written 2/28/12, only just bold enough to post:

Evolution came to visit one day

The baby was sleeping

and out of the quiet

she lurched me from my loneliness

Upward and upward

Until I had a new view

and in that moment

a grand promise was planted in my soul.

But I did not know what to do

For the soil in my soul

was dry

and could nourish no seed

Yet there it sat

with its seduction

of becoming

And I could not bear

the potential

knowing I was not living it.

I did not know what to do.

But a seed

it does not think

it knows what to do

All I had to do

was sit with it

I did not have to think

I did not have to fix my life

I only had to follow the promise

of my seed.

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photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

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Updating

“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you.” -Parker Palmer

I found Parker Palmer’s To Know As We Are Known in the education library at the University of Florida in 1999.  A book a published in 1983, it spoke to the very feelings I’d always held about education and what it could be, it enlivened, resonated and impacted me so deeply.  I never knew that the reading of that book, serving me at the time by supporting a research paper, would also be in preparation for the year 2013.

Life always prepares you for that which you are ready, though it may be unexpected.

(Did you happen to know that before Santa Claus was Santa Claus, he was a chimney cleaner, did post-office deliveries, worked in the zoo where he became friendly with the reindeer, and at the circus where he flew through the air…All before the Elves hired him on the spot, with all that experience?)

I had plans for 2013.  But January came and laughed.  It had plans for me.

Best to listen.

At the top of the list:

A local group of parents and educators in my community are starting a charter school.

In all of the “to-do’s” I sometimes forget what a huge deal this is.  We are creating a school that is deeply respectful of children and how they learn naturally.  A school where teaching and learning is creative and joyful.  Seaside Community Charter School is the first to bring Waldorf educational methods to a public school in Florida.

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So, I’ve been adjusting to a new state of busy.  But I’m also slowing down.  And I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back on my blog.  It’s so easy to get overwhelmed in the duties of life, even with the things we care deeply about.  I’m reminded to give only what is mine to give; it’s the only way to give with love.  My writing has always felt a joyful giving.

I feel alive in my passion for supporting and bringing forth potential.  I’m on fire when I think, write and speak about the drawing forth of imagination, creativity and the innate genius within everyone (the very things that attracted me to the world of childbirth…which is where I thought I’d be in 2013).

Life raised it’s voice, presenting me with a serendipitous opportunity to contribute to that conversation, through the lens of “What Makes a School Great?”   A Year at Mission Hill is generating national conversation about the state of public education by following the chronicling of a year at Mission Hill School in Boston, one of America’s most successful public schools.

205700_140655336094909_2111310421_nYou can read my articles on Ashoka’s Start Empathy blog (my first Mission Hill article will be published next Wednesday), where I get to write about that which I’m gaining practical, on-the-ground experience, where I use Parker’s inspiration:

Deep transformation in education is not the result of “snappier teaching techniques” but arises when we begin to put out there what we know to be true in here.  When we transform our hearts, when we listen deeply.  Education can be the lighting of a fire, the awakening of the boundless capacities within.

We are all born creative

We each have something beautiful to offer the world

We all have a natural desire to connect and contribute

Teaching and learning are intimately connected to these things, for to know something, we must be in relationship with it.

The very things I continue to learn. 

If I wasn’t in relationship with Life, I’d be forcing something to happen according to what I’d planned for 2013.  

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted.  In December, I was renovating.  In January, I was updating.

Renovating my kitchen and bathrooms.  Updating around the house.

At the perfect time, because if you know my blog, maybe you’ve sensed how a person renovates a life, updates a purpose.  Patience.  Rooms become spaciously open as the old gets torn down.  Patience.  Making way for something new, you can’t even tell what you are building.  Patience.  Trusting the process.

A poem describes it best, these past few years:

Maybe,

I’m mutating

Maybe,

something’s gestating,

making a nap

seem so sublime

taking all my time

in quiet repose.

Do you suppose

that something new

is waiting to be born?

Is a caterpillar forlorn

when it hangs in the “j”

and then is covered in green?

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How does it feel

to be a melted being?

Do you know you’re waiting,

not just hesitating

and feeling ashamed,

instead of the quiet

before taking aim-

before hitting the mark?

Maybe,

the future’s not stark,

maybe

in the dark

there’s nothing wrong

maybe a new kind of strong

is incubating, updating, resonating.

Maybe

I’m mutating

Maybe I’m Mutating written by Sharon Elliott

Part II is updating

(photo by Sid Mosdell)

I am available

What can be more real than the sun lighting a single blade of grass

And when like the blade, your own soul turns to receive the golden rays of warmth?

I ask you, what can be more real?

And you answer with mere trivialities, things that will not matter tomorrow.

Think of the work of the spider and the honeybee.

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Explain to me the intricacies of a web and the making of a honeycomb.

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Let your mind get blown more often.

Don’t wait.

Go outside and let the trees and the hibiscus opening to the morning sun

impress upon you.

And what about the moon?

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Can you look to it and say, I am yours?

I can think of nothing more real.

What can be more holy than to say to the moment,

I am available?

——–

I wrote this on the first of November, 2012.  Today is the last day of November and in the 29 days in between, those words- I am available- have grown even richer in meaning. I remembered the value and power of being available even to the uncomfortable moments.  In the month of thanks, I remembered to be thankful for my failures.

Don’t be afraid of being available to the dark moments, they give us access into something so big and utterly new and ultimately beautiful.

(*bee photo by autan; spider web photo by Walter Baxter; moon photo by Tim Fields)

I’ve learned to make friends of former foes-

certainty and uncertainty

Yet I still daydream uncertainties

Hoping to dress them up

and make them certain.

I’ve learned to make friends of former foes-

faith and doubt

Yet I am shakeable

in my trust and in my fear.

That’s the way of this liquid, pliable friendship.

They do not try to rid of each other.

They recognize the other,

thankful to have a friend

who shows them so exquisitely

who they choose to be in each moment.

No more fighting.

No more pushing against.

I relax into who I am

and into a calm curiosity

of where I am going,

allowing the divine

to dance in me,

through me,

and as me.

 

Did I mention that while I was away in New York considering how being digitally connected might serve our heart-to-heart connection, my daughter was at home making me a book that ended with this image and these words:

Look at this craziness the hearts are making out of their minds!

Yes, I say to her, just imagine the crazy, unbelievable things we can create with our hearts and minds aligned!

This article first appeared on Go Girl, a magazine with a fresh new take on the global perspective.

It came at the end of my first day at the Social Good Summit:

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” 

A quote from my all-time favorite quotable person, Albert Einstein, and a wake-up moment at the Summit.  I’d contemplated this quote often and had countless conversations around it, yet there I was at the Social Good Summit acting out of my same old thinking- bypassing my inner knowing for the busy intersections of my mind (which I wrote about in Part I).

Kumi Naidoo, South African human rights activist and Executive Director of Greenpeace International. Photo credit: Mashable.com

Kumi Naidoo (@kuminaidoo), Executive Director of Greenpeace International, delivered the words of Einstein in such a way that even as he called for “no more business as usual,” I knew he meant business, passionate and emboldened.  He meant business because he understands the consequences of acting out of our same old thinking at this  “boiling point” in our evolution as a species.  We have a clear choice between extinction or evolution.  Einstein’s words were not only a wake-up call for me in my seat at the Summit, they are a call to all of us right now, to think differently.  To choose to evolve.

In the words of Naidoo, this means we must move from “responding with bandaids” toward “creative activism.”  We must respond, as Einstein suggests, from a new level of consciousness.  When TMS “Teddy” Ruge (@tmsruge), co-founder of Project Diaspora, took the stage, saying, “it’s not about you creating solutions for us, it’s time we rose up and do things for ourselves,” I could hear the new consciousness emerging and our future calling.  The future wants activists who trust in the co-creative process.

The emergent change agent trusts that within every crisis is an opportunity to rise, and that no one has to come up with a solution alone.  Collaboration has never been more necessary.  As I’ve written before, it’s not about fixing what needs fixing, it’s about conceiving and birthing what is yours to give.  This is the greatest way to serve.

Actor and activist Maria Bello (@maria_bello) shared with the audience her mentor’s words that guided her as she held the tension between her love of acting and a life of service: “You serve best by doing the thing you love most.”  Today, she uses her acting to leverage her activism, co-founding We Advance, a movement to advance the health, safety, and well being of women throughout Haiti, whose goal is to leave their programs in the hands of Haitian women.

Fellow actors America Ferrera (@americaferrera) and Alexis Bledel (@alexisbledel) shared similar insights from their trip to Honduras with ONE (@ONECampaign), saying that women want collaboration, not charity; they are “not looking for handouts, they are looking for tools.”

Actresses America Ferrera and Alexis Bledel. Photo credit: UN Foundation

Tools.  This is my magical wand of a word that I picked up at the Summit.

As I mentioned in Part I, a theme among Summit speakers was that technology is not a solution, it is a tool.  Ambassador Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) put it this way: “The technology is neutral, it can’t bring change by itself, it’s what we do with it.”

It’s how we use our tools.  We’ve been out there hammering and hammering and hammering with our minds.  Trying to strong-arm solutions.  What if instead we choose first to perceive with our hearts?

Then, like technology, our minds become the tool we use in service to the greater whole.  Our thinking actually becomes more relaxed even as crises elevate because we move from, “I’ve got to figure this out and make something happen,” to “What can I offer from my heart?”

Creative activism means we don’t dive in with our limited logic and try to change someones experience.  We go in knowing we don’t have all the answers, but trust that the answers will arise spontaneously at the merging of everyone’s unique gifts.

Forest Whitaker talks about his hopes for world peace and his newly launched PeaceEarth.org. Photo: Mashable.com

A whole-hearted Forest Whitaker (@Forestwhitaker) said, “Choose to connect and feel. Love grows.”

There, in my seat at the Summit, I could feel our vulnerability collide with our power to change this world into one that will blow our minds with it’s goodness, beauty and truth.

This article first appeared in Go Girl, a magazine with a fresh new take on the global perspective of adventurous, independent women.

Walking into the 92Y in Manhattan on day one of the Social Good Summit, I feel a new kind of buzz.  Admittedly, it’s partially induced by the newness of donning heels and blazer and blogger status, credentials swaying as I step into a whole new endeavor.  But truly, this buzz is about being a part of something bigger than myself.  It’s about participating in a conversation that has no boundaries.  All for the sake of goodness.

Goodness and social media.  How do these coalesce to place me right in the middle of a packed Social Good Summit auditorium?

In a word, connection.

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Photo courtesy of United Nations Foundation, http://www.unfoundation.org

I came here to see how being digitally connected might serve our heart-to-heart connection.  I came here because my heart led me here. Those genius’s at Mashable, 92nd Street Y, United Nations Foundation, Ericsson, United Nations Development Programme and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation knew just the right words to transform an inner flame into a full-blown fire (and they welcomed bloggers for free to boot). They handed us all an invitation that said: come create the future with us.

The Social Good Summit is a global conversation that unites anyone and everyone around how to use new media and technology to solve the world’s most pressing issues.  There were live events in New York, Beijing and Nairobi, along with meetups in hundreds of cities across the globe and innumerable others participating online.

I settle into my seat with a deep desire to take part in this open and inclusive conversation and with a knowing that our course has already been altered by the fact that everyone has the opportunity to raise their voice and become part of ONE voice.  Hence the buzz I feel, as if we are the future creating itself.

Buzzed but stupefied, I don’t quite know how to adjust in this new seat.  There is a program zooming across a stage, speakers serving up beautiful and good words at a fast-food like pace; there are laptops, tablets, mobile devices, seven languages translating in the background.  Goodness abounds, yet I feel a scrambling within, determined to type and tweet.  How do I open to receive the goodness if I’m concerned with what I’m thinking and transmitting?

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Photo courtesy of United Nations Foundation, http://www.unfoundation.org

I have to slow down and remember why I came here.

Oh yeah.

My heart.

By day two, my seat, my new place in the conversation, feels really good as I allow my heart to hear, feel and lead the way.  Connecting with what is happening in the moment required an ironic gesture – the closing of my laptop- in a sea of screens harnessing the largest conversation on earth.  My new seat lands me next to a young Nigerian man named Yohanna.  Thankfully, Yohanna and I get the chance to talk during a much appreciated break, and we agree that we are here because something about the Summit “spoke to the inner part of us.”  It wasn’t our minds that told us to think up a solution and get to the Summit.  We were guided by that creative place in us that senses new potential.  And there, emerging on the stage, confirming Yohanna and I were in the right seats, and yet again what might be considered ironic in a room of digital powerhouses, is this message:

Technology is not the solution.  WE ARE THE SOLUTION.  And technology is our tool.

That little shift I made from day one to day two is a window into what is happening on a global scale.  We are opening to the unique goodness that everybody on this planet can offer, instead of focusing on our own forced solutions through our limited thinking.  

In short, we are beginning to use our minds and our technology in service to our hearts.  This is the new face of activism, which I will write about in Part II of this blog, highlighting some brilliant speakers at the Summit.  Stay tuned!

The Social Good Summit has been called “a hub for all,” and “an invitation.”

I totally get that as I grab my MacBook and pack my suitcase for NYC.

In the past, who was invited to the table for global conversation?  Who jetted off to New York City as the United Nations convened its General Assembly?

DIPLOMATS.

Now, here’s me.  Packing my bag.  And don’t forget the MacBook, because that is the tool that’s changing everything (along with my mobile phone).

Now, here’s you.  You don’t have to be in NYC, nor own a MacBook, nor be a diplomat, a social media guru, an innovative technologist, or even a blogger.

YOU ARE INVITED to a global conversation centered around how we can use technology and new media to create solutions for the world’s most pressing issues.  Your voice, your ideas: bring them on!

The goal is to access the voices of people everywhere.  In doing so, Sigrid Kaag, Assistant Secretary General and Director of Bureau for External Relations and Advocacy, United Nations Development Program, says we “raise issues that sometimes don’t make it to summitry.”  She claims this is “the power of collaboration, creative collaboration and co-creation.”

So, here you are, virtual invitation in your virtual hand.  How will you respond?

Don’t put off your R.S.V.P. until you think you have an answer, until you think you have a big enough idea.  The point is to bring your voice to the table.

Tell us what problems your community faces.  Tell us what is working in your community.  Tell us what you see working in the world.

Our conversations will be brought together at the end of the year into a “worldwide paper” bringing crowdsourcing to innovative levels as we get back what we co-created together in the form of a global action plan highlighting opportunities, challenges and commitments.  As Henry Timms, Deputy Executive Director, Strategy, Content and Innovation at 92Y says, “the conference is just beginning on September 24, it’s not ending.”

That is the power of digital.  That is why I’m responding with a YES to the invitation.  Because we have the power to connect EVERYONE, as ONE global voice.

And in that, we are already changing the world before we even begin the conversation on how to change the world!

Here are the ways to join in:

Attend the Social Good Summit in New York City from September 22 -24
-Organize or attend a Social Good Summit Meetup in your own hometown or anywhere around the world as part of The Global Conversation
-Watch the Summit on YouTube and interact in real-time with the Social Good Summit community via social media with hashtag #SGSGlobal.

-Stay in touch through carrieleeferguson.com and/or follow me on Twitter

Get giddy by reading this awesome post from Armchair Advocates: 5 Reasons to be GIDDY about the Social Good Summit

Rallying for Change

This Labor Day, women, men and children gathered in over 100 cities in the U.S. to support evidenced based maternity care as part of Improving Birth: National Rally for Change.  In Jacksonville, Florida, we stood in front of Memorial Hospital (whose c-section rate is 44%) in like-minded & hearted togetherness.  Each has their own story, their own reason for being there, but we all agree on one thing: we want CHANGE.

Image Courtesy of Lori Lee Photography http://www.lorileephotography.com/

It’s not about imposing one way for every mother to give birth. We stood together to raise awareness that there are options beyond epidural or no epidural, to bring to light that women must educate themselves on birth interventions and options.

So many medical procedures have become routine (used without being indicated) and we have moved further and further away from nature.  Evidence does not support induction with no medical necessity, automatic repeat cesarean, continuous fetal monitoring, restricted movement and IV fluids, yet these are all commonplace.

This overuse of intervention is like throwing a wrench into the system and it is not without consequence.

Image courtesy of Lori Lee Photography http://www.lorileephotography.com/

We want pregnant mothers to know that they can trust birth and that a gentle, evidence-based birth has potential to shape the relationship to their bodies and protect the optimal growth of their newborn.  And it can be a source of life-altering empowerment.

This is the change we want to see.  Powerful women accessing their birth wisdom to participate fully in all decisions and actions in relation to their pregnancy and birth. It felt so good to take to the streets with women across the country, knowing that we are a part of something bigger than any one of us could do alone.

AND…

We take to the streets with an understanding that all real change begins within ourselves.  After many of us rallied, we joined Stephanie Dawn for the Sacred Birth Be-in because we recognize that “if a new paradigm of birth is to be born, it begins first with our own conscious awareness.”

I sat in awe after the first prayer & meditation that we have the tools to connect globally for the good of humanity.

If you are pregnant woman wanting to educate yourself, one good place to start online is www.childbirthconnection.org.   Consider hiring a doula for emotional, physical and informational support 🙂

If you are a birth professional, you can register up until September 9th for the Sacred Birth Be-In (click on the link above), and check out all the events for Empowered Birth Awareness Week, including BOLD’s Virtual Town Hall.