Reclaiming the Heart of Humanity
An Open Letter to Women Running for Office
by Kay Lindahl and Kathe Schaaf
Like many of you, we are distressed to witness how the level of discourse in the U.S. has deteriorated in the past two years and become filled with divisiveness and fear. The National Conversation Project recently wrote: “The United States is facing a cultural crisis. Increasingly in America today, we don’t just disagree – we distrust, dislike, even despise those who see the world differently. Animosity for positions is becoming contempt for the people who hold them.” They go on to quote statistics showing loneliness, isolation, and depression on the rise in the U.S. in part because we are no longer talking to our neighbors, work mates, and even family members.
We sense the urgency of this spiritual crisis. Since Women of Spirit and Faith was created in the energy of the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, our work with women at the intersection of spirituality and leadership has shown us that the wisdom of the Divine Feminine is what is missing in our world. We need that lost wisdom now to rebuild bridges, nurture authentic relationships and remember our shared humanity.
At the same time we have been inspired by the unprecedented numbers of women running for office this fall in the 2018 U.S. Midterms. We’ve been humbled by their courage to step up at this moment in time when our political environment has so many sharp edges. We wrote this letter to support these women and to invite women from all spiritual beliefs to join us in holding space for these women leaders. This letter is our prayer that these diverse women have whatever support they need to stay centered in their spiritual values and lead from their deepest wisdom.
We invite you to send this letter out on social media, to all the groups and organizations you know that support women’s issues, to your local news outlets, to your friends and families. We especially hope you will walk into the local campaign headquarters of women running for office to hand them a hard copy of this letter. Hand out copies at any rallies you attend, giving them to organizers, volunteers, the candidate herself whenever possible.
We’ve already experienced that this letter stirs up conversation — and that is what we hope! We need some good conversations in this country about the common ground we share. We need to sit down with open hearts to listen deeply and with curiosity to the person on the ‘other side.’ Our website – www.womenofspiritandfaith.org – has lots of information about hosting conversations. It’s simple — and challenging – and there may not be anything more important on the planet right now.
The 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions used the words of one of our young leaders (Alison Fast) as it’s theme: “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity.” That usually begins as an inside job — calming our own judgments and fears, grounding ourselves in our spiritual roots. And then it involves reaching across the nearest divide with the love that is at the heart of every faith tradition. May the upcoming Parliament be an opportunity to live into that heart in powerful new ways.
For a copy of the letter below, by itself, to copy and distribute, go here.
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An Open Letter to the Women Running in the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections:
Leading From Your Deepest Wisdom
Wow. We are awed that there are so many of you and that you are so diverse. We are excited and relieved to see that you are already doing politics differently. We feel a sense of urgency now to move beyond old boundaries of political, religious, or ideological identity and discover a better way forward together.
Your candidacy gives you the opportunity to break out of old paradigms and breathe fresh air into our democratic process. Unfortunately, ‘politics as usual’ does not invite – or even allow – the kind of wisdom we need at this time. The old game is driven by power, money, and fear. Imagine the impact if we could expect our political leaders to tell the truth, to be kind and curious and to rebuild our democracy by listening – not just to one another but also to their own inner wisdom and moral guidance.
How can you ground yourself to show up fully and authentically for the challenges ahead? We strongly recommend that each of you gather a small group of women around you. These women should not be political advisors or potential donors or representatives of important constituencies. These are 3-4 friends that you can trust to tell you the truth, to have your back and to hold space with you for your highest and best leadership to emerge. The intent is to gather regularly – at least once a month if possible – to talk and laugh and cry and tell each other the truth.
Sit in a circle, light a candle, and place it in the center, to honor the oneness of the space. Pass a talking piece to assure that every voice is heard and every woman is valued. Listen to one another and to the inspiration and intuition that arises.
This circle of women will help keep you grounded. They will help you remember who you are and what you believe in when the seduction of being ‘important’ comes knocking at your door — and it will. These women will help provide a shield of protection when you are attacked by forces who want to bring you down — and you will be.
Circle practice may be our best hope for restoring our democracy and perhaps even discovering it for the first time. Sitting down in a circle with a group of your constituents and passing a talking piece is a simple approach to public engagement that allows democracy to emerge through respectful dialogue, deep listening and growing understanding. Senator Susan Collins from Maine used a talking piece in the bi-partisan committee that finally hashed out the emergency funding bill in January 2018 to keep our government from shutting down. Doing Democracy with Circles by Jennifer Ball, Wayne Caldwell, and Kay Pranis (2010) is an excellent resource if you want to learn more.
The simple truth is that women were not in the room at the birth of our democracy. Their voices were not heard in the conversations that shaped our nation. The first woman wasn’t seated in the senate until 1922! What might be different today if women’s voices had been heard from the beginning and their perspectives had been integrated into our constitution and our political process? What might be possible now if you risk changing the centuries-old playbook to incorporate new practices that invite curiosity, listening, and respectful dialogue?
You have the opportunity to live into these questions as you step into the political arena. You have the opportunity not only to take a seat at the table but to change the shape of the table. You have the opportunity not only to be heard but to change the tenor of dialogue in our country. Compassionate leadership can help all of us build bridges to restore and re-imagine our democracy rather than further deepening the divides that undermine our country.
We are so grateful that you have stepped up to bring your feminine wisdom at this crucial moment for America.
With deep respect,
Kathe Schaaf and Kay Lindahl
The Letter by Itself (pdf)
Header Photo: Pxhere