“...but I won’t be worried long.”*

May 25th, 2010

There’s a lot to be worried about these days, what with gulfs drowning in oil, economies failing, racial profiling, etc. Just one glance of any newspaper will offer plenty of fodder for worry. Perhaps you have some very personal worries about your family, finances or organizational survival.

A number of years ago, my sister was diagnosed with MS. As you might imagine, that was a very scary time for our family. While we were trying to figure out how to best meet her changing needs, I was in touch with her often. I remember a week when I’d been traveling, when we’d not talked for several days, and I called her saying: “I’ve been worried about you! How are things going?”

To my surprise, she bristled and said, “Please don’t worry about me. You can pray, or send me good wishes or think about me, but worry doesn’t help – in fact, it makes it harder for me.” I was stunned. Here I was, trying to tell her how much I cared, and she got short with me.

And then I thought about it.

My sister was right. There was no way that my negative cloud of worry could have been beneficial to her, even if my intentions were good. As I further considered what she’d said, I realized that worry had never changed the outcome of whatever I was worried about. Not once. The only thing worry did was to affect how I felt and experienced what was happening. And it never made me feel better. Not once.

My sister is very wise.

So, I made a decision not to worry. Ever. I began to understand that it was a habit of my mind. My heart doesn’t worry, my body doesn’t worry, only my head does. I chose to establish a new habit of consideration and trust – trust that people are tremendously resilient and that the Universe could operate without my constant nagging interference. But it wasn’t enough to just not worry; I needed to replace the habit of worry with something else, and I chose trust.

Much to my surprise, I found that not worrying increased my capacity to attend to what was in front of me. All that energy I’d been using to worry was freed up for me to use in much more creative and interesting ways – like helping to change the world.

I also found that I was much more available for my sister. That was the biggest gift.

As leaders, it is important to notice how we spend our time, and to take responsibility for the impact we have on others. Our worry affects those around us, even when we think we are “managing” it well.

When I stopped worrying, it made a big difference in how I showed up in meetings, to my partner and with my friends and family. I had a clearer head because it wasn’t all fogged up with rat-in-the-wheel worry. I became much more effective. And people noticed.

I invite you to take a moment and consider your relationship to worry.

What does it represent to you? Caring? Love? Attentiveness? Something else?

How might you care for, love and attend to those around you without bringing a cloud of worry?

If you chose not to worry, what might change in your life? What might get freed up?

With what might you replace the worry? Compassion? Trust? Meditation?

There’s a saying that worry is a prayer invoking that which we don’t want. Imagine what could happen if instead of focusing on worst-case scenarios and fears, we put our attention on what we deeply desire and are working toward?

A movement of worried leaders is dreadful to imagine. A movement of purposeful, visionary, mentally and emotionally clear leaders is exhilarating!

In the coming years, we are going to need leaders who are of clear heart, vision and mind. Leading from a place of clarity rather than worry could be one of our greatest tools. It frees us to be increasingly creative, inspirational and effective.

So let’s not worry. Let’s be caring and concerned about our world, clear in our purposes, strong in our visions, and willing to act.

That would be really fine.

From my heart to yours,


* p.s. – For those of you who are interested, here is an old-time rendition of “Worried Man’s Blues” by the Stanley Brothers, from which the title of this piece comes.

May 2010

Women Leaders in Racial Justice

“The Art of Leadership for Women Leaders in Racial Justice and Human Rights gave me the chance to truly ask myself and recognize my purpose and vision in life. In clarifying what my purpose and vision is, it helped me to critically look at the ways that I fulfill those things in my life and to think about what was necessary and what was unnecessary.” – Elizabeth Sy, formerly with Banteay Srei, a program for Southeast Asian women

November 1-5, 2010, Rockwood will be offering our fourth annual Art of Leadership for Women Leaders who are engaged in work with communities of color across the country at Westerbeke Ranch in Sonoma, CA. This leadership convening for white women and women of color creates the space for reflection, deep community building, and transformational leadership development.

Apply now.

Deadline to apply: September 20, 2010

Rockwood at the US Social Forum 2010

The second US Social Forum will take place June 22-26, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The forum provides a space for people across the county who believe “Another world is possible” to build relationships, learn from each other's experiences, and share analysis of the problems our communities face.

Rockwood is collaborating with Center for Transformative Change, Social Justice Leadership, Generation Five, Deep Practice Institute, Movement Strategy Center, Stone Circles and other organizations to create a space for activists and organizations to explore transformative practices – mindfulness, healing justice, and much more. Contact Rockwood for more information.

Rockwood alumnae/i are actively involved in organizing for the event including leaders from: Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Center for Media Justice, Jobs with Justice, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and many more.

If you plan to attend and would like to connect with Rockwood, please contact stacy@rockwoodleadership.org.

For more information, check out the US Social Forum website.

Announcing Rockwood’s 2010 LGBTQ Advocacy Fellows

Rockwood Leadership Institute is proud to announce the 2010 class of leaders chosen to participate in the national Fellowship for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Advocacy.

Now in its third year, the Fellowship focuses on leaders advocating for LGBTQ equal rights and liberation. Thanks to generous support from the Gill Foundation and the Arcus Foundation, this year’s cohort will serve twenty leaders who represent a diverse range of communities, geographic locations and change strategies.

Rockwood’s Fellowship model provides leaders with tools to increase their personal and organizational effectiveness, while helping them cultivate relationships within the field of LGBTQ advocacy. This year’s Fellows will engage in self-designed small-group projects intended to advance partnerships needed to strengthen the broader LGBTQ advocacy movement.

Fellow bios can be found here.

Read more information about the Rockwood LGBTQ Fellowship.