Liberation Listening and Commitments
I have been a part of a project called Liberation Listening since Fall of 2017. Under the leadership of Kara Huntermoon, we seek to develop a liberation strategy for all. We understand that it is a lofty goal, but this group has become a kind of home group for me as I reach out into the world in all the ways I work on social justice issues. The leadership team, consisting of Kara, myself and two others is a place where I totally trust the good thinking of my comrades and know that I can count on them to support me and call me out when my thinking is not sound.
Every fall we offer a 10-week class on Skills and Relationship Building. We go over the basics of distress, how it is installed and how to release it while focusing on the good relationships we have and building sound relationships with new members. Kara has been extensively trained in Re Evaluation Counseling (RC) and we pull from many concepts there, and Kara also invites our original, creative and intelligent thinking to shape Liberation Listening as it veers off the path of RC. As in RC, the basic premise of Liberation Listening is a peer counseling model: we take turns being the listener and the client, in most cases sharing time equally. The idea is that when two minds are focused on the re-emergence of one mind, that person can have re-evaluations and then be clearer about their innate goodness, intelligence, and worthiness. This enables a person to be free of distress and help others to also be free of distress. It’s not a goal, but a process.
In Winter we do a 10-week course in what I call “the line-up of oppressions” each night focusing on a different topic: racism, classism, sexism, anti-Semitism, ableism, ageism…and in the Spring we do an in-depth focus on one topic. So far we have covered racism and climate chaos, and this spring we will focus on sexism.
During the Skills and Relationship Building series, we always have a class on Commitments. In RC, a Commitment is a discharge tool: one can read a commitment supplied by RC for your particular constituency and as you read them (ideally witnessed by another person paying attention to you) you notice what feelings come up for you. You only take on the commitment for the session, you are released at the end of the session. At some point, a person may want to take on the commitment as a life-long endeavor. (See the end of this article for a few examples of Commitments, I include them because a person can really see some good thinking has gone into them.)
Every year I have grudgingly done a commitment during the commitment class, or refused to do it at all. This year, Kara came up with a commitment that she wrote for someone else on the leadership team, and I was totally inspired to write my own commitment. I offer it here, and then plan to break it down and explain my thinking.
I commit to staying fully embodied, completely connected with my original, intuitive, earthy, female power; trusting and leaning into the darkness. In all my relationships I am innately and naturally aware of my boundaries. I know when to be receptive on spiritual and mystic planes, while staying in touch on the third dimension. I cultivate relationships where I can be vulnerable and influenced by people who can support me, challenge me, and facilitate my growth on all levels, including but not limited to, social justice, incorporeal, physical, psychological, and in matters of love and community. I also know that mistakes are inevitable and part of the process. This means_____
When I shared this commitment with my sister, she said it sounded like a mission statement. I liked that, a mission statement for my life.
In sentence one, where I say I commit to staying fully embodied, I mean to stay fully present. This overlaps with my daily meditation where I have committed to a practice that offers me a compass point on whether I am “on track” or not. Being fully embodied means being willing to feel all of how I feel and not try to escape into something that is Not True. I love the idea that I was born completely in touch with my intuitive, earthy female power and that the distress of those around me confused my thinking about my relationship with myself. I love the idea of originally thinking and being intelligent regarding my being. As a female, I have a certain innate wisdom when it comes to understanding rhythms of the earth, how to make human needs a priority, and have intuitive access to goddess figures such as Tara, Quan Yin, Kali, Isis, Diana and so on. To me, trusting and leaning into the darkness is to allow access to this intuition and this feminine quality that I wish to always be in touch with.
Sentence two: I did not grow up being taught about my boundaries. Here I reach for what can be true; that I can naturally be aware of my boundaries, that I don’t have to struggle to know them. This leads to sentence three, where I have been confused many times by opening spiritually and then not knowing how to conduct myself on the physical plane. This sentence reaches for the reality that I am a spiritual being having a physical experience and that I can gracefully hold both realities in the arena of my being.
Cultivating relationships; this is a long sentence and is central to my life’s work. I understand that we as humans are social animals and we must be in relation to each other one way or another. Much of what we do is caught up in this endeavor. In fact, the reason why we even have these huge brains is *because* we wanted to have more complex relationships. And we wanted to have even more humongous brains so we developed this system where our offspring had to do YEARS of developing out side of the womb. Crazy, but that’s the truth. Much of my life is about relationships; being a therapist, developing long term solid friendships, having sustainable nesting partners, seeking lovers and intimates that challenge and support me on all levels. As for the areas the I specifically mention: social justice is on the list because I need partners in clearing up this mess we’re in where our humanity is divided up by constituencies as if we aren’t ONE human race (are you with me on that one?!); incorporeal is all things spiritual and non-physical—all the woo that I do; physical includes body work, yard work, hiking, camping, cleaning, cooking, sex, and cuddling…all that physical stuff; psychological is all that emotional processing that I love to do (I have been fond of saying “I process in my SLEEP!” and indeed I think I do); “and in matters of love and community”, just in case I missed anything: Love is the way, and community matters so much.
The next to last sentence is about mistakes. Here I get to forgive myself for when I “do it wrong” and I give you permission to forgive yourself, too. We can’t do anything worth doing without making some mistakes. We don’t expect a child to learn to walk without falling down, but some of us have picked up a very real distress pattern that we should never fail. We will fail, then we pick ourselves up and do it again. Find yourself some friends that will allow you to be messy and keep being human, it’s the stinky things that lead to the beautiful flowers (but remember, you aren’t supposed to EAT the compost, you’re supposed to handle it carefully so that it will make beautiful dirt!).
Then I end with “This means_______” and each time I say my commitment I say what it means to me right now. Right now, it means I am sharing it with you. I invite you to write your own commitment, your own life’s mission statement; let it be something you can reach for. Feel free to borrow pieces of mine if it calls to you. Consider getting a session to focus on this important work, it could help you develop an important compass for your own life.