Science has now proven that emotions are “contagious,” so if you have been feeling extra stressed lately, you’re not alone.
In keeping with our level of sensitivity, each of us experiences our own, personal challenges, along with the angst and confusion that can surround us during tumultuous times.
Given these conditions, certain things become crucially important.
Finding your Voice
One of my most beloved teachers, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, urges those of us in healing professions to do our own healing work – a task that I take very seriously. It is also so important, for those of us who feel distressed by concerns that our core values – such as protection for the earth, or the need for equal rights for minorities and equal respect for working-class people and families, or even the value of speaking in a way that indicates respect for others in general – for those of us who feel concerned that certain political trends will not honor those core values, it is of utmost importance to learn to find our own voice, and find the courage to speak.
My own path of spiraling into that courage has been fraught with challenges, and maybe that is the case for you also. For many of us, I know, it feels daunting to know what to say, or where to jump into the mess in a way that will do some good. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. I don’t know what words are the ones you need to say add to the conversation, but I do know that your perspective matters, and is needed now.
We can’t wait for a true leader to step forward and take care of everything for us. The good news is that we live in a time of such expanded reach and social connectivity, that each of us has more power to do good, and to reach other people more than ever before.
What is a True Leader?
Some of us are shy about speaking up, because we are laboring under the misconception that the loud people are the ones who take charge, the pushy people are the ones with power. And yes, that is true, under certain, usually toxic conditions. Loud and domineering characters do possess a form of power, but of all the forms, it is actually the weakest one.
In a herd of horses, you will usually see a “bossy” horse that pushes other horses around, moving them away from desirable resources such as food or water. But did you know that this horse is not the leader of the herd? Far from it. This character is actually an immature horse, the least trusted, and the most feared member of the group. I am sure all of us are familiar with two-legged persons of such character as well.
If you want to find the leader of the herd, you will usually find her (or him) on the edges or outskirts of the group, refusing to get drawn in to petty squabbles over food, keeping an eye on the group as a whole, and seeking out new and interesting things in the wider environment. The leader keeps her eyes open for these potentials, and, in a crisis, the other herd members look to her steadfast wisdom to calm and center them, to lead them into new territory, and out of danger. The leader is also able to set effective boundaries with the less mature horses, clearly delineating the space he needs, while remaining calm and clear throughout.
We Shall Overcome
When I have found myself getting angry or scared lately, I think of Martin Luther Kind Jr. Imagine how much he had to be angry about – the inhumane and unthinkable treatment his people endured for generations – and the immediate, violent push-back he encountered while peacefully, yet insistently standing strong and moving forward in the name of human dignity and rights for people of all races, all colors. He did not shame or belittle others as they raged at him. He calmly rebuffed their insults and kept his eyes turned to the vision of hope of a better tomorrow. He stood on the front lines for this vision, and gave his life for it. It is this enduring hope, this steadfast vision, and this unshakable dignity that mark MLK as a true leader.
Yet each of us has the power to be a leader within our own domain. It is possible to set clear boundaries with others, whether personally, politically, or professionally, without reacting out of rage, without shaming others. All of us, all of us, have the power to stand for what we believe in. One thing MLK believed in, was that we are all moving forward together. Even those who heaped hatred on him were moving forward into the better tomorrow, which meant that shaming and blaming them will only slow down the process of moving forward. This is something we can do as well. My teacher and friend Linda Kohanov writes about shame and blame as “stone age power tools,” and teaches ways of interacting with others using non-predatory power, a much more effective, peaceful form of power than that wielded by the loud and bossy would-be predators that dominate the playing field – if left unchecked. We may not always know what to say, but we do, always, have the power to BE the change we want to SEE.
A Master Herder
In penning this post, I’m drawing on wisdom from Linda’s new book, the Five Roles of a Master Herder. It’s all about how to use power, personally and collectively, and its for those of us who sometimes think of “power” as a four letter word, one that describes the bullies who pushed us around on the playground, or who emotionally abused us until we no longer knew what to think. But that’s just predatory power. And in the wild, as in our society, non-predators far outnumber predators. The power behind non-violence is non-predatory power, and it is incredibly grounded, incredibly socially-conscious, and incredibly strong.
A “master herder” is someone who knows how to use non-predatory power. And boy, does our world need this right now.
If you would like to learn more about this power, one of the ways I am jumping into the mess is by teaching it. How to find your voice. How to set boundaries with bullies. How to work with difficult people. How to find the courage to stand up for what you believe in. How to participate in a way that matters. These are things I can help people find for themselves, through mindfulness and breathing work, coaching, and EFL. You have the power to make a difference, you do! So stay calm, and keep breathing.
And if something is calling you to rise up, and take your personal, inner work to the next level, email me so we can talk about it. Erin@Radiant Energy For Life.com. I’m booking 1-day and 2-day personal or small group intensives and working with your schedule to find a time.
I’ll end with these words, from my heart to yours:
” My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times… ” -Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes