5/21 Vital Conversation: A Story of Awakening and Getting Into Action

In this Vital Conversation, Occupier Michael Harris offers us the story of his personal journey. Michael, who has been part of Occupy Shoreline in Madison, CT (and is also a facilitator of Awakening the Dreamer and Getting into Action) describes his appreciation of some essential truths as a child and teen, his "forgetting" of these ideas as an adult in the corporate mainstream, and his mid-life (re)awakening into a new vocation and a powerful sense of both the urgency and the opportunity of the current moment.  

Please join us for a conversation inspired by Michael's story, in which we reflect on our own journeys and the ways in which they mirror and inform the actions we take together.

Monday's Vital Conversation: 8-10a PDT | 11a-1p EDT | 3-5p GMT

Podcast Available Here

Here are the questions we posed for this conversation:

  • Think of a time when you moved powerfully and effectively into action around something that mattered deeply to you.  What are some key aspects of the personal journey that got you to the point where you were prepared to take that leap?
  • Describe an experience of awakening to the realization that something you thought of as defining yourself was actually impressed upon you by others and not consciously selected by you.  What did it feel like to have that awakening?
  • What happens if you become inspired to act based on a shift in awareness and it is not yet clear what it is you want to create or how to create it?
  • How does a sense of urgency serve us, especially when we seek a balance between being and doing?

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I can remember that there was a shift in my perspective, perhaps in a way that relates to my state of 'being'  - what I currently held or hold to be important - that seemed to come before moving into action. Even now, that 'getting into action' piece is emerging extremely slowly. There is the sense of not knowing what is coming - either for me or in the larger world - that makes it difficult for me, personally, to make big commitments. Yet, at the same time, there is a clear feeling for the scope and urgency of the issues facing the world, and the opportunity to engage with them in powerful, playful ways. I have been taught that the being comes before the doing; that our current cultural disconnect can be described as a reflection of putting doing before being. I seems important to be grounded in our deepest values, our most profound understanding of why we are here and how we relate to everything else before taking action. This is the deeper story that we might shift: that which we are oriented to; Life or domination, abundance or scarcity.

I am really interested in the 'urgency' question. Where does this sense of urgency come from? Is it just more of the conditioning we have to 'do' rather than 'be'?  What if our simply 'being' was the very thing that could save the earth? Would our urgency be an asset? At the same time, the situation is/seems urgent! How do we find balance or an emergent 'order' (being before doing?) for this question?

This stirs the perpetual inquiry regarding action vs process; doing vs being; or more specifically how to balance the two, so that one is not sacrificed for the other.  Urgency arises when there is dissonance between where we are and where we want to be.  Urgency is generally a mandate for action.  The challenge is to maintain conscious compassionate presence, to look forward to a constructive alternative to what's not working and continue to explore how we can collaborate and synergize to manifest these visions of solution. 


Every moment an opportunity to rejoice in gratitude and forgiveness.

Yes!  This comment is what brought to mind (again) the famous words of Hopi Elders, posted below.

So last thoughts for today, as we consider this idea of balance between being and doing, I think we can recognize that this balance rolls up into something very different when expressed through community. Our community expresses itself currently as a system in which the meme or story of 'being able to have it all' is by definition at the expense of someone else (scarcity) Conversely, we can roll up as a system or community with a different story - one that does not internalize possibility at the expense of someone else. From the individual to the collective/systemic level, a shift from a scarcity to an abundance perspective can provide the shift in the deeper story we so desperately need.  

Thank you again, Michael, for sharing your story with us today.  I especially appreciated your willingness and courage to take us into the space of not having the answers and of grappling with urgency.  I hope this is just one of many occasions when your story is told going forward, and that it continues to resonate as powerfully with others as it did for us today.

I'm also looking forward to hearing how the story continues, as it is clearly still unfolding.  And I look forward to the emergent possibility that our two stories may continue to intertwine in ever more generative ways.

This conversation has brought to mind for me yet again one of my favorite pieces and a constant source of inspiration, the famous prophecy of the Hopi Elders delivered shortly after 9/11 (which, I should note, some have suggested they did not actually write).  I think it speaks to the paradox of urgency/being/doing, with twin ideas of diving into the rushing river and remaining grounded in spiritual growth and celebration.


The Hopi Elders Speak

We Are the Ones
We've Been Waiting For
You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.

Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.

And there are things to be considered:

Where are you living?

What are you doing?

What are your relationships?

Are you in right relation?

Where is your water?

Know your garden.

It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!

Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.

All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we've been waiting for.

My sincere regret for the abrupt way that I had to leave my breakout group with Anita of Chicago and Michael Harris.  I had not anticipated that would happen, at that moment; but such is the nature of my life and the reason that, although I love these conversations, I am not able to participate in them very often.


I mentioned, at my leaving to Michael, that I would leave a comment about a few of the concepts/phrases that really resonated for me personally, during his persentation segment of today's call.  Here they are -


"What I'm going to be when I grow up ?"  I will be 58 this weekend.  I STILL have a sense that there is something "new" I am yet meant to accomplish.  I even have a "sense" of what that is but no idea of how I will “be moved” into that.  Certainly, there are steps I can begin to take.  Start writing something that "could" be published, even though I'm nagged by a feeling that humanity is going to quantum leap (that old 100th Monkey effect or a kind of morphic resonance such as Rupert Sheldrake, the biologist, speaks of) and whatever I might say now, will then be obsolete - though rationally I tell myself, there will still be those people who will be needing to come "up to speed" . . . but that is not how such shifts actually express themselves.  Thus, my own personal quandary.


Which leads me to the next thing you said, Michael, in your segment that caught my attention -


"Relaxing Our Rationality"  Ho Boy, can I relate to that one !!  That seems to be what I am challenged to do, over and over again, lately.  I am in a state of not knowing "what" to believe any more; and relying on the Missouri Show-Me dance to cope with that.  I think my rationality has been sufficiently relaxed LOL; but . . . it leaves me feeling very uncertain and not grounded.


Finally, I could relate to this "We don't even know what we are trying to create."  I struggle with knowing how to get where my heart wants to “see” civilization.  I have a vision, of a world that "works" for all beings - providing generously - at least the basics, with some motivation for "advancement".    


Under that heading of “trying to figure out what THAT is” that we are trying to create, I am deeply grateful and appreciative of both Ben & Jitendra for what they do here at Occupy Cafe.  Recently, at A New Gaia,(the online community that I have responsibility for the well-being of)  one of our members expressed his own feelings of frustration, in our #Occupy Now group.  I mentioned this person's thinking regarding my feelings about BOTH of the political parties here in the US, during my first "breakout group" on today's call (BTW, I will recommend to my community’s member directly, to check out the Occupy Cafe).  Here is what he said (I won't add his name because he isn't here yet) because I think it is still a really important point; and I believe, that it fits in here -


I wonder why the occupy movement isn't more effective in motivating change than it seems to be.  You rarely hear of it on the front page anymore, and weather and general austerity seem to have sapped the will of the protesters.  However, if you ask the person on the street do you support occupy, many say yes.  Issues like corporate bailouts with taxpayer money seem to frustrate citizens across many demographic and philosophical lines.  So why is change so slow in coming?  Why hasn't occupy fever swept the nation like flag waving did after 9-11?  

The most repeated criticism I hear is lack of focus.  I think it's a suggestion with some merit.  There's room in the tent for every issue and the folks who are typically sympathetic to grand social causes are the most likely to want to decide by consensus. Its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness.  It doesn't lend itself well to the 24hr instant gratification news cycle.  

"Victory for a protest movement isn’t based on the number of likeminded individuals who turn out for a demonstration. It’s about how much of an impact they have on the society at large. If Occupy Wall Street is to succeed, the young people who have driven the movement need to learn to look at what came before and at the world around them rather than simply Tweeting, livestreaming and marching their way into an echo chamber."  (quote from Hunter Walker, Politiker)  

True dat!   My suggestions would be this: In lieu of relying solely on demonstrations to impact society at large we need to educate and inform ourselves as to the facts about the issues.  We need to civilly confront those who regularly distort the truth to their own ends each and every time without fail.  Urge people to not accept someone else's judgement for their own.  Change doesn't come to those that wait for it, it comes to those who work for it tirelessly.  

Unite with like minded people to bring fundamental change to our broken political system.  Vote the bums out, and keep up the pressure until changes are made.   Create a grassroots third party called "Occupy Washington" whose main focus would be to end influence peddling by corporate plutocrats, removing money from politics, and restoring a semblance to integrity to our nations elected offices.

Meh.  A Sisyphian task, but worth the effort, I think?  What say you?

Thank you for sharing this Deb, and no worries about leaving early.  It was great to hear your voice.  The post from your friend that you shared reminds me of a piece Charles Eisenstein wrote early on and that Michael also referred to, entitled No Demand Is Big Enough.  It offers an answer I believe, to some of the concerns expressed. Here's how it begins:

Looking out upon the withered American Dream, many of us feel a deep sense of betrayal. Unemployment, financial insecurity, and lifelong enslavement to debt are just the tip of the iceberg. We don't want to merely fix the growth machine and bring profit and product to every corner of the earth. We want to fundamentally change the course of civilization. For the American Dream betrayed even those who achieved it, lonely in their overtime careers and their McMansions, narcotized to the ongoing ruination of nature and culture but aching because of it, endlessly consuming and accumulating to quell the insistent voice, "I wasn't put here on earth to sell product." "I wasn't put here on earth to increase market share." "I wasn't put here on earth to make numbers grow."

We protest not only at our exclusion from the American Dream; we protest at its bleakness. If it cannot include everyone on earth, every ecosystem and bioregion, every people and culture in its richness; if the wealth of one must be the debt of another; if it entails sweatshops and underclasses and fracking and all the rest of the ugliness our system has created, then we want none of it.

As an aside, I was just looking at this other thread I began on Occupy Cafe Culture and realized I would love to hear your thoughts on the questions posed there, given your A New Gaia experience.


That "growth" concept, came up in my breakout group discussion too. 

I just watched a video over the weekend - Aaron Russo's America:From Freedom to Facism.  It is disturbing and disheartening; and yet, it also strengthens my personal resolve to commit to change - a good change - I hope a cool change - but it can not remain the way it has been (for one thing, having gotten by with so much, there is no end to pushing that envelope further, taking away more rights, more freedoms, causing more clueless destruction . . . ), even if change comes in unpleasant ways, in order to remove the old structures, and then have "empty space" upon which to build better.  Sometimes, what IS, simply can't be "fixed" - incrementally.  I am aligned with this from your comment - "We want to fundamentally change the course of civilization. . . . We protest not only at our exclusion from the American Dream; we protest at its bleakness."  

Thanks, Ben.  I will take a look at your link.



question: What happens if you become inspired to act and it is not yet clear what you want to create?

This state of a kind of tension of not knowing feels very familiar and even esssential when I think of the process of creating as an artist. I love it when I have an inner sense of direction and even sometimes a clear vision, but if I actually knew exactly how things would turn out it wouldn't feel worth doing, at least not as Creating. It would be a kind of replicating (following an algorithim maybe). It is boring (unless I switch to doing it with mindfulness because it still seems worth doing). So I guess I have learned over and over again that if I can hang in with this uncomfortable tension of not knowing, eventually something that I don't know now will emerge.

What emerges can take many forms from those lovely, delightful "Aha!" inspirations, to just glimpsing one more small step as a possibility, to even stumbling upon unsuspected pain. And yet I learn again and again that what has emerged is also not final, the end, "it", no matter what clarity I feel in the moment, and how it may build and enrich. In order to keep growing I will sooner or later find myself again in the tension of not knowing.

So I have found this to be essential in any type of creation. Thinking back I was motivated to start checking out Occupy as much from what it looked like some leaders were getting "wrong" as much as what they seemed to be getting right. Since I could see something "wrong" or missing maybe my experince was needed. But of course I have lived long enough that you rarely get very far as an outsider telling other people what they should be doing or thinking differently. (even though it seems so efficient to just tell them). And anyway, to be honest, if I didnt know what things were like from the inside how could I know if I was right? So I had to keep showing up and listening. And joining in on some actions initiated by others, and get to know people. Then watch for the moments of opportunity to contribute from my authentic self. BUT THE BOTTOM LINE IS I NEEDED TO BE WILLING TO CHANGE MYSELF .



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