Sheryl Petty, a senior consultant at MAG invited participants at Confluence (a gathering for reflection, resistance, and rejuvenation that took place in June) to imagine that our foot was numb. She guided us through recalling the familiar tingling and often painful sensation that happens when we start to move a numb foot. As the circulation returns it can be painful, yet moving forward we can feel a spectrum of sensations, for instance the pleasure of a foot massage or smooth texture of the linoleum floor. On an organizational level this may mean reckoning with non-equitable hiring practices, or on a network level this may mean reckoning with leaders facing their previously unacknowledged dominant culture practices, including racism. Sheryl posited that when working towards deep equity, many groups have at least one numb foot. And this isn’t surprising given that one strategy of white supremacy to is disconnect people from their emotions, bodies, stories and innate wisdom in order to survive. Sheryl invites people to unnumb their feet and allow their own deep wisdom to surface and circulate in finding equitable practices for their organizations.
Holding space and shepherding processes for equity involves empathy and compassion for all individuals involved even when personally triggered. This means that for those of us engaging in deep equity work, our inner work practices are not optional, they are imperative. In other words, Sheryl prompts us to consider, “When the floodgates open can you handle it?” With inner work,* we can engage and stay buoyed when the flood waters rise.
I am drawn back again and again to how our connection to source, what for some may be a specific faith tradition or for others a sense of connection to the earth, is critical to presently living into a world of love, dignity, and justice. Yet this connection is often not formally acknowledged as a part of our individual and collective ability to do the work.
In my breakout group after her presentation, people agreed that we were ready for this flood. We went further in acknowledging how our deep faith and spiritual practices and ability to hold a group through their own process of reckoning and healing is often the magic that people want when they work with us. My group members raised questions about how and when we can bring our faith and magic explicitly into work that is often explicitly secular. These are questions I’d like to continue to learn about and reflect on in community.