What is Inner Activism?

For me, it’s valuing our most marginal inner experiences and making them useful to our change work in the world.

I just came from three days of visioning meetings with the Inner Activist.

We as an organization are in the midst of a big internal transition. We also have a lot of external things to address. As you would imagine, our meetings were full of flip-charts, strategic planning, and talking. Our discussions went deep into issues of racism, sexism, ageism, and access as these patterns show up in the programs we currently offer.

The only problem? I was in a serious state of brain fog. I felt empty-minded, blank, fuzzy. I couldn't quite keep up with the discussions.

The day after the meetings, this feeling persisted. Then it hit me - I must need this fuzzy state somehow to understand our group's direction. Could I trust my inner experience, instead of only marginalizing and trying to caffeinate it away?

I decided to use my skills. I allowed myself to go fully fuzzy...I closed my eyes and fuzzed out. I meditated on the experience. It felt like being an empty hall; neutral, not-knowing. It felt good to not have to know after all those discussions.

Staying with my fuzzy experience, I noticed my body as it began swaying back and forth. There was no content, just a swaying. I giggled a bit because this whole experience didn’t make sense to my everyday mind. Why on earth was I swaying? Had I totally lost the plot? What did this have to do with strategic planning? But I persisted and stayed close to this irrational experience I was having.

As I swayed, I felt I became a metronome, a pendulum that swings back and forth keeping the beat for musicians. Then I caught an insight! I realized the essence of Inner Activist for me is the capacity to move back and forth between our deepest, most personal and mysterious inner experiences and bringing these usefully out into the world to clean up the messes there.

It is not just about meditating to meditate, or action for the sake of action. To be sustainable, I need to flow back and forth, each phase informing the other. I go out into the world and experience conflicts, injustice, decisions needing to be made, and then when my everyday-thinking-mind goes as far as it can, I pendulate back into the inner world of my body and feelings and skillfully follow my experiences there as a source of guidance and wisdom.

To bring our deepest embodied experiences skillfully out into the world, where we are working on issues with risks, consequences and impacts on others, is a courageous and political act.

At the meetings, this fuzzy feeling I had marginalized was actually the seed of a vision for being an "inner" activist: someone who can work fluidly on any world issue supported by the deep contact and trust they have with their inner worlds.

To bring our deepest embodied experiences skillfully out into the world, where we are working on issues with risks, consequences and impacts on others, is a courageous and political act. It goes against dominant social norms in many groups to go blank, have strong feelings, or experience our movements and visions as meaningful.

Trauma and social oppression often contribute to trouble trusting our inner worlds. Our creativity and inner experiences can be crushed by the weight of hatred and the daily survival grind under interlocking oppressive systems. Those of us with less privileged social locations will face heightened risks of discrimination, stereotyping and violence to go against mainstream behavioural norms.

Yet to turn away from our inner experiences is to further marginalize our "music", the song only we can sing because it comes from our own bodies, communities, histories, hearts, tears, ancestors, dreams and connection to the earth.

We often need community solidarity, practice and the love of others who walk the path of mindful inner and outer world activism to live this way. It is my hope that as Inner Activist transforms, we will "keep the beat" with a community of leaders who support each other's skillful outer actions for justice as well as that connection with their deepest inner natures.