To be aware.


That’s what it means to be “woke”.


Increasingly, we’ve been hearing this word used as a byword for social awareness, primarily about racism and injustice. But it can be used for so much more.


There’s a lot of injustice in this world. And yes, a lot of racism. Accompanying it is a lot of rage … inequality … hatred … fear … blame … isolation … loneliness … pain … division … resentment …


You can add so many more feelings to the list. Feelings that seethe under the surface. Feelings that sometimes, and always too often, erupt in cruelty and violence and destroyed lives.


The listening work we do is really about getting “woke”, about becoming aware of all that agitates in human hearts and churns within our spirits and eats away at our souls. We listen beyond the veneer of others’ lives. We listen to unmask the true issues that manifest themselves in racism and injustice … and so much more.


Without listening, truly listening, for the experiences that shape and influence one another, we are much too quick to judge, to condemn, and to dismiss.


A quick and simple scroll through Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, or any other social media platform, can be absolutely sickening – horrifying, actually – to read the venomous and vile comments about others that abound.


Currently, Someone To Tell It To’s leadership are reading together a wonderful book, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. It’s the account of a five-day conversation in 2015 between two of the world’s greatest living spiritual leaders – His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The two friends had come together to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. But they also wanted to present a gift to others through their time with one another – they entered into a dialogue about finding joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering. Both have experienced incredible hardships – the Dalai Lama has lived in forced exile from his native Tibet for more than 50 years and Archbishop Tutu experienced decades the overwhelmingly oppressive conditions of apartheid in his homeland of South Africa. The book relates their conversation. They wanted to help us all to move beyond the suffering and division that marks so much of human lives.


Some of the questions they pondered are, “what is really worth pursuing” in life? What is it “we truly need”? How do we find “inner peace”? One solution, they believe, is to not chase relentlessly after so many high expectations and ambitions, making worldly gains – lots of money, power, and things – our top priorities. They assert that what we all need most of all is love and connection.  Love and connection.   Simply. They believe that all the “getting and grasping” we thought was so essential to our well-being needs to take its rightful place – off the sacred pedestal – in our lives. When that can happen, we can receive the inner peace we all need and seek. It is imperative, they stress, to see one another as common in our humanness – with the same fears, stresses, anxieties, needs, and concerns. It is to see us all as part of a greater whole. That we are interdependent, not disconnected and separate – ultimately very different – beings.


The Dalai Lama and the Archbishop don’t use the term “woke”. But what they are talking about is about being “woke” to the common human needs we all have – to be loved, to give love, to be connected, to know that we are not in this life alone. It is to understand that we have infinitely, far more in common than what makes us different and unique. It is about waking up to the fact that we need each other and that we need to care about each other. Because when one of us struggles, we all struggle. All the prejudices and judgments and injustices and resentments and divisions that we create out of fear and a failure to embrace our common humanity, rob us all of the joy we have been created to experience in this life.


What a terrible shame it is, that far too many of us never experience the joy we are meant to know. What a tremendous gift it is when we are “woke” to the way to joy and peace.


It’s love and connection with and for our fellow human beings.