How to Prepare for Leadership as Activists?
by Kathryn Fentress
Let’s start with perspective. To be the most effective in facilitating change, we have to change our perspective.
In the current paradigm of cause and effect we are repeating the same battles, the same issues, over and over each time the political parties in Washington, D.C., change. Although many more people are becoming active, the problems of the homeless, the disenfranchised, and the multiple actions to destroy more areas of the planet is increasing even more rapidly. In the old paradigm we ask the wrong questions. Our leaders ask where else can we find more sources of oil and gas to sustain that which is polluting the environment and decimating the animal and plant life. The profit margin for stockholders is still more important than the health, the housing and the welfare of the citizens.
We are told that developing solar energy, the free and unlimited source of energy to the planet, is too expensive. Too expensive to save life on the planet? We are told there will always be poor people. We are told that growth is necessary for a strong economy. We are told that there have always been wars and always will be wars, based on an inaccurate and outdated belief system about the nature of humankind or propaganda to maintain the powerful in positions of power. Recall Einstein’s adage: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.”
The old paradigm keeps us focused on immediate problems rather than long-term solutions. And as long as we don’t question our assumptions, nothing will substantially change. Let’s go for the big changes because our survival is at stake. Since we are all programmed from before birth and from generations that preceded us, we need to question authority and question every belief we hold to see if it really is helpful. Does the belief invite us to be kinder and more creative or does it keep us small and afraid? Does it help us navigate the world in a courageous and practical way?
The new paradigm comes from the common ground of new physics, transpersonal psychology and mysticism and gives us a new picture of reality, how it works and our place in it. This new story is that we are alive in an intelligent energy field of unlimited possibilities, and we are fundamentally connected to all other beings and the field.
What we do to each other we do to ourselves. What we do to ourselves we do to each other. We affect the environment, nature, the air and water, the ground beneath us. We are all in this earthship together. Our connection to the field provides accurate and unlimited guidance. Through attuning to our intuition, we can access reliable answers to every request we make. The reason we haven’t known this truth is because we have been taught the habit of feeling separate from each other and from the larger world.
With this perspective, we understand instead that we are all in this together. Everybody counts. Cooperation would become the guiding principle of our diplomatic relations rather than who has the biggest bomb. Research has now determined that human beings are wired for belongingness and would rather cooperate than compete when given the choice. With this perspective, we would all start listening more deeply to one another instead of trying to shut down or argue logic with those who hold differing views.
The other reason for shifting to the new reality of the universe is that there are rules governing this viewpoint that can greatly aid us as activists. Research has demonstrated two rules that are useful for this discussion: intention and attention.
An intention is an announcement to one’s self and to the field of what we desire to have happen. Intentions are energy messages that set things into motion. Intentions are more than ideas or concepts: they are desires — that is, they contain emotional energy and the best emotional energy to attach to an intention is an elevated one such as love or gratitude.
Giving attention is also a giving of energy towards something: another person, an idea, a healing, an invitation to change and wherever we put our attention will help that to expand and grow. We put attention on fear and the fear grows. We put our attention on violence and more violence results. Put attention on your intentions and you grow a magnet that the field responds to. By being conscious of our intentions and where we put our attention, we can have a much bigger impact, see more results, especially the results we really desire.
In this paradigm, imagination is very important. Humans are creatures of habit, and almost everything we think today is what we thought yesterday. We are literally recreating the past over and over with our thoughts and patterns of behavior. We need our imaginations to consider the new possibilities. When we put attention into the future with our desired reality, the world as we wish it to be, we are actually beginning the process of creating a different future.
As activists, we need to practice using our imagination and thinking outside the box. We would be more effective if we focused on inventing, designing and conjuring up new possibilities for solving the community’s and the world’s issues. Let’s focus more of our attention on what we would like the world to be instead of what we already have, especially the dysfunctional aspects of our culture.
We make the biggest impact by imagining the way we wish the world to be and acting as if we inhabit that world now. Instead of putting a lot of attention on what we do not like and then adding attention to it by thinking about it with anger or fear and then talking to others about how bad things are, share with others about how things could be different. Ask others who are angry and fearful what they would prefer. Ask others what kind of world they would like to see. We help create a new world by putting our attention on what we would like to see changed.
For example, if sex trafficking prompts you to get involved, think about the ultimate solutions for the problem. What would help create more respectful attitudes between men and women? How could we change attitudes about sex and being sexy? How can we empower women? How can we raise our sons to be feminists? We need to engage in this and any other issue with compassion and courage. And when you go to take an action, remember that your emotions matter even more than your action, so cultivate elevated emotions before taking the action.
Every action we take every day is either contributing to a more peaceful world or not, and remember King’s message that the energy behind the action matters more. Acting in anger only feeds the fire of what we are protesting. If we want a more peaceful and a more just world, we need to act in ways that bring about more balance and peace.
We will continue to get angry and grieve the poor choices of those in power, but then we must work inside ourselves to clear away the anger and fear and fill ourselves up with an elevated emotion such as love or peace or joy. And then ACT.
When Mother Teresa was still alive, activists would often ask her to attend their anti-war protests. She would politely decline and add that if they ever decided to have a peace rally, she would enjoy attending. So, let’s be activists who speak up, step up, stand up with courage, compassion for all other beings, and enthusiasm for the world we are dedicated to recreating.
Kathryn Fentress and her husband moved to Bellingham 20 years ago for the water, trees, fresh air and mountains. She is a psychologist in private practice and believes that spirit is everything. Living in harmony with nature reflects a reverence for life.