deep change

i’m sitting in the wonderful asheville airport after a weekend with other people who, like myself, are interested in transformational personal and political work. we were all brought together by rockwood, stone circles, movement strategy center and the seasons fund for a conference called Deep Change.

i was very very excited for ruckus to be invited, because i have been with ruckus through a lot of changes, and on a fundamental level i believe direct action is a spiritual and potentially transformational act. i also believe that right now there is a need to transform the justifiable anger that many communities we work with are feeling into visionary pro-Action.

i learned so much – it feels like it was much longer than three days of time. i took a lot of notes in the process, and feel like the best way to share some of the experience is to share the questions, words i heard and moments of clarity that occurred to me throughout (in no particular order, in quotes, and with no names unless i reference some larger ongoing work that folks are doing):

– for a caterpillar to become a butterfly, it has to go into a cocoon (or pupa, or chrysalis) and become complete “goop”. the caterpillar is compelled to create and go into the cocoon, but the resulting butterfly shares no DNA with the caterpillar it once was. that is transformation.
– what is a collective metaphor equivalent to the path of the butterfly, as that is such an individual journey? (i heard something about monarch butterflies the last day that might address this – i will research this and keep y’all informed)
– what we long for is embedded in our genetic and/or ancestral memories; i remember flight and long for it. i remember wholeness, and long for it.
– “i carry everything that happened to my ancestors in my blood.”
– “i come from a circular belief system.”
– i have to heal my relationship to the south; that is where my family is from, and where my extended family is now. i thought love kept me away from the south – the interracial love that led to my birth, the woman i love now. but it is racism and homophobia that keep me from the south, and love that will bring me home.
– i am the living embodiment of love that overcomes seemingly impossible odds. that is my legacy.
– gender is not a determinant in how i experience love or attraction.
– my capacity to love is limitless.
– how do we hold the limitless dimension in our clearly limited body?
– when i sit directly across from someone who knows how to open themselves, it is possible to create a shared energy field in which words are unnecessary.
– “our efforts should not be to do no harm, it should be to do love”
– i am an earth sign, i need water all around me, over me and through me, every day.
– each human being is mostly water. “The human body is more than 60 percent water. Blood is 92 percent water, the brain and muscles are 75 percent water, and bones are about 22 percent water.” when we are in the water, and drinking water, it is home, sustenance, part of us. bless and honor water before you drink it, or while in the shower, know the water you are from and go often to the water near you. (a lot of this thinking is from Kathy Sanchez and the work of the Tewa Women’s Collective, also Masaru Emoto’s Hidden Messages in Water)
– our potential for truly DEEP practice and change is limited by two external factors that we have internalized. first, “colonization has moved us away from our ancestral practices,” and second, “capitalism has commodified the places and practices that lead us to depth.” we are displaced, and as soon as we discover something we try to mass produce it, instead of letting it root deeply.
– we have ego invested in our current form. when most of us speak of change, we mean improving or reforming our current form. most of us are not ready to truly surrender to complete transformation – practice creates the space to releasing ego and surrendering to that greater yearning.
– being in community is a practice. actually living and being accountable to other people is a key piece of knowing yourself and offering your gifts. also mentioned were prayer, meditation, song, ceremony, dance, deep listening, martial arts (folks were learning aikido principles, doing tai chi and jo kata throughout our time together). swimming has been a deep practice of mine recently.
– truth and reconciliation is a necessary part of a functional community.
– practice allows us to birth new worlds.
– “we don’t have the depth of political analysis and of personal practice we need”
– rather than continuously attempting to tell others what they lack and convince them of the need for transformational work, we must embody depth. if enough of us are willing to engage in deep practice in our political and personal journeys, and we embody the vision, the centered-ness, and the depth, then it’s possible we can create a tipping point in the culture.
– we must engage in this embodiment at the individual level, and bring it into our work so that our groups and/or organizations reflect deep and grounded visionary work. our networks, coalitions and alliances must also reflect this. the structures in which we do our work – currently 501c3s for many of us – must evolve to reflect transformational intention.
– at this moment, we must accumulate mass by growing depth in community, while staying connected to those beyond our immediate community and sharing our learnings. the other option is watering down the depth in order to make it easier to consume for the masses, engaging in the practices of our opposition, rather than the practices of our own liberation. we have to make our own communities long for their deepest, truest, free-est selves.
– “identity politics (especially as expressed by labels and self-stereotyping) is a phase”; knowing and sharing our full and complex selves, our lineages, and our life experiences is part of our path towards healing.
– nonviolent direct action has been and should be a deeply transformational and spiritual practice
– we are warriors in each nonviolent direct action we do – our action is us extending ourselves towards our visions.
– shared and emergent leadership is possible in spaces where we trust each other to stay in community
– we must bring practice – meditation, physical practices, prayer, ceremony, song – into all that we do. we might not call it “practice”, just say let’s breathe together, lets sit in silence for a few moments, let’s get grounded. but we must seek to be our most balanced selves, oriented towards our longing, in every space we share together.

whew. writing up this list rejuvenates me, and i hope it makes sense to you, dear readers.

other things that happened included getting very lost on a muddy pitch-black path in the forest, trying to get to a fire circle. there was a dog, there was the rumor of bear, there were men thrashing out ahead through the bushes, there was a woman who told me to breathe deeply and see it as an adventure, there was my fear and complaints and desire to turn back, my urbanity welling up inside me. but we made it. i learned maps can have a lot of information, but still not get you there. i learned that i can go into the darkness as long as i am with others, and particularly if i can hold another person and feel their breathing.

so – let’s go deep together. let’s practice. let’s go into the dark together, holding each other tight. as angel kyodo williams says, “this is our time.”

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