Embodying Ease for Social Changemakers

There’s a lot of suffering in the world right now. The climate crisis, inhumane treatment of migrants at the southern border, tenuous international relations, and political corruption, to name a few. The pathway to a thriving future can seem foggy at best. It can feel like a struggle to keep up with what can seem like an avalanche of bad news, let alone make progress on doing something about it.

Now let’s pause for a moment. Observe where your body is right now. How are you sitting or standing? What’s the quality of your breath?

As I write about all of these problems in the world, I’m noticing that my body is collapsed in on itself. I’m slouched over my keyboard with my neck in an awkward, almost painful angle. My shoulders are drawn in, creating tension in my back. My abdominal muscles and belly are tight, and my breath is shallow and constrained. It’s not a very easeful or empowering way to be holding myself! I’m literally embodying the struggle in the world that I’m worried about.

Let’s both do ourselves a favor. Try this: stand or sit upright, take a deep breath, and focus your attention on a point in the distance while wiggling and stretching in whatever way feels good. Do that and come back.

Where is your body now? What are you experiencing after wiggling a bit?

My spine feels longer and my belly is more relaxed, letting a bit more air into my lungs.

For me, I’ve noticed recently that being collapsed is the position my body defaults to, especially when I’m worried about the state of the world. Sitting, standing, and moving with “good posture” actually feels strange and uncomfortable to me because I’m so accustomed to slouching (aside: “sitting up straight” is also not good posture). Slouching, of course, causes problems in the long term that I’m already noticing. I regularly experience pain in my neck, back, and hips because I’m so often out of alignment and ultimately working against my body rather than with it. Spending hours and hours a day sitting at my computer doesn’t help.

Beyond the physical effects of holding my body that way, I notice that my mental state tends to mirror the tension and misalignment in my body. When I’m tense and hunched over, I tend to feel frustrated and overwhelmed. I’m not sure which comes first, but my spiraling thoughts and collapsed posture definitely feed into each other. It’s exhausting!

If this sounds at all familiar, I have good news: there is nothing wrong with you, AND another way is possible.

Consider for a moment that the human brain is wired to always be looking out for threats. And when it finds a threat, even a little one, it’s default response is to put your body into defense mode to keep you safe. We each have a different way our bodies do this. For me, I tense my muscles, tighten my belly, and collapse my shoulders and back to get small and protect my core. For you it might be a little different. That response might have been helpful 10,000 years ago when humans had to avoid predators, but today that response more often leads us to work harder than we need to.

Fortunately, we can learn to observe when this natural response is happening and shift our attention to a more authentic way of holding our body. And we can do the same with our brain when we notice that aspect of our mind some people call “monkey mind” or “lizard brain” chattering at us as it swings from worry, to doubt, and back to worry.

The even better news is that each of us has a gentle voice of wisdom inside of us that will gladly share possibilities for acting and moving with ease.

When you observe yourself tense or slouching, take a moment to thank yourself for noticing that there could be a more easeful way to hold your body. Then move your body around in a way that feels good until you settle into a more aligned position. Seriously! Without straining, roll your shoulders and head, lengthen your spine, relax your belly, and wiggle to your heart’s content. Your body will tell you where to land.

Likewise, when you observe your monkey mind chattering at you with worries and doubts, you can “move” your attention by first considering what you’re grateful for. It can be anything! The voice that responds is your voice of wisdom. Take a moment to ask that voice, “What is the smallest, simplest action I can do right now that would produce a meaningful result?”

And do that thing! Notice what it’s like to align your actions with your voice of wisdom rather than your worries and doubts.

At first, you’ll probably notice yourself go back to your old ways of thinking and moving. I was just slouching again when I wrote that sentence. That’s normal! Acknowledge yourself for building the skill to notice when you’re out of alignment, and shift your attention to being aligned. Creating a new normal requires lots of practice and support.

Getting support could be as simple as asking a friend or loved one to let you know when they notice you holding your body out of alignment. You might also want support seeing clearly what being authentically aligned actually feels like for you.

That’s why RSC has teamed up with KORU Real Wellness to create Embodying Ease for Social Changemakers, a one-day workshop on August 24th where you can learn what alignment feels like in your mind AND your body — so you can experience ease in your changemaking. Because, let’s be real, we all deserve to cultivate ease and enjoy this one precious life we have, especially while doing work to support our communities through challenging times.

We’ll spend the morning looking at practical tools for bringing ease into our changemaking work while integrating our learning through gentle yoga and stretching. In the afternoon, we’ll learn to discover alignment in our bodies through a one-hour Feldenkrais (Awareness Through Movement) session. And we’ll have a delicious vegetarian lunch with time to connect with fellow changemakers inbetween!

Learn more and register for Embodying Ease here: www.radicalsupport.org/ease

Or sign up for a discovery session with an RSC coach to discover precisely what would support you to experience more ease in your life, whether that’s enrolling in the workshop, one-on-one coaching, or something else altogether.

Consider what would become possible if everyone in your community or on your team were making a meaningful, authentic contribution with ease and joy.

We look forward to supporting you to experience that possibility!

💔 Transforming heartbreak into action ✊

There are concentration camps on the southern border between the US and Mexico, and around the country. *

When I really give myself space to be with the fact that this is true, I feel enraged, heartbroken, desperately sad and my mind quickly turns to feeling helpless. What could Ipossibly do to stop this horror?  I live in Brooklyn, far from most of the camps and nothing that I can think of to do, calling my legislators, donating money, etc. feels like enough...


This combination of being overwhelmed by the pain and devastated by not being able to stop it has led me over the last few weeks to turn away, avoid the news, and shove down my emotional response. This response is not something that I’m proud of, but it is a very normal response that my human brain is having to something painful. It’s also a great way to avoid taking action. 


Have you ever noticed your brain leading you to avoid taking action when looking at something that breaks your heart?

Something that I’m learning as I look at my own reaction is that I cannot act without first honoring the depth of my pain (rage, despair, confusion, all of it…). A week ago, I lost my temper and started a fight with my conservative dad about his support of Trump. I'm not proud of this, but I was overcome with anger because as I see it, to support the President is to support his inhumane policies, including the camps. Afterward, I sat outside sobbing and said to my aunt “My heart is broken. I feel like I can’t do anything to stop this from happening.” Her response surprised me. She said, “Let’s sit together and be heartbroken then. If your heart is broken, maybe you need to be here before you can do anything about it.” So we cried together. Eventually, the tears gave way to a remarkable conversation about the courageous and challenging journey of loving people who hold political perspectives that are in stark opposition to mine (there’s so much to say about this, but that’s for another newsletter). 

Through being with the pain of it all (the reality of the camps, the fight with my dad, my own sense of helplessness) I came out on the other side with the valuable insights that: 

1. I have a new skill to develop in how to stay present, clear-minded, and curious when I’m faced with circumstances of the world that I wish weren’t true (for myself, and so that I don't take it out on people in an unproductive way).
2. I’m no longer willing to let my overwhelm keep me from doing what I can do. 
3. It’s important to grieve my pain for the world, and it makes all the difference to do so in community (my post-fight heartbreak was so much more bearable because of my aunt’s support).

So here’s what I’m doing:  I’m working with the rest of the RSC team to create a solidarity fund in which we’ll donate 1% of our income as an organization to organizations supporting people on the frontlines of migrant justice in the US. I’m also inviting my family to have conversations with me about “the fight” so that we can truly hear each other’s viewpoints. 

To tell you the truth, none of this feels “big enough,” but they are steps that I’m taking with an open heart and I’m trusting that these steps will show me how to continue to stay in action. I’m writing this vulnerable email to you, to invite you to be compassionate with your own pain, so that you can take steps toward the changes that you want to see in the world. 

If you’re looking to take action to support migrant justice in the US, here are some ways to do so: 

1. Contact your congress people and tell them to stop the ICE raids.
2. Donate to advocacy groups working on the frontlines.
3. ICE raids are happening everywhere and will continue to increase in the coming weeks. Get involved with migrant justice organizations in your community, know your rights, and learn what to do if you see an ICE raid happening



Notes:

You might be reading this and thinking “RSC, I thought climate change was your thing, what does all of this have to do with climate?”. We believe that immigration policy is a climate issue. The people who are incarcerated in the camps are fleeing many different conditions in pursuit of safety and there is a connection between climate change and the social conflict and economic conditions that lead people to flee their homes, especially in places close to the equator. The world is only going to have more refugees who have been displaced by heat, natural disaster, and drought driven conflict in the coming century and we hope to see climate activists continue to make the connection between migration and climate change.

* We know that using the term "concentration camps" is controversial. This Code Switch episode ultimately informed our decision to use the term, and we highly recommend giving it a listen.

This blog post was originally published as a part of the July 2019 RSC newsletter! If you want to get posts like this in your inbox, sign up here to get on our (low traffic) mailing list.

Active Hope vs. "Just Think Positive" Optimism ✨

Hope is a concept that can feel so ephemeral and hard to pin down. Hope is exactly what I want to feel and believe in, but as I read the news on most days, my sense of hope waxes and wanes. As it comes and goes, I find myself wondering if I’m doing it “right” as a climate activist. Am I naive or ignorant if I DO have hope? Is there even a point of doing what I do if I DON’T have hope?

Sometimes, I find it tempting to give up hope, but having hope doesn’t mean "there’s nothing wrong.” It doesn’t mean ignoring the hard evidence that we are, for example, amidst a climate emergency and that things may not go how I desperately want them to.

Despite the tempting evidence that there is no hope, I have an abiding and stubborn loyalty to it. Writer Rebecca Solnit said “Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. But there are good reasons.”

Teacher Joanna Macy has helped me to find those good reasons, through her teachings on what she calls Active Hope. Active Hope is about becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for. It is a practice that is different from optimism. This is no Pollyanna-ish “it’ll all be okay” hope. Active Hope is about having the internal sustenance to find joy and meaning amidst our pain for the world, so that we can stay in our movement for the long haul.

Active Hope requires us to work to cultivate it every. single. day. It’s the kind of hope I choose to live my life with because it’s real. When I have active hope, I’m not acting as if I’m not devastated by the latest IPCC report (I am). I’m not pretending that I know exactly what strategies the movement should be undertaking next (I definitely do not). I’m simply showing up with my heart open and staying in action to offer the world the best of what I’ve got to give and inviting others to do the same.

Active hope is the kind that RSC is here to stubbornly and persistently cultivate.

This blog post was originally published as a part of the May 2019 RSC newsletter! If you want to get posts like this in your inbox, sign up here to get on our (low traffic) mailing list.


Living with my ancient, reptilian brain 🐉

Yesterday morning, I was feeling low about the challenging journey of building RSC. For a few hours, I was convinced by what I perceived as my "true" fate: complete and utter failure. But, it wasn’t until I heard myself say the words“maybe I should just quit and go get a job” aloud to my roommate that I realized that I had been hijacked by worry and hadn’t even noticed.


The truth is, I love this work. It’s challenging, and this is the work that I’m here to do. It could fail, sure, but I know that the chance to fail is no reason to walk away from a dream-- especially a dream that seeks to transform the world for the better.  After the shock of hearing those words come out of my mouth, I laughed at how my brain had temporarily convinced me that I was doomed.
 

I laughed, because this is what the brain does (yes, yours too!). When we are up to something that is important to us, our ancient reptilian brains will generate thoughts of doubt, worry and fear because they falsely perceive the threat of failure as a threat of survival. But we will not die if we fail. 🦖
 

When we notice that we have been hijacked by worry, one of the quickest paths back to clarity, is to remember what is most important to us about what we’re up to. For me, it was remembering that being able to create my own work, in which I can support the climate movement to thrive has been my dream for years. With that in mind, the things creating my frustration got less significant. They changed in my mind from being harbingers of failure to simply parts of creating something new.


Creating a business, or anything new-- be it a relationship, a career, a project or piece of art -- is hard work. This is because with every step, we are bringing something into being that didn’t exist at all before this. Think about it: what you are creating is remarkable because you are taking something that only existed in your mind, and bringing it to life in the physical world.
 

That’s amazing.

This blog post was originally published as a part of the May 2019 RSC newsletter! If you want to get posts like this in your inbox, sign up here to get on our (low traffic) mailing list.

A letter from Seth: To the audacious adventurers shaping a life-nourishing future...

Transforming our social systems from dysfunctional and unjust to nourishing and life sustaining is the work of the courageous, the creative, and those of us who are willing to look into the face of uncertainty and say “YES”.

The truth is, humanity is at a crossroads between unraveling and thriving. Climate change is worsening the human-induced destabilization of our global life support systems, and we can’t know for sure how it will play out. Nevertheless, you’re called to do something about it. You’ve witnessed and experienced the hurt caused by a paradigm rooted in industrial growth, extractive economies, racism, white nationalism, and patriarchy; yet, you still see that transforming these forces of destruction into a life-sustaining society that doesn’t privilege a few over the many is worth working hard for despite great uncertainty. By saying “yes” to the work of shaping what’s possible for future generations, you have embarked on an epic adventure, and I am deeply grateful for that.

I know from my experience as an organizer and activist that the journey can be exhausting and scary -- rife with unforeseeable challenges that will require your transformation to surmount them. At times, you might question whether you have what it takes to be successful. You might feel lonely and like the world -- or even just the success of your team -- rests on your shoulders alone.

If so, you are not alone! The culture of capitalism has normalized such experiences to the point that “burnout” and exhaustion have become the assumed cost of success, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The adventure you’re on can be enlivening, deeply fulfilling, and even joyous when you are prepared with the right skills and support from a nourishing community. You’ll likely need to work hard and navigate great discomfort to affect the change you seek, but you can succeed without struggling.

My team at Radical Support Collective (RSC) and I believe that the world needs people like you -- people who have devoted their lives to creating a more just and thriving world -- to have the skills and support to reach beyond where they usually stop themselves. The world needs you to go for your biggest, most audacious dreams in a way that is nourishing for you and the people you love.

When you are nourished by the work you do, you will nourish those who you serve with joy and ease.

I invite you to discover what being “well nourished” looks like for you as a changemaker and to see a next step for bringing that to your life.

Read on to learn more about who my clients are and how to work with me...

As a result of our work together, my clients show up courageously to create their biggest, boldest visions for the world while living fulfilling and joy-filled lives. Would you love to access more joy, ease and creativity as you do your work to transform our world?

I work with individuals and teams who:

  • Are committed to climate/social justice.

  • Are leaders and creators of community.

  • Through their work, are transforming a broken/unjust/harmful system or piece of the world into something more beautiful and life sustaining! For example, they might be transforming our food system through radical urban gardening, transforming the political system by innovating electoral politics, transforming our energy economy from reliance on extractive industries like fracking to renewable resources, or transforming the way people build community.

Coaching with me might be right for you/your team if:

  • You want support going beyond where you usually stop yourself as you go for your biggest, boldest visions for what is possible for the world.

  • You want to live a fulfilling, joyous life while also making the powerful contribution to the world that is uniquely yours to make.

  • You have a vision for a project that you know the world needs and you are looking for support to overcome the doubts, worries and fears that are getting in the way of bringing it to life.

  • Or maybe you have more ideas than you know what to do with, and you’re ready to see where your skill, passion, support systems, and greatest potential impact are aligned.

  • You are doing work that you love and want to take it to the next level (or want to see what that next level could be!)

  • You are pouring energy into your work (or relationships) and you still find yourself frustrated instead of fulfilled.

  • You see that the way you’re doing things now is unsustainable, and you’re ready to do things with more clarity, focus, ease, and grace.

Through working with me you’ll gain:

  • The life-transforming skill of discerning your "voice of wisdom" (your innate brilliance and wisdom) from your voice of worry, doubt, and fear, so that you can see for yourself what to do no matter what life throws your way.

  • Increased clarity about your vision for the contribution you would love to make to social and climate justice.

  • Your own personal “blueprint” to living a successful (by your own definition), self-expressed life, where you know in your heart that you're making the difference that you're here to make.

  • The skill of consistently focusing your energy on your vision, even when “urgent” demands on your energy emerge.

  • The skill to shift your attention to a resilient and authentic way of being with others and your work.

  • Support to move beyond the internal stopping points that are getting in the way as you take action towards bringing your vision to life.

  • Insight on exciting new possibilities for creative action.

  • Skills to help you contribute to authentic and collaborative teamwork. You will see how you want to contribute to creating teams and organizations in which each person is supported as a whole individual to be in action around a personal or shared vision.

So! You, transformer of this hurting and beautiful world of ours... what is the next great adventure that is beckoning you to say YES to it?

Whatever it is, if any part of this letter resonates with you, I would love to offer you a complimentary one-hour discovery session to explore the brilliant vision for your life and work, where you might love to experience more ease and joy, and whether working with me as your coach is a good fit for you. Even if it’s the only session we have together, my promise is that you’ll see a clear step toward making a meaningful contribution to a thriving future with ease.

And visit my page to learn more about me, my qualifications, what my clients have to say about their work with me.

I can't wait to hear from you,

Seth

P.S. If you have thoughts, reflections or feedback on this letter, I’d love to hear from you! Email me directly at seth@radicalsupport.org.

A letter to those called to create a life sustaining society amidst the climate crisis

Transforming the destructive and unjust pieces of our world into something that is beautiful and life sustaining is the work of the courageous, the creative, and those of us who are willing to look into the face of uncertainty and say YES.

The truth is, our world is at a crossroads between unraveling and thriving and we can’t know how it will play out. In this moment in human history where we look in the face of climate chaos, rampant ecological destruction, and rising racism, xenophobia and white nationalism, this work (YOUR work)-- to reckon with these forces of destruction and transform them into something life sustaining-- is an a epic calling, and one that is vitally important to the future of the planet. I’m so deeply grateful that you are doing this work.

I know from my own experience as an organizer and activist, that it is a path filled with possibility, uncertainty, beauty and pain. I know that at the same time that this path is thrilling, enlivening, and deeply fulfilling, it can also be lonely, exhausting and scary. As changemakers, we can’t know whether our work will succeed in the ways that we want it to, but we can choose to live fully amidst the great adventure of this time: to work for the transition from a paradigm rooted in industrial growth, patriarchy, and white supremacy to a life-sustaining society that doesn’t privilege a few over the many.

As a changemaker on this courageous journey, you are always growing and evolving and expanding into the next great part of the impact that YOU are uniquely positioned to create. In our movements, too many of us are burning our candle at both ends, being martyrs for the things we love, and exhausting ourselves as the cost of bringing about a better world (sound familiar? I know these challenges very well myself).

My team at Radical Support Collective and I created RSC because we believe that the world needs  people like you, who have devoted their lives to creating a more just and sustainable world to go for their biggest boldest dreams and that these courageous people deserve to live lives that they love while making the impact that matters most to them.

You deserve to be lit up and thriving as you do the work that you do to serve the world… and so, I want to invite you to work with me, to get support to do just that: THRIVE.

Read on to learn more about who my clients are and how to work with me:

Through our work together, my clients to show up courageously to create their biggest, boldest visions for the world while working effectively and living fulfilling and joy-filled lives.  Would you love to access more efficacy, joy, ease and creativity as you do your work to transform our world?


I work with individuals and teams who:

  • Are changemakers who are committed to climate justice

  • Are leaders and creators of community

  • Through their work, they are transforming a destructive/unjust/harmful piece of the world into something more beautiful and life sustaining! For example, they might be transforming our food system through radical urban gardening, transforming racism and misogyny by organizing for racial and gender justice, or transforming climate chaos by organizing for climate action.

Coaching with me might be right for you/your team if:

  • You want support to go for your biggest, boldest visions for what is possible for the world

  • You are ready to start living a truly luminous life while also making the powerful contribution to the world that is uniquely yours to make

  • You have a vision for a project that you know the world needs and you are looking for support to overcome the doubts, worries and fears that are getting in the way of bringing it to life

  • You are doing work that you love and want to take it to the next level (or want to see what that next level could be!)

  • You are pouring energy into your work (or relationships) and it's leaving you frustrated instead of fulfilled

  • You see that the way that you’re doing things now is burning you out, and you’re ready to do things with more ease, focus, clarity and grace

Through working with me you’ll gain:

  • The life-transforming skill of discerning your "voice of wisdom" (your innate brilliance and wisdom) from your voice of worry, doubt, and fear, so that you can see for yourself what to do no matter what life throws your way

  • Increased clarity about your vision for the contribution you would love to make to climate justice

  • Your own personal “blueprint” to living a successful (by your own definitions), self-expressed life, where you know in your heart that you're making the difference that you're here to make

  • The skill of consistently focusing your energy on your vision. You will develop the skill to shift your attention to a more resilient and authentic way of being with others and your work

  • Support to move beyond the internal stopping points that are getting in the way as you take action towards bringing your vision to life

  • Insight on exciting new possibilities for creative action

  • Skills to help you contribute to authentic and collaborative teamwork. You will see how you want to contribute to creating teams and organizations in which each person is supported as a whole individual to be in action around a personal or shared vision.

So. You, transformer of the unjust pieces of this beautiful world of ours... what is the next great thing in your life and and work for climate justice that is beckoning you to say YES to it?

Whatever it is, if you see yourself and your vision for your life in this letter,  I would love to offer you a complimentary 55 minute discovery session to explore the challenges you are facing, your brilliant vision for your life and work, and, whether working with me as your coach is a good fit for you. Even if it’s the only session we have together, my promise is that you’ll see a clear step toward making the difference in the world that you are here to make.

Are you ready to be truly lit up by your life and your work? Let’s talk.

Click here to sign up for a discovery session and here to learn more about me, my qualifications, what my clients have to say about their work with me.

I can't wait to hear from you,

- Jess

p.s. If you have thoughts, reflections or feedback on this letter, I’d love to hear from you! Email me directly at Jess@radicalsupport.org


"Invitation" by Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

Mary Oliver, “Invitation,” A Thousand Mornings (New York: Penguin Books, 2013).

Introducing the Radical Support Collective!

Introducing the Radical Support Collective!

By way of introduction, we are Jess, Seth, and Anastasia. We are each changemakers and leadership coaches with roots in the movement for climate justice. We believe that a better world is possible, and that deep interconnection is the key to bringing it forth. That is why we’re launching the Radical Support Collective (RSC for short).

The RSC supports organizations and individuals to do joyous, purposeful work that is in deep connection to their movements, community, and the world. We use the tools of ecological thinking and coaching to support our clients to both create and be a reflection of a world in which everyone is thriving. We will provide this support through one-on-one coaching, team coaching, trainings on community resilience and strategic resistance, and healing work for body/mind/spirit.