Letting go of hierarchy: what I realized at my 20-year reunion

A couple of weeks ago I attended my 20-year high school reunion. I went to George School, a Quaker boarding/day school (I was a boarder) in Newtown, PA. For those that are not familiar with Quakerism, no, it does not have to do with the Amish. It is a Christian-based religion that operates on the core belief that we all have the light of God inside us, ALL OF US. As G.S. explains on its website, “This straightforward, elegant idea basically means that everyone has the capacity to do good and the facility to be great. You just have to listen to that of God within you and recognize it in others.”

This core belief manifested in several ways while I was at G.S. (and still holds true today):

Everyone and I mean EVERYONE from students, faculty and staff addressed each other by their first name. This subverted the idea that teachers/staff/adults had authority over students.

Instead of being preached to or following orders/rules, our religious service was meeting for worship where we sat still in silence for quiet reflection, and if we felt moved, we addressed the people in the Meetinghouse with the inspiration coming through us.

Everyone, no matter what your economic status, had to do co-op, an on-campus service program where all students performed various tasks to help in the daily operations of the school; money saved through the program supported the school scholarship fund.

G.S. did not promote, in fact, rejected superstar culture academically, athletically and socially; cooperation/community instead of competition/hyper-individualism was stressed, thus, there was […]

Seeing It Through

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a guide on what I picked up about bringing visions to life from my work with conscious visionaries over the years. Since then I’ve had many conversations with people and my own experiences with struggling to see visions through, all pointing to the need for us to rehash a couple of beliefs and practices I highlighted in that guide that will help us stay the course…

Be unrealistic

“That’s unrealistic.” As visionaries, we take pride in and apply our intelligence, experience and creative abilities toward our visions. We dedicate ourselves to a reimagining of an old system or an entirely new creation, making sure as best we can the vision is viable, workable and sustainable amid uncertainty. So when we hear “unrealistic,” especially from esteemed figures in our fields and communities or the intended audiences we’re looking to serve, it can trigger underlying doubt and become demoralizing if not addressed.

We need to trust ourselves and our fundamental creative impulses. We have to remind ourselves of the time and energy we’ve spent in fleshing out and tightening up the vision in light of no precedent, model or example. As intelligent, wise and creative people, we wouldn’t have made that investment if we didn’t believe the vision was possible and worth it. It is precisely because it hasn’t been done or presented before that many can’t see what we can see, give up or shun the vision, and meet us with that cutting pushback of “unrealistic.”

Despite […]

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From time to time, DEPTH will highlight some gems on the web that are very much aligned with its mission to feed minds, move souls and transform the world:

*Martha Beck’s powerful explanation of what’s happening in our world right now with old and new consciousness

*Bryan Stevenson on championing a new consciousness for the sake of our world on Tavis Smiley

*Sharon Salzberg’s incredible column on How to Train Your Brain to See Beyond Us Versus Them on On Being

*Michelle Alexander’s profound announcement about her new tenure at Union Theological Seminary, highlighting the need to explore the moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions of justice work

*The cultural acceptance of transgendered beings in some Indigenous communities in AJ+

Everyone has blind spots, including you

One of the things I come across time and time again in social justice circles is this need to shame folks when they make tone-depth or unconsciously-biased comments. Especially when these comments come from folks who brand themselves or who have been branded as conscious beings. It’s understandable to respond to someone who is making incorrect, inaccurate or lacking-in-historical-context statements with facts, context and constructive criticism. That can lead to meaningful and enlightening engagement.

But what I’ve been noticing is that when conscious folks reveal their blind spots, we’ve been quick to dismiss them as non-conscious beings and go so far as to make personal attacks on their character, calling them sellouts, devils, imposters, or the very things they intend on and commit to standing against (e.g. racists, sexists, homophobes, some kind of bigot).

Look, I understand it can be annoying, frustrating or even infuriating when “conscious” folks say things that seem inconsistent with what they’re supposed to be about or that fail to acknowledge the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality or groups of people existing in society. It is painful and triggering to be overlooked and undermined especially when there’s a legacy of it. The first thing we want to do is speak out, express that we are here and that we matter, make our presence and humanity felt. We feel the strong need, of course, to be seen and be heard.

But we can do that in a way that makes room for meaningful connection, rather than perpetuating […]

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The lure of shaming

Whenever I am met with racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, transphobic and any type of speech or behavior that ranks or questions the worthiness of people (and all living things really), my blood boils, my body tightens up, my jaw clenches. These acts of shaming—of judging beings’ worthiness—bring up hurt, pain that can ultimately challenge my values, intentions, and commitment to conscious evolution.

Last year I came across an Instagram post where a celebrated blogger featured a clip of Ben Carson discussing why he thought Harriet Tubman shouldn’t be on the $20 bill. My immediate reaction was to shame him with friends, banter about his “self-hatred” and “out of touch-ness.”

But the Ben Carson clip wasn’t what triggered me the most.

There was one commenter on the Instagram post that really pushed the shaming button for me. She initially asked why Harriet Tubman was on the bill before Martin Luther King, Jr. And then proceeded to explain her position that as a Christian she was taught and believes men are heads of  the households and should always lead before women.

My immediate reaction was anger. It’s upsetting when anyone puts peoples’ worth on a hierarchy, humanity on a supremacy scale, or limits a particular group to a certain set of roles, but when the person doing so is actually part of the group she’s marginalizing, and on top of that, uses “God’s will” to justify these beliefs, it’s disturbing.

Based on the way she was expressing her position, you could tell […]

The Perils of Unworthiness

In a talk at the Harvard Kennedy School, Ta-Nehisi Coates noted how during the French revolution, poor aristocrats were vehement, more than anyone else, about protecting the borders between them and peasants because “the aristocracy was all they had.” In other words, they needed to uphold a distinction of superiority between themselves and peasants. Ta-Nehisi attributed this to the human proclivity to having to be on top, and in our world, that necessitates others being on the bottom.

Why is that the case? Why do most people define being on top as being on top of others? Why can’t being on top be defined as being our best selves rather than being better than others?

It’s imperative we take a deep look at how we define power because that’s what we’re really talking about here. We’ve defined power in relation to others. Being powerful means having power over others, being dominant, superior. When we define power in this way, power becomes rooted in scarcity: there’s no room for all of us to be great; there are only winners and losers; kill or be killed; life is a zero-sum game. Hence, in order for us to be on top, we must be on top of others.

This goes against the universal truth highlighted in the previous post: we are one. Because we are one, we are all worthy (of love and belonging), and are all endowed with power, no more or less than others. So why do we subscribe to this belief about power that’s […]

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