They Don’t Call Her Mother Earth for Nothing: Women Re-imagining the World | One Hour Special
Transformational women leaders are restoring societal balance by showing us how to reconnect relationships – not only among people – but between people and the natural world. This astounding conversation among diverse women leaders provides a fascinating window into the soulful depths of what it means to restore the balance between our masculine and feminine selves to bring about wholeness, justice and true restoration of people and planet. In this one hour special, join Alice Walker, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Nina Simons, Sarah Crowell, Joanna Macy and Akaya Windwood to imagine a future where women, children, men and the planet can thrive.
- Executive Producer: Kenny Ausubel
- Written by: Kenny Ausubel
- Senior Producer: Neil Harvey
- Managing Producer: Stephanie Welch
- Production Management: Aaron Leventman and Chuck Castleberry
- Station Relations: Creative PR
- Interview recording engineer: Jeff Wessman
- Original Recordings provided by Reference Media Group
This is an episode of the Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature series. Visit the radio and podcast homepage to find out how to hear the program on your local station and how to subscribe to the podcast.
Our theme music is taken from the album “Journey Between” by Baka Beyond and used by permission of Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label. Additional music was made available by Sounds True at Soundstrue.com.
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NEIL HARVEY, HOST: Imagine a gathering of women. Feisty, fierce women, young and old, determined to make the world a radically better place.
This group of women shares more than gender. Studies show that women really do approach the world differently from men. Women share a biological compass that, in stressful times, orients them to “tend and befriend” – rather than the male reaction/response of “fight or flight”.
In most parts of the world, women continue to live with the oppression and violence related to male-dominated power structures. It’s true that some women have far more power, opportunity, equality and rights than in the past. Yet even where women have gained ground, there’s usually a long way to go before reaching parity. The word “patriarchy” may sound polemical to some, but women everywhere nod knowingly when they hear it.
SARAH CROWELL: I think men take it really personally when we talk about why women re-imagining the world. I don’t even know if it’s re-imagining. I guess it’s remembering the world, and then recreating it. So it’s holding the balance. It’s bringing us back into balance.
HOST: Some believe that the environmental crisis can be seen as an expression of that power imbalance between men and women – and of the internal imbalance between the masculine and feminine qualities within each of us and throughout our culture and institutions.
JOAN BLADES: I want women in leadership. I want mothers, specifically, in leadership. I want people that understand, you know, the full breadth of the challenges we face in this society. And it’s a very important voice that’s being excluded.
HOST: Could restoring that balance restore not only justice, but also the Earth?
Join us for a wide-ranging exploration from a woman’s-eye view – MoveOn co-founder Joan Blades and sustainability advocate Annie Leonard speak about activism powered from the experience of motherhood. And author Alice Walker, social entrepreneur Nina Simons, psychologist Jean Shinoda Bolen, teacher Joanna Macy, youth arts director Sarah Crowell and leadership executive Akaya Windwood together ponder the global benefits of a truly egalitarian society.
This is “They Don’t Call Her Mother Earth For Nothing: Women Re-Imagining the World”.
I’m Neil Harvey. I’ll be your host. Welcome to this one-hour special from the Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature.
AKAYA WINDWOOD: I’ve prepared some questions and these women haven’t seen them yet, so what we’re going to do is allow for what I call emergent woman’s wisdom to happen here, and we’ll trust that what gets said is exactly what needs to be both said and heard.
HOST: At a recent Bioneers conference a remarkable circle of women gathered for a free-wheeling, wide-angle conversation led by professional facilitator Akaya Windwood.
AKAYA WINDWOOD: So, we’re re-imagining the world, and we’re women. Imagine that!
My first question is a simple one. Why women? [AUDIENCE LAUGHS]
JOANNA MACY: Because it’s the age of patriarchy that is dying.
JEAN SHINODA BOLEN: Because women have unique, as a gender. We’ve got compassion. We use conversation to bond. And we look after the kids.
ALICE WALKER: I think it’s just time to give women the opportunity in this period of history or after history to show what we can do in terms of protecting the planet, which is being destroyed so rapidly just in front of our eyes.
NINA SIMONS: I think that one of the greatest gifts we could all bring to the world is restoring the feminine in all of us, and I think that, as women, we have a certain leg up on understanding what that might look and feel like.
AKAYA WINDWOOD: Thank you.
HOST: Akaya Windwood is President and CEO of the Rockwood Leadership Institute. Previously, she served as an executive leadership coach and organizational development consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area.
AKAYA WINDWOOD: Mary Oliver writes, You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting, you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. That’s from her poem “Wild Geese.”
The line between women and animals has often been drawn to shame us or keep us in line. As we re-imagine this world, what is the rightful relationship between women and our animal bodies?
JOANNA MACY: We will call our brothers and sisters to celebrate animals and our animal bodies.
HOST: Teacher and author Joanna Macy conducts workshops to train environmental and social activists worldwide. She combines Buddhist practices, systems theory, and an irrepressible love for life in what she calls the “Work That Reconnects.”
JOANNA MACY: The terrifying thing that is happening to our culture, to our global culture now, is that the instinct for the preservation of life has been cut. There has been a rupture,– so that we are actually able, as a civilization with the most well-trained minds, to plot how, with our weapons, we can shatter flesh or breathe in flames to be burned that you can’t put out; that we can go off and turn a desert into radioactive hell for thousands of years.
We have lost our connection, our erotic connection to life, and this is what our greatest task perhaps is, the greatest task– this we have to do and do it fast, and to relieve ourselves of the terrible loneliness that makes us crazy when we cut ourselves off from the rest of the web of life.
Chief Seattle warned us of that. He said without the beasts you will perish of a great loneliness. And we’re cutting ourselves off from each other as well as our own bodies because of this.
So we can praise be that we have bodies, that they can make you sane again.
AUDIENCE: Amen! [clapping]
AKAYA WINDWOOD: What is the rightful relationship between women and our animal bodies?
ALICE WALKER: Well, I think Mary Oliver is right to say that we should let these bodies love what they love…
HOST: Alice Walker is one of the most important writers of our time. She is a self-declared “womanist” who won the Pulitzer Prize for her book The Color Purple.
ALICE WALKER: …because when you do that, you break every possible law, and that’s always very energizing. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING/CLAPPING]
SARAH CROWELL: That’s so succinct. (laughing) I love to sit at a table with my mentors.
HOST: As artistic director of the renowned Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, California Sarah Crowell has supported the growth of diverse inner city young people through dance, theater, martial arts, violence-prevention and youth leadership workshops for more than 20 years.
SARAH CROWELL: I think about the young people that I work with, I teach hip hop and modern dance, mostly to teenagers now, and they’re exposed to a lot of sexuality through the media. Even though it’s really messed up, some of it is good because it’s just- at least it’s there. It’s not like hidden.
And then I am able to have the conversation with them because they’ll bring these dances and they want to choreograph them, and it’s all to this booty-shakin’ stuff, and all of it is booty, booty, booty, shake, shake, shake, pussy, pussy, pussy right? And I’m like, okay, sexuality is all good. Your body is beautiful, as it is, and it’s yours. It’s your temple. And you own it. And so when you come from that, when you shake that, when you shake what you have, shake it for you. You know what I’m saying? Because then when you shake it for you, there’s something empowering about it rather than giving away the power to somebody else. Right?
And so my whole chant last year was Sexy & Strong, Sexy & Strong.
NINA SIMONS: I want to echo what Sarah said. It’s amazing to sit at a table with so many mentors…
HOST: Social entrepreneur Nina Simons is co-founder and President of Bioneers. She speaks and teaches about women’s leadership, cultivating relational intelligence, and organizations as living systems.
NINA SIMONS: What I’m reminded of is lessons that I’ve learned from several of you about the value of grieving and darkness. And it’s come to be a real, sort of, guidepost for me to help me orient myself toward the places that are painful and difficult.
I think I read an interview with Alice where she talked about how we- when we encourage ourselves to go deeper, we expand our capacity for joy at the same time, and it feels to me like that’s part of reinventing how we understand ourselves to be human is to expand our capacity at both ends.
And the other thing that your questions raises for me, Akaya, is that we all have the disease of modern American culture, which lets us think that our minds are so smart. And actually, I’ve been struggling to find my own voice in writing and speaking, and one of my favorite teachers keeps telling me that if I stop trying to sound like a smart, white man I’ll be fine. [AUDIENCE CLAPS]
And I realize how scary it is to me to believe that I have within me what I need. And I think that that’s part of us re-imagining the world is to know that we have within us everything we need, and some of that is about recognizing the wisdom that’s in our bodies and that’s in our hearts and our spirits, and not imagining that our minds have to solve it all, ‘cause they can’t and they won’t. [AUDIENCE CLAPS]
ALICE WALKER: I’ll add to that. I think that, for me, the journey lately has been getting closer to the other animals and understanding that is a path to myself.
HOST: Alice Walker.
ALICE WALKER: Because about a year ago, I- it occurred to me that I had married early on, and- sort of early, and I’ve been in many long relationships with people, but I had only truly started to feel married with my dog and my cat. (laughter) And so I decided that I felt really married to them and that I wanted to make it official. (laughter) And so I asked, you know, the local priestess to come and all of our friends, or a lot of our friends, with lots of flowers and lots of kitty treats (more laughter), and dog biscuits and German chocolate cake for the rest of us, and we had our wedding.
And so that is really how I feel now, that the closer we can get to the other animals, the better for us, the more we will understand that we actually do have these animal bodies, because I’ve learned from my cat and my dog just what it is to really love being alive in the sun, feeling the wind on my face, having really good food, having a nice place to sleep. You know.
So that is, you know, that is really, for me, getting more and more free to feel myself as just another one of the animals on the planet. [AUDIENCE CLAPS]
HOST: Again, host Akaya Windwood.
AKAYA WINDWOOD: In an all-or-nothing dichotomous world, which is where we’re living, inclusion has meant allowing for everything, including war and rape and greed. What’s your wisdom about boundary setting, about limits, and how women can do that? How do we say yes and no within a framework of inclusion that’s also creates a space for other?
JOANNA MACY: Well, that’s an important question because our species and probably complex life forms are all threatened with extinction because we don’t recognize limits. There are limits to this Earth and the resources we can draw from it. There are limits to the waste we can dump.
When I look at what’s taught me a lot about limits, which has been the anti-nuclear movement and nuclear waste and nuclear power, I see that women have really stepped forward and taken amazing leadership there over the last quarter century or more. And maybe it’s because there’s something about being anchored in the body, being child bearers, being washers of the dead. We- our minds are anchored to our bodies, we know that, so we know that we can’t just go spin off and think that we can draw those lines of exponential growth and think things’ll be okay, and- because we have always noticed that somebody has to take out the garbage, I’m really proud to see how women have recognized the limits we must set to the way we are treating the Earth and what we can extract from the Earth and dump on the Earth. [AUDIENCE CLAPS]
JEAN SHINODA BOLEN: You know, we changed the world in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. It was just women sitting in circles talking, but talking about what was true and supporting each other to do what each woman, individually, was moved to do. And it usually started with going home and bringing about an egalitarian relationship with a significant other or not. But it also involved marching. It involved doing what you felt you could do and wanted to do.
JEAN SHINODA BOLEN: And I think that the whole notion of, when a critical number of people change their way of viewing things, humanity changes. And the natural form that women have is actually to be in circle and to talk and to reduce stress by speaking about what’s true and then supporting each other to do whatever it is. And I think that the boundary stuff, whether it’s with a significant other or to- or it’s with some major whatever, corporation, government, that to do it together, to have sisters at your back, so to speak, makes it a lot easier to do.
And now it’s time for a third wave of the women’s movement that has to do with bringing peace to the world. [AUDIENCE CLAPS]
NINA SIMONS: I need to reveal something of the inner workings of my brain here, which is that this question about boundaries has me goin’.
HOST: Nina Simons.
NINA SIMONS: I realize that because I’m much more comfortable, generally, and have been through most of my life, in a kind of boundary-less space where we all feel each other, because I tend to feel other people without trying, and I often assign internal gender properties to what I notice in myself.
So, I noticed this boundarylessness as sort of unity and sort of feminine, and I’ve noticed that my struggle to define limits and to befriend boundaries feels to me like something of the healthy masculine in it, that part of the legacy of this time is that we not only are learning and reclaiming what it means to be a healthy feminine, but what’s a healthy masculine.
And so I really want to have both of them in me.
And one more thing I was gonna add is that another little piece from a teacher of mine who’s here this weekend, Jeanette Armstrong, who said, you know, there’s something very healthy and very needed in this time about the anger that flows up through your feet. And I’ve been sort of exploring that because I grew up thinking anger was bad. You know? And had no place in my world. And I’ve been beginning to understand, like when I hear you talk, Joanna, about the anti-nuclear movement, that’s the outrage and the anger that comes up through the soles of our feet that says No, this cannot be; we have to stop this; we have to take a stand. And I think, actually, for me, I’m wanting to encourage that in my life, because it feels like a strengthening of limits for myself that’s about what I really want to take a stand for, and how much I want to encourage everyone else to join me. [AUDIENCE CLAPS]
HOST: From our relationship to animals and our animal bodies, to each other and to planet Earth, Joanna Macy says we are in the midst of a “huge and necessary revolution”. Nina Simons points to our need to restore value to the “feminine”–those qualities of compassion, caring, collaboration and emotional intelligence, qualities that have been systematically devalued in all people and our civilization, to the detriment of our collective future.
When we return, the experience of motherhood inspires profound change for two global activists.
I’m Neil Harvey. You are listening to “They Don’t Call Her Mother Earth For Nothing: Women Re-Imagining the World.”
HOST: You are listening to a one-hour Bioneers special program.
I’m Neil Harvey. This is “They Don’t Call Her Mother Earth For Nothing: Women Re-Imagining the World.” We will return to the Bioneers conference panel discussion featuring Alice Walker, Nina Simons, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Joanna Macy, Sarah Crowell and Akaya Windwood in a moment.
But first Social network innovator Joan Blades and sustainability advocate Annie Leonard speak about activism that comes from each of their experiences of motherhood.
Recognizing the power of women’s leadership means recognizing the need to integrate the best of the ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ capacities within each of us. We all carry both.
Joan Blades says the culture is ready to shift now. As co-founder of MoveOn.org she helped revolutionize web-based political organizing. Through her own experience with motherhood she found a way to effect positive change for the vast majority of Americans – women, men and children.
JOAN BLADES: There’s deep discrimination against mothers in our country. And none of us really expect that. I didn’t. I only realized this a couple years ago.
HOST: Joan Blades is an artist, attorney, writer and businesswoman, building on her web-based organizing successes to right another injustice that’s very personal to her.
Along with Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, she founded MomsRising to bring together millions of people who all share a common concern about the need to make the world more family-friendly.
JOAN BLADES: A mother is going to get paid on average 27 percent less than a man, who is equally educated and has an equivalent job. A single mother’s gonna get paid 33 to- 33 to 44 percent less than a man in equivalent education and job. Well, all of a sudden that explains a whole lot to me.
It explains why there’s so many women and children in poverty really easy. Yeah. But it also explains to me why there’s so few women in leadership.And so I really want to have both of them in me.
If you look in the board rooms, you look in the halls of power in politics, women are under-represented. They’re- we’re lucky if they’re 20 percent. Often it’s five percent. Well, what’s happening?
You have a career path that’s traditional and linear. And 82 percent of women become mothers. Well, having a baby is, for many women, not a linear experience. It requires, certainly, a little time off, and fact is if a woman want to take a year off, say, or two years off, or a father does, they should be able to do that. That’s a good thing. But, with our traditional expectations, too often those mothers and those fathers that make those choices are put on a mommy track or a daddy track where they never get to the top of their field, wherever that may be. And that’s bad for us.
It’s bad for us for a couple reasons, one of which, I want women in leadership. I want mothers, specifically, in leadership. I want people that understand, you know, the full breadth of the challenges we face in this society. And it’s a very important voice that’s being excluded.
Our belief is that the reason there’s so much bias against mothers in the United States is we don’t have the kind of support that the vast majority of industrialized countries do for parents. And that starts with leave, you know, paid leave when a woman has a child.
Out of 168 countries there are four that have nothing. That would be the United States, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and Lesoto. Okay. That’s jaw dropping. You gotta be kidding. What are we thinking?
You know, we have women that are making the choice between taking care of their infants and having a roof over their head.
HOST: Moms Rising is promoting policies that support America’s working women, the majority of whom already hold the job of “mom”. Women, and mothers, are in the workplace to stay. Yet appropriate public policies and workplace structures in the United States lag far behind most other countries.
This mother saw the situation as a kind of mother of all issues. It led her to co-create the Motherhood Manifesto.
JOAN BLADES: We’ve taken the word MOTHER and made it into the manifesto points because, yeah, you want this to be memorable. M is for maternity/paternity-leave paid. O is open, flexible work, and that means the ability to adjust your schedule to be able to take care of kids. T – TV and other after-school programs, The after school programs, for Pete’s sake, this is proven to be a good investment because kids that have good after school programs have much better academic outcomes; they ultimately do much better in society. Health care. Every kid should have health care. Frankly, all Americans should have health care, but first give health care to all kids and stop messin’ around. Excellent child care. That means, you know, staffing, education, really respecting childcare as the huge community value it is. Finally, Realistic and fair wages. Someone that’s working full time, more than full time should be able to support themselves and support their family.
HOST: Since 2006, MomsRising has gained over 150,000 citizen members and keeps growing. More than 85 national and state organizations have aligned with the aims of MomsRising.
Social networking strategies developed at moveon.org have been put to use raising awareness and catalyzing action on motherhood and family issues. As part of the digital menu, members can download chapters of the Motherhood Manifesto online. It’s also a multimedia organizing tool: available as a documentary film for screening at house parties, and in book form.
JOAN BLADES: One of the stories in Motherhood Manifesto is about a business owner, Jim Johnson, who’s a conservative. But he heard Joan Williams talking about the issues of work and family and that somehow our society has got our values transitioned. It used to be God, family, work. That organization doesn’t seem to be coming through. And he heard that and he said, well, I don’t mean to be making things harder on women and mothers, and he went back and he checked in his company and he found that, yeah, mothers were impacted the most by not getting benefits for part-time and were most likely to be part-time, and that vast majority of the company would like flexibility.
And we’re talking about Johnson Moving & Storage, an- over a hundred-year-old organization, but he changed it. And he found it was good for his bottom line. You know, there was much less turnover, people were happy there. They were productive. He could attract new people that were, you know, very excellent too because he had such good policies. It was a win-win.
But, somehow, this understanding has not permeated the business community in general yet. It’s sneaking in here and there, and we need to make it stop sneaking in and just be a tidal wave. It’s time. You know? (laughs) We’re all paying for- it’s a real big payment we’re making because of this because we’re not taking care of kids.
In 20 years from now, these kids are the engine of our economy, and they’re not gonna be as able as they should be because we didn’t invest in them now.
HOST: Moms Rising change-maker Joan Blades joins a world full of women who are acting on behalf of women, children, and families.
Environmentalist Annie Leonard polled a group of her colleagues to get a sense of how women themselves are faring in the midst of working so hard to make the world a better place.
ANNIE LEONARD: The women I talked to, when I asked them about the activism work that they felt most comfortable with and most proud of, the- all of the women felt most excited about and most comfortable in organizational structures or in activist settings that were based on collaborations and relationships, rather than traditional, positional power hierarchical kind of dominant, centralized organizations. And the excitement was about this- this model of organizing that is spreading, that’s about networks of organizations and movement-based work rather than individual issue or individual organization.
HOST: Annie Leonard is a leader in the global movement to reduce waste and end over-consumption. “The Story of Stuff”, a film written and hosted by Leonard and produced by Free Range Studios, has been viewed on her Website over 6 Million times and counting. She’s traveled the world advocating that we all make a life-affirming shift in our values, away from possessions and towards family, friends and community.
ANNIE LEONARD: Now, a number of the friends that I talked to, women friends, talked about an incredibly strong connection to life and connection to connection itself. Now, in terms of life, I recognize that not all women can or choose to have kids, but still, I believe that the ability to bear life is a very strong unifying thread among many, many women. For me, it was an incredible experience. I- I’m the mother of an 8-year-old daughter, and I always thought of myself as, you know, a very strong-willed, powerful woman. When I had this baby, it was the first time that I felt like a mammal. I- I- I literally felt like a mammal. I felt like a mother lioness when I was pushin’ that stroller down the street or feeding my child. I felt if anyone threatens her, I will rip their head off. (audience laughter) This- this incredible power. And I’ve been an activist for 20 years, and I have had a- moments of incredible anger, outrage, courage, hope, I have never had any feeling, in my 20 years of activism, that came near that mammalian, lioness protecting my child, force from within me. And I was like, whoa! Where is that coming from? It was an incredible power. And I wondered, what is this power? And where does it come from? And, can women, through this- this, um, unifying experience, is there some way to harness that energy and use that to transform the world towards sustainability and justice, because that was a hell of a power.
HOST: In motherhood Annie Leonard found an unexpectedly fierce new source of power for her activism. When women redefine leadership in “feminine” terms, they often find, like Leonard, that that power to act on behalf of themselves, their community and the Earth, actually comes from within.
ANNIE LEONARD: I think that this- this has profound implications for how women work if we want to make the world a better place.r.
If it’s true that women are more inclined towards seeing the world through relationships and through community rather than individuals, then does it follow that we can more aptly nurture about a culture of communal care or an ethic of care? And will nurturing and encouraging women’s voices in the political arena and in the activist arena, will that lead us more quickly to a culture that’s grounded in social democracy and ecological sustainability and justice? Can we replace this more domination-based, individual-based, um, society that we’re now operating in? And if that is true, then it seems to me a primary goal and role of women activists, in addition to whatever activist work that we’re doing, is to develop organizational structures and cultures that really encourage women, and especially young women, not to silence that voice, but to really nurture it.
And I just want to close with one quote that I just loved from this In A Different Voice. She says that staying in connection, then, with women and girls, in teaching, in research, in therapy, in friendship and motherhood, I would add, in our activist work, is potentially revolutionary.
HOST: Annie Leonard.
When we return more from Akaya Windwood, Joanna Macy, Nina Simons and Alice Walker.
HOST: This is “They Don’t Call Her Mother Earth For Nothing: Women Re-Imagining the World” – a one-hour special program. I’m Neil Harvey.
Now back to our Bioneers panel of imaginative women. Alice Walker, Joanna Macy, and Nina Simons spoke with host Akaya Windwood.
AKAYA WINDWOOD: Down in my belly is a place of deep despair and sitting underneath it is my greatest hope and desire for this wonderous and amazing world…So what’s under your despair and what wisdom can you offer us from that place?
HOST: Joanna Macy.
JOANNA MACY: Well, you know the work that I do in groups is originally was called despair work, despair and empowerment, then it was called deep ecology work because we found that by honoring our despair and not trying to cement it over or talk it away or privatize it into some personal pathology, we found that that was- that pain for our world was a gateway into our full vitality and to our connection with all life.
So the other side of that pain for our world is a love for our world that is bigger than you would ever guess from looking at what this civilization posits as the good life. A love so raw, so ancient, so deep that you know that if you get in touch with that, you can just ride it; you can just be there and it doesn’t matter. Then nothing can stop you. But to get to that, you gotta stop being afraid of hurting. The price of reaching that is tears and outrage, because the tears and the power to keep on going, they come from the same source. It’s like two sides of the same coin. I do believe that. [AUDIENCE CLAPS]
HOST: Alice Walker.
ALICE WALKER: What I find underneath my despair is actually ecstasy because I am so incredibly happy that I’m here now, not in the future, not in the past, but somehow lucky enough to be born just right now, to be here right now. It’s such a gift.
Because the despair is, for me, that- is that mile-thick covering of ice that Al Gore tells us about in his film, and when I think of our planet, which is so glorious and so alive and so colorful and so warm and with so many birds and all kinds of things, when I think all of that under the ice, I feel such sadness, it’s almost unbearable. But the joy of actually being here, to somehow to have made it here, and I feel this very intensely at times when I allow myself the space to experience eternity.
We actually have eternity. We can have it in our lifetime. It’s not something somewhere else. It’s not something in the future. It is in the moment. And so when I rest enough to give eternity back to myself having foolishly squandered it looking at my watch. Then I know, you know, I know that it’s really okay, you know. Ultimately it really is. That Mother has all the time there is. That’s all she gives, Mother, is time. And she will melt this ice ball many times.
I’m very sorry that seems to be the future of the planet, but I also feel that she will be fine. She will be fine, and she has somehow managed to leave me here now, to have me witness, to be a witness to her magnificence, her beauty, and her generosity and her grace. And that’s the ecstasy. [AUDIENCE CLAPS]
HOST: Again, host Akaya Windwood.
AKAYA WINDWOOD: So many of us can taste and see and feel this world that we are re-imagining. Arundati Roy tells us another world is not only possible, she’s on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. Tell us how we can get from here to then. What practical, everyday actions can ordinary women like me do to move us along?
HOST: Alice Walker.
ALICE WALKER: I think that sometimes it’s very hard to know where you will serve next, because the place that you’re standing is not holding or you don’t see the effectiveness. For instance, all of those marches and all of those speeches and all of that anguish to try to stop the war, the last big war against Iraq and before that against Afghanistan, and it’s not that I personally gave up on that, and I still do that, but I also realize that we have to change the consciousness of our children about war, that they don’t know what war is, and how could they because their parents give them camouflage diapers and they buy them toys that they use to harass and hurt each other, and they think war is a game.
So, it was necessary to move on to writing children’s books about war – or a children’s book about war – to help shift the consciousness of our children. It seems to me maybe a very, very long shot, but it certainly seems worth doing, and I think in my own life, the now and the distant yonder is held together by hard work. And sometimes it’s too hard, and sometimes, you know, I feel like I have, you know, eighteen or nineteen arms as Durga has, and all of them are whirling. And then someone comes along and they want me to use a 20th arm, and I don’t have it.
So that is very possible, but it reminds me of what my friend Gloria Steinem used to say. When we worked together on Ms. magazine, I would see her, you know, frantically going around trying to raise money to keep the magazine going, then she’d come in in the middle of the night and try to write articles. And then there were always people wanting this and wanting that. And then they were kvetching, you know, so she’s doing all of these things, and somebody would say, well, why don’t you speak up about, I don’t know, whatever, and she used to say, she said, you know, I feel like a sitting dog being told to sit. (laughter) And this is how it is. This is how it really is often for the people who are showing up to hold up the hoop. You know? Everybody really should be showing up to hold up the hoop and if everybody showed up, the hoop wouldn’t be so heavy.
But those of us who feel like we have to hold up the hoop, we’re there and we are often being told, you know, to sit. You know, we’re already sitting.
So, hard work and understanding that, at this point, it really has to be about service. It’s not about career, you know, it’s not about hardly anything else but where can you serve the people and where can you serve the planet, and where can you, you know, serve humanity and all of the rest of the animals, and finding the joy of that. I find it, actually, when I’m not myself, wanting to take to my bed, just really, really joyful and happy. So that’s what I would say, Akaya.
NINA SIMONS: For me, one of the things that I’ve wrestled with for a long time has been this idea of reconciling a false dichotomy that I had between self and service.
HOST: Nina Simons.
NINA SIMONS: And I grew up believing that service was good and service was how I was going to get my strokes and prove my worth, and so I spent a lot of years serving things outside myself that I knew were important. And some things changed for me in the last ten years, and- through a lot of teaching, that included some guidance to pay exquisite attention, internally, to see what made my flame grow brighter, and really noticed what my specific assignment was, is. And what I’ve been discovering is there is absolute ecstasy in service that’s connected to what makes your flame grow brighter, and that there’s no dichotomy and there is no difference, and it’s the most joyous work I know to do.
And so it feels to me like, you know, part of what we’ve lost in this sort of plowing under of the feminine is the respect for the work of cultivating our inner gardens, and doing our inner work, and for a time, you know, around our house, we call the folks who do inner work to the exclusion of outer work the naval academy (laughter) ‘cause it’s naval gazing, right? And- but there is immense, immense power in connecting up our inner work with the call to serve what so greatly needs us out here.
And, so, that’s what I think, is to notice where your flame grows brighter and see how you connect up what you most love with what’s most needed out there, because it’s all needed and there’s no lack, and there’s so much creativity in it and uniqueness, and each of us has our own very specific thing to bring, and it’s- now’s the time. [AUDIENCE CLAPS]
HOST: Joanna Macy.
JOANNA MACY: Yes, yes to all that. Service. Finding your passion. Doing what’s right in front of you.
I would only add- take a moment or build it into your attitude the way you look at the sky, the way you breathe the air, up to the larger context. And I’m thinking, actually, about the context of time.
I have just returned a couple of days ago, from 30 days, on a wild stretch of the Oregon coast with 60 people. And we called that Seeds for the Future, an immersion in deep time. Now, all these people who came were right up to their elbows, their shoulders, over the head active in causes for the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings, and we were deliberately taking time to look at the larger context in which we live, knowing that our culture has a very peculiar and I believe unprecedented experience of time, which is accelerated and fragmented, hurrying up the kazoo. You hardly have time to think a thought two inches long. You’re just pushed and driven and, so we were looking at teachings during our time together, and putting them into practice, that would be somewhat similar to what the Buddhists call the Fourth Time in Tibetan Buddhism. They’re the beings of the three times, past generations, current generation, future generations, and then there’s the fourth time that we can access by a choice we make in the present moment to expand our temporal context and include them.
This has the most- so we were inventing ways to do this. We were looking at what it would teach us. And it is remarkable to be able to learn to see what you’re doing within a context that is actually larger than your lifetime. Now, right away, it’s sort of like a poor man’s enlightenment, because immediately you do that, you know that you won’t be able to see the results, you can’t be dependent on observing the results of your own actions. It’s very liberating. And you can feel an enormous support coming in to you. Our ancestors have it, a support coming from knowing that the ancestors are with you, and of knowing that the future generations are within you also.
As my teacher, nuclear activist, sister Rosalie Bertell says, every being who will ever live on Earth is here now. Where? In your ovaries and in your gonads and in your DNA. And the choices that you make now have a lot to do with whether they’ll have a chance to be born, sound of mind and body.
We were practicing these last five weeks how to live and work, particularly now that we’re coming back to good old speedy usual time with an expanded sense, a timeframe, and it gives a sense of buoyancy and a sense of deep companionship, and furthermore, I’ll close with this, it helps us act our age, because we are- well, if only you think of your age as Gaia, there you are four billion years, but when you think of every particle and every atom and every cell of your body goes back to 13.7 billion years, to the primal flaring forth, so it’s time we acted with the full authority as well as grace and beauty and perhaps unexpectedness of our true age. [AUDIENCE CLAPS]
AKAYA WINDWOOD: I’m taking a breath of deep gratitude for women. And I invite you to join me in that. I love women. I’m also taking a breath of deep gratitude for these particular women. Please join me in that. I love these women.
HOST: Akaya Windwood in conversation with Jean Shinoda Bolen, Joanna Macy, Sarah Crowell, Nina Simons and Alice Walker. Joined by Annie Leonard and Joan Blades. Wise women, imagining together how we might live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations… a revolution from the HEART of nature – and the human heart.