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Nurturing the Heart

Out beyond left and right, right and wrong, criminal and hero, the 99% and the 1%, Us and Them, there is a place. Popular Culture seeks to keep us from this place, wants us to remain in narratives that blame our problems on the Other. But older traditions have held on to knowledge of this place (often at immense cost), and with their help we are re-discovering it, through deep connection to self and earth.

This is the place of the Heart. A place where our narratives fall away, we penetrate to the deep things and can recognize that every human, every living thing and piece of land is sacred, inherently deserving of love and honor and protection. In the Heart, we see clearly that each is connected and necessary to the whole. That when the Nazarene said, “love your neighbor as yourself,” it was not an ethical measuring stick but an acknowledgement of the radical truth that to love the Other IS to love the Self.

We believe that deep, radical answers to the questions of our time will never arise from a narrative of conflict between peoples, Us vs Them. That if we had the total lived experience of the billionaire, the misogynist, the violent “criminal,” our beliefs and actions might well be the same as theirs. At root they act not from greed, “wrong”, or badness, but from their own loneliness, fear and woundedness, perceived scarcity. Punishment, shame, blame, and more force only reinforce the suffering, are not effective tools for shifting beliefs and behaviors towards the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

What does it mean to Nurture the Heart? In an era where force, argument and domination define the political norm, we offer a radical response – building and growing communities and practices that nurture.

The best tools we have for facing these times are nurturance, compassion, vulnerability, a kind awareness toward what is true. A key piece is self-compassion and self-awareness – Carl Jung said that, “Since men do not know that the conflict occurs inside themselves, they go mad, and one lays the blame on the other. If one-half of mankind is at fault, then every man is half at fault.” If we do not make a practice of nurturing our own hearts, how can we show up well for our neighbor?

We believe that, collectively and individually, we must honor the sacredness in all beings first, and step out of escalating division. That when any of us perpetuate hurt on another, we hurt ourselves too. This does not excuse those actions in any way, or alter our responsibility to protect. But if our work is not centered in compassion and nurturance, if it is grounded in fear rather than love, it will only add to the suffering and replicate the structures it seeks to replace.

Finally, those with more embodied privilege and material security (including many organizers and participants of Catharsis) must recognize how that position is also a form of separation that inherently generates suffering – for the marginalized in direct ways, and by disconnecting the privileged from shared humanity and Mother Earth. We recognize that those forced to the margins are leading the way toward the Heart place, and seek to honor and center their lives and work. We seek to work together, patiently and with great compassion, to unwind our colonized minds (nurture our selves) and institutions (nurture our culture) and find our way back to Presence and Heart.

What does this look like in practice?

  • We vigil together at this year’s Catharsis on the Mall to reinvigorate and strengthen our practices of self-compassion, community compassion, nurturance, connection, resilience and healing. To bring these more fully into our art, lived culture, activism, organizing, and resistance.
  • We honor and uplift the protectors – indigenous, black, brown, queer, trans, undocumented, disabled, and otherwise. They who lead the way, defend the sacred and lead the struggle against oppressive, extractive institutions. They who seek to replace these institutions from a place rooted in love and prayer.
  • We recognize that women and femme folks (especially the most marginalized), must be brought into full balance and equality in order to truly nurture the heart of our culture and society. We support the Equal Rights Amendment and other policies that uplift and defend the marginalized. While men also have a crucial role to play in showing up, finding wholeness and reconnecting with their own forms of nurturance.
  • We call for restorative justice policies that rehabilitate and reconnect rather than punish trauma with more trauma, and imprisonment; defunding police and private prisons that brand folks (especially black and brown folks) as criminals to be punished and exploited rather than full humans who are sacred. We call attention to local D.C. efforts like the NEAR Act which must continue to be fully funded and implemented. Cities like Portland moving money back to local communities. And restorative justice efforts here and around the country that work to undo the school-to-prison pipeline especially for black, brown, queer, trans and homeless youth.
  • We call on the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to urgently fund research into ibogaine and cannabis as heart-centering, highly powerful tools to combat opiate use disorder (OUD).  Opiate overdoses steal 90 American lives a day- more than car accidents.  Americans are turning to opiates to soothe their pain, and ibogaine and cannabis can help facilitate individuals’ processes of nourishing their own hearts, thereby undermining their need to self-medicate.
  • We call on our leaders to end foreign wars, extractive infrastructure, and oppression, deportation of undocumented folks and immigrants. To spend money and energy instead on nurturing and invigorating their local communities, regenerative projects and infrastructure, renewable energy, clean water, affordable housing. We know these investments are both more loving and ethical, serve all people, and are ultimately more efficient and effective than our current, deeply destructive and unsustainable path.


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