We are living in unprecedented times. I’m sure you’ve heard this many times before, and still it remains true. Borders and boundaries are shifting – recently I received the gift of a globe, and soon it will be obsolete. Technology connects and disconnects us in equal measure. Possibilities exist now that have never existed before – we can video chat from our phones with strangers on the other side of the planet in the blink of an eye. We can take pictures on the surface of Mars and bounce them back to Earth in a few hours. We can change our political discourse from violence to peacemaking, and from poverty and degradation to community and respect. There is so much to do, and so much is possible.
Ours are the first generations that didn’t follow in our fore-fathers’ footsteps. Many of the traditions that served so well for so long are now archaic, and since we’ve never been “here” before, we cannot rely on the past to guide our paths. We need new ideas, new rituals and new kinds of relationships. If we’re going to evolve (not just change) and transform ourselves and our world, then we’ll need to journey into uncharted territory, and that’s risky.
It can feel very risky to try and make plans when the maps are no longer reliable. We’re going to need to rely on our intuition and interrelationships to guide us, and for that we’ll need courage. The word “courage” comes from the Latin root “cor” which means “heart.” Good leaders can sometimes get away with leading from the mind, but great leaders have always led from the heart as well. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that great 21st century leadership requires that we use the mind in service to the heart – that the heart leads first.
This is risky because many of us have been taught to mistrust our hearts and rely solely on our minds. We’ve been taught that we should always have a ready answer and a brilliant critique or commentary. My belief is that our fears arise from and reside in the mind – the mind is a trickster – it’s clever, often cannot differentiate between fact and fantasy, and can easily get locked in cycles of fear. Choosing and leading from a place of fear will never get us where we want to go.
The heart, if we can learn to listen to it, doesn’t lie. The heart is wise – it’s that still small voice that will guide, if we have the courage to slow down and pay attention to it. I can promise you that we will not think our way toward solving the problems in front of us – that’s gotten us to where we currently are. Now we’ll need to feel and sense our ways forward – to risk living in the discomfort of not knowing, of reaching for solutions that are not readily apparent. I say that it’s time to get in touch with and lead from our hearts’ deepest desires.
I won’t make a cost-benefit analysis here, but my guess is that if we take some bold, well-considered and honest risks, there is potential for great reward. These will be rewards of the heart – of health of our bodies, our communities and our planet. The rewards won’t be valued monetarily, or by any ranking system of winning or losing, but rather measured by the richness of our relationships with our natural and unseen worlds. We may falter, may make mistakes, may experience pain, but we will never lose.
If you knew you could never lose, what might you do?
What might be possible if you were to lead with your mind in service to your heart?
What are your heart’s deepest desires, and what is one step you could take toward them?
Recently our Rockwood community had a tremendous loss. Becky Tarbotton of Rainforest Action Network died in December, and we greatly mourn her passing. She said: “We don’t always know exactly what it is that creates social change. It takes everything from science all the way to faith, and it’s that fertile place right in the middle where really exceptional campaigning happens – and that is where I strive to be.” Becky was a woman who led with great courage and from her heart – she took amazing risks, and we all stand in her footsteps. She was a Rockwood alumna, and I honor her here.
As we enter into another epoch – another time of unlimited possibility – how we lead and what we choose will have enduring impact on the generations who will come after us. Let us choose well. Let us reach for great courage – within ourselves and with each other. Let us take bold risks that will lead toward our collective desires, and together create a world that our children’s grandchildren will thank us for.
From my heart to yours.