Practice & Power
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Practice may be the simplest and hardest part of creating the future.
I was reminded of this recently, when two beloved collaborators (Rosa Gonzalez and Taj James) re-shared with me an image of the three forms of power, and the relationship of embodied practice to all of them.
I hadn’t seen this picture for a while, even though it (in many variations) emerged in the Transitions Initiative that I helped lead.
Seeing this visual again reminded me of what I've witnessed over and over through the years: There's a special energy and flow in spaces filled with people who make daily space for the evolution of their humanness.
Today in my New Moon work, I'm blessed to be co-designing and co-facilitating learning and story spaces among communities growing economic, political, and cultural power to transform human systems and structures. These efforts include Indigenous communities reclaiming ancestral land, Black-led agricultural cooperatives, healing centered transformation of prison and jail funding into resources for community needs, and so much more. In these spaces, I feel power and vision in my bones.
Today I'm remembering that...
Embodied practice is so simple. As I’ve heard applied Zen teacher Norma Wong say so many times, pick anything and do it for 15 minutes a day with all our awareness. For some people it's sitting down to meditate, writing poetry, practicing tai chi, or taking time for prayer. It can also be washing the dishes or combing a child’s hair or looking out the window at the birds, as long as we are fully present, aware, and open, allowing our minds and hearts to deeply experience each moment as it is. Norma invites us to do this, to start small every day, to practice and see what we notice.
Embodied practice is so hard. Fifteen minutes of awareness should be easy, but for most of us it isn't. We set goals (“practice every day for one month”) and fail and try again. It’s a little comical, but not surprising, that people who’ve led organizations or run campaigns or won scholarships find it so difficult to simply be still and present. The dominant culture we live in -- a sea of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism -- tells us that open space is empty, that fast is better than slow, that the only way we know is through our brains. For most of us, feeling the sacredness of every moment is not something we've been taught to value or do. Awkwardly, we fumble to learn.
Embodied practice is so needed. Embodied practice was here long before capitalism and all the systems of human oppression we face today. For people who have not grown up in cultures rooted in Indigenous wisdom and ways of being, practice helps us crack open what confines our minds and hearts, and reconnect to the wisdom in our bodies that precedes present day systems and culture. Our "progressive" political brains may judge us when we practice, making us feel indulgent or selfish, as if embodied practice distracts from our work for structural and systemic change, rather than strengthening it.
What a radical and necessary act it is to decolonize our brains, to value embodied practice as nourishment for our spirit, as our daily responsibility in creating the future.