Bye, bye hope. Hello community.
This is a follow-up post to Is Hope the Answer? If you haven’t yet, I recommend going back to read the initial post to catch the first part of my conversation with Marianne.
When we left off, Marianne and I were discussing how empowering it is to reclaim your ability to act as an individual. But we all know it isn’t always so simple…
Brigitte: From another perspective, the idea that we are powerless as individuals is silencing.
Marianne: And it’s not accidentally so. That message has been consciously spread over the ages by people who want to have more control over the rest of us.
Brigitte: It’s a vicious cycle that maintains the status quo.
I feel powerless, I do not act, and I see the proof in my lack of power in the news.
Marianne: Yes! Exactly. It is an act of self-empowerment to act in the ways that our hearts/conscience bid us to.
Brigitte: That message is incredibly pervasive. I often feel silly when I describe my opinions on these issues, because it feels “self important.”
The old “who do I think I am?” rears its head.
Marianne: Can you explain that to me? How “self-important?”
Brigitte: Who do you think you are to have an opinion? To think that my individual actions matter.
Marianne: Isn’t that interesting?
Brigitte: I think that’s part of the narrative: Keep your head down, lead a good life. Leave the big, important issues to “other people.”
Marianne: I think I missed out on that narrative!
Brigitte: Haha! You’re lucky!
Marianne: My parents are both active in their communities, in terms of providing social support.
They have never been involved in politics, but they have leaderships roles in their church, and people come to them when they have problems.
Brigitte: This is a silly example: Before I wrote my gossip post, I spoke to a friend about my desire to cut it out. And her response was: Gossip isn’t great, but it’s normal.
It’s normal. So that means that you should let it be?
Brigitte: I hear this kind of thing a lot about all sorts of issues — that we shouldn’t over-think things.
Marianne: Ha. Yes. I hear that too. But what does it mean to ‘over-think’ something?
Sometimes I think it means “don’t ask too many questions’ – accept things as they are.
And that’s not how my Dad raised me :-)
He explicitly taught me to question every authority figure, every ‘received wisdom’ — even from him.
Brigitte: And, it may be a particularly American tendency to think: “Well, things are so great as they are. Why worry?”
Marianne: And yet things so very clearly are not great as they are.
Brigitte: Now, wait a second….! ;)
Marianne: It’s an interesting one though, isn’t it?
People complain endlessly about the stressors in their lives. And yet when someone asks “could this all be different?” there is a resistance to it.
I guess change is something we tend to resist almost by nature.
Brigitte: I think it’s incredibly difficult, because our behaviors are so deeply ingrained.
For instance, I know, beyond a doubt that when I practice yoga regularly I feel better. I have more energy. My writing improves. I am more forgiving.
Yet I let the practice slide again and again.
Marianne: It’s partly because our habits and behaviours are ingrained and partly because we live in settings that do not support those changes.
Brigitte: Ah! Let’s talk a bit about that. How can we alter our settings?
Marianne: To use your yoga practice example — it is so much easier for me to maintain a steady practice when I am living in the house up the coast with other yogis.
So much harder when I am staying in town, working at the restaurant sometimes until very late and getting up at different times every day.
So there are ways that the structure of my life can support the behaviours I want more of, and ways that my community and the people I surround myself with can.
I put a LOT of stock in the importance of sangha — a community of people who share my spiritual path and commitment to well-being for all.
Brigitte: Going back to our discussion on politics, I find too that being online has linked me to a community of change-makers.
And it inspires me to keep going on my own path.
Community is incredibly important in all forms of action – whether it is personal practice, community action or political change.
I value my collaborators so deeply.
And I think having collaborators is essential to sustainable, effective conscious activism.
Brigitte: And I feel so incredibly lucky to be connected to people that inspire me. Like you!
Brigitte: I was hoping we could round out the conversation by sharing some ideas on how people can start getting involved with the causes they care about.
Do you recommend we seek out organized causes to start? Start conversations online or with our local networks?
Marianne: Absolutely yes.
There are way too many people starting up their own things these days.
It’s not efficient, it misses out on the opportunity to work with others and it means we miss out on existing knowledge.
Innovation is great, but combining innovation with experience is the magic zone, I reckon.
So yes, I totally recommend seeking out existing groups that are doing what you feel passionate about.
Brigitte: That’s sound advice — and it’s easy to act on. Which is critical — anything that takes the pain out of action is fabulous in my book!
Marianne: Think about what you have to offer — better that you contribute from your strengths. So I would rather think of you, for example, Brigitte approaching an organisation doing work you think is really powerful and important and offering them some of your PR skills.
Brigitte: I’ve done that! I help a local organization, Chicago Cares, with their media outreach.
I also think people get very hung up on finding the perfect organization. This is yet another way that we hold ourselves back. In my own experience, I asked for a few recommendations, picked one, and gave them a call. It was very simple.
Marianne: Good advice – don’t let the search for perfection become another form that your fear takes.
So we’ve covered some stuff about how taking action for it’s own sake (because it is what our values guide us to do), and about how empowering it is to reclaim your ability to act as an individual. We’ve talked about the distinction between mindful consideration of the consequences of our actions, on the one hand, and letting go of expectations for outcomes, on the other.
We’ve talked about the importance of collaboration, how community support makes it possible to change our behaviours and to sustain our actions.
Brigitte: I know I’ll be digesting and integrating our conversation for the next few days. Thanks for the conversation! Juicy stuff!
It seems that hope isn’t what I need after all. It’s you.