Sacred Activism: Mystical vision and pragmatic action

Vania Kent-Harber, Sacred Activism at the Interfaith Women’s Conference

The first workshop to fill up at AM’s March 4th Interfaith Women’s Conference was Sacred Activism: Creating Peace Through Contemplation and Action.  Vania Kent-Harber led the workshop and I was one of the lucky attendees.

The teaser for the topic was this: Our world is so frantic – and we all need the balance that follows quiet contemplation. Vania explored the connection between contemplation and action and how this connection is rooted in all of our faith traditions to give our lives meaning, purpose, and peace.

Vania said she was influenced by the work of Andrew Harvey and characterized Sacred Activism as a kind of midwifery. In Harvey’s words, “When, however, the deepest and most grounded mystical vision is married to a practical and pragmatic drive to transform all existing political, economic, and social institutions, a holy force and power of wisdom in action is born, a force and power that can re-fashion all things in and under God, and bring humanity, even at this late desperate hour, into harmony with its self and original nature. This force of Sacred Activism I believe will be the source of the birthing power that humanity will need to create a new world from the smoking ashes of the one that is now passing away.”

These were some of the themes that arose during the workshop:

  • Activism is railing against the world. Sacred activism is a response to the moment.
  • Sacred activism is coming face to face with the real, with willingness to be broken open by it.
  • It is solidarity in the suffering of God and collaborating with God. A way forward always comes if we are attuned to listening.

A Jewish woman who came to one of her past workshops gave Vania interesting new definitions for obedience and humility rooted in Jewish thought.

This quote from Mark Nepo gives a good sense of the definition of obedience that Vania shared:

To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean. In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.

Humility is conceived as limiting oneself to an appropriate amount of space, while leaving room for others. Vania emphasized the key concept of taking up the appropriate amount of space for the situation. This could mean giving space to others, but women often don’t take up enough space. She said, if truly humble, we find the courage to step into our gifts.

Vania Kent-Harber is a yogi, contemplative, and writer exploring the intersection of yoga, new monasticism, feminism, and social change.

Good news if you want to learn more from Vania! She is a co-founder and co-director of Samdhana-Karana Yoga, a nonprofit healing arts center in Tacoma, and has over 1,000 hours of teaching experience focused on underserved populations for whom yoga is not readily accessible.


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