angel Kyodo williams

Archive for the ‘spirit’ Category

living on the right

In culture, politics, spirit on August 20, 2010 at 3:50 pm
"Allah, the personal name of God."

"Allah, the personal name of God." Inscribed in Islamic calligraphy on one of eight medallions. Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.

bearing witness to the bend towards justice

Istanbul, Turkey.

Five times per day, throughout this enigmatic city, the calls to prayer, or Ezan, ring out, initiating an exodus from homes, offices and even busy tourists shops and restaurants.

“Allahu Akbar” – God is most great.

It is Ramadan, the month of fasting and the mood alternates between the quiet introspection compelled by taking neither food nor water from sun-up to sun-down during some of the longest days of the year, and the burst of celebration (and relief) of breaking bread for iftar, the breaking of the fast . When the muezzin calls, Istanbullus answer by making their way to any one of nearly 3000 active mosques. Even with its secular government, established in 1923 by the real Young Turks, the Republic of Turkey boasts a 98% muslim population and more mosques per capita than anyplace in the world: 85,000 or 1 for every 350 citizens.

“Ash-hadu an la ilaha illa llah” I bear witness that there is but one God.
“Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullah”
– I bear witness Mohammed is a messenger of God.
“Hayya ‘ala-salat”
– Make haste towards prayer.

From this vantage point, it is hard to comprehend the furor generated around the placement of just one mosque, that of the proposed Cordoba Mosque and Community Center in New York City’s lower Manhattan.

For the record, it is not on the World Trade Center site, it is near. Two blocks away. And for those of us that didn’t know, the fact of long-standing mosques, 4 and 12 blocks away, was illumined by the New York Times. Each stood peacefully in the shadow of the Twin Towers for decades. Both mosques overflow with ever-increasing numbers of believers during this holiest of months. One is conservative by Islamic standards, maintaining separate prayers spaces for men and women, the other, considered to be the most progressive in the nation, is led by a woman. It is the prayer leader of the latter, most progressive of mosques that was inspired to build the community center as a symbolic bridge of healing through mutual exchange. A better candidate couldn’t be found even abiding by our quasi-racist criteria.

Notwithstanding its overwhelming predominance of Muslims, Turkey lays claim to a history of religious tolerance that cannot be ignored. In 1492, as Columbus delivered claim over native lands to Spain, 200,000 Sephardic Jews were delivered into freedom from the Inquisition by Ottoman’s Sultan. Some 15,000 French Jews were saved during the Holocaust. Turkey still seats the Christian Orthodox Patriarch and on September 12, a referendum for a new constitution seeks to extend human rights and religious freedom while limiting the historically long arm of law in exchange for transparency and balance.

As the capital of empires for 8000 years, this city has much to teach the economic capital of America’s Empire. The main point being this: all empires fall. In their wake, what they leave behind is a legacy. It can be a legacy that glorifies the past to be regaled in rubble and ruins, or it can be a legacy that sets the course for the future. An admirable post-empiric future is one that learns from the mistakes of arrogance past and matures into a principled elder state exhibiting universally moral characters of equanimity, restraint, temperance and unequivocally just.

“Hayya ‘alal-Falah – Make haste towards success.

Critics argue that the name Cordoba represents the triumph of Islam over Christianity as that of the grand mosque of the same name built in Spain on the site of a former Christian Church. What they fail to mention is the church site was purchased, not seized, and that it was Christians who turned the 500-year old mosque into a cathedral. It is more likely the beauty the “defied any description” that inspired the name.

Perhaps they should have chosen a different name. Perhaps they should have chosen a different location. Perhaps they should have cowered into a corner waiting for elections and the ensuing political straw-grabbing to pass. Maybe then they could have quietly found themselves a place in the pitiful America expounded by the Tea Party. Or perhaps they should just join Barack Obama in that small corner of Islamophobia that has been painted–and that he ran full speed into–and retract the mosque altogether.

But that would be a shame.

A shame upon them, the politicians that would trounce on the moral foundation America seeks to claim as its underpinning, not only for political gain, but to fuel their unyielding rage that a black man with a muslim name presides in their White House.

A shame upon every single one of the 68% of Americans purported to be against the mosque who love their own freedom but would withhold it from others under the guise of everything from security to sensitivity. Sensitivity to social, racial, cultural and religious minorities has never been our strong suit. As a nation built on stolen lands by people stolen from their lands, developing true moral character is our only hope for redemption.

But most of all it is a shame on us, the rest of the Americans who have not yet stood alongside New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his eloquent–and unshakable–defense of the right of the mosque to be built. Shame on all us for not responding with the vitriol reserved for when one’s very life and liberty depends upon it, because it does. Shame on any one of us that allows themselves to believe this is not their issue, that there are more important things, or worse, that have chosen to ignore the matter altogether.

If you take the time to divine the conscience of the moral universe, as Unitarian Theodore Parker did 160 years ago, you can bear witness to its trajectory. Time has proven there is right and wrong side of history. On wrong side were Axis and Central powers, the Nazis, the Confederates, the slaveholders, Jim Crow. Always on the wrong side are fascists, oppressionists, segregationists, fundamentalists, persecutionists, misogynists, racists and intolerants of every stripe. Time and time again, that moral arc named by Parker and memorialized by Dr. King, course corrects the petty side excursions we are witnessing today and bends, ever so powerfully, towards justice.

“Al-salatu khayru min an-nawm” – Prayer is better than sleep.

It is time for the left to learn to live firmly on the right.

How long will that take?

As King often reminded us, “Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Let us bear witness to that.

As salaam alaikum. Ramadan Kareem.

your in truth,aKw

copyright MMX. angel Kyodo williams

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher,
author, social visionary and founder of
Center for Transformative Change.
she posts, tweets & blogs on all things change.
permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with copyright and contact
information intact.

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and justice for all

In culture, politics, spirit on July 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm

[Adapted from a Public Talk recorded July 8, 2010 @ CXC.]

Today the verdict for Oscar Grant came down. It was involuntary manslaughter. It was the first time I’d come across information that Johannes Mehserle (the former BART police officer who shot Grant) sobbed when he testified about realizing that he had his gun in his hand. Right away an image came to mind of how many people would think, “Oh, he just made that up.” Or, “He put on a good act so he could get acquitted.”

A lot of people are, justifiably, very angry. It’s the first time a police officer has been tried in over 30 years; there’s a lot of frustration. And I’m sure there are a lot of people outside, and in this room, who think that involuntary manslaughter is not enough. And I’m sure there are people who believe he should be acquitted. We get very fixed ideas about how things ought to be and its really, really difficult for us to let things be as it is. I wonder if just for a moment, wherever you sit, you might just be with what it is.

That it’s not just “involuntary manslaughter,” but the loss of life. The loss of life and the pain, that even if it was Mehserle’s intention, it must be his to bear. It’s the pain that any of us must bear when we harm another. And then, the compounded pain of having to cover that up and get tight, to make ourselves believe it was justified. And then, carrying the pain and frustration of people—and peoples—burdened by a system that doesn’t see them.

Is it just for this one person to carry the burden of those thousands upon thousands of people, with their justifiable anger and resentment? Is it just to rest it on the shoulders of one man? A man who had the wherewithal to sob?

Maybe it’s an act. But whether the sobs are real or not, you can’t deny the suffering. In every direction, you can’t deny the suffering. Because if we deny the suffering of others, we deny the suffering of our own hearts. And if we deny the suffering in our own hearts, we make believe that somehow there will be justice if one person bears the burden of a system that has been flawed for hundreds of years—hundreds. Since the birth of this country, it’s been a flawed system.

It’s in the denial of our own suffering that we keep seeking
these petty expressions of justice that don’t speak to the root. That don’t get at what’s really

  • What is it that we’re cutting off in our own lives?
  • What is it that we’re refusing to see?
  • Who is it that we’re refusing to see, to acknowledge the
    pain and the suffering of?
  • What is it that gives rise to an entire society that can have this kind of act occur and split us into pieces? Not over how do we fix this system…but over, “Is this guy going to get sent away to prison for life, or is he going to get acquitted?”

He’ll never go free; I should say that. No matter what, he’ll never go free. Even if he walks out of the court with no time served, he’ll never really go free.

What is it that we have to see? What do we have to deconstruct? What are we holding onto that it’s time to dismantle in our own hearts so that we can create more space for real justice? This is justice that arises, not out of a sense of punishment, but out of a sense of love, justice that serves and embodies love. Not justice that is confused and mistaken for punishment.

Responsibility and Accountability
And that’s not to say that people shouldn’t be held accountable, because absolutely people should be held accountable. We have social and legal agreements that say folks under 18 can’t be held accountable until we classify them as adults. Why is that? How do we make this distinction that if you’re under
18 you can’t be held accountable for your actions? Because they don’t know enough yet.

They’re not equipped to make decisions in such a way that they’re able to be responsible, therefore they can’t be held accountable.

We have a society that doesn’t let people grow up in a way that lets them be responsible. We haven’t taught people to be responsible. So we can’t really hold people accountable until we take the responsibility as a society to teach people how to be responsible. And no one can be responsible, if they can’t love. And they can’t be responsible for loving others if they can’t be responsible for loving themselves. If you can’t love yourself, you cannot know how to love others. And if you don’t know how to love others—I’m not talking about romantic love, but agape love…Universal Love.

I’m not even talking about filial love, but the love that arises out of compassion. Compassion precedes that love. The love that arises out compassion arises out of recognition.

If you cannot recognize—if you cannot see—you cannot love. If you can’t see people, you cannot love them. If you can’t see them for who they are and what they are and where they are in all their differences, not their sameness…in all their differences. That’s where it gets ugly: when people are different and you can’t make sense of them easily. If you can’t see people for their differences, and appreciate their differences—not like them…I’m not talking about like them—who cares about that? I’m talking about love, the magnetic energy that is a vibration of your cells in relationship to other living cells. If you can’t see people’s differences, if you can’t see people for who they are, you cannot love them. And the main reason most of us cannot see others is because we can’t see ourselves…we won’t see ourselves.

It’s hard to hold the whole truth of who we are. It’s hard. But if you don’t want to hold the truth of who you for yourself, do it for us. Do it for us, because we need every single one of you. I need you to see me for who I am, and I know you can’t do that if you cannot see yourself. I need to be able to hold you accountable for how you show up. But I can’t do that if you’re not responsible for yourself, because you don’t even know who you are.

When we don’t reconcile the challenge of meeting ourselves, we look for false justice. We punish rather than hold accountable. We seek retribution rather than resolution. We try to get our broken hearts met by breaking everything around us in equal measure.

And when we find that our hearts are not met, we try to break more. It’s an unstoppable cycle of violence and trauma and pain and suffering, and it all begins with our refusal to see ourselves.

There are a lot of dark and unexamined places that our culture teaches us we can buy our way away from, that we can consume our way to the land of bliss and happiness never to meet the “me” again. If you just consume enough, you’ll eat the pain away. How’s that working for you?

The thing about our pain and our suffering is this: until it is met and seen for what it is, it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s like the dark places in your refrigerator, things hidden in little containers that you refuse to open, because you don’t quite remember when it got there. So instead of facing the smelly tempeh that might be in there, you eventually run into an infestation of things that can kill you, because you didn’t want to deal with it when it was just plain stinky. That’s really how it is. In fact, in my experience, things are never as bad as the idea you create of them.

Somehow, when we get caught in our stuck ideas about ourselves, we create better images of who we are, and we believe worse images of who we actually are. So we create fantasies and we believe fiction. Neither of these things abide in truth.

So that you don’t leave thinking that I’m all doom and gloom, I’ll give you some homework. Take it home with you, but start it right now:

Think about one person or situation that you’re not allowing yourself to see because to see that will mean that you have to see yourself. And take the first step to opening your eyes. Just one little step. Don’t try to fix it all at once, but take the first step to truly seeing.

Start the movement toward dismantling punitive justice and discovering the justice that comes from love.

—yours in truth, aKw

dedicated to everyone that loves and would have loved Oscar Grant. and to Johannes Mesherle, in the name of justice, in the name of love.

angel Kyodo williams, is founder of urbanPEACE and it’s Center for Transformative Change. Happily, she is no longer its director, but the official Intellectual Guru Emeritus. A social visionary and leading voice for transformative social change, she is the author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace.

Blog: new Dharma: live, love & lead from the heart
Facebook: Like angel here
Twitter: Follow angel for tweets of wisdom on Change

radical relationship

In culture, relationship, spirit on February 17, 2010 at 6:15 pm


three pillars for transforming together

Whether you consider it a commercial fabrication designed to use our tender hearts to draw money from our tender wallets or a genuine 1500-year old tradition of expressing courtly love, Valentine’s Day gets us to thinking about Relationship.

Its no wonder we have an increasingly commitment-phobic culture given that relationship has been associated with martyrdom for millennia. But once we move past the anxiety of proving our love by way of flowers, greeting cards or a trip to the local Zales (Tiffany’s if you’ve got it like that) we can actually make use of this time to hone in on how we’re showing up in relationship to our selves, the people in our lives and the planet.

One of the more edgy aspects of the Center for Transformative Change’s history is its underlying structure. It has been a residentially-based community of people that live, work and practice together for nearly three years.

This experiment in relationship was designed to force us to bring all of the main aspects of life into one place. Each of us would be witness to each other. Each of us would be witness to each other. We could no longer show up as heroes at work while neglecting our personal business without being seen. We had to stop hiding behind being “perfect” practitioners that had all the answers while being unreliable colleagues that couldn’t be counted on to complete projects. In the course of this experiment, we discovered that integrity and embodiment had to become the hallmarks (pun intended) of our commitment to justice and sustainability. If we can’t achieve balance in our own lives and organizations, how can we expect to bring it social, national and planetary scale?

It’s given us great insight as an organization into what being in relationship really calls for day in and day out. Recently, changes in our community challenged us even further to become explicit about the what, how and why of being good relationship. All good relationships are based in mutually-empowered, mutually-respected and mutually-held agreements. What we didn’t recognize was that in a culture that has over-privileged and over-valued individuality above all else, we needed to establish such shared agreements as the foundation for being in community in the first place.

Rather than a long tome dictating the rules of engagement for every possible interaction, we needed a set of principles that could be held within the palms of our hands (brief) and carried in the depths of our hearts (memorable). While we don’t expect everyone will start living in practice-based, eco-friendly, soon-to-be-solar-powered social justice communes tomorrow, it has been a monumental learning, the principles of which can become the foundation for living models of personal transformation within community everywhere.

3 Pillars of Radical Relationship

  1. Radical Responsibility – Cultivate appreciation and come to terms with the reality that your life is yours and yours alone. Each of your choices, actions, consequences, outcomes, experiences and feedback are yours to deal with, be in relationship with and take responsibility for. There’s no more time for the blame game and we all need to to get off the pity line. In community and organizations, this means both responsibility for one self and to others. This doesn’t mean you won’t acknowledge and address very real impacts of people, events and conditions on your life, it simply means that you meet those impacts as WHAT IS. This is Radical Responsibility.
  2. “It’s not my fault, but it is my responsibility. Whatever comes, I will meet it as it is, then either initiate a plan to change it…or shut up about it until I’m willing to do so.”

  3. Radical Accountability – Cultivate fierce determination to shift from allowing habit-patterns to drive your basic experience. Key to transforming your life is taking up the full space created by embracing Choice as a lifestyle. Gone are the days of “it just happened,” “i’m just that way,” “I didn’t have a choice.” There is always choice. And yes, there are consequences, too. We can decide, validly and reasonably, that we do not wish to bear the consequences of a particular choice, but we must recognize, and be accountable, for the choices we make. All of them. Every single one without fail. In groups, community and organizations, this means both being accountable and expecting to be held accountable. When we feel stuck, we often cannot see the choices available to us. If you commit to a practice, greater and greater choice becomes apparent. In the meantime, you can choose Radical Accountability.
  4. “May I exercise the precious gift of choice and the power to change that makes me uniquely human.” Whether conscious or unconscious, the impacts of my choices are mine to see through to resolution. —quote from Warrior-Spirit Prayer of New Dharma Community (full version below)<

  5. Radical Purpose – Cultivate an unwavering commitment to help others transform their lives, too. Whatever intention we have for transforming our lives—all actions really—if not ultimately rooted in a genuine desire to see the live of others positively transformed, will be self-serving and have as its result a building up of the kind of ego-centric worldview that is not only false, it is clearly unsustainable for our communities, countries and planet. The goal for our personal transformation—the end game of “towards what end”—must be in service of our interconnectedness, our collective wholeness, and an integrity of the structures that hold it all together. Our pursuit of justice, if truly transformative, must affirm life and insist of security, sustainability and self-determination for all. Both the how and the why, being in Radical Relationship means your liberation is bound up in mine and there is no justice without justice for all. Red, Blue, Black, White, North, South, Left, Right, our movements for deep change, for justice will best serve us aligned in Radical Purpose.
  6. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “…your liberation is bound up with mine…” —Lila Watson

    “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” —Emma Lazarus

For justice to be embodied rather than contrived, we have to walk our talk, so I like to think of these principles as the Radical RAP. While we seem to mistakenly assign “radical” to anything that is off the charts or “way out there” as an idea, radical refers to the root. In choosing Radical Relationship as the perspective that leads every action we take internal and external, real change arises from, gets at and returns us to ours roots: the fundamental Truth of our interconnectedness and unassailable Love that sources us all.

“…without collective freedom, none of it matters.” —yours truly, aKw

with inspirational gratitude to Kimberly, Simha & Lorna, and deep, abiding praise for El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. may his radical journey to love beyond limitation continue to inspire and permeate my every action.”
This essay riffs and expands on MTX1 part b of the Mind Training & Xformation series, a yearlong training delivering pith instructions for transformation each week.
Find it here: “First, do the Groundwork”

copyright MMX. angel Kyodo williams
changeangel: all things change.(sm)

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher,
author, social visionary and founder of
Center for Transformative Change.
she posts, tweets & blogs on all things change.
permission granted to retweet, repost, repaste &
repeat with copyright and contact info intact.

Fan angel on Facebook
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vowing to save them all

In identity, leadership, spirit on January 21, 2010 at 3:59 pm

many many people

the sweetness of the impossible

Astrologer Rob Brezsny: ‘The secret of life,” said sculptor Henry Moore to poet Donald Hall, “is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is — it must be something you cannot possibly do.” What is that task for you?’

Zen Buddhists the world-over chant what is called the Four Vows. Each vow is apparently impossible: “Beings are numberless, I vow to save them all.” Here at the New Dharma Community, which I lead, says this chant, recommits to these vows after every single practice session. We see it this way: You make your vow and you set out to do it wholeheartedly. The fact that the task is already pre-determined to be impossible, and one commits to it anyway, assures that it isn’t about you—-your sense of gain, accomplishment or even your fear of failure—-AND you put your full effort in.

Here’s our version:

Beings are numberless; I vow to awaken them.
Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to transform them.
The Dharma is boundless; I vow to perceive it.
The Awakened Way is unattainable; I vow to embody it.


copyright MMX. angel Kyodo williams.
@changeangel: all things change. [sm]

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher,
author, social visionary and founder of
Center for Transformative Change.
she posts, tweets & blogs on all things change.
permission granted to retweet, repost, repaste &
repeat with copyright info intact.

Fan angel on Facebook
Follow angel on Twitter
Find angel on the Web
angel in the blogosphere

the year of X

In culture, identity, leadership, spirit on January 12, 2010 at 2:37 pm


horoscope for america’s movement for justice

In the East Asian calendar, commonly called Chinese Astrology, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. The Tiger symbolizes strength and protection, a courageous and fiery fighter that keeps away “fires, thieves and ghosts.”

The underlying principle of all systems that seek to reflect character traits to us based on the year, month, day or hour of our birth is to give us a window into our basic orientation–our internal operating systems, if you will–so that rather than being limited or boxed in by definitions, we have the opportunity to become our full selves because we’re equipped with an insightful compass that signifies where we are. We, in turn, exercise “the precious gift of choice” that is the birthright of human beings, to determine where, exactly, we will go.

At their best, astrologers are astute scientists, read into the deeper meaning and drawing hypotheses about how the energy of stars and space influence our paths…not so much fortune-telling, but more a Life weather forecasting.

Horoscope for Justice
In 2010, a confluence of circumstances and stars align so that we are now kicking off what I’d call The Year of X. Here’s my “hour watching”–or “horoscope” for America’s movement for justice:

It seems pretty obvious that the Tiger/ess is collectively emblematic of all the activists that seek positive change in the world. No matter what sign we’re born under indvidually, we change agents exhibit the qualities of being ferocious and domineering on the outside, but noble and distinguished on the inside. But we tireless seekers of justice are forged of additional qualities that make us a special breed that show up only once in a lifetime cycle.

The usual suspects that we get to point to: King, Gandhi, Suu Kyi, Ella Baker, Black Elk, Mandela, Guevara, Ambedkar…are auspicious figures that seem to appear too far and few between. They are bound together in their diverse struggles to overcome the oppression of their time and space by a less tangible but unequivocally more powerful “X” factor that exponentially multiplied their effectiveness beyond mere tactic, tool or technique.

Their engagement of a unique arsenal of internal “weapons” or skills developed as a result of deep and abiding personal practice, expressed and applied in systematic and organizational contexts, catapulted them beyond the ordinary to the Xtraordinary. Beyond the individual to collective. Beyond personal OR political to the profound. Beyond change to trans–“X”formation.

Beyond. Transcendent. near-Shamanic. Talismanic. X.

Where we find ourselves now is a unique moment in time in which the ability to dig deep into this internal arsenal to express our full collective selves as the mighty and powerful agents of justice, freedom and love that we are is available to us en masse. We don’t have to wait for the random revolutionary savior, but can activate this X-factor ourselves. We can either accept limited concepts about who we are as movement(s) and what we can and cannot do or we can exercise our will, our choice by dropping in beneath the infighting, rhetoric and soundbites to find a truer expression of our noble spirits’ search for freedom through our own liberation. We can wait for a messiah, preacher, guru or President to part the raging sea of conservatism or we can disarm the resistance with our capacity for charismatic conversion. Who needs to win when you can win over?

Colors and Directions
The colors that symbolize this Year of X are:

red, for the fierce passion of our convictions

white, for the purity of our hearts

yellow, for our vast vision, expansive and encompassing as the golden sun, and

black, for the great depth and mystery that is the doorway to that Great Beyond, our collective transformation.

The four colors that represent all people on the planet are held in our hearts because any real fight for justice is not against but for. For the planet, for the people, for life and for love. For all.

The directions? All of the cardinal four, naturally, looking East towards the future with the wind and work of our Ancestors of past coming from the West. The South situates us in this very moment of now, while the North holds the infinite possibility of no-time. With those, we also look to the Heavens above for guidance from Spirit, Earth below for grounding and deep into the Cosmic Center the very core from which we organize.

X Qualities
Most important are the qualities this Year of X asks us to lean into, cultivate and operationalize. Here are the big ten:

First, the ABCs. The “what.” Basics we should all live by whether seeking justice in the world or just within ourselves:

  1. authentic: be who and what you are. no more, no less.
  2. balanced: left, right. work, play. give, receive.
  3. centered: organized & on purpose from the deep core of your very being.

Next, the “how” of our actions. Showing up in a good way as individuals, organizations and communities means being:

  1. aligned: thought, word and action. all one.
  2. integral: complete, whole and radically inclusive.
  3. transparent: out loud and proud, come what may.

For every purpose, a reason. The “why” or toward what end are the three Ss of Social Justice that must be sought after, procured, cultivated and protected for all:

  1. safety: food, shelter, clothing, dancing & moving freely.
  2. self-determination: our way is the way, mistakes, foibles and all.
  3. sustainability: we’ve all got to be here. for a long time. act like it.

and finally, without putting these concepts into rigorous, ongoing practice (beheld with joy, appreciation and lots of dancing) we would only have ideas. We need more than dreams and theory, we need praxis, making each quality actionable in our moment-to-moment-to-movement lives, as:

  1. Presence: be here. now.

As always, both symbolically and in reality, it must be remembered that X is also associated with the unknown…that which unfolds before us beyond even our will and choice. It is how we respond to that unfolding–especially and most poignantly when it is not according to our plan–that is the true reflection of our character and our mastery of those X qualities. It’s when the shit hits the fan that we need to stand firm in the stink with Fearlessness, Grace and Presence.

May you live this Year of X as if your life depends on it. I know mine does.

copyright MMX. angel Kyodo williams

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher,
author, social visionary and founder of
Center for Transformative Change.
she posts, tweets & blogs on all things change.
permission granted to retweet, repost, repaste &
repeat with copyright info intact.

Fan angel on Facebook
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being your best

In culture, identity, leadership, money, politics, relationship, spirit on December 8, 2009 at 11:28 am

Enthroned Virgin and Child. Haghia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey. photo © 2009 angel Kyodo williams

child of hope

the theory, art and practice of change

Every one of us holds some hope for a future America, indeed a future world, that is changed. Changed to what is not always as tangible as our minds would like it to be. Perhaps that’s why Martin said “I have a dream…” In the best of expressions, Jesus Christ, depicted above with the Virgin Mary as a tiled mosiac in the Haghia Sophia, represents Hope. His birth brought Hope to a world that had gone awry, thus the title of the image “Child of Hope.” As agents & allies of social change, we, too, represent Hope for a world that has gone a little astray from the path of expressing the best humanity has to offer: love, compassion, fairness, security, sustainability and self-determination for all living things. We have our work cut out for us. But with a grounded theory, a willingness to learn the art and a committment to practice, practice, practice, we can and we will be our best and through our example, through our leadership, we’ll inspire the best in everyone.

In keeping with a year-end “Best of…” theme, (while doing as little as possible as I head out in the world on the first leg of my sabbatical) I offer these snippets from not one, but all of the past year’s INcite essays. Take them individually or as one big riff on this profound movement towards Transformative Social Change. May any one of these ideas, instructions or inquiries inspire you towards being your best, today and in the year to come.

January | finally American
On the one hand, 2009 brings with it the incredible challenges of the freefall of an economic house of cards built with smoke, mirrors and lots of dishonest spit, an unjust war built on outright lies, and a devastating attack on a people that the world can no longer deny is on the short end of a harsh stick, built on a 60 year theft. On the other hand, we are embarking upon a new year, a new era, and a strange, new hopefulness that real people, tired of being polarized by fear, hate and separation can organize for hope, progress and change. And together, our collective will can make a difference.

February | being all we can be
President Obama has gone on record saying that he opposes gay marriage, but admits this may be a wrong-headed view drawn from his own religious beliefs. I’m suspicious of the idea that God whispers in anyone’s ear and says “you are chosen to have something that other’s aren’t entitled to:” be that right to love or right to land. But since I’ve only been trying to listen to God rather than talk, maybe She doesn’t whisper back to me. So, I’m not one to question Obama’s or anyone else’s personal relationship with God…why don’t we stop questioning anyone’s personal, mutually respectful, consenting relationship with anyone else?

March | can you see me now?
Being in real relationship with “the other” closes the bias gap…But to even get there, we have to look at ourselves first. We have to stop letting ourselves off the race hook and commit to actively resisting the biased waters we swim in by raising our unconscious, implicit fears to the level of conscious, explicitly articulated ones. That’s painful, exhausting, heart-breaking work, but it’s the real work that needs to be done. No less important than your next action, petition, campaign or board meeting. (Those explicit biases could use a good eyeballing here, too.) Plainly speaking, if you’re doing work for change in what’s “affectionately” referred to as AmeriKKKa without a practice of examining race, you’re pretty much adding to the problem.

April | seven deadly sins of change
The Watchmen for Change are made up of Freedom Fighters, Organizers, Agitators and Activists paired with the folks that, like it or not, foot the bills. In a perfected partnership, they are our Supporters, Advocates, Advisors and Allies. Some of us pay with the currency of creativity, vitality, energy and soulforce. Others pay with hopefulness, steadfastness, wild cheering and dollar bills, y’all…Together we are the Jedis of Justice. We are The Ones that We have Been Waiting for to illuminate the Matrix and reveal the passage out of Babylon. We are the Agents of Transformative Social Change.

May | this is our time
A Black Organizer is in the White House. (Wise Latina) Justice is getting off the bench and in the Game. It’s our time. The era of the lowly grunt that toils for justice being the under-appreciated, underpaid underdog is officially overrated. We are now the wunderkinds that can capture the imagination of our nation with our unwavering commitment to Hope, resounding call for Freedom and heart-stopping effort to reveal Truth, Justice and a truly New American Way.

June | a more perfect union
But as powerful as symbols, phrases and slogans are, they only derive their energy from the wellspring of the people they represent. People that don’t just stand in the truth, but express it through the way they live. And just as “words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights” the more perfect union we seek for this country will not arise from a speech, a bailout, or even a healthcare plan…What it will arise from is the embodiment of that more perfect union by folks that know and act on what’s right…

July | the greatest transformation
(And) when Death comes to Friend you, as it will, you can’t ignore it. Where will your vast but virtual network be then? Will they be there to sing songs, share stories and send your ashes back to ashes, and dust back to dust? Will they memorialize you? Yes, connections can be made quick, Friends, Followers and Fans, but relationships are still slow…and the best ones are grown over time.

August | the practice of inconvenience
This is, more often than not, the nature of deep practice: It isn’t convenient. It doesn’t fit your schedule. It doesn’t conform to your whim. It isn’t selectable for good days instead of bad. In short, it isn’t a hobby…it’s a practice. If not as dramatic, remaining committed to established personal and organizational practice–especially in the face of challenge–is a stance no less determined than that of Gandhi’s Salt Marchers, or those folks that continued to cross the bridge in Selma. We put our butts on the line and on the cushion to usher forth a new way of Being Change.

September | beyond the boycott
(It’s) a time for action: sometimes, no matter how many ways you try to describe a thing, you have to experience it to know what it really is. i’ve been talking about transformative change: what it is and isn’t. what it could look like and what it can make possible in the world…But it’s also time for those of us pushing for change to do so in a way that actually seeks resolution, transforming the issue into an opportunity for real change: change that matters. Thus, any action taken should be thoughtful, respectful, measured and leveraged only if it is needed…

October | doing darkness
Unlike change, which can be undone with a shift in context or the swipe of a presidential pen, there’s no going back on transformation. The depth of change that takes place is so deep, rooted and resounding, that the former way of being is no longer possible. While transformation can’t be undone…the decisive question we must ask is “Transformation towards what?” If we want positive transformative outcomes, we must intentionalize and work toward them. Deep change requires deep practice. Simply put, we have to stay with it in order to see transformation through. Through and through, we must weave the fabric of our movement culture with ways of being, knowing and doing that embody precisely how we want to see society transformed: into an equitable, sustainable and just place for all. How we are showing up right now is the state of our transformation. However, if you can imagine the exact outcome, it’s more likely to be change than transformation because our vision is necessarily limited by our current perspective and conditions.

November | meeting change
Transitions are the doorways to change. Choosing to engage transition and enter each doorway as consciously as possible, but with a willingness to not know what’s on the other end, is what makes that change intentional. Life IS change. And if you’ve been around for five good minutes, you know that Change Happens. So your only real choice is to either let life happen to you or for you to choose to live it. One way to do that is to become practiced at happily, humbly and heartily Meeting Change.

Happy holidays. Free Palestine. Love, peace and blessings to and for all.

copyright MMIX. angel Kyodo williams

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher,
author, social visionary and founder of
Center for Transformative Change.
she posts, tweets & blogs on all things change.
permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with copyright and contact
information intact.

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meeting change

In leadership, relationship, spirit on November 19, 2009 at 8:40 am

going in

the art & practice of transition

As an east coast native, the traditional four seasons of the year have become deeply embedded in my psyche and soul as a map and a means for organizing my life. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, repeat. Seasons are like phases in the cycle of Life. Going from one to the next represents Transition: the in-between space of moving from one way of being in relationship to life into another.

Taken together, the turning of the four seasons into a year reflects our collective relationship to and dependence upon nature and all her rhythms, according our journey with the sun and the entire vast universe.

I have come to appreciate this internal alignment with the cyclical rhythms of the Earth, herself as a powerful counterbalance to the false constructs of busyness and get-it-doneness made by Men. Capitalism and consumerism have erected false notions of the rhythms we should adhere to. We are corralled from one hopping holiday or sale season to the next.

While many people use birthdays as their marker for a new year, I’ve always used the early Fall. Fall is both a beginning and ending for me. A time for simultaneously harvesting the learnings of the Spring and Summer before it, while fervently preparing for the rest and gestation of the Winter to come. Once upon a time, I resisted this rhythmic pattern, noticing with chagrin that come Fall, I would invariably take things apart, reorganize them and put them back together again. Sometimes in my reconfigurations, things would get thrown away. Sometimes everything would go.

The people in my life can’t always quite make sense of this internally-driven process from the outside and through the years have mistakenly viewed it as my being restless, inconsistent, breaking down or working through some kind of crisis.

The reality is I’m not any of those things and I am all of them: I’m just Meeting Change.

So while I make a reasonable effort to accord with or renegotiate external commitments and the demands of relational life, there are times when, like the seasons, I must honor this internal rhythm whether it makes sense to or works for others or not. Once you can hear it, to not honor the resonant call for meeting change, is to not honor life itself.

Change Whose Time Has Come

Sometime in August, in the midst of preparing for our biggest event of the year, a clear knowing about what our work needed in order to move to the next level came to me. Holding some sweet sadness for what I knew had to happen, I invited the community I’d been living with in some form or other for the past five years—to leave. I wasn’t kicking people out nor had I made a decision that I didn’t want to live within a community of transformative practice any longer. What I had come to realize was, that as a living experiment—a petri dish for learning how best to support people working for justice in their own deep inner life change—our time had come to an end.

So on 9/9/09, a date representing “completion,” we gathered to bring to completion our time together in that form. As requested, each person planned a transition from this phase or season of life to the next. I had only one request for their plan: that the step they take would be one that would bring them closer to their own life purpose. That they waste no time in a limbo space, but regard their lifeforce as precious enough to not waste a single moment ambling near their path, choosing instead to step out fully onto it in whatever form that might take. They were also asked to state what they would need, if anything, to support this significant endeavor.

Organizationally speaking, this transition was invited at a time when we are, like many non-profits, picking ourselves up out of the dust and debris of the past year’s economic crisis, which is obviously far from over. Many would argue the move as less than, well…sane. But I’d argue that one of the most subtle Arts of Change is recognizing when it’s time to transition, to step forward into the awkwardness of the unknown and to meet change head on. To have continued on with folks that I had a felt sense belonged somewhere else would have been to opt for convenience over integrity, thus dishonoring this work—as Khalil Gibran named: my love made visible in the world—at its core. We each know intuitively that Love sometimes calls for a valiant honor that may set our preferences and conveniences aside. In work towards real, abiding justice and change that will last, our work, and how we hold it, must be the same.

As a result of meeting change on that day and bringing forth intention from as long as 10 years ago::

On October 31, half of the residential community—also meaning half of our staff—transitioned out. Gracefully, and sometimes not so, each person stepping firmly on the path of fulfilling their purpose in life.

On November 1, we transitioned in a new ED, thereby releasing me from the confines of organizational structures while enabling all of what I’ve been able to contribute thus far to live on until it is no longer useful.

On December 1 I will officially begin my first sabbatical after having logged 25 years of work, 20 of them with an eye towards social change.

In January, a new phase in the life of what has become the Center for Transformative Change will begin with the wind of legacy at its back and the raw power of new energy carrying it forward.

In June, CXC will collaboratively launch what we believe will be one of the most powerful toolkits to help shift the culture of social justice towards one of Transformative Social Change.

To hold these transitions off because things were far from rosy and we would be heavily challenged and sorely inconvenienced is to miss the very point of the practice of meeting change. We must come to welcome the awkwardness and inconvenience of change because that is precisely where our learning edges live. So, even as we here at CXC negotiate the sticky places (and yes, there are LOTS of them,) we know this is the right thing to do…and it is the right time.

Entering the Doorways
One of the practices of our New Dharma spiritual tradition is to bring our palms together and bow upon entering and leaving doorways. The hands form what is called gassho in Japanese, a bringing together of all things into One. It is the universally familiar gesture of namaste, prayer, respect, welcome. Out of this Oneness arises the bow, a gesture that in the West might be thought of as a lowering, but practiced well, in its quiet humility is actually a raising up. For us, it marks the transition—from outside to inside; from busy day to quiet sitting; from scattered head to One Mind; from “get it done” to “let it be”—with an imperceptibly small ceremony that gives us permission to release what came before so that we might step fully into what is new.

Transitions are the doorways to change. Choosing to engage transition and enter each doorway as consciously as possible but with a willingness to not know what’s on the other end is makes that change intentional.

Life IS change. And if you’ve been around for five good minutes, you know that Change Happens. So your only real choice is to either let life happen to you or for you to choose to live it.

One way to do that is to become practiced at happily, humbly and heartily Meeting Change.

With love and deep gratitude for all the unnamed stalwart practitioners of the Inner life phase of the New Dharma Meditation Center & Community that evolved into the Outer life Phase with these folks as staff of Center for Urban Peace: chandrashekara thuy tran, Karen Muktayani Villanueva, Premadasi Luna Amada, Simhanandi Evan Stubblefield, Zochi Alonzo Young, seeing it through its transition to the Center for Transformative Change. It is only for each of you that we can now step into the Social (Change) life phase of CXC to see our work for justice and deep change through. Good journey, y’all.–aKw

copyright MMIX. angel Kyodo williams

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary
and founder of Center for Transformative Change. she posts, tweets &
blogs on all things change. permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with copyright and contact information intact.

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the courage to be human

In leadership, relationship, spirit on September 11, 2009 at 12:00 pm

akw palms

a path to transformation

New York City — September 11-12, 2001

The devastation of this day is staggering beyond measure.

We have all heard the radio, watched the television with our mouths gaping in disbelief, our hearts wrenching in despair. We have heard talk of resolve and determination. Plans for justice and retaliation. Unanswerable questions being asked and unimaginable events being lived.

The fact is that as a culture and as a people, we are not equipped emotionally, psychically and spiritually to manage the magnitude of this tragedy in our minds. We have, mercifully, lived for so long under the dark shroud of ignorance to the scope of our vulnerability.

I want to encourage you all, first and foremost, to be still. To listen to your heartbeat. To be silent. To breathe. If you listen deeply, it is the voice of sanity and compassion that you will find there. It is the voice that will remind you of your connection with all beings.

Yes, you are connected with the untold hundreds, possible thousands of unknowing people that lost their lives instantly in the World Trade Center and Pentagon crashes.

You are connected with the undoubtedly horrified passengers and crew of the airplanes turned into weapons of mass destruction.

You are connected with the brave rescue workers, firemen, police officers that willingly ran into flaming buildings as others poured out, only to have two of the world’s largest structures of steel, glass and concrete fall in on them along with the countless victims trying desperately to escape.

You are connected to the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, nephews and cousins of all those people. To their teachers, their coworkers, their friends and their lovers that must carry an unthinkable burden forth.

And you are also connected with the men or women that, with frightening calculation, walked onto the planes of four major airlines, knowing that they would pilot their own deaths and take the lives of innocent people on their journey.

We cannot close our eyes or our hearts to not one of those people. We cannot close our minds to the unbearable truth of the consequences of our actions. Of creating, perpetuating and sitting on the sidelines of a culture that passes off violence as a reasonable tool to achieve peace. Of doling out so-called justice only to those who are not in our favor. Those who do not say the right things, have the right color, were not born into the right caste, worship the right gods and live the right lives. Our unbalanced sense of justice is increasingly available on behalf of only those who can afford it or offer enough benefit in exchange. Most of us sat idly by, comfortable that our distance made us safe.

Now how many additional lives do we need to see taken to make us feel truly secure? What punishment will feel like it is enough?

It is tempting to find oneself taking aim at a nameable group and pulling the trigger of anger. Which is why now, more than any other moment in our history, we must make the most courageous effort, take the hardest step towards living in an altogether different way.

If we are lulled into seeing the people that have committed this desperate act and the people that will surely pay with their lives in any act of retaliation as separate, different, Others that are not a reflection of the darkest parts of our own selves, we will lose this crucial opportunity. We will lose the window to a realization of ourselves as more compassionate, more thoughtful, more fully connected with the events of our world, and thus more responsible. This bears repeating: if we continue to refuse to take personal responsibility for the cause and conditions: for the oppression, the inequity, the sheer unnatural imbalance of our existence, we will never witness an end to this.

So I implore you to not allow your inexpressible confusion, sorrow, helplessness and fear to numb you into turning over your agency. Do not let your desire for a new illusion of personal safety, of “freedom” to give license to further violence.

Our military may be “powerful and prepared” but are we? Are we prepared to, with fierce determination, with the strength bestowed by personal realization, insist that we will no longer let violence be perpetuated in our names, in the name of justice, and most cruelly, in the name of peace?

We must band ourselves and our hearts together to put an end to the cycle of violence that we now know we are not immune from. We must put an end to the wars being waged against our humanity and become warriors for the common cause of peace.

We are desperate to have the answers to every question, to always know what to do and how to respond. It is obvious that there is so much that we don’t, but what we do know is that the way it has been done is not working. You have permission to turn off your TVs and radios and simply feel your pain.

You have permission to not know.

It is easy to see ourselves as good and well-wishing when the fabric of our very being is not called into question. But can we be open and honest about who we really are, about the evil acts we are capable of conceiving while staring in the face of our own remarkable frailty? And can we use that to change?

We need to find peace in our own hearts first.

Many people find their ways to spiritual paths, to personal paths of transformation when the ground they always knew to be there falls out from underneath them. The ground has fallen out beneath us America. Let us all find the wisdom to see this unspeakable tragedy as a doorway to meaningful change, as a precursor to collective transformation. If we do not accept this challenge, if we are not brave and unrelenting in our demand, but instead cower behind the “quiet, unyielding” and clearly insatiable, emotion of anger, the loss of thousands of lives will not be merely unspeakable, they will be in vain.

A meditation, prayer, affirmation for our humanity:

“May all beings be granted with the strength, determination and wisdom to extinguish anger and reject violence as a way.

May we seek, find and fully realize the love and compassion that already lives within us and allow them to permeate our every action.

May we exercise the precious gift of choice and the capacity to change that makes us uniquely human and is the only true path to freedom. “

copyright MMI. angel Kyodo williams. all rights reserved.

Note: This essay first appeared September 2001 in connection with the events of September 11, 2001 and its expected and most unfortunately fulfilled aftermath. It was widely distributed online. The final prayer subsequently became the Warrior Spirit Prayer, the signature prayer of the New Dharma Community, a transformative practice community founded by williams, now based in Berkeley CA and with circles forming in cities throughout the US.

If any good at all comes of it, may that benefit be extended to ALL my relations. —aKw

angel Kyodo williams, the changeangel, is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary
and founder of Center for Transformative Change. she posts, tweets &
blogs on all things change. permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with contact information intact.

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the practice of inconvenience

In culture, money, relationship, spirit on August 7, 2009 at 5:57 am

what’s in your wallet?

Years ago, Gloria Steinem, the formidable godmother of modern feminism posed a query that my fading memory won’t recall exactly, but it irrevocably changed how I view my life. The gist of it was this: if life came to an end for you, if you were hit by a car or something less tragic, but equally sudden while out in the world, and someone had to go through your wallet to find out who you are, would your checkbook reflect your values? Would your statement make a statement and is it the one you would want shared? What story would the carbon copies of what you sign on the dotted line for tell about what matters to you? Not the story of a year ago before the massive nosedive we’re in became clear. Today. Now.

I know, i know….many of us are so politically correct that we don’t write paper checks and maybe haven’t for years, but you get my drift: whether its paper, plastic, prepaid or PayPal…

What’s in YOUR wallet?

Later this month, Muslims all over the world will begin Ramadan, the annual 30-day observance of a daylight fast. Neither food nor water passes the lips from sun up to sun down. The same goes for sex and any unlawful, unkind or distasteful acts. Things of pleasure and things of pain are released equally in a daily commitment to taking in less while directing one’s energy inwards for reflection, prayer and renewal. Since September 2001, I’ve engaged this deep practice of total abstinence intermittently, regaining consistency in the last few years.

When I commented on it beginning soon (August 22nd in North America), a community member scoffed at its inconvenience: it lands just as we are preparing for our own Fall Practice Period, not to mention working feverishly on our single biggest event of the year. Her concern is well-placed. The outcome of this year’s event matters like no other before: like many smart but small organizations, we’re sitting on a financial precipice looking over the edge.

This is, more often than not, the nature of deep practice: It isn’t convenient. It doesn’t fit your schedule. It doesn’t conform to your whim. It isn’t selectable for good days instead of bad. In short, it isn’t a hobby…it’s a practice.

And owing to this practice, as deeply as we are in a literal existential crisis, we are happy. Not happy to be facing the jaws of organizational Death (or Rebirth as the case may be) but happy with who we are, what we do and HOW we show up in the world. I’ve made peace with the fact that one of the reasons we’re in a tight place is because we gave up the Game of jumping through money hoops. We continue to honor our commitment to change from the inside. Daily. 5:40am wakeup bell. 6am yoga. 7am meditation. Week after week. When the bills come and when they go.

If not as dramatic, remaining committed to established personal and organizational practice–especially in the face of challenge–is a stance no less determined than that of Gandhi’s Salt Marchers, or those folks that continued to cross the bridge in Selma. We put our butts on the line and on the cushion to usher forth a new way of Being Change. Facing financial firing squads, we stand (and sit) committed to finding Right Relationship through real partnership with a community of practitioners, participants and donors that care enough to support this new way even when it is neither easy nor convenient. In the process, we stand committed to maintaining Right Relationship with ourselves.

While Ramadan is a fasting practice, it’s not about holding back–it’s about reconnecting with the places within us that have tightened over the year and re-learning to give generously from that place of connection that knows that we ourselves own nothing. We belong to and are of the Divine and are infinitely blessed to express that Divinity here on Earth. On our knees, with foreheads touching the earth, palms turned toward the sky, our very breath is a celebration of Life. Each morning, we meet the darkness in symbolic solitude and contemplate the challenge before us: a day without eating. As days come and go, humbled in the face of our increasing frailty, physical strength tapped, endurance tested, we meet our humanity. Each night, our commitment is rewarded only by the opportunity to renew ourselves to meet the challenge again. The iftar meal breaks the fast in community, a bonding together to regain strength from not only the food but the energy of shared commitment. Ramadan is ended with a feast, but also with alms-giving–sharing of whatever we have–regardless of how much, an equally significant practice of commitment that brings balance.

In an essay on The Transformative Power of Practice Staci Haines and Ng’ethe Maina, two leaders in the field of Transformative Social Change, talk about two kinds of practice: Default Practices are “deeply rooted behaviors that we do automatically, consistently, and unconsciously in response to any given situation” and Intentional Practices are ” those that we choose to do in order to transform the way we show up in the world. Through new practices we increase choice and alignment with our values.” When we are faced with challenge, it’s especially easy to return to–and justify–deeply rooted unconscious practices: fear, contraction, a sense of lack and a resulting need to control. Ramadan shows up every year with a fresh invitation to let go of craving, control and excess with no pat-on-the-back congratulations, no true witness but that of your own deepening alignment with your commitment to Change.

Now is not the time to hold out. Not on your commitments, not on your practice and not on change. Change IS on the horizon. The best thing about it is that at this moment, we can’t actually make out what it’s going to look like. Like much of the unknown, we can take that to be a mark of real danger or of real hope. I’m opting for the latter, but I’m practicing come what may.

Are you practicing what you are committed to?
or, in other words:

What’s in YOUR wallet?

Sure, the best things in life are free. And someone pays–through hard work, advocacy and showing up–for equitable access to much of it. Even if you have a little, break off a little bit of that something. Put your cash where your heart is. We need a little change to bring about big change.

To start you off, here’s what’s in my wallet. While there were others, I am now reorganzing my priorities to support those that need it most:

In no particular order, these are organizations that need support today. Now. Of all the great work out there, I used three criteria to bring these to the top in addition to financial need:

1. Their leadership takes less, little or even no pay, not out of martyrdom, but from a place of studied consideration of what is needed and what is enough. Each brings not only depth of experience, but extraordinarily unique lenses to personal practice as the fundamental basis of systemic change.

2. Their staff, if they have one, are deeply committed to the work, giving of their time and energy generously and unequivocably. The collaborative nature, unpaid volunteers and networks of support make each organization’s impact in their fields much greater than their budgets. There’s a lot more bang for your buck with them.

but most importantly,

3. Their vision is one that holds a unique place for the new change that is still taking shape. They are holding open the doorway to new organizational ways of being, making their practice–how they are being–as important as what they are doing.

Simply said, should these uniquely situated organizations disappear, they cannot be replicated and they would take with them a bright lens into all of our future. Every dollar given to these organizations would be multiplied ten-fold by the devoted thoughtfulness, hard work, deep practice, ingenious creativity and sheer will of these organizations and their leaders, the integrity of each of whom i can vouch for personally:

Ruckus Society
Oakland-based Ruckus provides environmental, human rights, and social justice organizers of impacted communities nationally and beyond with the tools, training, and support needed to achieve their goals. Through these trainings, we help people learn the skills they need to practice nonviolent direct action safely and effectively.

La Plazita Institute
Based in Albuquerque, Designed around the philosophy of la cultura cura or culture cures, La Plazita’s programs strengthen community, families and enable youth to leave behind a destructive lifestyle by tapping into their own roots to express core traditional values of respect, honor, love, family, and community.

the stone house: a center for spiritual life and strategic action @ stone circles
Just outside the NC Triangle, the stone house is rooted in place. Movements for social justice have always thrived in places of sustenance and safety where people can deepen relationships and envision new strategies for political organizing.

and naturally our very own:

Center for Transformative Change (CXC)

Click to donate:

Holding it down on the South Berkeley/North Oakland border, CXC is the first national center entirely dedicated to bridging the inner and outer lives of social change agents, activists and allies to support a more effective, more sustainable social justice movement. As a meta-intermediary, this unique hybrid organization is both a residentially-based community of practice (not just theory!) and an astute articulator of the growing movement toward Transformative Social Change.

copyright MMIX. angel Kyodo williams.

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary and
founder of the Center for Transformative Change.
permission granted to retweet, repost, repaste & repeat with contact information intact.
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the greatest transformation

In culture, identity, relationship, spirit on July 15, 2009 at 7:32 am

“I am convinced that it is not the fear of death, of our lives ending that haunts our sleep so much as the fear… that as far as the world is concerned, we might as well never have lived.” —Rabbi Harold Kushner

In this past month, two things became clear: any commitment to writing about transformation calls for addressing the greatest transformation any of us will make at least once.

The second thing is that we live in a culture that celebrates eternal youth, never-ending life, and an insatiable thirst for immortality. Conversely, we avoid that greatest of transformations, known as Death, as a natural and inevitable rite of passage. Death happens daily, yet most of us are largely removed from it, safely positioned on the passive side of our computer and television screens or the printed page. Thus, when faced with it or its pending probability directly, we are woefully under-equipped to negotiate it.

Here a sampling of reflections, learnings & resources for the journey all of us will eventually take:

Two deaths in particular have impacted me greatly this month. One was that of my naturopath, Dr. Cecilia Hart. The other, was of course, Michael Jackson.

Both were unexpected, felt too sudden, too soon and riddled with questions of “how can this be?” They were both young. Both Virgoes. Both committed to Heal the World…and both so clearly in need of their own healing. One has become intimate and full of personal responsibility in a way that i would not have expected. The other has been far away and collectively held in a way that I would have hoped for.

In losing Michael Jackson, who without a doubt embodied the most complex relationship we, the people have with celebrity and celebrity has with itself, my soul brother Greg Tate captures it best: “What Black American culture—musical and otherwise—lacks for now isn’t talent or ambition, but the unmistakable presence of some kind of spiritual genius: the sense that something other than or even more than human is speaking through whatever fragile mortal vessel is burdened with repping for the divine, the magical, the supernatural, the ancestral…”

a moving and prescient poem by Alice Walker written in 1991…
from Natural Star – for Michael Jackson
I am in mourning
For your face
The one I used to love
To see
Leaping, glowing
Upon the
The stage
The mike
In your
I am in mourning…

In losing Cecilia, who helped guide my health back into balance after discovering dis-ease, I’ve lost, for now, my health insurance: insurance against a system more concerned with medicating then healing even as it denies access to the basic right of health to millions. She belonged to the growing legions of naturopathic doctors, alternative healers, complementary health practitioners, chiropractors and more that stand up to legitimize healing practices that affirm wholeness and well-being, rather than dividing our wholebodies into separate problematic parts to be conquered one office visit and co-pay at a time.
After she died, the mystery of her notable slowness was unraveled. Unbeknownst to her clients that read untold pages of books waiting for her, Cecilia literally prayed over each herb, pill and powder to activate the healing energy of that vehicle. She called forth the power of those potions to be in right relationship with the body they would be in. She helped myself and many others reclaim our health and restore confidence in our innate ability to heal ourselves through better relationships with our body-minds. A lifelong teaching every one of us can practice today.

Both Michael and Cecilia’s Deaths were also painful reminders that we live in an increasingly litigious society wherein the dispensation of our property, our children, even our very bodies is governed not by obvious relationships and moral right but by strangers behind desks and in robes wielding a legally ordered bullet list that divvies out dominion in a way that may defy the truth of our life choices of family, partnership and love, so:

  • Live the life you want; but write down the Death you choose.
  • And because Death waits for no one…write it down now. (really, right now)
  • Though you can’t take it with you, you do leave it behind for others to deal with (or fight over). Write it down.
  • Your last breath may speak your final desire and still your wishes may be dishonored, overridden or overruled. Write it down early, say it plainly and change it as often as needed.

What matters most is what I’ve learned about the difference between connection and community and how desperately important knowing that difference is for our not only our lives to be good ones, but more importantly for our Deaths.

In an ever-connected, internet-worked world, our Facebook can be thick with Friends, we can be LinkedIn to a web of Connections, our Twitterverse can grow exponentially with little effort. With one simple login, we can create our own private Big Bang. We can scroll a ticker for updates on the status of friends and family, gaining tiny glimpses into the lives of the vast network of people we know intimately, loosely or not at all. Who needs to shout out when you can just tweet? In 120 characters or less, we can be teleported into a virtual visit into someone else’s now.

But when Death comes to Friend you, as it will, you can’t ignore it. Where will your vast but virtual network be then? Will they be there to sing songs, share stories and send your ashes back to ashes, and dust back to dust? Will they memorialize Yes, connections can be made quick, Friends, Followers and Fans, but relationships are still slow…and the best ones are grown over time

a reflection on why being in relationship matters to social change…
in relationship with others by Adrienne Maree Brown

“the most important personal and political skill to develop is how to be in relationship to others…the practice of being in relationship with others is what we are missing. individualism – personal individualism and national or patriotic individualism – has created a loneliness amongst humans which is not survivable.”

  • Mere connection and true community are not the same; without the latter, we can be “connected” to hundreds of folks and still isolate ourselves literally to our deaths.
  • The quality of our deaths is a direct reflection of the quality of relationships we cultivate in life.
  • Relationships require reciprocity: Give AND Receive. Don’t just touch people…be willing to be touched–and moved–deeply.
  • No matter how lofty, your leadership, status, role or position won’t separate you from Death, so don’t let them separate you from a real Life: one that is in true relationship with others.
  • It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes one to rest a soul.

In many traditions, words for healing and words for Death are the same. Wherever our journey of life and Death may takes us, the path should be paved with encouragement, equanimity and ease:

powerfully soothing healing and “death-conquering” mantra sung by Hein Braat and often mistaken for HH XIV Dalai Lama by way of urban legend

the maha mrityunjaya mantra

excerpt from a reading meditation i offer for the sick, dying and dead on the in-between state leading towards Death…
Great Liberation Through Hearing While In Transition
modified from Tibetan Book of the Dead for Reading Aloud by Jean-Claude Van Italie and Tibetan Book of the Dead by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Oh you,
who have come to this place,
Sisters and brothers, friends,
This person is dying.
She has not chosen to do so.
She is suffering greatly.
She has no home, no friends.
Falling as from a cliff,
She is entering a strange forest
Driven by the winds, swept by the ocean,
She feels no solid ground.
She is embarking on a great battle.
Moved from state to state,
She is alone and helpless.

Embrace her with your love.

My friend,
Now is the moment of death.
The time has come for you to start out.
You are going home.
Oh, Nobly Bord,
Now is the moment.
Before you is mind, open and wide as space,
Simple, without center or circumference.
Death has happened.

It happens to everyone.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity you will ever have in life is to choose how you meet your Death. But without a doubt Death itself is the greatest transformation you’ll ever make.

May you go well.

Rest in Peace, Michael.
Rest In Peace, Cecilia.

May you each be liberated.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be free.

copyright MMIX. angel Kyodo williams.

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary and
founder of the Center for Transformative Change.
permission granted to retweet, repost, repaste & repeat with contact information intact.

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