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Sacred Activism: Embracing a Holistic Path to Mental Health

By Rev. Dr. Cynthia Lindenmeyer
Director, Chaplain and Student Wellness Services

In March 2020, I crossed paths with a remarkable student. She was unhoused and a single parent, but she was fiercely determined to pursue her education.

Despite the massive weight of her circumstances, this student was hopeful and recognized that getting an education was the key to a brighter future. I also wonder if it was this student’s hope and focus on service to others that made her so resilient.

Statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness paint a stark reality. One in every five adults experience mental illness each year, yet only half receive the support they need.

The students I see are no different. Some face crushing adversity and while they all intend to meet their problems with steadfast resolve and complete their educational goals, many still struggle.  

However, I believe there might be some mental relief – and a dose of fortitude – for those students who struggle with ambition or drive, even in the face of personal challenges.

Mental health can be bolstered by having a purpose. Knowing one’s purpose transcends self-absorption and emerges from a deep-seated desire to contribute positively to the world.

As we venture on our own unique quest to understand and fulfill our purpose in life, we’re compelled to confront the suffering that pervades our world. This direct confrontation of suffering – and the realization that the world at large could be better – is represented by sacred activism.

What Is Sacred Activism?

At its core, sacred activism is an acknowledgement that our individual life journeys are intertwined with all of humanity, and our actions hold the power to create positive change far beyond our immediate spheres. The same sense of purpose and community is felt by veterans, first responders, and medical personnel who serve the needs of others.

Sacred activism embodies the interconnectedness of all beings. As we participate in acts of service and advocacy, we not only alleviate the suffering of others but also nurture a sense of fulfillment and self-worth within ourselves.

However, this path requires self-reflection. To embark on this journey, pause in quiet reflection and ask yourself: “What breaks my heart?” It might just unveil your purpose and invite you to transcend your ego by embracing the interconnectedness shared with all living beings.

In the pursuit of sacred activism, spirituality becomes not a mere belief system but a lived experience — a communal endeavor grounded in practices of forgiveness, meditation, prayer and love. These practices are virtues to be cultivated through intentional effort and communal support. They form the cornerstone of a holistic approach to mental health, one that recognizes the intrinsic link between individual well-being and the well-being of the community.

In a culture that often exalts individualism, embracing sacred activism demands a radical shift in perspective and a commitment to living as an integral member of a larger human family. Through acts of service, advocacy, and solidarity, we can all affirm our shared humanity and journey on the path toward collective healing. 

The University Offers Mental Health Resources

As we commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month, let us honor the transformative potential of sacred activism. To begin your journey, please reach out to the University’s mental health resources.

Rev. Dr. Cynthia Lindenmeyer is the Director of Chaplain and Student Wellness Services at the University and also serves as the pastor for the Sacred Activism community. Cynthia has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and history from the United States Military Academy at West Point, a master of divinity degree in theology and theological studies from Duke University, and a doctoral degree in ministry from Princeton Theological Seminar

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