Today’s show is about what it means to be an advocate: why and how and with what intention we should speak up for the causes we care about.
We’ve pulled excerpts from three Commune courses:
• Finian Makepeace talks about the importance of the “second person” who makes an idea available to new, broader audiences.
• Marianne Williamson shares with us the difference between “speaking up” and “tearing down.”
• Suzanne Sterling offers advice for how to discover the authentic voice that lives within you.
We hope this episode gives you some tools and motivation to speak up with compassion—for yourself and for others. As Marianne Williamson says, “There's no religious or spiritual tradition anywhere that gives anyone a pass on addressing the suffering of other sentient beings.”
All of these courses are represented in the Commune Summit! Sign up for free at onecommune.com/summit.
Jeff: Hi, I’m Jeff Krasno and welcome to Commune, a global wellness community and online course platform featuring some of the world’s greatest teachers. We’re on a mission to inspire, heal, pass down wisdom, and bring the world closer together.
This is the Commune podcast, where each week we explore the ideas and practices that help us live healthy, connected and purpose-filled lives.
If you’ve been a listener of Commune for a while, you’ll know that we talk a lot about how personal wellness – feeling well in your body and mind – sets you up for living a life of service, for going out into the world and making a difference, for speaking up.
Wellness and spiritual modalities, from Buddhism to yoga, are designed to inspire right action. Just listen to the last step of the 12-step program:
“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
It’s selfless service. That is where we need to be headed. And, ironically, giving to others is the key to your own happiness.
So we’re feeling good, we want to help, but then day-to-day life gets in the way. Global warming or fixing the justice system just doesn’t seem as immediately pressing compared with picking up the kids and getting dinner on the table, or the problem just feels too big, or we want to avoid the confrontation, or our voice somehow catches in our throat. Something holds us back.
Today’s show is about what it means to be an advocate: why and how and with what intention we should speak up for the causes we care about.
We’ve pulled excerpts from three Commune courses: Soil is the Climate Solution with Finian Makepeace, Teaching the Teachers with Marianne Williamson, and Redefining Leadership with Off the Mat, Into the World.
Not accidentally, all three of these courses are represented in our upcoming Commune Wellness Summit, which is a free, 10-day online event featuring 25 of the world's foremost experts on health, wellness, and social impact. Go to onceommune.com/summit to sign up for free.
First is Finian Makepeace, co-founder of Kiss The Ground, a non-profit organization focused on spreading the word about regenerative agriculture.
As Finian points out, when we think of movements, we tend focus on the first-movers, the scientists, the hardcore activists. However, it's often not the leaders who everyone’s following. It's the “second person” who is making the ideas available to new, broader audiences. The advocate – that second person – is so important. Here’s Finian to explain why.
Segment 1: A New View and the Importance of Advocates with Finian Makepeace
I want to do a one word exercise here with us for a second. It all of a sudden brought up this idea of response-ability. When you look at this word, it's obviously not spelled like that, but what's in there is response-ability. Those doctors in that picture, they have a unique response-ability, an ability to respond. If someone has a gaping wound, they have an ability to fix that emergency. That's a unique response-ability. It made myself and those around me who were learning this idea think, “Wait, what is our responsibility? What can we do right now? What unique gifts and attributes and communities and resources do we have right now to help?” We saw that we have the ability to, we have the response-ability to spread awareness. It's a low bar, it's a low hanging fruit. Anyone can do it, and that's why you're here today. We have this unique position to be like, wait, I can help spread the word.
Our mission at Kiss the Ground, after a year or so of figuring out that we were going to be a non-profit, is inspiring participation in global regeneration, starting with the soil. Of course, this also means that we have to look at how movements start, how they are successful. Generally, a movement works through these three basic phases: awareness, actions, and outcomes. So, why do we have awareness circled? Is because of the significance of that part? What happens with so many movements is that there is a tendency for small groups of individuals to get it. They get an idea, start on the actions, and have their outcomes. The problem is that to have a successful movement, we have to hit a critical mass of awareness. We have to be able to reach 18 to 20% of our population understanding. What we're saying is that whether you just learned about this or are an expert in it already, we need to spread the awareness so that we can reach the critical mass together.
Our leaders are essential. There is no movement without that first person or group of people: The pioneering farmers. Our indigenous leaders. The scientists who are making the groundbreaking discoveries. They're the leaders. As important as that role is, don't undercut the importance of your role. The second person. This supportive role. This role that's saying, ‘Let me learn from you, but in doing so, let me make this idea available to more people.’”
When we look at how movements start, often it's not the leaders who everyone's following. It's that second or third person who's making the ideas available to more communities, more unique audiences, and that is how a movement begins. That's how a movement forms and is successful, because there are people who say, “Look, I'm not an expert, I don't need to be the expert, but I want to challenge myself to learn as much as I can so that I can be a support system.” We're saying, we don't want you to just go to conferences and learn about this idea. Should you? Of course. But we want you to do it in the understanding of the importance of your role as a player in this movement. You're on the court, too, you're not just a spectator. If you want to be a spectator, I encourage you not to take this course. We want you to be like, “Hey, my life is up for a challenge. I'm up for facing this. I'm up for doing this. I want to play a role. I have a unique voice. I have a unique gift, I have a contribution to make.”
Jeff: Our leaders are essential. There is no movement without that first person. However, as we just heard, a movement cannot be successful without the advocate, the second person.
Whatever subject you are passionate about, you need to spread the awareness to reach critical mass, and then real change can result. This can be as involved as speaking at city council meetings or, Finian is also a big fan of small, daily advocacy—sending out books and videos to friends and family. Raising awareness can be that simple.
Now we delve into a more nuanced aspect of advocacy—having tough conversations. As Brene Brown wrote recently, “Of the ten behaviors and cultural issues that leaders identified as barriers to courage, there was one issue that leaders ranked as the greatest concern: Avoiding tough conversations, including giving honest, productive feedback.”
Our next guest is Marianne Williamson, a New York Times best-selling author, spiritual thought leader, dynamic public speaker, and a U.S. presidential candidate. Marianne shares with us the difference between “speaking up” and “tearing down.” As an advocate, you want to raise awareness, but not at the cost of another person. As Marianne says, “Let’s all have some mercy in our hearts and share rather than just destroy.”
This conversation is from a roundtable discussion with Marianne in her course Teaching the Teachers. The first voice you’ll hear is one of the roundtable participants.
Segment 2: Speaking Up vs Tearing Down with Marianne Williamson
I have very mixed feelings about all the movements we're seeing right now. What's your mixed feeling?
That it's creating, that they're really important conversations to have and I'm a part of some of those conversations, but it also is creating division. And sometimes I even see it in the healing spiritual world and white privilege which I'm a part of at first glance, not knowing anything about what my actual background is. And these are really good conversations to have, but then it's just like, I also feel like it has this very divisive nature where we're actually just all humans, but yet there has been different struggles we've all have because of the color of our skin or because we were a woman who were violated or whatever. So there's, sometimes it's confusing to me about, there's so much.
So within the material world, which would include a conversation about something in the material world, there are two parts of the mind. There are two spiritual universes, parallel universes in the mind, the spirit or the ego or love or fear. Everything we do and everything we talk about will be used by one or the other. So there's an aspect of those conversations which is very definitely of the spirit, but the ego always loves to get in there and turn even wonderful conversations into something different. For instance with the Me Too movement. Some of it's really important, I don't think any of us would deny, but all of it, the fact that it exists is important. And the power to accuse should be wielded mercifully. So I think as a teacher you're pointing out both of those things to the life that that paradox and that juxtaposition is part of your, where you can help is to talk about how both are true. And that grown ups hold that juxtaposition. It's like the juxtaposition we were talking about before, to tell someone honestly and to say it kindly. When is it that this man needs to be held accountable? And when is it that he did that in 1987 and now he has a wife and he has a career and he has kids and is it really sore for me to mention that moment? It wasn't, I know that I heard Senator Kirsten Gillibrand say, “If we're having a conversation about the difference between harassment and assault then that's the wrong conversation.” I don't agree with her. There's a difference between something not cool and something criminal or harassing. And I think everybody has to within themself find that place and I think your role as a teacher is to help people own that there are two truths sharing the same place here. And that's very important in your working with couples, that's very important working in serious political issues. So these movements are important and how we hold them. Martin Luther King said, you have very little, morally persuasive power with people who can feel your underlying contempt. So, A Course in Miracles says the primary work of the miracle worker and that's really what you want to be. You want to be a miracle worker. You want to be someone in whose presence people's minds are expanded. Because your mind was. So your primary work is for your own mind to behold the acceptance of the atonement yourself. For instance, if you're talking to somebody who doesn't agree with you politically, your work is not to change their mind, your work is to say, “Dear God, I feel so smug and self righteous right now.” And a smug and self righteous and intolerant left winger is no less dangerous to the fabric of our country than a smug, self righteous right winger. So the work is always, “Dear God, take away from me my intellectual arrogance, my judgment of this person who's only sin is that they don't agree with me.” If I am, I find that divinely neutral place which I cannot take myself to, you ask God to take you there. You know there's a lot of spirituality today that leaves out God, very odd. And people say they're doing it in the name of Eastern religions, that's not even a deep understanding of Eastern religions. You know, Buddhism takes rigor. So this newfangled spirituality that's really just about, I'm the student and the teacher. No, the teacher within you, is a power in you, but not of you. One of the things we talked about earlier was I was sexually assaulted as a young person and I'm glad it was before the time when it would have ever been suggested to me I should use this as a calling card for the rest of my life. You know, I'm glad that I lived too early for that. I lived late enough that it was acknowledged to be processed and that it was horrible and it was illegal, but it didn't even occur to me at that time that 10, 20, 30 years from now you're going to be talking about it, defining yourself by it. I think the point is anything will be used by the spirit and or by the ego. Where sometimes it's not even what you're saying it's where are you coming from to even be mentioning this right now. And that's always the work we do on ourselves. Make sense?
So that's the question, why am I sharing what I'm about to share?
Where am I coming from?
It's nice to encapsulate it into that.
Now, I also think it's very important to honor your people. It's important that young Native Americans are honoring their ancestors and what their ancestors went through. I think it's important that Jews concern themselves with Israel. I think it's important that as an African American woman you would not look away from something like an armed black man being killed in great numbers or mass incarceration. I do think that we should honor our incarnation or gay people or whatever it is. At the same time, there's a term in alchemy called separation, the pieces are separated out just so that they can join at a higher level. So you're a Jew and you're an American. You're a gay and you're American. You are black and you are American. You are all of these things and at the deepest level, we are one because of that essence which is none of those things. So, I think that whole point of demanding justice is so that I can get off the topic. I feel this as a woman, I feel this as a Jew. If I feel that you're not, that you're doing something that's not cool, something in the way you're talking about being a woman, the way you're talking about a Jew, I'm not okay with that, I'm not gonna let it pass. But the only reason I want it to stop is so that I can be in a conversation that has nothing to do with my being a woman, has nothing to do with my being a Jew. I think that that's what you're speaking to. We need to address the wrongs, just so that we can get off the topic. But we're not getting off the topic while you're still playing that game. And that's why I think Me Too is so important, this had to happen. Ashley and I have been in a conversation about something and especially with social media these days, people are quick to take other people down these days and people have real careers, really lives, children they're feeding, they're paying their rent from that project and that's what the ego is. You did it wrong, you did it wrong, you did it wrong. And sometimes in this very self righteous way, in the ways that you were talking about, like pointing someone out, like you weren't politically correct or whatever. Wait a minute. Let's all have some mercy in our hearts and share rather than just destroy.
Jeff: Thank you, Marianne. Let’s remember to have mercy in our hearts, and share rather than just destroy. Putting someone else down is going to get us nowhere.
So, you learned the importance of being an advocate. You learned how to speak without tearing down. Now, let’s talk about how you can discover the authentic “voice” that lives within you.
What does it mean to find your voice? Why is it so important?
Our next guest is Suzanne Sterling, one of the founders of Off the Mat into the World. As she states, “When I ask, what is the one thing that's holding you back from stepping into leadership? People often say, it's my voice, I'm so afraid to speak my truth, I'm so afraid to be heard.”
This segment is from the Commune course Redefining Leadership, with Suzanne, Seane Corn and Hala Khouri. In the Commune Summit, Hala teaches one day on stress and trauma and Seane delivers a powerful segment on conscious leadership. To hear more from this course, go to onecommune.com/summit to sign up for free.
Segment 3: Finding Your Voice with Suzanne Sterling
So I want to today walk us through this process of what does it mean to find one's voice, what does it mean to find self-expression? And why is it so important, not only for our healing, but for the healing of the world? As Hala spoke about in the last module, there is trauma that lives in our bodies, it lives in the cells of our bodies, and one of the things that I know from talking to many people is that there is a lot of trauma that has lived in our throats, lived in our self expression. And many people are still carrying it. I talk to hundreds of people, and I always say, what is the one thing that's holding you back from stepping into leadership? And often they say, it's my voice, I'm so afraid to speak my truth, I'm so afraid to be heard. And as I said, I understand this from a very personal viewpoint. So, feel for a moment the ways in which that particular fear might be holding you back. The ways in which you're able to use your voice, and perhaps the ways in which it's more challenging or more difficult. And I want to begin by unpacking why it's complex, why it's a complex process to actually live into our truth and speak our truth. And part of the reason is because there's layers here. Part of the wound to the voice for many people is very personal, right? So there might have been at some point in your life, especially during childhood where you were told not to express yourself, where you were told to be seen and not heard. Where you were told not sing, not to express that ambulant creativity that's within you. And that was certainly my experience growing up in families' situations where some people had a voice and I certainly didn't. And so this is part of how I'm turning my wound into my service, because I know exactly what it feels like to be silenced, to hold onto my expression and to suppress it myself because it was what I was taught to do. So that may be your experience, it may also be your experience that you are carrying protective stories of your ancestors. And what I mean by that is, for many of us, our ancestors, in order to save their own lives had to be silent, had to not live into their truth, perhaps. Again, my experience was that with some of my ancestors, and our bodies, our DNA, carry those stories, those unexpressed truths of our ancestors. And again, finding our voice can be a liberation not only for ourselves, but can be a liberation on behalf of our ancestors. So there are cycles of silencing, cycles of violence that we have to unpack in our own bodies in order to feel safe enough or brave enough to be able to live into and speak our truth in these times. Luckily, many of us have had opportunities to have access to the resources of healing so that we can actually step forward and tell those stories. And those stories are rising in the collective anyway right now, which is really exciting. And then the last piece to unpack is the collective silencing of individual voices, but also whole communities, right? So, Hala mentioned that due to colonialism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, there is an injunction against certain communities, certain voices, certain collectives rising and being heard in the over-culture. What are some of the collective voices that have been silenced? Some of the collective voices that have been silenced is the voices of women for many centuries. Again, that voice is rising, those stories are being told, the voices of folks of color, indigenous communities, queer and trans communities. All those voices that have been systematically suppressed by white supremacy, by colonialism, by this civilizing ourselves away from what is considered dangerous or primitive actually is very medicinal for us to rise up and begin to speak collectively. So in this process of stepping forward and being an advocate for change, being a leader for change, this process of unpacking these wounds will be an important piece. And for some of us, the healing of the wounds is a very personal process. It's a process where we give ourselves permission to begin to express ourselves, where we look at the wounds to our voice, and then once we have access to our voice, we can begin to step into truth-telling, step into speaking some truths to power. For others of us, it is actually a more dangerous process. There are some people who actually, if they were to live into and speak their truth, it would be more dangerous. So we need to actually step into collective voice as well as personal voice to support each other in making collective change. I want to talk about the idea that we as human beings are actually hard-wired for self-expression. It is normal and natural for us to be expressing what impacts us, right? So if stressors come at me, if traumas come at me, I'm being impacted by them, and my natural response would be to emote, to express, to have a response, but many of us are being impacted by stressors and traumas, and we're holding onto them, we're kind of organizing around them, and over time, those stressors and those traumas can turn into tension and dis-ease. So it's interesting that self expression is actually very medicinal for us, it's very important for us to allow ourselves to make sounds, to express what impacts us. And this is where ritual comes in, this is where creating opportunities for us to come together and express the intensity of being human is actually really important. It's something that human beings have been doing from the beginning of time, gathering together and finding ways to express grief, finding ways to express rage, fear, terror. Finding ways to express joy, finding ways to express creativity. What happens when we find our own authentic truth when we unpack all of the conditioning that keeps us silent, that keeps us small if you will. When we unpack all that conditioning, we allow that authentic voice to rise forward. And when we allow that authentic voice to rise forward in community, there's a thing that happens called resonance. When we come together in community and we live into and embody our truths to express together, to release trauma, to release stress, and to engage in this thing called resonance, which strengthens us at every level. It strengthens our nervous system, it strengthens our immune system, and it strengthens our community engagement. So this idea of finding our voices not only personally, but also collectively is natural to us and part of what we can do is remember that it is natural to us, remember that it is our birthright. We are made to express, we're made to express together.
Jeff: I hope this episode has given you some tools and motivation to speak up with compassion—for yourself and for others. We have a responsibility to raise awareness and educate people on the issues we are currently facing. As Marianne Williamson says elsewhere in her course, “There's no religious or spiritual tradition anywhere that gives anyone a pass on addressing the suffering of other sentient beings.”
To hear a wide variety of lessons across physical, spiritual, and societal health, I highly encourage you to sign up for the Commune Wellness Summit, a 10-day sampling of some of the best lessons on our platform. Go to onecommune.com/summit to sign up for free.
And as always, please leave us a review or send me an email at [email protected] I’d love to know what you think of this episode format. Do you want to hear more from our courses? Or more interviews? We have a bit of both coming up…
I’m Jeff Krasno, and thanks for listening.
Photo by Walid Berrazeg (https://www.wberrazeg.com/)