By entering into the beauty of a diverse world, we expand our ability to understand the complexity of critical issues. The resulting insights open the group to explore an interdisciplinary way of solving pressing social problems. Ilia Delio outlines the rationale in The Unbearable Wholeness of Being
“Anyone who has ever loved knows that love does not live in the abstract; when it is abstract, in word only, one is suspect of the lover. Love is an embodied act, expressed in physical reality. Because God’s love is relational, the name of God points to otherness and relationality (77).
This relational commitment strengthens the co-creative process with God to rejuvenate old systems and create new prototypes grounded in love seeking the common good.
Today, climate change, pandemic, and social unrest create seismic events that help us initiate new steps for recreating our systems. Migration and immigration are creating a more intercultural world. Thus we are at a crossroads.
Society is yearning for innovative solutions for long-term societal struggles. One way is to embrace the journey witnessed by the great mystics. Their methodology, grounded in contemplative silence, unleashes the group's creative imagination and leads toward action. This reflective process weaves together contemplative silence and movement, enabling Transformative Communities to co-create with God.
In a society that demands instant gratification, the haunting question is: do we have the “will” to sustain action? Solutions, by their nature, require rigor and perseverance. The current cultural divisiveness over the wearing of face masks during the COVID crisis is a stark example of the polarity between individual rights and the common good. The simple wearing of a mask has become a politicized prop instead of a unifier in this crisis. Some argue that wearing a mask is an infringement on their civil and individual rights; others argue that wearing a mask is necessary for the common good and a responsibility of a good citizen. This simple conflict demonstrates the challenge of creating and agreeing on shared action for the common good.
Transformative Communities see this and other polarizing issues as challenges requiring a spiritual discipline. This practice demands a collective interiority of detachment, listening to others, and often compromise. Transformative communities recognize that it becomes impossible to maintain the balance between the individual and the community without communal solitude and honest dialogue.
Society is at a crossroads in seeking solutions to a puzzling future. It is not the first time our culture has faced this type of challenge. In the United States in the 1950s, the challenge of going to the moon summoned us to seek solutions yet to be invented or achieved. In American Moonshot
, Douglas Brinkley quotes John Kennedy's speech at Rice University. Kennedy’s statement rings true in this historical moment.
...we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because the challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone and one which we intend to win (363).
This challenge speaks to the weightiness it takes to create a transformational vision. It demands collective courage to detach from those mental models and behavioral patterns that block the transformative process. When Transformative Communities co-create with God, they make Kennedy’s words real for their generation.
Today, society needs a sense of urgency, bold vision, and a commitment to act.
Like the moon shot, we will need to remain committed to a multiple-phase approach to achieve a direction.
So the question is, how? The graphic opposite lays out the elements of the process of contemplative action: questions, assumptions, hypotheses, and action. As humans, by nature, we yearn to explore the unknown. When we are seeking something new, it all starts with questions. Questions open up the mind and heart to explore assumptions that lead to hypotheses, action, and continual adaptation. When we ask probing questions, they move us to explore our assumptions. This process slowly evolves into establishing a hypothesis or concept about a future reality. The deliberation moves to greater clarity, which catapults into a bold approach. There is a tendency at this juncture to believe we have completed the process.
The next challenging step is the implementation phase. There are two levels of creative process design and implementation. When the group decides on a course of action, it shifts to the implementation phase. At this phase, the espoused direction smacks up against reality, which is rarely a perfect match. Some elements succeed while others falter and need adaptation. It is why implementation is often a perplexing process. As the new model moves into actuality and experiences resistance, it demands constant learning, transformation, and vigilance. The unspoken yet poignant question that faces Transformative Communities is, “do we have the will?” It is a vital question because the challenge of implementing any vision or action meets exasperating times, calling for perseverance and belief in the impossible becoming possible.
Success in any new venture demands a
willingness to become detached from the initial aspirations.
There is a tendency to believe that aspiration will automatically resolve the situation or lead to the desired outcome. That is why any new concept, idea, or activity often takes multiple steps to reach the goal.
The U.S. journey to the moon is an example of how often a bold vision can take decades to achieve. The prospect of going to the moon was a concept without the capacity to achieve it. It took a radical shift in every system to develop the science, technology, a collaborative ecosystem of resources to accomplish the dream.
There were three named phases, each with a unique purpose: Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. Mercury was to check the capacity to launch a spacecraft, circle the globe, and safely return. Gemini focused on such critical elements as extended living and walking in space, and other necessary capacities needed to fly to the moon. Finally, Apollo was the process of going to the moon and returning safely to earth. Each stage demanded an intense commitment to expand knowledge, envision new instruments, and create technology never before conceived. It asked people to risk their lives for an endeavor that no human had ever experienced.
This adventure required an act of collective courage both by the country and the people involved. Every societal organization began to reimagine its purpose to align with this vision. It was a total national commitment in every sector of society to risk this transcendent vision.
The pandemic is presenting our generation with the same question and demands. We are globally facing new challenges and the imperative to reinvigorate our organizations for a future yet unseen. In Roadmap to Reconciliation
, Brenda Salter McNeil cites an anonymous statement: “ Great achievements are not born from a single vision but the combination of many distinctive viewpoints. Diversity challenges, assumptions, open minds unlock our potential to solve any problem we may face” (69). Transformative Communities accept this challenge to co-create with God.