The new, new counterculture

The new, new counterculture is shifting our focus

From dialectical to cooperative

From material to spiritual

From critical to creative

From confrontational to compassionate

The new, new counterculture does not forget the old ways, but rather incorporates them into a greater whole.

How have you experienced the new, new counterculture in your work and in your life?

L3: Be Quiet and Listen

When DJ Kool Herc founded Hip Hop, he realized that people came alive during the breaks – the momentary gaps in the music he played as a DJ. When finding any rhythm, the quiet spaces where there is an absence of sound, light, or matter is often what defines the tenor of the movement from moment to moment.

When we are still and quiet, beauty and peace have the opportunity to emerge. In our stillness, life’s true meaning is revealed.

Listening to our hearts, other people, and nature leads us to deepen our understanding, acquire knowledge, and grow in our wisdom. Listening is the process of accepting and absorbing what is offered to us and allowing it to melt into our being so that we are transformed. When we listen, we resist the urge to control and commandeer conversations and activities; instead, we allow everything around us – divine energy, nature, our friends and family – the opportunity to infiltrate and influence every aspect of our lives.

We live in a loud, busy world where it is easy to get caught up in a frenetic pace chasing after multiple ideas and things. Sometimes, we forget what we are looking for or, if we remember, we forget why it was important to us in the beginning. Give yourself the gift of time to reflect on your motivations, desires, and purpose to add meaning to your daily routine and to ensure that your actions are aligned with your deepest values.

Silence creates the space needed for new ideas to blossom. When we constantly think, do, and react, the creative process is suffocated. Silence and stillness provide the energy needed to invigorate inspiration and innovation. Your composed countenance will have a calming effect on all of the people around you, too!

There are many ways that you can find quiet time within your daily schedule. Start and end the day with a few minutes of meditation or prayer. Connect with nature by gardening, hiking, or birdwatching. Allow yourself a break when you are working – a real break. Pause and take some time to reflect during or after meetings before making important decisions. Take time to smell the literal and figurative roses.

Be still. Be quiet. Be open. Set a new pace in your life – one where you can feel your soul emerge in the breaks.

Leader: Sun or Nebula?

When I left my job as an executive director, I went from being a sun — albeit of a microscopic universe — to a nebula. I thought I would feel liberated, but I felt a bit lost at times. Through entrepreneurship, I am loving the freedom of creative expression and learning to honor the accompanying mysteries and complexities of life. In my nebula heart, all things are possible.

Your Help is Needed: Progressive Dictionary

The Fruition Coalition is launching a new Interactive Progressive Dictionary on The Activist’s Muse in 2013. In progressive activism, and life in general, we use so many words with multiple, implicit meanings. The purpose of this project is to clarify and articulate the many ways that we interpret the words that we use in our work.

Here’s how it works:

* A reader submits her or his selected word and definition using the online survey

* The word and definition is selected for inclusion on the blog

* The word and definition is posted on the blog along with the name and institutional affiliation of the person who submitted it

* Readers post comments to affirm, contest, or add to the original definition

* The original author and others respond to comments, creating an interactive dialogue about how we understand words.

Please click on this link to participate! Some ideas for words to get us started might be: progressive, activism, power, community, leadership, politics, etc…but feel free to choose your own word.

My Coloring Book

Professors have often criticized my writing by reminding me that I need to unpack ideas. My writing tends to be dense, leading to grey, shaded areas that await discovery and illumination.

I like to think of this blog as my coloring book. I present a framework of ideas which you can color in using the palette of your thoughts, experience, and emotions. Each rendering is unique, yet united by a common understanding. Your picture adds new dimension to mine.

I welcome your questions to clarify what I mean, but I also love to see your interpretations and extrapolations of the ideas in The Activist’s Muse. I would like this blog to be a dialogue resulting in a community mural of progressive social change.

 

A dar, not yet a DAR

Despite being heavily recruited by my vulture like (but very sweet) relatives for the past 15+ years, I have declined an open invitation to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. My resistance to joining, along with repeated requests, had led me to evaluate the reasons that compel me to join an organization. Before investing my time and money in a community group, I ask myself the following questions:

  • Does this organization align with my values?
  • Does this organization align with my personal priorities?
  • Will participating in this organization help me accomplish something that is important to me?
  • Will I enjoy the company of other members/volunteers?
  • Is the organization ethical and does it act with integrity?
  • Will I be able to make a meaningful contribution?
  • Will I be able to change policies, processes, etc. within the organization that do not fully resonate with what I know to be true and good?
  • Will participation contribute to my legacy?

It is that last question, one that has only come up for me since reaching a certain age, that is leading me in the direction of more seriously considering joining. The DAR is very important to my family, and it is a part of who I am.  For now, I am keeping my options open.

L3: Tempering Thoughts

We have all said and done things that we later regret – at least I know that I have. In a typical day, I am sure that I unintentionally offend, hurt, or insult at least five people. I am especially weak when it comes to other people not acting in the way I think they should; I sometimes tend to criticize and complain with abandon.

Like love and compassion, negativity multiplies when it is used. When we unload our pain and suffering in unhelpful ways, others ingest this hurt and it impacts their feelings, communications, and interactions. Through careful self-examination, we can minimize the negativity that we dump onto others.

Our words and behaviors are influenced by our thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings tend to run deep and are influenced by a messy and unwieldy conglomeration of past experiences and future expectations. Untangling and sorting through this clutter to uncover the love and light inside of us requires patience, humility, and honesty.

The Buddha and Aristotle have two teachings that are helpful as we navigate this and many other life processes. The middle way is a Buddhist belief that moderation will lead to enlightenment. Similarly, Aristotle encouraged temperance as a means to practice virtue. Both remind us that we are continually balancing what seem to be conflicting values. With one breath, we tell ourselves that want to be happy and for others to love us. With the next breath, we say something hurtful or inappropriate that leads to the exact opposite outcome.

Cultivating awareness of our values, feelings, and thoughts and infusing them with forgiveness and compassion (of self and others), as well as gratitude, increases our understanding and ability to auspiciously translate our internal turmoil into external tranquility.  Every moment is an opportunity to learn, change, and grow.

When communicating with others, think carefully about your goal. Is it to prove you are right? To change the other person? To find a mutually agreeable solution? To create better working relationships? To express your love and gratitude? Unexamined potential consequences of our actions can lead to the unintentional deterioration of relationships.

There are times that we will need to have very difficult discussions with others. Perhaps they made a mistake that resulted in your company losing money. Or maybe they did something that caused discord within your organization or your community. At these times, a few guidelines will help to keep the conversation constructive:

–          Recognize that we all make mistakes. Perhaps this experience is reminding you of something you once did and you are remembering the way you were reprimanded. Explore your feelings before reacting.

–          Pause and reflect before speaking or acting when you have that luxury. Meditate and practice breathing to gain perspective before intellectualizing and rationalizing things in your head. Consider all of the potential consequences of what you say and do.

–          Be honest, direct, and sincere. Do not escalate, project your feelings, or accuse.

–          Don’t bring up the past or set things up to fail in the future. Focus on the issue at hand and resolve it peacefully.

–          Listen intently to the other person, but also to your own heart.

–          Be proactive rather than reactive. Continually work on building positive, trusting, loving relationships.

–          Find a vent buddy, a person removed from your work situation with whom you can share your frustrations and challenges without causing harm

–          Create opportunities to process and release your negative energy. For me, this includes writing, walking, and beach bumming.

In addition to saying things that might hurt other people, I sometimes say negative things about myself or fail to recognize the beauty of my soul in some way. This includes rejecting compliments, downplaying my abilities, and haranguing myself in front of other people. While much of this behavior is driven by humility, just as much is influenced by self-hatred. Negativity sent into the universe will follow us as a cloud might chase after the sun on a windy day. When we express love for ourselves, we are better able to express love for other people. As leaders, we are role models for many other people. By being kind and caring to ourselves, we encourage our employees and others to also appreciate their gifts and to share them freely.

It is also essential to frequently remind others how much they are loved and appreciated. Let others know how highly you value their contributions and are honored to have the opportunity to work with them. Intentionally create positive interactions and communications and let this be your modus operandi when working with other people. Let other people know how much you value your team; brag a little! Of course, always be sincere when complementing others. If you look hard enough, you will find something positive within everyone.

Create a climate of respect, dignity, and reverence for all people – yourself and others. By being proactive and positive in our words and actions, we can create a healthy, flourishing environment.

Rainy Day Leadership

Clouds would make excellent leaders. They emerge as a response to the environment, yet they become their own thing. They are always changing shape and transforming in substance. They float over the broad landscape without hovering or attaching. They know when to pour rain, when to shield the harsh rays of the sun, when to emit a bolt of lightning, and when to dissipate.