Neuroscience and Social Justice Leadership

(Draft Article to be published with Natasha Aruliah)

The front lines of social justice leadership are often stressful places to stand. The causes, the people, the issues, ask a lot of us.  They ask the best of us when we’re standing in historic trauma fields – looking to find ways to transform the system, transform the situation, and heal ourselves.   We’re looking for the inspiration, the break through into new paradigms that serve our communities.

The NEAR Sciences offer a new paradigm that helps both at a personal level, at a community level and at a systems level.  The NEAR Sciences are:  Neuroscience, Epigenetics, ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experience), and Resilience.

What the neurosciences are saying is trauma and patterns of toxic stress are deeply imprinted often across generations. Epigenetics shows our DNA is changing based on our environment in the first few years of life.  It also says our brains can heal and we can radically shift how we PERSONALLY respond, and how our COMMUNITIES and SYSTEMS respond to toxic stress or stress related “triggers.”

In Washington State there is a 15 year effort underway to reduce trauma in communities generation to generation informed by the NEAR Sciences. … Continue Reading...

2015 ACE’s and Neurosciences Resource List

We had a session at our Bowen Island Art of Hosting on the Neuroscience and ACE’s – I offered to share out a suite of resources from the work here in Washington State and also my ever geeky study of the neurosciences, resilience, and healing.   It is a deep passion of mine learning how patterns are in the physical, emotional, mental body and what are the tools and practices that support healing.   I’m profoundly grateful to Laura Porter, Rob Anda, all of my friends at the former Family Policy Council, and SOOOO many others offering the gift of their leadership to these efforts.

Video Resources on ACE’s AND Resilience

Rob Anda, MD, “Adverse Childhood Experiences in our Society.”

Rob Anda, MD “Adverse Childhood Experience, What Do Future Leaders Need to know”

Laura Porter Keynote Address on Flourishing – youtube

Breaking the Cycle of ACE’s in Washington – Laura Porter

Resilience in Education youtube series by Michael Unger

Ace Study DVD Movie Trailer

 Adverse Childhood Experience Study resources:

Adverse Childhood Experiences Fact Sheet  http://www.cdc.gov/ace/ Rob Anda, MD

Find out your ACE score:  http://acestudy.org/ace_score

More on the ACE’s Study http://acestudy.org/home  linking childhood trauma to long term health and social consequences. … Continue Reading...

Leadership and the NEAR Sciences

Last month I hosted the first ever NEAR Sciences Think Tank with over fifty thought leaders from across the country.  The NEAR sciences (neurobiology, epigenetics, adverse childhood experiences & resilience) are such an amazing combination. I’ve been following the neurosciences and work around trauma and toxic Stress for 11 years as part of my work here in Washington.  It’s been an amazing ride to see how these understandings have been brought into our community networks, legislator, early learning programs and into systems and communities across the state.   More formally adding in Epigenetics  is powerful – showing things like how our genetics are changed by our environment early in life.  We are wired to adapt to the circumstances we face… to survive.   Then add Resilience – learning how to thrive and how to “Build Resilience not ACE’s.”

The Think Tank participants came from many disciplines and perspectives.  We used our diversity of experience, training and practice to engage in cross-cutting dialogue.… Continue Reading...

Disruptive Conversations about Death in the Healthcare System

This week I am working with the Vitaltalk team to imagine how to scale their work Nurturing healthy connections between clinicians and patients facing serious illness.   They are such an amazing team to work with as they’ve been teaching & working with deep authenticity, presence, co-learning, emergence, honesty, courageous humanity and HUMOR.    How do you scale THAT! 

One of the most personally impactful retreats I’ve ever hosted was the one I co-lead with the VitalTalk team on Dying. The Invitation read: Let’s have a disruptive conversation about death. You can view the beautiful website and excellent videos from the event here.

One of my favorite lines spoken at the retreat, by Kemp, “It is not death we fear but our own unbearable grief, our unbearable love.”

Choosing an object to take to put in the circle on Monday, I’m packing up a picture of my Dad. I’ve met him three times as he flirted with that threshold, the first after a major bicycle accident. … Continue Reading...

Olympia Homelessness Leadership Summit

Five months ago I hosted the Olympia Homelessness Leadership Summit with Paul Horton. It’s fun to watch how the work continues to unfold.   The harvest from the original event can be found here.  The opening lines of the original invitation read: “It’s time to have a different conversation about homelessness in Olympia, one that acknowledges the complex nature of the issues and seeks to build an atmosphere of mutual understanding, learning and innovation. One that helps us work better together as we address these challenges in our community. One that shapes next steps in a powerful way”.

One piece that keeps travelling since the event are the AGREEMENTS  we created for how to work together (see below).   These have been brought into other meetings to set the tone and quality of conversations.   This week there is a public meeting on the issue – all who attended the summit were encouraged to attend and help shift how public meetings go: “We hope that we can all bring the spirit, intention and commitment to work together into this meeting.”

Theresa Slusher , a member of the core calling team has been publishing a series of articles as a citizen for Works In Progress a small local paper.   … Continue Reading...

Designing Trauma Informed Meetings

Designing trauma informed meetings Walking into all of our meeting spaces is “trauma” – stories of Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE’s) the trauma from families, violence in our communities, anger, difficult or overwhelming emotional experiences.  This trauma resides in our bodies and shapes behavior and the ability to listen, learn and participate. We’ve all adapted and most who show up at our meetings have found ways to function.

Trauma affects our brains – our executive function (how we organize information and tasks), it effects our reactions , it effects our ability to learn and process information and can affect our memory.   For many people when they are stressed they are not picking up what is happening around them.  They are occupied in their internal world of trauma and the associated neurological patterns of  fight, flight, tension, freeze, or protect.   Our bodies in stress response have the capacity to release 1400 different stress chemicals and hormones, designed to help us survive and deal with danger. … Continue Reading...

What the Salmon know

Each fall Chris Corrigan, Caitlin Frost, Tenneson Woolf and I meet up on Bowen Island to host our annual West Coast Art of Hosting (joined this year by Amanda Fenton).  It’s our own journey home to see how the year has shaped us, weathered us, changed us.  When we are lucky in timing the Salmon are also making their journey thru the cove.   This has been a year of challenge and by leaning in – landing in a new place.   What the Salmon know has a lot of relevance this year.

Mark Nepo’s reflection from The Book of Awakening feels like it’s bringing me right home.

“Salmon have much to teach us about the art of facing things. In swimming up waterfalls, these remarkable creatures seem to defy gravity. It is an amazing thing to behold. A closer look reveals a wisdom for all beings who want to thrive.

What the salmon somehow know is how to turn their underside – from center to tail -into the powerful current coming at them, which hits them squarely and the impact then launches them out and further up the waterfall; to which their reaction is, again, to turn their underside back into the powerful current that, of course, again hits them squarely; and this successive impact launches them further out and up the waterfall.… Continue Reading...

Creating Coherent Fields and Meetings – The Science of the Heart

It’s a crazy world – we’re all running in 100 directions, and thus our capacity to think, learn, move  and listen together can be severely challenged.  It’s also at a time when our paradigms and systems are severely stressed and we are in deep need of innovation.

I’m always on the lookout for practices that help us truly arrive and be present to one another and to create “deep meeting” – where there is room for our intuitive intelligence, our wisdom, innovation – where we know how to work with our some of the toxic stress and emotions  – consciously shifting our patterns of relating.

One set of practices I love comes from the Heartmath Institute.   They contrast the state of being in “coherence” to that of being in our stress responses.  They’ve clinically demonstrated what happens to our bodies, brains, and creative when we are under stress (anger, anxiety, frustration, fear). … Continue Reading...

Be a Localist – Business Alliance for Local Living Economies

The first Art of Hosting for The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE – link) was held in Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan, Sept 22-24.  Christine Ageton the Managing Director of BALLE brought together Fellows, Staff, Board, and Network members.  I’ve always admired BALLE’s work and ran my first Open Space meeting with them in 2003 here in Seattle.  BALLE now is North America’s fastest growing network of socially responsible businesses, comprised of over 80 community networks in the US and Canada.

Their work relies on building strong relationships and being able to work well together as self-organizing teams.  It involves convening local leaders and community, and together envisioning and creating emergent solutions that meet our local needs and address systemic issues right here.

During the AoH we looked at the leadership paradigms of Hero and Host.  What is the frame of leadership that works from a living systems perspective and from a network perspective?Continue Reading...

Our Greatest Fear

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.

I recently completed a Reflected Best Self Exercise with one of the people I coach.  The Exercise was created by the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship University of Michigan.   We modified it a bit of course!!

Basically you invite people you’ve worked with closely AND significant people in your life to offer insight into “You at Your Best”.  They are invited to write descriptive words, phrases and give examples.   You gather feedback from at least 7 people.  Then absorb the feedback and look for patterns, insights, gifts, and the path forward it illuminates.

It is quite a brilliant mirror to look in – seeing the best of who we are.   It invites forward our brilliance, courage, and wisdom.   We need ourselves, and each other, to stand in our strength and wisdom these days – all of us.… Continue Reading...