(From The Buddha on Wall Street: What’s Wrong with Capitalism and What We Can Do about It, Windhorse Publications; notes in italics are from Kanko)
How might one choose where to get involved, how to find that ‘personal calling’? Bhikkhu Bodhi suggests practicing what he calls ‘conscientious compassion’. This ‘conscientious compassion’ is different from pity. Compassion calls for a greater commitment to do something, to get involved; pity does not. Pity tends to involve looking down on the object of concern; compassion involves a sense of equality (and deep interconnection). Meditate on compassion (e.g., engage in metta practice, please ask if you haven’t done this practice before), perhaps for twenty or thirty minutes. Then focus your attention on the problems that face humanity such as futile and self-destructive wars, global warming, poverty and global hunger, the mistreatment of animals, abuse of the environment, (black, native or LGBT lives, gun laws, water harvesting or land tenure, native gardens, endangered bees and butterflies, ecosystems that you have personally known about, local laws), more local issues or other concerns that come to mind. Reflect briefly on these problems one by one, aware of how you respond to them. You can repeat this procedure for several days, even daily for a week. At some point, Bhikkhu Bodhi advises, you will start to recognize that one of these problems, more than the others, tugs at the strings of your heart. These inner pangs suggest that this is the issue to which you should dedicate your time and energy. But, he cautions, don’t rush to a conclusion. Continue instead to explore the issue cautiously and carefully, asking yourself, ‘Does this issue break my heart open and cause an outpouring of compassion? Does this urge gnaw at my vital organs? Does it point the finger to the door and tell me to do something?’ If your answer to these questions is yes, that is your vocation, that is your sacred calling, that is where you should put conscientious compassion into action. This doesn’t mean that you neglect other issues. You remain open and responsive to other concerns but you focus on the issue that tugs at your heart and bids you to act.
(It is also encouraged that one approach any kind of activism in the framework of three pillars of ecodharma that includes focus on 1) individual inner healing and transformation, 2) working to develop compassionate co-intelligent and skilled communities and 3) strategic analysis of the “outer” institutional problems and collective action. As I have pointed out earlier, without a holistic framework that includes and balances these three pillars, our sacred activism can easily become lopsided, a part of our ongoing ego-trip and can lead to bitterness, exhaustion and isolation with very little joy and change).