By Laurie Dreamspinner
The week that included the 2016 presidential election found me in Atlanta with five others from my Yellow Springs, Ohio inner circles. Be Present is an organization started by African American women 35 years ago. A main focus is the commitment “to a process that builds personal and community well-being on the strength of self-knowledge rather than on the distress of oppression.”
Khara is our new Yellow Springs friend who has been involved with Be Present for over 13 years and she brought us to the meeting of the board and the National Network Training on Leadership and Play. The five days I spent with those people has transformed my life.
A great deal of the work I have been engaged in for 50 years + has prepared me to take this on. Be Present contains some important missing concepts/pieces that are even now beginning to make my work more effective and efficient. The injunction to be in constant (as near as I can) touch with myself “outside of the distress of my oppression” grounds me more clearly in who I am, and frees up energy to make decisions out of clarity and compassion as opposed to fear and anger. We were immediately included as members of the group, encouraged to ask questions and contribute to discussions and constantly were observing people actively knowing themselves outside of the distress of their oppression.
The group challenges each other, supports each other and is genuinely committed to themselves and each other over and over and over. This in the midst of a shocking world event. Twice during that time I was supported in dealing with difficult inner work relating to white privilege, cultural differences, and misogyny–internal and institutional. I was privileged to observe and support others dealing with their own issues that interfered with our being able to function.
On Wednesday morning, Nov. 9, I was surrounded by strangers who felt like long-lost family I had never met before. I felt with the outcome of the election, it would be reasonable for these people, the majority of whom were not white, to pull away, to disengage at least somewhat. That did not happen! I found myself feeling included, if confused and upset by the results of the election, questions answered, authentic connections being made, being challenged to confront my own inner feelings, and supported in dealing with faux pas. I found myself singing “Soften my heart, soften my heart, soften my heart, soften my heart.”
Both in my recent trip to Bali and in Atlanta I was aware of carrying cultural contaminants and wanting to understand them and replace certain practices with ones without negative impact on others. Being open about working to soften my own heart turns out to be a good invitation to others to feel safer and respond in kind.
Ever since we came home, I have been working on integrating what I observed and am learning. How can I put this all into practice? What needs to change in how I engage with my on-going commitments? What do I already have in place, but can now see more clearly? How does this affect my short- and long-term relationships? How can I communicate what I am grappling with to others so we can collaborate and counter the up-coming excesses and rising aggressions in the years to come? How can I listen better to people so we can meet each other’s hearts and souls?
Since I returned home, I find myself returning to Jacquie Godden’s song reminding me, “In these times, in these uncertain times, I will remain open to the miracle that is each moment.”