At least not at first.
Originally, I meant this letter just for the current enrollees in this year's 22nd Century Leaders program. But as I wrote it, I realized it might have larger implications. So here it is. You can even share it with others if you want. Sometimes words uttered at first in private apparently want a larger audience.
Dear 22nd Century Leaders:
We're now right smack dab in the middle of the program. Congratulations to this years participants for making it this far!
What this means for us is first, we are about to do a bit of a pivot from inner work to outer work. This next meeting will be a kind of bridge between the two.
It also means acknowledging that what we covered in the first part may well apply to all that this stage of things brings up. I'll clarify further down.
Part of my philosophy of evolution here in the U.S. is that as we grow as a species, we will more regularly and skillfully connect our inner worlds to our outer worlds. By that I mean that we will learn more about how our ancestral/trauma patterns create our experiences, how to be with our experiences (remember “beingwithness”?), how coming
out of pattern into presence opens up more possibility and more choices, and how attuning to and factoring in the inner worlds of others helps to create transformational outcomes. This applies to dismantling white supremacy mythology and other forms of endemic oppression, as well as the rest of life. Resmaa Menakem details how this applies to white supremacy mythology in My Grandmother's Hands, which is why I recommended that book as one of the first things to read.
This intrinsic connection of inner to outer is why we start out the program with our inner worlds, even as we polish our lenses of perception to get ever better at discerning the ways white supremacy manifests in the outer world. What patterns do we run? What happens when a stimulus hits our system? How does language shape the way we hold all this?
Now, we're going to step back a bit, and begin to look at our path in the world. What shape do you take as you bring your passions to the world? How will you in particular help to dismantle white supremacy mythology and other non-life-affirming phenomena as you “do you”?
The easy starting place to the answer is, You may already be doing it. Now we'll go deeper. We'll look at your archetype, or archetypes. An archetype, as we're using it here, means a pure and fully-realized embodiment of a particular human quality -- for example, the sage, the scribe, or the jester. Archetypes appear in books, movies, folklore, dreams, and more, throughout our culture. When we know which archetype or archetypes we most deeply embody, we can stop beating ourselves up for not fulfilling the ones that don't fit, and start gathering our resources and information to help us better use our most powerful gifts.
A number of years ago, I did an interview with Cleo Manago that appeared in a book I was coediting, Male Lust: Pleasure, Power, and Transformation. In it, I named that Cleo was one of the few people I knew that seemed to fully embody four very powerful archetypes: teacher, healer, warrior, and visionary. I think this particular combination is rare and quite potent. I've known some great teachers who were crappy healers. Visionaries who belied their vision in how they treated others. Warriors who couldn't teach to save their lives. And so on.
This is okay.
Actually it's more than OK.
Some years ago when I was bemoaning my failure to conform to corporate Amerikkka's externally-referenced culture and demands, a good friend of mine told me the story of a fish and a rabbit who were having a swimming contest. The fish won easily, and the rabbit of course nearly drowned just trying to get across the pool. Rabbits don't do well with even a bit of water exposure.
The rabbit emerged nearly dead, and had the story that they "were a failure." A friendly sage helped the rabbit dry them off and reflect on their decision to compete in the swim match in the first place. After healing from the near-death swim, with the sage's encouragement, the rabbit entered a local hopping contest...and won! The moral of the story, my friend said, was "Don't be a wet bunny!" In other words, walk the path that calls upon what you're naturally good at. If you're a fish, that's likely to be swimming. Not so much if you're a leporine furball.
It sounds basic enough, perhaps even obvious. But I've spent years trying to stuff myself into holes not the shape of me, I'm guessing others of you may have as well. Or maybe you were all smarter than me. No matter -- knowing our archetypal path helps us bring our gifts into the world.
In particular, living into our archetype helps us among other things to:
Identify the places and spaces where we'll be most effective
Find the mentors who are further along than we are to help us carve our similar path
Find and refine our expertise in the tools we need
Align our actions, speech, even appearance in some cases, with the archetype we most resonate (this is where spiritual/transcendent work intersects with material world "brand" type work)
Find and ride our unique wave of effectiveness, efficiency, and LOVE
Now that we are getting to know one another a bit more, we can reflect what we see to each other, and support each other in more fully stepping into our unique path. There may also be challenges. This too is part of the work.
When I used to work with couples, I started off each engagement with a basic premise, and asked them to adopt it for our work together. You may have heard it:
Love brings up everything unlike itself so we can heal it.
In other words, often, when we get into a relationship with someone (or something) we love, the most difficult parts of ourselves get called forth. The parts we feel ashamed of, that we'd rather not even know about ourselves, let alone share with anyone else.
Many people mistake this for issues in the relationship, and push the other away, or blame them rather than see this common phenomenon for what it is, and lean in closer.
When we lean in closer and get vulnerable, we can do the work of connection, deepening, and healing the “unlike love” stuff. That work, that practice of getting vulnerable helps create the kinds of sustainable connections that allow deep, lasting and satisfying relationships.
This is also true within groups, particularly groups united around something dear to us. At some point, we begin to "constellate," or express the roles we had in our family, or the shadow parts of ourselves we still haven't worked through. Or to project those onto others.
When this “unlike love” stuff appears, as with romantic relationships, we may see this as a barrier to the real work. In most cases I see this as the work. This is the chance to use the inner skills we worked on in the first part of the program (and will continue to work on) to stumble through conflict in a safe environment, and bring loving attention to what comes up as we do so.
In 22nd Century Leaders, we can stop, rewind, start over, and lay down new neural pathways so that the next time something happens in the real world, we'll be more resourced.
Similarly, as we step ever further into our own archetypal work in the world, the world may push back. Our own psyches may rear up and protest. Comfort bubbles may pop.
As Patrick Weaver put it,
"Your calling is going to crush you. If you’re called to mend the brokenhearted, you’re going to wrestle with broken-heartedness. If you’re called to prophesy, you’re going to struggle to control your mouth. If you’re called to lay hands, you will battle spiritual viruses. If you are called to preach and to teach the gospel, you will be sifted for the wisdom that anoints your message. If you are called to empower, your self-esteem will be attacked, your successes will be hard fought. Your calling will come with cups, thorns and sifting that are necessary for your mantle to be authentic, humble and powerful. Your crushing won’t be easy because your assignment is not easy. Your oil is not cheap..." - Excerpt from Pastor Patrick’s sermon, “Your Oil Is Not Cheap,” Originally Posted to Facebook May 1, 2019
This is why we start with inner work — to get resourced for the road to come. To build our relationships with each other to sustain, nourish, and lovingly remind us of vital truths as we enter new territory. To bolster our foundation as we reach for the sky.
I can’t wait to play with you all more as we start to look outward on each of our glorious paths.
With big love,
P.S. Check out the new 22nd Century Leaders program and tell me what you think!