Vows of Active Hope (p.202-203)

On the last afternoon of a two-week intensive workshop, Joanna Macy was out walking and met a young monk from the retreat centre hosting the event. "Well", he said, "I expect now on your last day you'll be giving people vows". Joanna told him that wasn't something she did. "Pity," he said, "I find, in my own life, vows so very helpful because they channel my energy to do what I really want to do". 

Continuing her walk, Joanna thought that if we were to have vows, they should not number more than the fingers and thumb of one hand. Almost immediately, the following five vows came to her.

I vow to myself and each of you

To commit myself daily to the healing of our world
and the welfare of all beings.

To live on Earth more lightly and less violently
in the food, products and energy I consume.

To draw strength and guidance from the living Earth,
the ancestors, the future beings,
and my brothers and sisters of all species.

To support each other in our work for the world
and to ask for help when I feel the need.

To pursue a daily practice that clarifies my mind,
strengthens my heart and supports me in observing these vows.

When the workshop participants where asked what they thought, “Oh Yes!” was their enthusiastic reply. With the workshop ending, they would soon be scattered far and wide; making these vows to one another and to themselves deepened their sense of being linked as a community. The words “I vow to myself and each of you” calls to mind those we feel are with us as allies.

We need to choose terms that ring true for us. Rather than using the term vows, we can, if we prefer, call them “commitments” or “statements of intention”. They offer an anchor point reminding us, again and again, of the purposes we hold dear and the behaviours that support us in serving them.