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heARTful Action

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“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. ” — Maya Angelou

heARTful is a word I made up to mean awareness from and leading with the heart. heARTful Action posts focus on how to stand up and create a culture of health, inclusion and kindness. heARTful Action posts are calls to love warriors everywhere.

This morning, I had an early meeting. The sun was just coming up as I drove into town and the sky was tie dyed rose pink and robin’s egg blue. As I came over a hill I was met by a tidal wave of birds.

murmuration

It was a murmuration of starlings: thousands and thousands of birds flying and swooping and soaring together. I think watching even a single bird fly is amazing but this, this coordinated, intricate swirl of flight, is breath-taking.

The science behind the starlings’ flight is fascinating and not fully understood. In a 2013 article about it in The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Andrea Alfano asks,

…how do these masses of birds move so synchronously, swiftly, and gracefully? This isn’t an idle question—it has attracted the attention of physicists interested in how group behavior can spontaneously arise from many individuals at once.

This is how I envision heARTful action: a mumuration. Individuals doing something together.

Often the intricate flight patterns of a murmuration are in response to a threat, like a predator flying close to tht flock. Researchers have done complex calculations to explain how the extraordinary formations happen in a flock of so many birds. Alfano explains,

Surprising as it may be, flocks of birds are never led by a single individual. Even in the case of flocks of geese, which appear to have a leader, the movement of the flock is actually governed collectively by all of the flock members. But the remarkable thing about starling flocks is their fluidity of motion. As the researchers put it, “the group respond[s] as one.”

You can read the whole article here, but I see a murmuration as a beautiful metaphor for the power of individuals working together. One of us flying alone is a lovely thing. Thousands of us together is invincible.

Today, I invite you to do two heARTful Actions:

(1) Connect with others who are flying in the same direction you are.

Find a group in your area (an excellent example in Charlottesville is Together Charlottesville ~ you can find them on their web page and on Facebook) and see what they are doing that is in alignment with your personal focus. How can we pool resources, avoid duplicate efforts and create a bigger flock.

(2) Invite a friend (or seven) to join heARTful Action.

Our group will provide resources (including other groups like Together Charlottesville that we can be part of) as well as specific action ideas that we will share via email (just let me know if you’d like to get on the list) and on our Facebook page. Regular in-person gatherings and workshops in the Charlottesville area are ongoing ways we can support and encourage each other.

Be part of the murmuration.

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“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. ” — Maya Angelou

heARTful is a word I made up to mean awareness from and leading with the heart. heARTful Action posts focus on how to stand up and create a culture of health, inclusion and kindness. heARTful Action posts are calls to love warriors everywhere.

I’m doing my best to learn about positive social action…and there is a boat ton. As I open my ears, eyes, and heart, I’m committed to offering practical, tangible information so you can do your own heARTful action.

Fear

These days, I’m afraid. I don’t think of myself as a fearful person (A worrier? Yes. But fearful? Not so much.) but I keep feeling it with a clutch at my stomach and heart. Sharon Salzberg, one of my meditation teachers, wrote a helpful post about what to do in the face of fear. I recommend it highly.

She writes about feeling the excruciating pain of being seen as irrelevant in someone else’s eyes. To have someone with their actions, words or vote say, “You don’t count. You aren’t important.” She goes on,

I also [felt] a renewed commitment to never giving anyone that message of disregard. I felt the energy and uplift of remembering what has been, in a way, a big part of my life’s work — helping people practice tools that keep us from treating ourselves or others as less-than or irrelevant. To consider inclusion instead of exclusion, even when it’s hard. We can try to remember what we really care about in terms of what gives our lives meaning.

Which is exactly what heARTful Action is all about.

Focus

So today, even though I can feel the ache and tingle of fear, I’m focusing my attention on what I can do. To paraphrase Joan Baez, “Intentional, purposeful, heARTful action is the antidote to despair and fear.” Today, I’m focusing on what’s working and what isn’t.

What’s Working

See the good. Look for what’s working. If you see someone doing something that you are grateful for, tell them. When your teenager puts their dishes away, love on them for it. When your cashier finds a way to save you a couple of dollars, thank them sincerely. If a company or politician is doing something that is in alignment with what matters to you, write them a note and tell them how much you appreciate what they are doing.

What Isn’t

Some days, it feels like there is an over abundance of things that aren’t working. For today, for right now, focus on one. What is one positive step you can take toward shifting something that isn’t working toward something that is. How can I approach what isn’t working with kindness and inclusion?

This is the quote that is in my mind and heart today:

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
~ Edward Everett Hale

BONUS:

Join us online in the heARTful Action group (and we’re gathering in Charlottesville on Saturday)! heARTful Action is a place to share ideas and intentions and to gather support and colleagues in the actions that matter to you. All are welcome (Charlottesville or no). You can see what’s happening at the Facebook group or tell me and I’ll add you to the email list.

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“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. ” — Maya Angelou

heARTful is a word I made up to mean awareness from and leading with the heart. heARTful Action posts focus on how to stand up and create a culture of health, inclusion and kindness. heARTful Action posts are calls to love warriors everywhere.

I’m committed to positive social action and … I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. As I open my ears, eyes, and heart, I’m also committed to offering practical, tangible information so you can do your own heARTful action.

Today is #GivingTuesday, so I’ll focus on three aspects of giving: money, time, and attention.

(1) Giving Money

This is a great time to consider the causes and organizations that matter the most to you and offering them financial support. There are so many charities it can be challenging to know how best to support the work that matters to you. A site that I appreciate is Charity Watch which rates charities according to how much of donated money goes to overhead and how much goes to the work of the organization as well as other metrics. You can search for a particular charity or look through categories or top-rated lists.

This holiday, some of my gifts will be in the form of donations. In addition, I’m selling art (so far, prints and safety pin earrings) on my web site* and donating the proceeds to two organizations that are in alignment with my personal intentions: CarbonFund and Human Rights First.
* Want to be part of the giving? Go to http://www.susanmcculley.com/shop and check out what I’m offering!

(2) Giving Time

In addition to giving money, of course, organizations need volunteers. I’m in the early process with this part of giving so I’ll update with more on this soon. I’m leaning toward helping to build trails at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir and the International Rescue Committee refugee center and would love to have some people to do this with. Given that, if anyone has favorite charities that they donate their time to in the Charlottesville area, please put them in the comments below and perhaps we can put together teams of people with similar interests!

(3) Giving Attention

I detest making phone calls. Even simple things like making doctor’s appointments and scheduling car work, I resist. Making calls to government offices is way outside my comfort zone. But these days, the importance of making my voice heard and giving my attention to critical issues outweighs my telephone discomfort.

Friends who work in government agencies confirm that calls voicing opinions carry more weight than petitions or emails. So, here’s what has helped me in making calls this week (with big thanks to Joy Trammel Tanksley who coached me to 7 calls I made this weekend):

(1) Figure out who to call about the issue you care about. Make a list of offices or agencies with the numbers.

(2) Write a script. When I’m nervous or emotional about something, any articulateness abandons me. So when I make a call, I know exactly what I want to say. I ask people who know more than I do about it for suggestions and then I tailor it to me.

(3) Make a commitment. It helps me to tell someone that I’m going to make these calls. Accountability, baby. It makes a difference.

(4) Take a breath. When I’ve got what I need, I take a deep breath, relax shoulders and anywhere else I’m tense, and I dial the number.

Once you have a personal intention for your own heARTful Action [link], identify ways that you can give your money, time and attention!

BONUS:

Join us online in the heARTful Action group! It’s a place to share ideas and intentions and to gather support and colleagues in the actions that you want to do. All are welcome (whether you’re in Charlottesville or no).

 

heartful-action-111816“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. ” — Maya Angelou

heARTful is a word I made up to mean awareness from and leading with the heart. heARTful Action posts focus on how to stand up and create a culture of health, inclusion and kindness. heARTful Action posts are calls to love warriors everywhere.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there can be no denying that these are turbulent, uncertain days. After a week of reading and listening, I see that I have been both blind and deaf to the suffering of vulnerable populations and passive in my social engagement. I’m sharing what I’m learning as I open my ears, eyes, and heart, and offer practical, tangible ways that you can do your own heARTful action.

Today, two things to play with:

(1) Make It Personal

It can be easy for me to get carried away in what is important to someone else, so it’s worth taking the time to make it personal. Think and feel about what matters the most to you. There are endless projects and programs that could use support so pause and check in with you.

First, ask yourself, “What’s the biggest YES for me?” Ask yourself what is most important to you: you can use it as a contemplation or conversation question or do some free writing/journaling to see what makes your heart pound.

Then ask yourself, “What do I desire?” When we resist or fight against something, that energy only causes the situation to perpetuate, but when I ask, “What do I desire?” a creative space of possibility opens.

Once you’ve considered these questions, do your best to write a single sentence that describes that which is important to you and what you desire to create. Here’s mine:

I desire to live in a thriving culture of kindness, inclusivity, and health that fully recognizes the interdependence and interconnectedness of everything.

What’s yours? Please share it in the comments below or on the heARTful Action Facebook page (or both!). Then, as you choose where to put your time, energy and money, align it with your purpose.

(2) Campaign of Kindness

Most days, I’m a damned cheerful thing but when I’m feeling stressed or upset, I tend to fold in and close down as I move through my day. In alignment with my purpose statement, I know that it is important to me to live as kindly as I can even when I’m feeling down or discouraged.

I’m calling it my personal Campaign of Kindness and I’m doing my best to do the kindest thing I can in every situation. This may mean thanking the people folding towels or smiling and looking directly at the cashier at the grocery store. It may mean reminding a friend that their feelings matter and that I am there for them. It may mean calling my congress folk when something fishy is happening. Lately, it may also mean letting myself sit on the couch with the cat for a while or or finding time for yoga even when I’m busy or having another cup of tea instead of rushing back to my computer.

As you move through your day, what is the kindest thing you can do?

BONUS:

Here is a helpful resource to help navigate sticky situations of unkindness and disrespect.
Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry (Abridged Version)

EXTRA BONUS:

Join us online in the heARTful Action Facebook group! It’s a place to share ideas and intentions and to gather support and colleagues in the actions that you want to do. All are welcome (Charlottesville or no).

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These are difficult days in my little city. Since the presidential election, LGBT friends have been harassed and threatened. One was nearly run off the road as she jogged near her home. Adults and children alike have been bullied for the color of their skin or their family’s country of origin. University police have harassed and bullied students. Anti-semitic graffiti has been painted around town.

Things are not good and they don’t look like they are turning around any time soon.

In light of this disturbing shift, I will also be shifting my energies. On Tuesdays, I have been writing Art in Action posts which offered practical, tangible ways of implementing our focus of the week. Starting today, Tuesdays will be for a piece called heARTful Action.

heARTful is my made-up word meaning, awareness from and leading with the heart. With this wave of hate and bigotry, I will focus on how to stand up for the most vulnerable in my community and help as best I can to create a culture of inclusion and kindness.

I have no idea how to do this.

As the political, cultural, and social smoke clears, I will endeavor to learn what is needed most and how I can help in my area. In heARTful Action posts, I will share what I am learning and offer practical, tangible ways that you can do your own heARTful action.

For folks in the Charlottesville area, there will be events and experiences in which you can participate. For people living elsewhere, you can use what I’m learning here and apply it in your community.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.® Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

For today, two places to start:

~ Choose Something that Matters
Look at the current landscape in your community and think about what really matters to you. For me, it is helping vulnerable people and supporting the environment. What matters to you on a deep level? By following our highest values positive change can happen.

~ Listen and learn.
I don’t know a blessed thing about social activism. And I’m ready to listen to people who do and learn. I’m ready to listen to the people who need help and learn. I’m ready to gather people who care about the things I do and listen and learn. I’m also open to resources like this and this
(If you have resources about starting social action or helping those whose rights are in jeapordy, please put them in the comments below.)

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BONUS: Some thoughts on symbolic gestures
Some of the things we can do are more symbolic than practical or direct. Does a symbolic gesture mean nothing? Take for example, the “safety pin movement”: wearing a safety pin to identify yourself as an ally, a “safe” person to anyone who is afraid in the current environment. There are differing opinions about this: some for and some against. Here’s my take on it. I think public and symbolic displays of support are important. Demonstrations, signs and symbols don’t directly create change but they set up a culture and community of support. AND symbolic acts can’t be the ONLY thing we do, but they can be ONE thing we do to say that this situation is not okay with us. So I say, wear a safety pin (and as the second writer suggests, a Black Lives Matter necklace, too) but ALSO take direct action. More on that soon, love warriors!

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