A legacy of love and liberation
‘When we choose to love, we choose to move against fear, against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect, to find ourselves in the other’ Bell Hooks
This is Part 8 of a series of posts designed to help us explore our work and leadership through the lenses of dominant power and liberatory power.
Love and Liberation are as much a part of our human story as dominance, because for as long as there has been dominant power there has been libratory power fighting against it. Our histories are full of people who resisted the forces of dominant power in small and big ways. With awakened hearts and minds, they channeled their desire for true freedom, belonging and justice in pursuit of a better world, often at great personal cost. The vast majority of these efforts have been led by people who were being targeted by the oppression and violence they were fighting against. The hope that we still hold today is because of them.
‘Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is a commitment to others. No matter where the oppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause – the cause of liberation.’ Paulo Friere
Many of these people and their movements still live in our collective consciousness, their acts, wisdom and stories still holding symbolic and cultural power in our imaginations, inspiring us to push beyond the limits that are imposed upon us. And there are many more millions of people whose names we may never have heard, but who in their daily lives found small but great ways to resist, love and struggle for freedom and connection despite the overwhelming challenges they faced. We may not know all their names but their energy and actions continue to ripple through the world, living within us in unseen ways. These ancestors were not saints or superheroes, they were humans like us, searching together for ways to express their full humanity despite a world that was trying to take it from them. When we act in service of love, justice and liberation we become a part of their legacy.
Through their acts of liberation these ancestors teach us that our worth is not defined by the hierarchies that are imposed upon us. That our true worth is innate within our humanity. Recognising this within ourselves and others allows us to open to the fullness of who we are, and the fullness of others. When we are open to each other in this way we allow space for healing, and create opportunities to transform our relationship to ourselves, to each other, to the systems that oppress or privilege us, and to the earth that sustains us.
Liberation is the process of becoming free from the illusions, distortions and limitations of dominant power. It’s when we collectively use our liberatory power to awaken, heal and transform our hearts, minds, relationships, cultures, systems and societies in ways that serve our full humanity and the earth on which we all depend.
However, this process is not easy, we are born into sticky webs of false and dehumanising hierarchies. Whether it is the shame that we have been taught to feel or the prejudice we project onto others, we live in a state of separation from our true selves and each other. Finding our way out of these webs and back to each other is at the heart of this struggle. The process will be messy, we will stumble and fall constantly, but we are not alone. We can listen to the guidance of the ancestors who walked this path before us, and lean on and learn from those walking with us now.
‘The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any’ Alice Walker
Liberatory power is the energy that can challenge, heal and transform dynamics of dominant power. It is the energy that opens our full humanity, reconnects us to ourselves, to each other and to the earth. This power is our birth right but it has been hidden from us behind the dehumanizing illusions of dominant power.
We can awaken and grow our liberatory power through a process of awareness, healing and action. This process is a cycle – Each time around we relearn what we thought we knew before, going a level deeper, a step closer to our humanity and a step closer to our liberation.
‘To be truly visionary we have to root our imagination in our concrete reality while simultaneously imaging possibilities beyond that reality’ Bell Hooks
Through liberatory awareness we awaken to the reality of our present situation. How dominant power has shaped our inner and outer worlds and distorts our relationship to the earth, to our humanity and to each other. This includes understanding the different ways that we are marginalised and/or privileged by dominant power.
This awareness is also inspired by the legacy of our ancestors, who kept the spirit of love and liberation alive through their acts of resistance and their belief that a different reality was possible. We honor this legacy by living our lives in pursuit of liberation.
‘The struggle has always been inner, and is played out in outer terrains. Awareness of our situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come before changes in society. Nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it happens first in the images in our heads.’ Gloria E Anzaldùa
Liberatory Power within
‘Often the place where we are most wounded is the place of our gifts’ Hector Aristizabal
Our liberatory awareness allows us to begin to acknowledge, open and heal the wounds of our inner world, reconnecting to our full humanity and the source of our true power within.
This power lives within our longings for life, love, belonging, freedom and justice. Within the wisdom of our experiences, insights, intuition and knowledge, and within the unique gifts that we bring into this world.
This power is rooted in our relationships to our identities, families, ancestors, communities, cultures, and the earth. We honor these relationships in ways that inspire healing and give us strength while acknowledging their complexity and the histories that have shaped them.
Liberatory Power To Act
As we awaken and grow our power within we learn how to channel it through our actions in the outer world.
We begin by aligning our actions with our awareness and longings for liberation. Expressing our full humanity with more confidence, openness and honesty and creating spaces where others can do the same.
We also learn how to begin taking actions that reveal, challenge and transform the oppressive dynamics (internalised, interpersonal, cultural, structural) around us and that inspire awareness and liberatory power in others too.
Liberatory Power With Each Other
‘If you have come to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is tied to mine, then let us work together’ Lila Watson
We grow this liberatory power through our relationships with each other and the actions we take together. We do this by creating brave spaces that allow for healing, where we recognise the humanity in each other, honouring our difference and our interconnection. Through this process we awaken to our interdependence by acknowledging how my liberation is tied to yours..
‘You are my other me. If I do harm to you, I do harm to myself. If I love and respect you, I love and respect myself.’ In Lak’Ech, Mayan precept
Building on these foundations, we work together to challenge and transform the dynamics of dominant power (internalised, interpersonal, cultural, structural) and to envision a different reality characterised by true belonging, freedom and justice. This in turn inspires deeper awareness and the cycle continues.
‘Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, revelling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community’ Bell Hooks
Reflect: How do you see Liberatory power expressed through Wisdom and his students?