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Somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Leadership is not just what we do, it’s how we be. It is our being that allows us to do for the long haul – or not.

Our being can determine how or if our doing lands, as well as influence the experience, doing, and being of the people around us. Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about what leaders in complexity do. But what does it take? Who do the leaders need to be and how do they pay continuous attention to that being?

It might be helpful to say what I mean by being….

Being is about embodying the way we want to live in the future now. It is about integrity and alignment from our spirits – the core of our individual beings – to our external shared spaces and the world.

The Nature Conservancy has a new campaign with the tagline “Nature doesn’t need people, people need nature.” People actually are nature – insignificant in number when compared to the vast totality of nature but highly influential in natural systems. We often turn to nature and biomimicry for useful metaphors and frames for working in complexity (think bees, ecosystems, groves of redwoods, networks of aspen trees, etc.). These same metaphors can be made about the individual system of one person that exists in interdependence with others.

Being is about tending to our full humanity with dignitynot just the logical, thinking parts but the feeling and being essences as well. The being is how we bring love to fierce strategy and make room for each other to do the work without re-enacting or deepening trauma and perhaps even with healing.

My being alive is actually a part of the work…[to] reclaim our bodies and our health, is a form of resistance, a form of resilience.

Patrisse Marie Cullors-Brignac, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and founder of Los Angeles’ Dignity and Power Now

Being is about faith, healing and spirit. None of us have lived in the world we are trying to create where people and the planet have what they need to thrive. In this way all of our work along the long arc of history bending toward justice is faith-based work. Paying attention to our being is loving ourselves into our best possible selves and making space for us to heal – to return to our best, resourceful and replenished selves – when we are depleted or drawn or thrown off course. 

Self-care and healing and attention to the body and the spiritual dimension—all of this is an important part of radical social justice struggles.

Angela Y. Davis

There are a number of ways to pay attention to all of these aspects of being that make us fully human – reconnecting with our bodies as well as experimenting with ways of knowing, expressing, and making meaning that employ the arts and physical expression. Physical practices such as dance, yoga, hiking, running and mindfulness practices such as meditation, visualization, journaling, and drawing can all be a part of this reconnection and caring for the whole self. 

Intentionally paying attention to our being looks different for each of us. At MAG, we like to incorporate some of these practices into meetings to help us bring our whole selves into our work together — and we often share what’s coming up for us individually in terms of our being. If you’re interested in more on self care, see our blog post from spring of 2015 “Weighed Down by Stressful Times? Self Care is Key.” Let us know what self care looks like in your justice-focused work.

Some other interesting ideas we are reading about being and self care include:

Stay tuned as we explore caring for ourselves and for each other more deeply.

Banner photo credit: Roman Königshofer | CC BY-ND 2.0





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