Social transformation requires a journey inward

One of the things I have become most interested in is what I would call the “inner journey.” I don’t claim to be able to articulate completely what this journey requires because I am still very much on this journey, but I have learned a few things that I believe are absolutely essential to the future of our world.

Ask the average person if they know what an “inner journey” is and you are bound to receive a confused look. The disturbing thing is if you asked the average Christian, you are bound to receive the exact same look!

I am encouraged by so many people today who are advocates and activists who seek to bring about external change in our society. Yet, I fear we are missing an essential piece. If we seek to bring about change in our world without taking a journey inward, we are guaranteed to bring about our own agendas, fears, biases, and ego’s into our work – that latter one is the most disturbing.

The inner journey is the slow process of uncovering our false self (when we identify who we are with what we do, what we have, or what others think) and walking into our true self. The inner journey exposes our ego. The inner journey shines light on our shadows (those areas of our life they we consciously or unconsciously ignore because we don’t like that part of who we are) and forces us to deal with them. This is all hard work. It is much easier to focus entirely on the external, and even feel really good about it, which can easily feed our ego if we haven’t gone inward.

The most important part of our life is our breath. If we stop breathing we will die within minutes. While water, food, and sleep are all important, we can go for days without them, though not with some serious side affects. In order to survive on a minute to minute basis, we need to both inhale and exhale. Living a life without taking the journey inward is like trying to live without inhaling.

If we want to bring about social transformation or lasting change in our families, friendships, and communities, we must be intentional about the inner journey. The inner journey is far more difficult and far more important than the outer journey. It can fell like a waste of time, resources, and mental energy to many, but the results are more than worth the effort.

I believe the spiritual journey is a journey that leads us inward, toward inner transformation, that then leads us outward, toward social transformation. Both the inner and outer journey are absolutely necessary. You cannot have one without the other.

I am willing to bet that most people who have brought about great social change were people who also took the journey inward. They were self aware, compassionate, and had faced their own shadows and were thus able to bring about change.

Here are some tools I have found helpful along the inner journey:

  • Spiritual Direction
  • Contemplative practices (e.g., centering prayer)
  • Journaling
  • The Enneagram
  • Spiritual Guides (for me this has primarily been in the form of books from people like Richard Rohr, Ken Wilber, Basil Pennington, Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, Cynthia Bourgeault, Jim Marion, and others.)

One thought on “Social transformation requires a journey inward”

  1. I am very thankful for this post. I have been on the inner journey around eight years or more, meditating in the John Main tradition. The inner journey can be very painful at times (love the enneagram and what it has taught me) and yet I keep on going. There is a deep desire for simplicity and to learn to truly love others. This blog was encouraging.

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