L3: Listen to your Intuition

Excerpt from Limitless Loving Leadership (ISBN 978-1-300-65933-4, 92 pages, $12.99)

Our souls gently whisper to us all the time. The gentle, delicate nature of those whispers can lead us to overlook or misunderstand their meaning. When we don’t pay attention, the whispers become louder before turning into screams. They travel from a spiritual, to an intellectual, to a physical level.

When we don’t pay attention to our intuition, G-d may try to get our attention in more magnificent ways that integrate all aspects of our being.

A few months ago I was getting ready for work when all of a sudden I had a vision/idea of leaders as a beekeeper. I thought a little about the analogy and then put it out of my mind, to be explored later. That night, I went to a ‘Heroines of the Bible’ class at a local Chabad center and the person we studied that night was Devorah. Her name literally means “the bee.” She and her husband made candles to share the light of G-d with other people. Then she was appointed the first female judge of the Israelites. Her leadership brought peace back to the land and instilled feminine values.

A few months later, I participated in a writing residency. One evening I went for a long walk and went just a bit further down the road than previous days. A little over a mile away from the house where I stayed, at my turnaround point in front of a church, I came across a beagle. It was skinny and collarless. When I approached him, he backed up as if scared. I turned around to walk back to the house and the beagle followed me. Eventually, he walked ahead of me. When I got back to the house, my housemate opened up the gate and the beagle ran out! He saw me and kept going, down the driveway, then down the road. The housemate said that the beagle was sitting with her for a few minutes. It’s almost as if he was leading me somewhere, or wanted to make sure I got home safely.

I decided to take a walk the next day, walking a different route than normal. I was half way across a bridge over the Tye River when I realized that I had walked into a swarm of bees. I looked up and there were at least a hundred, maybe two hundred bees swirling about. I turned around to walk back the other way because I was afraid to walk through the bees. When I turned around, the beagle was standing at the end of the bridge.

I definitely took this as a sign that I should continue to work on this blog series, then conceptualized as a book, and that it will follow Devorah’s legacy. When I have doubts about the purpose or potential impact of my writing, which I often do, I think of this profound spiritual experience and feel comforted as well as motivated.

Now that you think I’m certifiably insane, let me share something else that will blow your mind. Our gastrointestinal systems contain more neurons as our spinal cords. It is sometimes called our ‘second brain.’ Thus, our ‘gut feelings’ are biologically rooted.

When you feel something in your gut, it is likely a sign that something is very right or very wrong. Trust and seek to understand your intuition, then act accordingly. Our intuition makes accumulated wisdom accessible to us in a highly efficient way. Take advantage of this wondrous opportunity.

Fruition Coalition: The Year in Review

Thanks for being a part of the Fruition Coalition in 2012!

At this time of year, I like to reflect on what has been accomplished. This year, the Fruition Coalition:

  • Was re-energized by the founding director (me) leaving the material and psychological security of my  full time job
  • Published 139 blog posts on The Activist’s Muse
  • Launched the Fruition Academy of Social Imagination and Action
  • Held two webinars: Teaching, Learning, and Transformation & Social Reciprocity…total attendance was 58 people in four countries on three continents
  • Temporarily suspended the Fruition Academy of Social Imagination and Action due to intellectual and financial sustainability concerns and therefore did not conduct the two webinars I was most excited about — Existential Leadership and Quantum Theory for Activists
  • Launched Le Salon Utopique, an online community for progressive activists
  • Worked with an intern from University of Maryland to organize the Changemaker Chat section of the blog (thank you Kerry!)
  • Launched the Social+ campaign to promote extending the idea of carbon neutrality to all of our micro and macro social actions
  • Completed two program development projects with local organizations

As for me personally (but in a professional sense), I:

  • Participated in three presentations at the International Leadership Association
  • Started blogging for Huffington Post
  • Experienced tremendous self-doubt and anxiety — which was at times freeing and at other times paralyzing
  • Learned to feel more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty
  • Tutored two students in statistics, revealing the need for simple, easy to understand statistics instructions which I have yet to find online or in textbooks (perhaps I can find a way make stats fun!)
  • Taught an Introduction to Fundraising class for the second time
  • Worked as a research assistant for an awesome, brilliant professor
  • Read a ton of amazing books and papers and added much to my reading list which now includes almost 4,000 books and several hundred papers
  • Narrowed down the topic for my dissertation, which is now looking something like the myths of social justice leadership
  • Did not for one moment regret my decision to make the major life transition to become self-employed, despite the emotional and financial challenges (“That which does not kill us makes us stronger” — F. Nietzsche)

Tomorrow, I will reveal the Fruition Coalition’s plans for 2013!

Looking back on the past year, what have been your highlights?

Censored!

The first time I published an article in an academic journal, I worked with an editor whose political views diverged from mine. He used his power as an editor to attempt to censor my thoughts by excluding sections of my work and suggesting rewrites that changed the meaning of what I wrote. I begrudgingly compromised in some areas and firmly stood my ground in others. It was an ongoing battle with several rounds of edits on each side.

The topic of my paper was something that to me seems very politically benign, almost common sense. My analysis was balanced, thorough, and fact-based. Yet, it provoked a power struggle that led to a diminished message. I think it would have been more constructive to include my fully flushed out thoughts as a beginning point for dialogue or even debate.

I welcome challenge. It helps me to affirm my core while expanding my range of knowledge and understanding. Editors should challenge, not censor.

I am currently working with the best team of editors – at least from the perspective of this writer as an artist. They have yet to suggest content changes, only stylistic (capitalization, abbreviations) adjustments.  It is wonderfully unique for my voice to feel trusted and valued.

More Found Poems and an Essay

A few years ago, I took a few classes at Northampton Community College to prepare for the mostly online Ph.D. program at Eastern University. In my creative writing class, I wrote a few poems. I also wrote an essay about the joys and frustrations of publishing Ashley and Tiana.

Children of Haiti

Children of Haiti

how can it be?

I don’t understand why my

dreaming about you does not change the

reality of your daily life.

Nothing changes,

only my heart grows stronger

for I know that one day I will visit

Haiti and we will be together.

A family at last.

I can hardly wait to meet you.

Time is the only boundary and

I promise to be there as soon as I can.

For My Children

Every time I eat blueberries

I am reminded of your hunger.

When I turn on the faucet to wash my hands

I think of your lack of clean water.

When I turn up the heat in my wintery home

I think of the heat you can not escape.

When I walk my baby nephew down the street

I think of your safety.

When I drive in my car to work

I think of your desperation.

When I lay in bed at night

I think of your discomfort.

When I take a yoga class

I think of your fragile health.

When I take a shower and dab on perfume

I think of your ability to stay clean.

When I walk inside the school where I work

I think of how much you will learn here.

When I snuggle up with the cats

I think of how much you will love each other.

When I clean your empty room

I think of how much it will mean to you.

When I bake cookies and go to the beach

I think of how much fun we will have.

When I think of my desire to have a family

I know it is me who is desperate to love you.

Learning to Enjoy My Self-Pubishing Voyage

“Buy One Copy…Get One Free for a Friend!”  She told me I was selling myself short.  Maybe she was right, but…

I told the organizer of the Queens Health and Book Fair that I had over 300 copies of my book at home and that I would rather have them in the hands of children.  Sweet children, laughing with delight as they paged through Ashley and Tiana and absorbed its many important lessons.  Among many who are pimping out literature of all kinds, my book softly requests, “please read me, please?”

So today I am at the Brooklyn Book Festival.  My favorite author, Edwidge Danticat, is here and she was honored with an award last night.  I feel honored to be here, even if I only sell four books like I did in Queens yesterday.

This is my third book fair this year so I know what to expect.  People will walk by as if I am invisible.  They might slow down a bit, to try to figure out what my table is all about, but as soon as I notice them they freak out at being realized and move away as quickly as possible.  At least I’m not alone.  It seems like the other 50 vendors are facing the same challenge: people who like to read, but don’t want to have books sold to them.

Oops…maybe today will be different.  I just made a sale.  She’s a 7th grade student who is also a poet.  The first ten minutes of the Brooklyn Book Festival are going well!

As I was saying, it seems that most people who attend book fairs just want to breeze through without taking the time to talk with the authors and learn about new books and the writing process.

But this isn’t my only challenge as a new self-published author.

I did everything the experts advised: the published writers, public relations specialists, marketing maniacs, and others who share the tricks of the trade for free.  I got an ISBN.  I had teachers proofread my copy.  I registered on over 50 social networking sites.  I worked, worked, worked, worked, worked on marketing the book.

Sure that it would be a success, I ordered 350 copies for the Harlem Book Fair.  I sold three.  I was sure when I held my book signing in New York that lots of people wold show up: family, friends, the media, people who love books.  No one came.  No one.  Not one person.  Two days later I held a book signing in Easton.  Surely, the place would be packed.  “I’ll be there,” “congratulations,” “good luck,” they all told me.  And some of them did come…about 15.

So I still have over 300 books to sell or give away.  In retrospect, I feel grateful for every single time I have sold a book.  My heart fills with joy when I think of people reading the book.

Except for voyagerfan.  Voyagerfan won a free copy of Ashley and Tiana on Goodreads, a social networking site for people who love books can list their personal libraries and books they plan to read in the future in addition to reviews of books that have been read.

His review was scathing.  Not only did he give me just one out of five stars, he went on and on and on in his review about the incorrect grammar (most of which was intentional), typos (I couldn’t find any), and the fact that I didn’t use, “real dashes” (oh well).

My self-esteem plummeted.  I enlisted my family and close friends, my army of supporters.  How could this man do me so wrong?

Man?  “That’s the problem,” my sister said. “How old is he, anyway?”

I hadn’t thought of that.  Clearly voyagerfan is not a member of my target market of 8- to 17-year-old girls.  My self-esteem rebounded.

Up and down and up and down.  Self-publishing this book has been like a roller coaster  one of those that goes upside down a few times.  From now on, I’m just going to enjoy the ride.