Women on a path of personal growth may not be that interested in getting themselves out in front as political leaders. I count myself among them. While we may be activists for one cause or another, we still hide out on the sidelines when it comes to politics. If you watched the presidential debates this year, you might agree with me that we no longer can afford to sit on the sidelines. It's time to find our political voice.
On this note, this past weekend in Los Angeles I attended Sister Giant: Women, Non-Violence and the Birthing of a New American Politics. This event, founded by the beloved spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson, was created to awaken and empower American women, on a personal growth path to have a voice in politics, ultimately changing the course of the U.S. political system.
"I think that people on a spiritual path -- personal growth, recovery, whatever -- are the last people who should be sitting out the great social and political contests of our day. Why? Because they're adept at change; they know that the mechanics of the heart and mind are the drivers of true transformation," says Marianne.
But the reality is that many of us who have been on a personal growth path have had an aversion to politics. We see the political world as divisive, manipulative and downright toxic. For many, hearing the word "politics" makes us want to run in the other direction. Sound familiar to you?
While I have been on a personal growth path for more than 15 years, I happen to have started my career in politics. As a college student, I interned in the political division of CNN in Washington, D.C. Then, during my senior year, I became the president of our Democrat Club -- bringing influential politicians to our college campus (all the way in Maine), like Hillary Clinton and '92 presidential hopeful Jerry Brown -- to inspire the students to get involved with politics.
On the campaign trail, I worked to get Maine Democrat Tom Andrews elected into Congress.
Post-college, I moved to D.C. and worked for the Women's Campaign Fund, where I learned what it takes to run a national campaign. Then, once Bill Clinton was elected to his first term in office as President, I worked on his inaugural committee.
When it was time for me to make a choice about my next step in my career path, I looked at the people ahead of me in politics and thought to myself: Do I want to be like them? The answer came swiftly: NO.
As I reflect on this scenario, which took place 20 years ago, I think about how things really haven't changed all that much in the political world. While the number of women in Congress has increased (as of January 2013, a whopping 17.9 percent compared to 10.3 percent in 1992, dubbed the Year of the Woman), it feels like the same ol' same 'ol is happening. This is not to discredit all of the amazing work that women are doing in Congress, but it is to say that we need a much bigger overhaul of American politics.
Like Marianne Williamson, I believe that as women on a personal growth path, we need to start using our voices in the political arena. In other words, we need to start leading the conversations, instead of just following them (or running away from them).
I'd like to share some of the tools that have helped me discover my political voice. Perhaps these 10 tips will get you started on your own path of discovery.
10 Tips to Finding Your Political Voice
1) Dream big. What is the change you want to see in the world? Write for two minutes (without lifting your pen from the paper), answering this question. Let this be a stream-of-consciousness writing. No one is grading or judging you. Your answer to this question is the seed of your political voice.
2) Be honest about your calling. What change do you feel you are being called to make in the world? Again, write for two minutes, answering this question. Be honest here, even if what comes forth feels a little over the edge or strange compared to what you are doing in your career at the moment.
3) Know your people. Who will your calling benefit? Write this down.
4) Recognize the transformation. How will this change their lives? Write for one minute about how "your people" feel now (angry, helpless, discouraged...), and then write for one minute about how they will feel once you come forward with your message and work in the world (empowered, encouraged, hopeful...).
5) Value your experience. What are some of your life and/or work experiences that inspire you to create this transformation? Write for two minutes about anything that comes to you. It doesn't have to be logical. Let your words come from your instinct and the wisdom of your body.
Now that you have done these exercises, I'd like to get you thinking about your entry into the political sphere.
6) Let go of formality. There is a misperception that politics is formal and that if you don't know the rules, you can't play. Politics should be anything but formal. It should be intimate. I mean, it's about "the people," isn't it?
7) Don't make it complicated. We tell ourselves so many stories about how we are not qualified enough, how we don't know enough of the "facts" or how we aren't cut out for politics. I empathize. I've been there. While facts are important, having a political voice goes much deeper than that. It's about using your voice in a way that is aligned with your soul at the deepest level. I invite you to stick with this and keep it simple.
8) Be witnessed. Start to use your voice in writing. When I started my blog, The Goddess Diaries, I felt nervous about putting my voice down on paper for others to read. I was concerned about being judged for my ideas and opinions. I thought that people might think I was "too spiritual." But it turns out that the process of being witnessed as a writer ultimately helped me find my political voice.
9) Write regularly. I encourage you to start a blog (if you haven't already). Blogs are an essential tool in shifting the public conversation. When you get out there with a blog, you are taking a stand for what you believe in. By writing on a regular basis, you will find yourself feeling more and more confident with your political voice.
10) Step into the spotlight. While running for office may not be your thing, stepping into the spotlight with your voice can be just as powerful in terms of making political change. So, get out there as a speaker. Say "yes" to those radio and TV interviews, podcasts, print interviews and speaking gigs. Maybe you won't run for office tomorrow, but these steps will get you more comfortable with being in a leadership role.
While I worked in politics as a young woman, it wasn't until I embarked on a path of personal growth and feminine spirituality that I found my political voice. As Marianne Williamson has said: "The entire political system is contrary to everything a feminine heart stands for. It lacks tenderness. It lacks poetry. It doesn't nurture. It doesn't love. And without those things, a woman's soul is bereft." The political system that Marianne describes is calling out for your genuine femininity so we can bring humanity back into all of our lives.
If you are a woman on a personal growth path who has been hanging out on the sidelines of politics, or running as fast as you can in the other direction, I invite you to change direction and STEP IN.
Photo courtesy of Sister Giant.
To launch your voice in the political arena, visit Your Voice Now.
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