Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Twelve Principles of Spiritual Leadership

Adapted from a presentation at Schumacher College, Totnes, England July 1997 by Will Keepin of the Satyana Institute, Boulder Colorado 
In the course of working with social change advocates and ecological activists, we have developed a provisional set of "principles of spiritual leadership." These are neither definitive nor authoritative, but rather the beginning of a collective inquiry into how we can apply spiritual teachings in social change work. These principles are summarised below as a means for continuing the dialogue. Feedback and comments are welcome.

First: The first principle is that the motivation underlying our activism for social change must be transformed from anger and despair to compassion and love. This is a major challenge for the environmental movement, for example. It is not to deny the legitimacy of noble anger or outrage at injustice of any kind. Rather, we seek to work for love, rather than against evil. We need to adopt compassion and love as our foundational intention, and do whatever inner work is required to implement this intention. Even if our outward actions remain the same, there is a major difference in results if our underlying intention supports love rather than defeating evil. The Dalai Lama says, "A positive future can never emerge from the mind of anger and despair."

Second: The second principle is a classical spiritual tenet, though challenging to practice. It is the principle of non-attachment to outcome. To the extent that we are attached to the results of our work, we rise and fall with our success and failures, which is a path to burnout. Failures are inevitable, and successes are not the deepest purpose of our work. This requires a deepening of faith in the intrinsic value of our work-beyond the concrete results. To the extent that our actions are rooted in pure intention, they have a reverberation far beyond the concrete results of the actions themselves. As Gandhi emphasized, "The victory is in the doing," not the outcome. In our workshops, we have had several environmental leaders react strongly to this principle. As one lawyer put it, "How can I possibly go into court and not be attached to the outcome? You bet I care who wins and who loses! If I am not attached to the outcome, I'll just get bulldozed!" His words underscore the poignant challenge of implementing these principles in practice. Yet he keeps coming back to our retreats, and he actively seeks ways to love his adversaries. He acknowledged that, although it is difficult to love some of his adversaries, one way he can do it is to love them for creating the opportunity for him to become a strong voice for truth and protection of the natural environment.

Third: The third principle is that your integrity is your protection. The idea here is that if your work has integrity that will tend to protect you from negative circumstances. For example, there are practices for making yourself invisible to the negative energy that comes toward you in adversarial situations. It's a kind of psychic aikido, where you internally step out of the way of negative energy, and you make yourself energetically transparent so it passes right through you.But this only works if your work is rooted in integrity.

Fourth: The fourth principle is related to the third: the need for unified integrity in both means and ends. Integrity in means cultivates integrity in the fruit of one's work; you cannot achieve a noble goal using ignoble means. Some participants in our workshops engage regularly in political debates, testimony, and hearings. We have them experimenting with consciousness techniques for transmuting challenging energy into compassion and love-right there in the hearing room. Early indications are that this is helpful in defusing charged psychological situations, and reducing tension in heated debates.

Fifth: The fifth principle is don't demonize your adversaries. People respond to arrogance with their own arrogance, which leads to polarization. The ideal is to constantly entertain alternative points of view so that you move from arrogance to inquiry, and you then have no need to demonize your opponents. This is hard to do, as we often feel very certain about what we think we know, and the injustices we see. As John Stuart Mill said, "In all forms of human debate, both parties tend to be correct in what they affirm, and wrong in what they deny." Going into an adversarial situation, we can be aware of the correctness of what we are affirming, but there is usually a kernel of truth-however small-in what is being affirmed by our opponent. We need to be especially mindful about what we deny, because this is often where our blind spots will be.

Sixth: The sixth principle is to love thy enemy. Or if you can't do that, at least have compassion for them. This means moving from an
"us-them" consciousness to a "we" consciousness. It means recognizing that I am the logger: when I write these principles of spiritual activism and publish them in this newsletter, I give the command to the logger to fell the trees, to produce the pulp, to produce this paper so that I can publish these spiritual principles about how best to save the trees. It is seeing the full circle of our interconnected complicity, and discovering all the problems of humanity in our own hearts and our own lives. We are not exempt and we are not different. The "them" that we speak of is also us. The practice of loving our adversaries is obviously challenging in situations with people whose views and methodologies are radically opposed to ours, but that is where the real growth occurs.

Seventh: The seventh and eighth principles are a bit contradictory. The seventh is that your work is for the world rather than for you. We serve on behalf of others and not for our own satisfaction or benefit. We're sowing seeds for a cherished vision to become a future reality, and our fulfillment comes from the privilege of being able to do this work. This is the traditional understanding of selfless service.

Eighth: But then the eighth principle is that selfless service is a myth. Because in truly serving others, we are also served. In giving we receive. This is important to recognize as well, so we don't fall into the trap of pretentious service to others' needs and develop a false sense of selflessness or martyrdom.

Ninth: The ninth principle is: do not insulate yourself from the pain of the world. We must allow our hearts to be broken-broken open-by the pain of the world. As that happens, as we let that pain in, we become the vehicles for transformation. If we block the pain, we are actually preventing our own participation in the world's attempt to heal itself. As we allow our hearts to break open, the pain that comes is the medicine by which the Earth heals itself, and we become the agents of that healing. This is a vital principle that is quite alien to our usual Western ways of thinking.

Tenth: The tenth principle is: what you attend to, you become. If you constantly attend to battles, you become embattled. On the other hand, if you constantly give love, you become loving. We must choose wisely what we attend to, because it shapes and defines us deeply.

Eleventh: The eleventh principle is to rely on faith. This is not some Pollyannaish naiveté, as many "realists" would interpret it. Rather it entails cultivating a deep trust in the unknown, recognizing the presence of "higher" or "divine" forces at work that we can trust completely without knowing their precise agendas or workings. It means invoking something beyond the traditional scientific worldview. It implies that there are invisible forces that we can draw upon and engage, firstly by knowing they are there; secondly, by asking or yearning for them to support us-or more precisely, asking them to allow us to serve on their behalf. Faith is understood not as blind adherence to any set of beliefs, but as a knowing from experience and intuition about intrinsic universal principles beyond our direct observation, and relying upon these principles, whatever they are, to support us in creating what we aspire to create. This actually brings great relief when we realize it really isn't up to us to figure out all the steps to manifest our unfolding vision, because we are participants in a larger cosmic will. Nevertheless, it is our job to discover what our unique gift is- our unique role-and for each person to give their gift as skillfully and generously as possible, while trusting that the rest will all work itself out.

Twelfth: Finally, the twelfth principle is that love creates the form. As Stephen Levine says, "The heart crosses the abyss that the mind creates." It is the mind that gives rise to the apparent fragmentation of the world, while the heart can operate at depths unknown to the mind. So, if we begin imagining with our hearts, and work from a place of yearning as well as thinking, then we develop an unprecedented effectiveness that is beyond our normal ways of understanding because it doesn't have to do with thinking. When we bring the fullness of our humanity to our leadership, we can be far more effective in creating the future we want.

In closing, as we enter the third millennium, we are urgently called to action in two distinct capacities: to serve as hospice workers to a dying culture, and to serve as midwives to an emerging culture. These two tasks are required simultaneously; they call upon us to move through the world with an open heart-meaning we are present for the grief and the pain-as we experiment with new visions and forms for the future. Both are needed. The key is to root our actions in both intelligence and compassion-a balance of head and heart that combines the finest human qualities in our leadership for cultural transformation.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

How do we bring about Social Change?

Direct Action Campaigns focus on achieving a particular goal. When that is achieved they have 'won'.  Other groups focus on self development as the key - 'Be the change you want to see in the world'. While one focusses on lack, and the feelings of scarcity and fear that arise from that, the other focusses on abundance, and the feelings of generosity and love that arise from that.

These two are not opposed to each other, they can be complimentary, and co-exist in the same group or individual, but groups and individuals tend to emphasise one to the exclusion of the other. Holding both together requires a consciousness which does not refrain from taking sides, but recognises that every side is only a partial expression of the truth. For example, it is easy to see that 'scarcity' is a manufactured condition without which capitalism could not function. Zaman  But it is also a reality with which people have to contend, albeit relative to the social standards within the society where they are living. Blaming the system rather than individual greed for society's ills, may be a way of exonerating individuals, as pressured to act in a certain way within a certain context; whereas acknowledging individuals as having choice for which they are always responsible, sees them as creators of the system, not just cogs in a wheel. Both are true in a limited way.

These different interpretations will engender different approaches to trying to bring about social change. When the paradox of these two is held, and we come into the NOW, a place where conceptual reality loses its grasp, we can tune in to a harmony with what is which releases its dynamic potential for change in line with its evolutionary growth. Trusting this potential does not imply non-action, but a deep acceptance of what is, which sees the change already implicit in what exists. This change is not inevitable. It relies on our efforts as the agents of that evolutionary potential to bring it about.

The realm of consciousness is the place where these potentialities meet with the innovative technologies and the personal aspirations which have the power to motivate change. In that realm differences of opinion and identifications which divide people and groups and prevent them from taking united action, can be seen as the paradox of different perspectives which have limited truth. Any description in words will inevitably be limited and partial since reality resides in the experience which cannot be fully transcribed. Words are like a signpost directing towards the experience. Truth itself exists in the moment of reality we call Now, which requires letting go of the concepts with which we understand and encapsulate reality. The experience of that moment brings with it a feeling of well-being which overrides any circumstantial pain, and contributes to healing. The Hindi saying about enlightenment 'Truth is the Consciousness of Bliss' expresses this. This may take years of practice and a lifetime of devotion, or can happen as a sudden awakening.

I believe that the role of this other dimension (spiritual?) in bringing about social change needs to be fully recognised in order to realise the power of r)evolutionary change as our power. Praying to god for help is akin to making demands from government. In both we are victims of powers that are beyond us. In the experience of that consciousness we can find the freedom to co-create a human society in harmony with the natural world, with its ability to provide abundance for all.

Friday, 18 January 2013

AFRICA a story of cooperation

David Attenborough's beautiful recent series on Africa is marred by constantly referring to the competition between species. The same situation could equally be described in terms of cooperation. Indeed the whole environment is a study of how species not just co-exist but work together to make a thriving community. His constant reference to violence and struggle is countered by huge flocks of birds and animals that manage their needs without decimating their surroundings. But what David constantly emphasises is the fights between males for females, and between species for space and food, a reflection of his orientation towards an interpretation of widespread agression in the natural world. He presents this interpretation as fact which is misleading for someone who is seen as an authority. What a pity he cannot express the incredible communal togetherness of these interdependent societies.

In Tough Times, It's in Our Nature to Cooperate

Peter Kropotkin was a zoologist, geographer, and activist in pre-revolutionary Russia.  When he was posted to remote government jobs in Siberia and Manchuria, he spent three years observing and writing about human and animal communities. Cooperation, he found, was more important for survival than competition, especially under harsh conditions. Kropotkin watched pelicans paddle in a narrowing circle to herd fish, chamois adopt orphaned young, and captive Molucca crabs spend hours trying to right a flipped comrade.  “Sociability is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle,” he wrote in his 1902 book, Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

* Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012).

photo of Michel Bauwens
Michel Bauwens
13th December 2012

A summary:
“Just as slow food encourages chefs and eaters to become more intimately involved with the production of local food, and slow money helps us become more engaged with our local economy, slow democracy encourages us to govern ourselves locally with processes that are inclusive, deliberative, and citizen powered.
In Slow Democracy, community leader Susan Clark and democracy scholar Woden Teachout document the range of ways that citizens around the country are breathing new life into participatory democracy in their communities.
Large institutions and centralized governments, with top-down, expert-driven thinking, are no longer society’s drivers. In fact, they are often responsible for tearing communities apart. New decision-making techniques now pair with cutting-edge communication tools to make local communities—and the citizens who live there—uniquely suited to meet today’s challenges.
In Slow Democracy, readers learn the stories of residents who gain community control of water systems and local forests, parents who find creative solutions to divisive and seemingly irreconcilable school-redistricting issues, and a host of other citizen-led actions that are reinvigorating local democracy and decision making.
Along with real-life examples of slow democracy in action, Clark and Teachout also provide twenty simple guidelines for communities, and citizens, to use as ways to reinvigorate their local democratic process.
With a future more and more focused on local food, local energy, and local economies, Slow Democracy offers strategies to improve our skills at local governance and to reinvigorate community democracy.”

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation Announces Next Steps


December 30, 2012

To the People of Mexico:

To the Peoples and Goverments of the World:

Brothers and Sisters:

Compañeros and compañeras:

This past December 21, 2012, in the pre-dawn hours, tens of thousands of indigenous Zapatistas mobilized and we took over, peacefully and in silence, 5 municipal seats in the Mexican southeastern state of Chiapas.

San Cristobal, Chiapas. December 21, 2012
In the cities of Palenque, Altamirano, Las Margaritas, Ocosingo, and San Cristobal de las Casas, we watched you and we watched ourselves in silence.

This is not a message of resignation.

It is not one of war, death, or destruction.

Our message is one of struggle and resistance.

After the media-driven coup d'état that exalted a poorly concealed and even more poorly disguised ignorance to the federal executive branch, we made ourselves present so that you would know that if they never left, neither did we.

Six years ago, a segment of the political and intellectual class went out in search of someone to blame for its loss. At that time we were in cities and communities, struggling for justice for an Atenco that was not fashionable at that time.

On that yesterday first they defamed us, and then they wanted to shut us up. Too incapable and dishonest to see that within themselves they had and have the seeds of their own destruction, they tried to make us disappear with lies and complicit silence.

Six years later, two things remain clear:

They don't need us to fail.

We don't need them to survive.

We never left, even though media from all over the spectrum have dedicated themselves to making you believe that, and we are reemerging as the indigenous Zapatistas that we are and will be.

In these past years we've strengthened ourselves and we have significantly improved our living conditions. Our standard of living is superior to that of the indigenous communities that are linked to the governments in power, that receive charity and squander it all on alcohol and useless things.

Our homes improve without hurting nature by imposing roads upon it that are foreign to it. In our villages, the land that was previously used to fatten estate owners' cattle is now used to grow the corn, beans, and vegetables that brighten our tables.
Our work has the double satisfaction of providing us with what we need to live honorably and to contribute to the collective growth of our communities.
Our boys and girls go to a school that teaches them their own history, that of their fatherland and of the world, as well as the sciences and techniques they need to grow without no longer being indigenous.

The indigenous Zapatista women are not sold as merchandise. The indigenous PRI members go to our hospitals, clinics, and laboratories because in those provided by the government there are no medicines, nor equipment, nor doctors, nor qualified personnell.

Our culture florishes not insolation, but rather enriched by contact with the cultures of other peoples of Mexico and the world.

We govern and we govern ourselves, always seeking agreement before confrontation.

All of this has been achieved not only without the government, the political class, and the media that accompanies them, but also while resisting their attacks of all kinds.

We have demonstrated, yet again, that we are who we are. With our silence, we were present.

Now, with our word we announce that:

First: we reaffirm and consolidate our membership in the National Indigenous Congress [CNI],a space for meeting with the original peoples of our country.

Second: we will resume contact with our compañeros and compañeras who are Adherents to the Sixth eclaration of the Lacandon Jungle in Mexico and around the world.

Third: we will try to construct the necessary bridges towards the social movements that have arisen and will arise, not to lead them or take their place, but rather to learn from them, from their history, from their journeys and fates.

For this we have achieved the support of individuals and groups in different parts of the world who comprise the support teams for the EZLN's Sixth and International commissions, so that they will become communication links between the Zapatista Support Bases and the individuals, groups, and collectives that are Adherents to the Sixth Declaration in Mexico and around the world who still maintain their conviction and dedication to the construction of a leftist non-institutional alternative.

Fourth: our critical distance from the Mexican political class will continue; they have done nothing but prosper at the cost of the necessities and the hopes of humble and simple people.

Fifth: regarding the federal, state, and municipal bad governments--executive, legislative, and judicial--, and the media that accompanies them, we say to them the following:

The bad governments from all over the political spectrum, without exception, have done everything they can to destroy us, buy us, and make us give in. The PRI, PAN, PRD, PVEM, PT, CC, and the future RN party have attacked us militarily, politically, socially, and ideologically.

The corporate media tried to make us disappear, first with servile and opportunistic slander, later with cunning and complicit silence. Those whom they served and whose moneys breastfeed them are no longer around. And those who have taken their place won't last longer than their predecesors.

As was evident on December 21, 2012, they've all failed.

It remains to be seen if the federal, executive, legislative, and judicial government decides to once again resort to the counterinsurgency policy that has only achieved a rickety farse clumsily based on media management, or if it recognizes and fulfills its duty and raises indigenous rights and culture to constitutional ranking as established by the so-called "San Andres Accords," signed by the federal government in 1996, which was ruled by the same party that now controls the executive branch.

It remains to be seen if the state government will decide if it continues its dishonest and despicable strategy of its predecesor which, in addition to being corrupt and deceitful, used the Chiapan people's money for his own enrichment and that of his accomplices and set about openly buying voices and pens in the media, while he heaped misery upon the Chiapan people, at the same time that he was using police and paramilitaries to try to stop the organizational advance of the Zapatista villages; or if it will instead, with truth and justice, accept our existence and the idea that a new form of social life is blossoming in Zapatista territory, Chiapas, Mexico. Blossoming that draws the attention of honest people all over the planet.

It remains to be seen if the municipal governments decide to keep swallowing the millstones that the anti-Zapatista or supposedly "Zapatista" organizations use to extort them to attack our communities, or if they instead use that money to improve the living conditions of their constituents.

It remains to be seen if the people of Mexico who organize themselves in electoral struggle and resist decide to continue viewing us as the enemies or rivals upon whom they can unload their frustration about the frauds and attacks that, in the end, all of us suffer, and if in their struggle for power they continue to ally themselves with our persecutors; or if they finally see in us another way of doing politics.

Sixth: in the coming days the EZLN, through its Sixth and International commissions, will announce a series of initiatives of a civil and peaceful nature, to continue walking together with the other original peoples of Mexico and the whole continent, along with those in Mexico and around the whole world who resist and struggle down and to the left.

Brothers and sisters:
Compañeros and compañeras:

Before, we had the good fortune of honest and noble attention from various media outlets. We thanked them for it then. But that was completely erased with their later attitude.

Those who bet that we only existed in the media and that with the siege of lies and silence we would disappear were wrong.

When there weren't cameras, microphones, pens, ears, and looks, we existed.

When they defamed us, we existed.

When they silenced us, we existed.

And here we are, existing.

Our pace, as has been demonstrated, does not depend upon our impact in the media, but rather upon the world's and its parts' understanding, upon the indigenous wisdom that dictates our steps, upon the unflinching courage that comes from below and to the left.

From now on, our word will begin to be selective in its recipient and, with the exception of a few occassions, will only be understood by those who have walked and walk with us without giving in to the media and current trends.

Here, with not a few errors and a lot of difficulties, another way of doing politics is already a reality.
Few, very few, will have the priviledge of knowing it and learning from it directly.

Nineteen years ago we surprised them by taking over their cities with fire and blood. Now we've done it again, without weapons, without death, without destruction.

That is how we differentiate ourselves from those who, during their administrations, delivered and deliver death to their constituents.

We are the same from 500 years ago, from 44 years ago, from 30 years ago, from 20 years ago, from just a few days ago.

We are the Zapatistas, the smallest, the ones who live, struggle, and die in the last corner of the fatherland, those who don't give up, those who don't sell out, those who don't give in.

Brothers and sisters:
compañeros and compañeras:

We are the Zapatistas, and we send you a hug.




From the mountains of the Mexican southeast,
For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee -- General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico. December 2012-January 2013.

In Spanish: EZLN Anuncia sus Pasos Siguientes
Translation: Kristin Bricker