Tag Archive for 'jodie tonita'

Self Love as a Liberatory Practice for the Future

On Wednesday night I got to have a public conversation with new and old friends about self love.

We spoke at Solespace, my favorite site store /community space in Oakland. They’re in a campaign right now to keep the space open after the city shut down their street. Support the space with donations and spreading the word.

I opened by speaking about Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic, specifically the idea that once you have tasted the pleasure of being so fully alive and self realized, you cannot settle for suffering. She teaches:

“once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.”

I’m titillated by the implications of a future determined by those who willfully immerse themselves in joy and love for the self. I am obsessed with how love and joy are the actual tools we need to move against the culture of fear and scarcity. We’re experts at deconstruction and tearing systems and each other apart. But if what we pay attention to grows, how can we be more mindful about growing our capacity for love?

I also spoke of building community with those who are also focused on self love and how it shifts accountability. About how I’ve been learning slowly to engage self loving behaviors and disengage from behaviors that harm myself. That there is a way that truly loving myself makes clear how interconnected I am to other people, to this planet…makes it harder to do harm. I spoke of Somatics and healing as a way to understand that I am more than my trauma, that I can be a part of communities organized around collective and liberatory longing. I spoke of how grief has made self love more crucial, because I have to love not only myself, but the ancestors and ghosts I carry, their wisdom.

Jodie then spoke of how self love radically changes what we demand from the world and the future. She also spoke of how people on a self love journey in parallel engage in coevolution through friendship – and how this isn’t easy. It means asking each other tough questions about whether the choices we’re making serve that highest purpose of self love.

Jay-Marie spoke on being a deity amongst deities and how her choices in life, including leaving the bay for a massive black lgbt bike tour of the South, participating in the stunning Say Her Name action earlier this year, and pouring her heart into her music, come out of this exploration of self love. Jay-Marie brought tons of people out, drawn in by the light force she’s generating.

Ashara was our final speaker, and she had us in tears as she spoke about this year of her mother’s death and her own near-death experience with overworking to the detriment of her health. She taught us about family, being present to each other’s real emotions, about learning to do work we lOve without sacrificing our bodies in the process. Her 29 year-old son was at the event and wouldn’t take his eyes off of her. It was deeply moving.

Everyone in the room then paired up and got a chance to just see and be seen, feel the attention of another. I was moved by how much laughter and crying happened during this pairing. Each pair shared their own ‘self love front line’, where they know they need to advance their self loving practices.

Finally we brain stormed self love practices together. Here’s the list we started – feel free to add!

Therapy 
Bodywork
Masturbation (‘an orgasm a day keeps the nothing away’)
Tarot 
Meditation 
Shifting relationship to food 
Learning to say no in real time 
Unstructured time to feel myself, follow my intuition  
Acupuncture 
Notice when I feel alive and happy 
Give myself permission to grow old 
Recognize my body is all I have 
Celebrate self love in self and others 
Jomo…cultivate the joy of missing out 
Self love day!  (Baba’s day – insert your name!)
Sleeping in late 
Waking up early and being quiet 
Silent walks 
Dancing 
Decaf life 
No meeting Wednesdays (or whatever day you choose)
Grow more food 
Care for injuries 
Don’t hate, collaborate
Delegate 
Trust my intuition 
Being in spaces with my community that cultivate healing 
Spending time by the water 
Singing to myself 
Working out 
Playing sports 
Dancing and playing music 
Finding a tree in my neighborhood 
Read more books 
Free writing daily, or often
Less Internet 
Cook 
Work with clay 
Good one on one interactions 
Prayer 
Making home a safe space 
Animal love 
Feeling land and air 
Let myself be danced by another
Have good sex 
Making out for a really (really) long time 
Put hands in the dirt 

Go forth and love ????????????

trust the people

‘if you do not trust the people, they will become untrustworthy.’ – lao tzu, tao te ching

i am writing from biloxi mississippi where i am co-facilitating a gathering of activists coming together around extreme energy extraction – organizing around the processes and impacts of a society run on coal, oil, natural gas, uranium. we had an amazing gathering, and it inspires me so much to put the emergent strategy approach in action.

one of the primary principles of emergent strategy is trusting the people.

often, facilitation seems to do the opposite of this. we sit with the organizers of a gathering and try to figure out ahead of time every single necessary conversation we want to see happen, and then create an agenda that imposes our priorities on the people who we have invited to gather, ostensibly because they are the experts and front line thinkers on the issue. then, a few hours or days into the gathering, we are harried and desperate because the people have realized what we are up to, or simply aren’t feeling heard, and/or we have missed something crucial that is at the center of the gathering. there emerges a sense of facilitators and participants working against each other, instead of everyone working in collaboration to meet the goals.

i have been experimenting with what it means to ‘trust the people’ in practice.

i’ve been facilitating for a while, and although i know that the common wisdom is that every meeting has a flow of ‘form, storm, norm’ – the group comes together, then explodes in opposition to what is happening and creates what they need, and then a norm emerges where there is a sense of accomplishment and deepening into their united identity – i have often wondered if there was another option, one that would save us time, resources, stress, division and energy.

it’s happening. none of the meetings i have facilitated this past year have had a significant storm component. facilitate means to make it easy, and i feel like finally it is happening, it is getting easier for the participants and for me and my cofacilitators.

here are some of the practices for trusting the people in practice.

1. goal setting.

why are we meeting? what can this group uniquely accomplish?…i have to thank taj james for this clarifying question. there are always a ton of relevant conversations that could happen, but there is usually a very small set of conversations that this particular group, at this particular moment in history, can have and move forward, given their capacity, resources, time, focus and beliefs.

the organizers should have this question at the center of their planning for the event. i also find that it helps to survey the group of invitees to sharpen the goals.

2. invite the right people.

we invite people to meetings for a lot of the wrong reasons – obligation, guilt, representation…even love. the questions to ask when shaping the invite list are ‘who is directly impacted by this issue?’ and ‘who can move this work forward?’

inviting the right people means we aren’t wasting time by renegotiating the goals nonstop throughout the meeting, and/or managing the dissonance that occurs (righteously in my opinion) when a participant who shouldn’t be at the meeting tries to make it worth their time by derailing the process of advancing the stated goals.

now, right people doesn’t mean easy people – conflict and difference are often an important part of advancing the work, bringing the real issues into the room. trust is built when the right people are in the right room, and can bring their opinions and work into a container that advances their individual and collective goals.

the right facilitators are also key. i love co-facilitating with people more creative and meticulous than me. inca mohamed, hannah strange, autumn brown, raquel lavina, kavitha rao, jodie tonita, anasa troutman, alicia garza, the generative somatics teaching body, many more – this is a time of brilliant facilitation!

3. individual participant articulation.

there are real language barriers, both literal and cultural, that mean we often think we are hearing each other, but really we have no clue about what others are saying. we all have filters, only some of which we are aware of.

in a gathering, this can create the utmost confusion. folks are using different cultural references, different touch points and acronyms, coming from widely different experiences and passions – even if what they are saying is similar, they can’t hear and understand each other.

giving everyone room to say what they want to prioritize and discuss, and then synthesizing that set of topics as a group, grows the common tongue of the participants, and allows for genuine clarity to happen in the dance of organizing all of the desires into a manageable number of conversations. my friend allen gunn taught me a way to do this with post its and a blank wall, and i just keep iterating off of that exercise to create self-generated agendas.

when trying to determine which articulation to prioritize, go with that of the most impacted people in the room – it is usually the most relevant, and often the clearest and most accessible.

4. a living agenda.

develop a spacious adaptible agenda where the participants can shape the meeting. again, our tendency is to fill up every minute from the beginning to the end of the day with formal session time, creating schedules that are hard to change when new information comes along. not to mention, these agendas sometimes underestimate how long conversations may actually take.

most conversations need at least 1.5 hours to adequately cover orienting around the content, identifying what is needed and identifying clear next steps. and that’s conservative. a meaningful full group conversation for thirty people or more needs roughly a minute person participant. underscheduling means that energy will start to build up looking for release.

folks are so used to not being heard. so used to not getting their needs met. when folks feel heard, the time starts to expand as people move past expressing and start to be able to listen.

it is a beautiful thing to give people space and time, but within the agenda also point continuously towards collaboration. in the u.s., which is where i do most of my facilitation, there is a socialized tendency towards competition – ‘my idea is the best and i am just here to sell it!’. well…no thank you. what can we do together from our passions?

collaboration can only be built on relationships and shared vision. relationships have to be respectful (‘oh i totally see why you are here and why i would want to work with you’) and real (‘what you just said offended/disrespected me, and i can tell you about it because i want us to grow!’). and shared vision doesn’t mean a ten point shared utopia – it means you can generally state that you are moving in the same direction.

the spacious agenda often leads to ending the meeting early, or right on time. try it! it’s magical.

5. listen with love!

the participants absolutely mean to be listening to each other, but their own agendas might fill up their ears with misunderstandings or frustrations. your work as a facilitator is to listen to the needs of the group, help the participants to be clear to and with each other, and make sure you actually understand what folks in the room need.

listen to the feedback you request, and to the other feedback that flows in from the edges, the participants who need something more. my confession here is that i have, at times, grown annoyed with those participants who tend more towards deconstruction, anxiety or frustration…they are the ones often less able to state clearly what they want. however if i can drop in and set my annoyance aside, those folks are sometimes trying to get at the heart of the matter, or name the root schism in the room – the thing that is unnamed because it hard to name. taking time to hear the participants in the margins of the agenda can actually help get the event on point. and i can’t count the number of times a disgruntled participant was actually just misunderstanding something that, when clarified, made them a star participant.

6. know when to say yes and when to say no.

yes to those things that deepen the gathering – cultural grounding, local welcome, clarifying questions, learning in real time, suggestions to slow down. no to manipulative efforts to quiet others, pontification, ignorance. yes to singing, bio breaks (bathroom, fresh air, snacks, self care), ending early (when the group has run out of energy for the day), talent shows, parties and efforts to synthesize. no to judgment, delays, circular conversations and people who are rejecting the process.

7. what you gonna do?

my friend gibran rivera once articulated a question to me: ‘what is the next most elegant step?’ oh i love this question. too often we come up with plans that don’t take into account the fog on the horizon. then we go off and the work doesn’t happen, perhaps can’t happen, and then we feel demoralized because our energy doesn’t flow into action. an elegant step is one that acknowledges what is known and unknown, and what the capacity of this group actually is. an elegant step allows humility, allows people to say ‘actually we need to do some research’ or ‘actually we need to talk to some folks not in this room’ or ‘actually we need a full day to build this plan out into something realistic and attainable’.

in any conversation – and i would say in any moment in life – there is a next elegant step – one that is possible and strategic based on who is taking it and where they are trying to go. find it and you cannot fail.

as with all things, these practices are emerging as i learn them. feel free to add on. love y’all, and let’s keep learning to do our movement work better and better.