Ten ways to be a happy activist (especially these days…)

“OK, I’m ready. What can I DO?”

My initial post-election shock has moved from frozen fear, through sadness and anger, to a surge of focused energy. I’ve heard it all around me, and wondered myself—we want to take action, but what are the right actions to take?

I’ve been watching previously hibernating activists wake up and dust themselves off as they realize that we’re in a crazy backslide, with no end of “the undoing” in sight. Others who never considered being part of something as outlandish as public outcry are stepping in, feverishly posting online, signing petitions, preparing to march. Getting active.

Of course, countless activists have been in the trenches all along. They put their bodies and lives on the line fighting against the abhorrent practices of racism, religious hatred, misogyny and classism. They are justifiably miffed at the naïveté of our collective denial that there had ever been real progress in these areas, or that a different election outcome would have led to substantive change. It’s now time to move beyond shame about what some of us did not see. Our planet and our species are suffering. It is time to come together.

There’s something qualitatively different about what we’re currently facing. Can you feel it? I do, and I hear from others who feel it, too. There’s a deep place in my gut, an ongoing uneasiness that flares to nausea. The unabashed, unapologetic absence of integrity of the president-elect and his henchmen has made it impossible for anyone committed to living consciously to look away and go back to anything like business as usual. Patriarchy and capitalism have found their perfect caricature: a white man lying, fear-mongering, and fomenting hatred as a way of ignoring a past gained from cheating and plundering others’ lives. And the self-dealing promises to continue, along with outrageous conflicts of interest.

Our current political landscape is the reflection of a seismic change for our species, one that has been predicted for a long time. From the Fifth Dimension ushering in a new age, singing “The Age of Aquarius,” to the “planetary changes” prophesied by many cultures for 2012, to this unprecedented and horrifying political nightmare, we’re clearly in for a ride. And this journey isn’t just about a four-year election cycle that we can grit our way through; the depth of darkness that has been exposed will require a sustained effort for us to endure.

There’s been a steady march towards human and civil rights over the past 60 years that reaches back through human history. We have made incredible strides in building an ethos of mutual respect and equality among ethnicities, genders, religions and sexual orientations. But there is still so far to go. Climate change, economic disparity, mass incarceration, crimes against women, a culture of violence all beg for our attention. It is, indeed, time for each one of us to be part of the solution; we must link arms across our differences, generating innovation from our essential, best selves.

Activism is notorious for burning people out and generating destructive infighting, even within the most committed groups. But what will allow us to collectively step into our true, evolutionary power? More specifically, what are the practices that support long-term, sustainable energy towards truly altering the course of our species? What must we build into our everyday relationship with ourselves in order to move through this seismic shift of our species into the light?

The answers to these questions will unfold over time—if we can find a sustainable way to stay the course. Here are ten practices that will move you away from draining your energy into becoming a self-generating, happy activist.



  1. Live in impeccable integrity.

Don’t be fooled by the lying, cheating, hating, and flagrant opportunism of the president-elect. Speaking the truth, keeping your agreements, taking 100% responsibility, and feeling your feelings will allow you to contact your main power source: your essential self. Build these practices into your relationships will everyone around you, as well as in your most important relationship: between you and you.

  1. Generate energy by living from Creative Brain.

The adrenaline of Reactive Brain is seductive. Note where you are on the Inner Map and understand: If you are “below the line,” you are using up energy and in a stress response. If you can find your way back to Creative Brain you are stepping back into the healthy/rebuilding response, where new discoveries will be available to you. You might miss the self-righteous blaming and “othering” that is part and parcel of Reactive Brain, but truly, you’ll be better off in the long-run.

  1. Don’t get sucked into the Victim/Villain/Hero triangle.

As with #2, seeing yourself as the Hero (or the Victim, or even the Villain) will give you a boost of adrenaline from self-righteousness, but it is a short-term strategy. If you’re in one place on the triangle you will pull others into the other positions. Landing anywhere on this triangle leads to stuckness and energy-drain. Move out by getting back into integrity (see #1).

  1. Create ongoing ways to nourish yourself, such as:
  • Eating well, sleeping enough, getting exercise, taking your vitamins.
  • Avoiding drugs, alcohol, sugar, and other energy-suckers.
  • Listening to your body. Rest when you need to rest.
  • Go outside. Your body will thank you.
  1. Move, dance, sing, PLAY!

Human beings are naturally joyful. Taking life seriously—even when things can look dire—is not good for you. Or the rest of us. Letting yourself experience the buoyancy of joy will recharge you in a way that no synthetic substance can.

  1. Meditate/pray/contemplate/go inward.

Your inner voice is in there, underneath all of whatever cultural conditioning you’ve received. Take time every day go inside and find out how you’re really feeling and what you’re truly wanting.

  1. Find inspiration.

We live in a time where we can instantly connect with incredible teachers. Art is all around us. An endless array of music is at our fingertips. Surround yourself with these contacts. (Find a beginning list of teachers and music at the end of this blog.)

  1. Offload dense energy.

Your body is likely to absorb the negativity of people—and the wider culture—around you. Reactive Brain is highly contagious. Rather than trying to armor yourself against negativity, fine-tune the art of letting it pass through your body. And if it sticks, use a practice (such as Tonglen or other forms of clearing energy) to move it out.

  1. Create!

Creation allows expression, literally “pressing out” emotions and energy that might be stagnating in your body. Sing it, write it, draw it, speak it, sculpt it. Create for you; show what you’ve done to support the rest of us to be inspired and do the same.

  1. You need connection, contact, and community.

Humans are pack animals. We feel comfort when we’re around other beings. You’re not in this alone; let connection support you. Laugh, cry, rage. Be who you really are. We’re your community. We’re all in this together.


And finally–a bonus!–choose your story carefully. Remember that whatever your story is, it will anchor you into a certain level of consciousness.  The higher the level you choose, the greater the power you will feel. Tell yourself a story of love or joy or peace, and you will fly free.




  • “Let the River Run,” Carly Simon
  • “Impossible Dream,” the Supremes
  • “Bread and Roses,” Judy Collins
  • Nether Lands: Dan Fogelberg
  • Shine a Little Love: ELO
  • “On a Clear Day,” Barbra Streisand
  • “Brave,” and “King of Anything,” Sara Barielles
  • “Defying Gravity,” Glee Cast
  • Protest songs by the Indigo Girls, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt
  • “The Uppity Blues Women,” Saffire
  • Shostakovich and Mahler symphonies
  • “Man in the Mirror” and “Higher Ground,” Van Morrison
  • “The Rock Will Wear Away,” Meg Christian
  • “Ella’s Song,” Ferron and Sweet Honey in the Rock


  • Pema Chodron
  • Caroline Myss
  • Marianne Williamson
  • Maya Angelou
  • The Berrigan Brothers
  • John Dear
  • Naomi Klein
  • Marilynne Robinson
  • Joanne Macy
  • Annie Dillard (“Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,”
  • Alice Walker
  • Leah Perlman’s “Drawn Together”
  • The poems of Mary Oliver and WS Merlin
  • Julia Child (superb, enthusiastic, joyful writer)
  • Cheryl Strayed
  • Lynne Twist


  • Roshi Joan Halifax
  • Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Annie Lamott


  • Tara Brach
  • Jack Kornfield
  • Tami Simon





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