I think a lot about how culture changes or how it can change, and what we can do to more actively initiate/expand/support/quicken the process of the good kinds of change, how we can be conscious participants in bringing about these cultural shifts, how we change the air we breathe.
Sometimes, often, I think about this with the eyes and mind of a historian, because that is my training, looking at external culture, what does the historiography reveal, delving into the how and why of [once people thought or did X but slowly over time everyone gets on board with Y!], this process is endlessly fascinating to me.
And of course I spend most of my time focusing on internal culture, because this is my actual job, playing with fellow secret agents and gathering here, with you, so that we can explore our internal landscapes, get to know who-and-how we are, and lovingly shift habit-patterns of mind and body and heart, that we can feel more at home in ourselves…
We explore the world (worlds) inside us, with love and curiosity, with intention and with light, for we are the Illustrious Travelers, and through this work-and-play (mostly play, around here), we learn more about how we interact with both internal and external, the relationship between internal and external, we come closer to ourselves.
This internal investigation and this conscious loving approach is (for me) the essence of yoga, or at least the yoga I have been living by, living with, for the past twenty two years.
For me this work is not separate.
We change our internal state, draw closer to truth-love, and we are more grounded and centered, clearer channels, more able to act in accordance with what we think is right. We advocate for external change because we are clear on what we believe in, and we take better care of ourselves, so that we can keep showing up for that work.
Self-fluency and the art-and-science of pattern-changing is not separate from tikun, the work of social justice and healing for the world. A bringing-back-together of fragments of our broken pieces, a reflecting of our light.
We heal inward, we spark healing outward, repeat, repeat.
We are of service and this heals something in us too, repeat, repeat.
I also see everything we do to a) learn more about how we function, and b) take exquisite care of ourselves as part of this work, not taking away from this work.
A moment of self-treasuring or compassion-directed-inward is a tiny revolution, it changes something in us and around us, echoing out into the world, and imbuing us with more strength for doing what is needed.
What needs to be eliminated? What needs to be illuminated?
I ask and turn inward, letting the act of asking reverberate through me, into the internal, revealing what it is time to let go of, where to bring more light.
And, because internal and external are in relationship, I also glow these questions outward, what is asking for attention, what needs eliminating/illuminating in the world, this reminds me of another favorite question, loosely inspired by a line from a Wallace Stevens poem, what would I do if I were the Empress of Ice Cream…
In other words, if I get to design culture, where do I begin, how do I approach, what do I know (historian mind) about how other changes have come to pass?
[Haha wait we need more explanatory notes!]
This is messy territory for me, I am noticing my Fear of Being Miusnderstood.
I made an intentional choice while writing to steer clear of the big topics — oh, you know, the ongoing PTSD of this presidency, how do we get police to stop killing black people, end the muslim ban, what if the world wasn’t full of sexual predators, what if there were real-time consequences for this like oh, I don’t know, not getting to be in the senate or the actual President of the United States, and oh good lord what will change with mass shootings?
My stepping-around these should not be read to mean that they are not of vital importance, either to me or in general. Just the opposite. It’s this: the most basic precept of self-fluency is Safety First, and in this moment there is no way I can delve into these themes here without whooshing off into intense anxiety/fury, which will not help me stay clear and grounded, and is not where the solutions will emerge.
Safety first means that to engage with those topics when I am ready, I will probably need a compass and a cover story proxy to investigate the things I feel so intensely about, maybe some negotiators. Safety First means I’ll do what needs to be done to ease my way in from Clarity and Steady Heart, or when the words ask to be said.
Luckily though, I believe hard in the power of fractal flowers, the idea that everything is interconnected, working together under the surface, all the work we do investigating one mystery will shed light on the others and yield solutions or idea-sparks.
Anyway, this section is my Fear of Being Misunderstood wanting to make clear that when I play with What Needs To Be Eliminated/Illuminated in the world outside, the topics I’m engaging with are not even close to a comprehensive list of current pressing social justice themes, these are some (maybe safer, slightly less wobbly to work with) themes sparking for me in this moment, which means they’re probably related to the service that I need to be engaged in, these are the explorations that are mine right now.
Ahhhh. Exhale. I see you, well-meaning monsters, and appreciate how you want to keep me safe from bad things.
what comes up today for eliminated and illuminated
Let’s listen and write and see.
Single-use plastic anything both as a thing, and as an idea of something that is acceptable.
Does this happen through incentivizing (e.g. coffee costs less if you drink it in a mug)?
Does this happen in language? We adjusted to the question “paper or plastic?”, in California and Oregon we got used to plastic not being available at all, we could also live in a world where the question at a cafe is, “Did you bring a mug or are you drinking this here?”
Maybe plastic is only available as an added-cost option: sure, people can ask for a straw if they didn’t bring their own, however they will pay a symbolic sum for landfill rent.
Does this happen within culture in the way that public opinion shifts over time about littering or smoking or hemline length?
Does this happen through spreading information (hey, airlines dispose of a million plastic cups every six hours just in the United States) leading to changing habits (of course we bring an empty bottle and fill it at the water fountain, of course we remember our collapsible metal cup with on a long flight), or does it change at the top (airlines don’t offer plastic cups, you can buy a metal cup if you didn’t bring one?), or do we all say “ENOUGH WITH PLASTIC!” (or “ENOUGH WITH AIRLINES!”, for that matter), or do we need a new line of questioning.
Solutions and idea-sparks, better than the ones I named above.
And, to be clear, I am not offering solutions in this post, nor am I am casting my vote towards any of the above, everything I named is potentially problematic in its own way. I am just trying to consider the avenues through which change generally happens, and wondering what it might look like with this particular situation.
The word PROCRASTINATION, and the way people use this word/concept to finger-wag and make themselves or others feel terrible about themselves either for Not Doing A Thing, or for Doing Other Things That Are Not The Thing We Think Is The Important Thing.
Self-fluency, and what we already know about this:
- Procrastination is not a useful word for not-doing-a-thing, it is an unhelpful judgment about not doing the thing or not doing the thing right now.
- Not Doing in and of itself has value, postponing has value. It is percolating, a vital part of creative process. Let us trust in right timing, let us learn how to make space for things to form and re-form.
- Whatever we might be doing instead of the thing is also a fractal flower, it is assisting the percolating. Cleaning the refrigerator instead of writing the email is a form of symbolically clearing space, internal and external, it is a form of Entry and Readying, and should be applauded.
- The word Procrastination is a tool of capitalism, it is puritan nonsense that needs to urgently die in a fire, and we can neutralize the guilt-shame patterns of culture that live in this word by choosing to a) not use it, and b) lovingly investigate our relationship with both doing and being (!)
- When we remove guilt, shame and judgment from Not-Doing (or Doing-Something-Else), we get to CLARITY!
what do I mean by CLARITY?
Possibly we genuinely don’t want to do the thing and it turns out it doesn’t have to be done, or now now, or not by us, or not in the form we thought was the form.
Possibly we don’t want to do the thing but we come to the conclusion that we going to have to (choose to) do it anyway. Good intel. We can now give ourselves permission to Not Want to do it, aka Acknowledgment & Legitimacy. And then we can find a new and more playful approach, from a mindset of Safety First.
Possibly we do want to do the thing, except we feel so passionately and intensely about it that we are afraid to begin. Very reasonable. Passion is vulnerable! Creative process is vulnerable! Pursuing a yes is vulnerable! We can apply Acknowledgment & Legitimacy, combined with playful approach to shift this, we can channel our wise selves who know how do the thing.
Possibly we want to do the thing and maybe we don’t know how yet, but doing these other things first helps fill a different need and lets us clear some physical/mental/emotional space to approach the thing. Good work!
here’s the most important thing about this though:
None of these situations require guilt or shame.
so let’s eliminate those too
Guilt or shame are not generally effective motivating techniques, certainly not sustainable ones.
They make everything sticky, and then we definitely can’t do the thing, or even think about doing the thing, because we just feel awful about ourselves.
What does the empress know?
I feel so passionately about so many things.
Sometimes I feel so passionately about them that I can’t talk about them, or not yet, or I can’t find the words, or my monster crew worries that if I talk about them, I will be misunderstood and then [Resulting Doom Forever!].
Sometimes I want to make the rules and sometimes I want to undo the rules, and mostly I just want people to question the words we use, the things we take for granted (yes, straws, that too), to bring attention to the unnoticed, to let things move and unwind.
And to do this with curiosity and love.
what do I want to say today?
I knew this post might be messy, my thoughts are unstructured, I feel so strongly.
I don’t need you to passionately care about the exact things I care about — ie no more straws, no more with the words that rhyme with crofrastination or flaweductivity, they only inflict self-recrimination and mire us in more guilt/pain!
Instead I hope that you also want to join me in being someone who meets the world (and your world) with love and curiosity, to investigate the things you want to eliminate and illuminate, both inside of you and around you.
I hope you are also thinking about the relationship between internal and external, how we can approach or influence one through changing something in the other.
I hope you will take sixteen breaths with me as a way of shifting internal space, and maybe that will bring us to more loving clarity about possible next steps with all the rest.
I hope we can keep talking about cultural change, in our cultures internal and out in the world around us.
These are my wishes, wished with great love, and vulnerability and intensity.
And with so much appreciation for you, for being in my world.
Invitation: Communal wish space! Come play with me…
You are invited to share this post and to share many !!!!!! about what is here,
Or share appreciation or anything sparked for you while reading, or play with eliminate/illuminate, or wish wishes.
Safe space for creative exploration asks us to let go of care-taking and advice-giving.
Everyone belongs. We let people have their own experience. We’re supportive and welcoming. We lovingly refrain from giving advice.
And of course it’s always okay to comment under a made-up name, whether for play and delight, or in the interest of Safety First.
We remember that people vary and my process doesn’t have to be yours, and this is a good thing.
Here’s how we meet each other: with great kindness and appreciation and awe, whispering (and sometimes shouting) oh, wow what beautiful wishes!