2018, The Year of Love: A Retrospective

December 27, 2018 Leave a comment

“I need love
Not some sentimental prison
I need god
Not the political church
I need fire
To melt the frozen sea inside me
I need love.”

– Sam Phillips

Image by Luke, Ma, “Love by Nature,” shared under provisions of Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

I started this year with a post focused on love, and this idea that 2018 would be the year of love. This thinking wasn’t offered through rose-colored glasses, but from a shared sense and conviction that love would be required to see the year through. And not just any kind of love. In that original post there were a few definitions and quotes that we have been playing with at IISC, including these:

“All awakening to love is spiritual awakening… All the great social movements for freedom and justice in our society have promoted a love ethic.” 

– bell hooks

“Justice is what love looks like in public.”

– Cornel West

“To show compassion for an individual without showing concern for the structures of society that make him [sic] an object of compassion is to be sentimental rather than loving.”

– William Sloane Coffin

“Love is seeing the other as a legitimate other.”

– Humberto Maturana

“The ultimate act of love is allowing ourselves and others to be complex.” 

– Nora Bateson
Well, all I can say is that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Turns out that the writing of that post was a step into a full-bodied exploration of what love really is. And it has been profound.

Image by Jean and Fred, “Tears for a Nation,” shared under provision of the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Around about mid-February, the bottom fell out for me personally, both emotionally and spiritually. My head could no longer protect my heart and soul from what continues to unfold and be revealed around us, and I was taken into a world that I did not remember having experienced before (but that I now know I have known very intimately) – fear/terror, grief, guilt, overwhelm. I was fortunate (very fortunate) to be able to engage some skillful supports that, rather than lift me up, took me deeper, into old and age-old wounds.

I was reintroduced to the wisdom of the body and feeling. I took a hard look at damaging dynamics of internalized individualism, defensiveness, hyper-productivity and over-work. I was invited to take seriously the importance of self-care, and perhaps more importantly, community care. As I got more courageous to share with others what was happening, I found the unexpected grace of support and resonance in friends, near and far, seen and (previously) unseen.

And I met amazing contemplative teachers, including Father Richard Rohr, whose writings (including his book Falling Upward – thank you, Melinda Weekes-Laidlow) consistently call on seekers of spiritual maturity to follow a path of “descent” into the shadows, the “false and small self,” the fuller truth of historical and present suffering and injustice. With that came new awareness and experiences of trans-generational and vicarious trauma. Little seemed solid or certain or assured anymore. Following that, staying with that, held and witnessed in that, I have been guided to feel some glimmers of a deeper underlying ground. It’s hard to name it exactly (The Growing Edge. God. Creation. Life Itself.) though I know it has everything to do with love. And it’s still revealing itself, step down by step down.

What it has required is an excruciating letting go of what I thought sustained me, survival skills for a different time and me. It has also required an opening to others that I didn’t know was possible. And at this point and from this place, love has less to do with words and thinking and so much more to do with being.

“True love is radical because it requires us to see ourselves in all people.”

– Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

I am grateful for the amazing leadership and modeling of my colleagues at IISC, which has invited us as a collective over this past year to lean more boldly into spaces of feeling, of honesty, of vulnerability, of slowness, of spaciousness (see Kelly Bates’ recent post on why creating space is crucial to the work of justice), of love (see Miriam Messinger’s post on how we have been bringing love to work). And we are not alone!

At the recent Facing Race conference in Detroit, Michigan, racial equity OD practitioners collectively articulated a need to practice courageous and fierce love in these times and around our work for equity. So 2019 is bound to be a further venture into love as it relates to racial and other forms of justice, to sustainability, to regeneration, to well-being and to what it means to be human in the best sense and as a species worthy of survival.

Image from Rennett Stowe, “Death Valley Super Bloom 2017,” shared under provisions of Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.


Thanks to Jen Willsea for turning me onto the following prayer from Reverend angel Kyodo Williams. Pass it along:

Warrior-Spirit Prayer of Awakening

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

May all suffering cease and may I seek, find and fully realize the love and compassion that already lives within me and allow them to inspire and permeate my every action.

May I exercise the precious gift of choice and the power to change that which makes me uniquely human and is the only true path to liberation.

May I swiftly reach complete, effortless freedom so that my fearless, unhindered action be a benefit to all.

May I lead the life of a warrior.

(From Radical Dharma p.93-94)

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