Tara Sophia Mohr | Playing Big

Tara Sophia Mohr, Playing Big. Find Your VOICE, Your MISSION, and Your MESSAGE.

After the Election

Thank you to all of you who have written to me over the past week since the election, asking how I’m doing and what I’m thinking about.

Of course, I had wanted to write something earlier, but couldn’t find the words.

I have lots of fleeting thoughts, ideas, positions – but grief has a way of taking the sticking power out of them, and maybe of taking away my trust in them, too.

What I do know is this: a long time ago I began doing this work because I saw again and again how the most ethical, kind, wise people on the planet were being kept from formal roles of power.

Without that power, they could not make the decisions that would lead our world forward.

At the same time, I saw how, at worst, those who did hold power were often the most wounded, reckless and greedy among us. At best, they were often just the most overconfident or those who best fit the stereotype of what a leader (read: patriarch) looked like.

The consequences of this are infinite, and tragic.

The profound misalignment – of who gets to lead versus who holds wisdom – is something we will all be dealing with now at a whole new level.

Over the years that come, yes, we can work to change the composition of who wields institutional power.

That means altering all kinds of things – from how people decide to pursue a formal position of power, to who votes, to the images – conscious and unconscious – that we all hold of what a leader looks like. We can each find our niches within this larger cause of changing who comes to hold formal power.

But, when we can’t change it, or perhaps more precisely, while we work at the long-game of changing it, we can relentlessly commit acts of goodness and love outside roles of institutional power.

This has certainly long been women’s way of bringing light into the world. It has long been the way that marginalized people have brought light into the world, and sustained their families and communities.

So rest assured, you know how to do this. It’s in your DNA.

We will not give up the fight to diversify who holds formal roles of power.

And even as we cope with heartbreaking retrenchment on that long path forward, remember that every cell in your body knows how to love and weave good deeds, to meet injustice with acts of service and everyday rebellion, right there with the people in front of you.

Let’s stay connected to love and to each other.

Love,

Tara

Join me for a phone banking party (online) TODAY

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One day left till the Presidential election, and I have an invitation for you.

Join me for a virtual phone banking party for Hillary that I’m hosting this evening!

Here’s how it works: at 5pm PST/8pm EST today Monday, November 7th, we – the amazing women and men of this reader community – will convene online together.

We’ll say hello, and then we’ll all get to work making calls for Hillary.

(We’ll walk you through how to do that from your home or office, if you haven’t done it before.)

As we make calls, we’ll all stay connected in our online “room” – so we can chat with each other online and take some breaks together as we volunteer.

Together, we could get thousands of outreach calls made in an hour and really support the final push – let’s do it!

As you know from my previous posts, I have not written about elections or specific candidates in the past many years of writing this blog, and I certainly haven’t done anything like this! But I believe this election is about choosing to keep our American democracy and protecting human rights, more than it is about any specific policy or partisan choices. That’s why I feel it is my spiritual and civic responsibility to speak about it here.

Volunteering together this evening is going to be a lot of fun!!
 

How to Join:

Join me at 5pm PST/8pm EST here: https://zoom.us/j/384684542.
If prompted, enter the Webinar ID: 384 684 542.

See you then!

Love,

Tara

What I’m thinking about, a week before the election

It’s the week before our Presidential election in the U.S.

The post I’d planned to send out this week – a post I wrote a few days ago – was about the remarkable ways gender issues have taken center stage over the past weeks. It was about how inspired I’ve felt, watching and reading the feminist commentary from the grassroots to the most prestigious papers, the standing up for women by both men and women, the public airing of what have long been the too-private wounds of all women around sexual assault.

That post was also about how, in light of the then near-certain Clinton victory predictions, we must make sure half of this country doesn’t end up feeling humiliated, unheard, after this election. It was about the gaping wounds this election has brought to the fore, and what we can do to heal what needs to be healed in our country.

But that confident and calm post seems a pipe-dream-world-away to me now, as Hillary’s numbers have been slipping in the polls since Comey’s announcement. This week needs a different post.

The service I can offer you today is not one of a lesson, a conclusion, a helpful insight – what I usually aim for in my writing. It’s more like what I could offer a friend if we were sitting face to face at the coffee shop down the hill from my house.

I can tell you where I’m at. We can commiserate. We can talk about it together, we can feel less alone, and maybe, if we are lucky, we can make some sense of something hard together. But even if we can’t, we will feel better having sat face to face and having had a real conversation about it.

I have written here before that I am a child of a Holocaust refugee. I grew up in an extended family where there were empty places at the table: some people had made it out alive, and some had not. This history has shaped me in many ways, but I have never felt its presence screaming so loudly at me as I have these past months.

That is for one reason: I come from a family for whom everything changed because of who was elected. That family lost their beloved homeland, their community of friends and neighbors, their longstanding, thriving businesses, their financial security, because of who came to power.

And those were just the small things they lost. They lost a basic sense of trust in humanity. They lost any kind of childhoods, or their ability to give their children any kind of decent childhood. Some of them lost their health because of unspeakable physical tortures endured. And they lost each other.

These are the stories that sit with me as I read the news. I think about how our country, too, could change. I think about an America with militarized checkpoints. I think about being in danger for voicing dissent. I think about untold numbers of lives lost because some crazy men across the globe can’t keep themselves from being enthralled with the ability to show their might.

It doesn’t seem a stretch to me to all of that from what I’ve heard these past months – the autocratic approach, the vengeance-seeking, the demonization of political opponents and even of non-ardent supporters.

When I have made my political donations these past months or decided to give up some of my calendar commitments to spend time doing things related to the election, these are the stakes I’ve had in mind.

I know everyone doesn’t see the stakes this way.

But if you believe the stakes are these or anything like these, what does it feel right to you to do in these next few days?

The second thing I want to say is this: it’s a pretty damn rough and tumble ride watching what is playing out in our culture’s reaction to a woman leader now.

On some days, I sit in awe as I watch prominent men in our society saying: “She’s the most qualified,” “I’m with her,” “She’s going to be an excellent commander in chief.”

What a moment to be alive, and how far we have come.

On the other hand, the outsized vitriol and attacks on this woman are hard to watch. And this latest development, in which the vague possibility that something might be relevant to an investigation has changed so many voters’ minds, makes it clear to me how quickly we move to mistrust women with power and women who seek power. It is especially hard to swallow when compared with the relative non-reaction to the many similarly “under investigation” possible crimes of the other candidate.

It is painful to watch, it can be infuriating to watch, and it is deeply grief-inducing to watch.

I think we all need to take good care of ourselves, and each other, as we witness all this. Taking care of ourselves, and taking action too.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Share this post with your community on Facebook here.

Sending love,

Tara

On Disappointment with Your Heros

You can listen to this post in audio, too! Click the player to download an mp3 file, or you can read below …
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When I was growing up, my parents and I knew a brilliant therapist. He was a friend of a friend, and he was admired throughout our community for his work helping children, couples, and families.

Because I got interested in psychology early in my life, I started reading his books and articles when I was a teenager. As I grew up, he grew more and more famous and I absolutely could understand why – his ideas were original, resonant and wise.

Then one day, something shocking happened: he abruptly walked out on his wife and two children, wounding all of them terribly.

For years I wondered: how in the world could someone who knew so much about love, about relationships, about families – do what he did?

What did it mean that there was such an extreme conflict between his work and his actions?

He was one of my first fallen heroes.

Years later, I noticed a pattern that reminded me of him. Again and again, I’d read a great novel, a magnificent work of art that conveyed profound wisdom about the human experience. Then I’d listen to interviews with the author, and when the interviewer would ask the author what their book was fundamentally about – the lessons they hoped to teach – the author would have almost nothing to say. It was obvious that the author couldn’t articulate the wisdom that their work articulated. They couldn’t even come close.

Not only that, but often, as they talked about their own choices and personal dramas, it became very clear: like that family therapist, they certainly weren’t living out the wisdom contained in their books in their own relationships.

Then came other disillusionments for me: learning that some civil rights leaders I admired didn’t apply their own ideas about justice and equity to a group I was part of: women. Or spiritual teachers whose work I loved – whose teachings had genuinely helped me develop my own connection to the divine – were being sent to rehab or exposed in a sex scandal.

Again and again the truth was clear: a huge gap, maybe even a blazing conflict, often stands between the lives people lead and the truths they speak about.

For the audience, that can feel hypocritical, like a painful betrayal. And perhaps worse, it can leave us disillusioned not just about the hero but also about the ideals that he or she seemed to stand for.

But we only end up feeling this way if we interpret the gap between someone’s walk and their talk as a reflection of duplicity or phoniness. It feels like a betrayal if we think the talk is trustworthy only if backed up by the walk.

Yet the closer I’ve gotten to these kinds of individuals, the more up close I’ve experienced both their work and their personal lives, the more I’ve come to conclude that duplicity is very rarely at the root of the gap between their message and their actions.

Yes, we’ve all encountered the charlatans and the manipulators, who promulgate a message they don’t believe but that they know people want to hear. That’s the very dark side of this, and it needs to be called out more, for sure.

We’ve also all witnessed public figures abusing power, whose misdeeds involve corruption, or cause harm to those they should be responsibly employing or working in service to. They need to be held accountable.

But the piece I want to talk about today is not that, but rather how we hold it when our heroes don’t live up to their message. And I particularly want to talk about the creatives we admire and put on a pedestal: the artists, writers, personal growth teachers, and other thought leaders.

Here’s what I’ve learned: their brilliant work does not exactly come from them.

It does not come from their limited, ego personalities.

Rather, the work comes through them, from something larger and better and brighter – collective intelligence or the creative spirit or the Truth – whatever you want to name it. Their creative contribution is not born of their minds and hearts, but it has chosen them to be its conduit.

That message combines with some talent – they are phenomenal writers, or storytellers, or speakers – and the message plus their talent at delivering it makes their work particularly potent.

That’s worth repeating: it’s the message that comes through them – plus their talent, their craft, in delivering it – that makes their work stand out. It is not about their superiority in any other way.

Their work is totally authentic, but their personality is not caught up with it yet.

I believe this is in fact true for all of us doing creative work. Our work may be informed by our life experience, and it absolutely has some relationship to who we are, but the flow of our ideas does not come from our everyday, limited, egoic selves.

Where we get into trouble (and I see many of us getting into this trouble with our heroes and sheroes today): we confuse admiring the work with admiring the person.

I would ask you to clarify the distinction for yourself. If you love someone’s message, love their message. Love their books, their ideas, their speeches and TED talks – and even love the spirit and style they deliver them in. But please don’t put them on a pedestal. Don’t assume their behavior will always be aligned with their mission; the two things literally stem from different parts of them. And don’t think you have to find a way to love all their personal decisions because you love their work.

In fact, they were probably assigned to be a conduit for the particular message they are delivering precisely because they are not living it easily or consistently.

Their message is there to be their teacher, as much it is is there to be yours.

That is why so often the conflict between their message and their lives will be so glaring.

Thinking about it in this way entails letting go of a certain kind of hero-worship. But I believe recognizing this truth is in no way “settling.” It’s freedom from assuming others have it all together. It’s your invitation to put a message, a body of work – not a person – on a pedestal.

So what about the place of heroes, of role models for us? For me personally, admiration is always about something – some quality, some act. I admire the courage I see my dear friend having as she works to repair deep issues in her marriage. I admire the spiritual connection I watch another friend maintaining each day as she faces the tough health issues of her child. I admire the creative freedom I see in one of my favorite authors. I admire the bouncing back from failure I’ve watched in another.

As a result, I have a world full of people each inspiring me in different ways, modeling different qualities I seek to move more and more into. But I have asked no one to represent some total package. And when someone acts in conflict with their message, I do not feel betrayed.

Instead it reminds me of the shared humanness of all of us, the walls we each come up against in ourselves. And it makes me marvel at the mystery of how the messages we are asked to share for the benefit of others come also to teach us what we ourselves need to learn.

With love,

Tara

Emerging Women Livestream Video + Conference Meetup

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Good morning!

I’m excited to tell you about a wonderful free resource. The Emerging Women Conference, where I’m speaking this weekend, is offering a free livestream. This means you can watch the conference from home – this weekend or in the days following – if you can’t be there in person.

A host of fabulous speakers will be sharing inspiration and wisdom there – authors Anne Lamott, Marianne Williamson and Malika Chopra, Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani, and poet Azure Antoinette – just to name a few. You do need to register to access the free livestream, and you can do so HERE.

Many of you attending the conference in person have asked us how you can connect with other women in the Playing Big community. If you’d like to connect with me, my team, and other women who are readers here, please join us for an informal meet up on Saturday at the conference. Please sign up here, and we’ll email you location & timing details.

Warmly,

Tara Mohr