adrienne maree brown | without manipulation

Original post “without manipulation” written by adrienne maree brown and posted on The Luscious Satyagraha blog, January 27, 2012.

For the rest of 2012, and hopefully beyond, we will be featuring a floating column with contributions from adrienne maree brown’s Luscious Satyagraha blog.  Except to see her featured in various sections of the blog. Enjoy this first piece, “without manipulation,” which asks those doing revolutionary work and those working toward progressive social change, how we’re holding our desire for change. Are we asking ourselves to change or demanding others change for us?

it has been hard to write for the past week – too much to write about! I need to write about Etta James, and about heading on sabbatical, and the beautiful work I am getting to do in the last moments before my sabbatical. I say ‘need to’ loosely because – there are lots of words in me, and I am also liberating myself from doing anything from a place of obligation.

here is something alive in me today.

I was journaling this morning about the kind of spaces I want to create in the world, and it occurred to me that I want to create spaces people long to be a part of – space folks desire to be, but don’t feel obligated to be. radically deep choice.

then I wrote this sentence: ‘I want to open spaces free of manipulation. I want to invite people to be themselves without secretly placing restrictions and boundaries on what that means.’

this is a crystal clear longing I have for all humans.

my friend sterling, who I have called our detroit bodhisattva (which he resists in an enlightened way), calls himself a dressing room where people can try on their true selves without judgement. I feel like the space he creates allows this wholeness and healing to be present wherever he is. I see the impact it has on everyone he meets.

I wish all of us who call ourselves agents of change, facilitators, organizers, activists, intermediaries or anything else in that vein, were holding this way of being.

too often, I feel our work is fundamentally toxified by manipulation – we want to open people to their power and transformation, but only in order to get what we want in the world. it’s ego driven, it’s…not good. we want to change the world by making everyone else change, instead of changing the world by changing ourselves.

and to be fair, we say we want to change ourselves. but actions do speak louder: we still compete, sneak, manipulate, disrespect, accumulate power, build stories of enemies and allies, complain, self-victimize. i do these things, in the spirit of getting food justice and direct democracy and, whatever important thing i want in that moment. I am always amazed when I actually articulate what’s driving my work – I want people to see and want…what I want. genuinely, for themselves, but still exactly as I see it.

and i hear this from other organizers and facilitators in lots of ways, over and over. we need to do ‘this’ so that people will understand ‘this’ and then we can have ‘this’. we want community power, but only if that yields the visions we hold in our own hearts, each vision radically different and often unexplored.

the dissonance between the world we say we want, and the way treat other human beings in pursuit of that world, leaves us strategizing and movement building outside of integrity and authenticity, wondering why we don’t succeed.

I am going on sabbatical in part because I need to regenerate my faith in humanity to be in relationship with each other without manipulation. because I don’t know that we deserve to exist, we humans, if we cannot learn to love each other beyond our desire to manipulate each other, and to create space and society which is about people’s wholeness…not their ‘number-ness’, their body and politic which we can use to achieve this or that campaign. but their wholeness, because we deserve to see ourselves, and humanity, in wholeness. healed.

those are the only spaces I want to hold and be held in, not as an ideal, or righteous vision, but because it feels fundamental to our survival to forsake manipulation as a form of organizing and being, now. i daresay its time to flood ourselves inside and out with respect; to open space for mutual transformation.

we are not nearly done learning, we don’t know yet what right is. let us be in the inquiry together, in community, not knowing, so we can truly hear our selves, present, ancestral and successive, in the context of time’s wisdom.

I suspect an entry way into the practice of operating without manipulation is not to look at how you may manipulate others, but rather, what are the small and large ways you manipulate yourself every day – towards perfection or projection or perception or whatever else is in the conscious mind.

how can you trust yourself, be in right relation with yourself?

a participant in today’s training asked this beautifully: ‘how can I open up the space for my own greatness?’

look in the mirror. breathe deeply. release expectation.



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