Beloveds. It is a certain kind of pain to watch your country struggle from afar.
Though I have recently relocated to Nicaragua I remain a lover of our own (imperfect) democracy in the US.
It seems that my inbox is full of powerful declarations against hate: from universities I have attended, from coaches I follow, even from Uber.
And so I wonder what to write?
One of my friends and a longtime Bird in Hand reader wrote in response to my email Friday to say:
“What a time to be an American. We are all up to our eyeballs with analyses of white supremacy and the threat of racism around here. You never heard the words “neonazi” and “white supremacy” so many times on the radio as we have this week! I wonder if it would resonate somehow with women in the US if you were to highlight how in order to have the energy and attention to fill the world with love and healing, we need to take care of ourselves. Compassion, understanding, resistance, justice: these all take massive amounts of self-understanding and energy. Where will it come from?”
This is actually a super important question to me.
In fact it is the question I have been struggling with my whole life – which drove me to study leadership and spirituality at Harvard:
How does the inner relate to the outer?
How does the world we create inside (in our self-compassion, meditation to detox our nervous system and simple daily steps to build a life which is more and more congruent with our heart) relate to the world we live in communally?
I think this is one of the biggest changes bubbling up in our time. The recognition that the soft comforts of life: pleasure, desire, kindness are not separate from a world of justice and beauty.
Rather they are our fuel.
I learned this a long time ago when I was young and working at a domestic violence program. It was intense, draining work. As part of our orientation we had to learn about the security system and keep alert for armed abusers. 911 was on speed dial.
Every day walking in there I felt very much on the front lines of a movement to grow more love. Together to hold a firm boundary against the violence of undigested pain (which is what fuels abuse) and to create a space where women and children could heal. And part of that work was believing that a more whole and beautiful life was possible for those families. And to model, in my own small way, what that could look like.
But how to remain whole and internally-resourced when working at such a pain-filled location?
This is when I started to meditate in earnest. And I remember going to a self-care workshop hosted by a leader in the domestic violence movement. She talked about what it took to stand up to violence for the long term. Not days, but decades.
And do you know what she talked about?
Finding solace and laughter in community.
Walking in the garden without your shoes on and eating chocolate.
Looking into her eyes, a woman who had led this work since before I was born, I felt the truth of it.
We cannot affect the change we desire out of wanting to help. Or eating ourselves on the inside to respond to the pain on the outside. It has to come from a deeper place. From the reservoir we create by our simple, daily practices which fill and nourish us.
But first, we let our heart break.
Like mine just did when I learned that fellow alumni from Harvard Divinity School were on the scene in Charlottesville and helped to create a safe space for the medics who tried to revive Heather Heyer, the young woman killed in the attack.
Just that one detail — imagining the depth of confusion and pain and anger in the crowd at that moment — that is why we need a secure inner scaffolding.
Because we never know when we will be tapped on the shoulder by life and invited to take this space we have cultivated inside and create a tent of healing for others.
And so today I feel the need to come out of the coachy-closet. Yes I am about self care and meditation and the Enneagram and crafting your morning routine and all of those beautiful ancient awareness techniques which create our foundation for an authentic, beautiful life. One in which you are flourishing at home and in your work in the world.
But I think that in a culture of speed, extraction and domination deep-breath living is a form of leadership.
And that leadership comes in all flavors and forms and social locations from the dramatic to daily life:
Modeling wholeness for your child is leadership.
Meditating at work so you can be centered and listen deeply to colleagues is leadership
as is speaking your truth in big and small ways.
So today I want to say thank you for being a part of this Bird in Hand community. I am deeply grateful you are here and I believe in the impact and influence of each of us contributing our own small, beautiful offering toward the more whole world we desire.
I wanted also to share a little taste on this theme from the intro of my forthcoming book, The Flourish Formula:
Actually there is a deeper reason I want to share this Flourish Formula with you. In addition to wanting to help you avoid physical and physiological pain, I also want to share these skills with you because I believe you would not be reading this book if you did not have something precious and potent to share with your community and our world. Something unique and sorely needed. And now is the time for well-resourced revolutionaries. For women (and a few wonderful men) who are able to step in all their wholeness into leadership roles of every size from their neighborhood on up. But when we are stuck in a pattern of sprinting until we collapse, we never actually build the capacity inside to unlock and share those unique gifts.
Now please don’t hear this as further pressure. I am 100% sure you are a superstar in many, many ways. You likely have excelled at school or work or both, you may be a charmer in front of a room, or a gifted writer, artist or entrepreneur. And the last thing you need is to feel burdened by your talents.
But the truth is that just like we can’t deeply nourish ourselves on fast food, we can’t nourish our gifts living fast. Slowing down in a way which is sustainable is what allows us both to figure out what we truly are here to share (thank God we don’t really have to do everything) and to know ourselves well enough to craft a life which fits us authentically. Not those things which others may want for us, but those idiosyncratic things which make you tingle with delight. That is what is waiting for us on the other side of the Flourish Formula.
Where will the love come from?
We are the ones we have been waiting for. And with the tools of meditation, the Enneagram, and more, we already have what we need.
Love and all the good,
Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School and is the creator of the 8 step FLOURISH Coaching program. Courtney loves hosting retreats for women in nature and beauty-drenched locales, her next one will be held in Granada, Nicaragua October 20-23rd. In live events and through her coaching Courtney helps busy women unlock their greatest gifts and thrive in their personal lives. This summer she moved to Nicaragua with her husband Richard Amory and their three children where together they are exploring volcanic islands, colonial cities, and area beaches to find their perfect spot to land. Interested to learn more about her FLOURISH coaching program or upcoming retreat? You can schedule your complimentary discovery session here.