I had the good fortune to hear two people, who I greatly admire, speak last month: first Mimi Ho from the Movement Strategy Center at the Bay Area Justice Funders Group, and then john powell from the Haas Center for Fairness and Inclusion at the Othering and Belonging Conference. What a treat. Their words converged to remind me of why mindfulness practices are so important as they both spoke about the tough leadership work we are being called to do. The anger and outrage over the attack on civil rights and the planet fuels my spirit of fight, but will only take me so far in understanding the deeper work that john calls us to recognize in extending the circle of belonging to include everyone. This is the work that calls for what Mimi described as fierce love, grounded in the love of humanity that is a powerful source of love and action.
These are ugly times, where fear and anxiety are being exploited to turn people against each other, legitimizing attacks on immigrants, Muslims, young men of color, and the LGBTQ community. In our current environment it seems that lines have been drawn in the sand and I know which side I stand on, or at least I believe I do until I wonder what it would take to erase the lines with a different kind of narrative, one that will not grow out of my current mindset. john talked about bonding, bridging and breaking. I was right there when he gave examples of breaking that are evident in the acceptance of disparaging disabled people, demeaning women, or characterizing immigrants from Mexico as ‘racists’. I had to pause when john talked about behaviors of the left that also break bonds and disrupt bridging, e.g. discussions about the women’s march and how easily we can see our issues as separate and miss our fundamental connection.
We need a new way. In his remarks, john observed that we tend to pay attention to the political and economic work often neglecting the ontological...spiritual work. I have been sitting with another comment he made that when we, on the left, do engage in this conversation which we have largely succeeded to the right, we have a conservative approach which is based on the concept that spiritual work is individual. Sometimes in the leadership development field we try to make space, maybe even apologetically, for spiritual work as part of deep personal work. What would it mean to elevate spirit to the part of collective work that leadership programs support and that is part of shaping a new narrative of belonging. john suggested that we need to tell stories, to share our suffering with each other to build compassion. I love the #leadwithlove work that Mimi has nurtured through the Movement Strategy Center. They are calling on us to do the deep personal and collective work of creating a new narrative through stories anchored in values and vision that call on all of us to resist hate, stand up for people and policies that are being targeted and honor our shared humanity.