Can I be the change?

Grass with my house behind

I don’t even know where to begin.  A week ago I became a grandmother again—my son and his wife had a little baby girl.  I finished my planning and work on the new Many Kites Learning Center in Bemidji. We started a new Youth Radio project.   I rebuilt an entire website.  I created three pretty kites out of satin with my sister.  I gave a talk on forgiveness and compassion at a local church.

Life is so full that I feel like I am overflowing.

So, what is on my mind today?  In this moment?

For some reason, I want to explore how not to become immersed in our own fears for our planet, our country, our own lives.  When Ghandi said, Be the change you want to see in the world, this was not just a pretty little quote that we all love.  It was a call to action—and the path he suggests is not an easy path.  We’re all spinning around in our own well-built neural networks–patterns designed to keep us safe and small and invisible.  This is not a path toward change and action.  The problem is that in order to “be the change” we have to be the change long enough to grow new patterns—new neural networks.  We have to grow out of our small selves and into something bigger, newer, more empowered . . .

For weeks and weeks we’ve been spinning around in negative images, sounds, ads, bullshit designed by the spin masters to play on our deepest fears.  I am so freaking tired of it that a part of me seeks only solitude and silence like a bear that has been wounded in the woods.  And yet I know that that is not the way for me.  I have to expand my personal boundaries beyond these fears and disillusionment.  I have to act.  I have to be.  I have to behave in ways that are aligned with my belief that we really can create the world we want.

When I was a child and then later a teenager, I just felt too much.  Every hurt in the world I seemed to feel inside of my soul.  I remember reading Alan Patton’s, “Cry the Beloved Country” and sitting in my bedroom in my parents’ house and sobbing as if the world had broken into two pieces.  The story is about what happens when the many tribal people of South Africa began to seek their fortunes in the city of Johannesburg.  It was the death of a whole cultural way of life, and the death of families and values and individuals.  And oh, the suffering . . .   It hurt me.  It still hurts me, but I have learned to turn the hurt into action and understanding that hopefully will make a difference for my life and the lives of others.

I’ve also learned that I have no right to carry the hurt of others—hurt that I haven’t earned.  But I can stand with and for others who are hurting in a warrior stance.  When we learn to integrate our own suffering without self-obsession but as if each wounding is a medals we wear on our chest—and these medals so painfully earned give us strength and presence in the world.  When we can do this then the suffering is transmuted into strength like the alchemist who yearns to turn base metal into gold

I remember a poem from Langston Hughes that impressed me so much when I was a teenager that I made it a mantra for my life.

Hold fast to dreams,

For if dreams die,

Life is a broken-winged bird,

That cannot fly.

I hold fast to my dream that we can create a peaceful, compassionate world where people of all races and places find safety and solace.  I hold fast to my right to dream and fly.

My husband likes it when I include stories in my weekly post.  He says I lose my readers when I get too far into my own thoughts and mind.  He’s probably right, but for this moment, I just really needed to ramble and rant.  Thanks for staying with me.

Here are some challenges for you.

What patterns do you have that keep you locked into a small way of being, unable to act and dream in fresh new ways?

Can you imagine a “you” beyond these limitations?  Who would you be?  What would you be doing?

Have you become a victim of your own suffering rather than wearing the most painful moments like medals on your chest and using the power of pain itself to gain strength and presence?

Are you acting and doing, moving and shaking, dreaming and waking?

In a couple of days I will post a very autobiographical story of a girl who goes in search of answers to painful questions.  It is part of a larger collection that was my effort to combine Hesse’s  Siddhartha and Voltaire’s Candide.  I called it “Evida.”  I’ll post it in a day or so.

Then, as usual, be sure to subscribe to my weekly posts or pass it on to others.  The comments have been growing every week, and I so appreciate all of you who take in what I write and then make it into your own gold.  Thanks.  Also, to those of you in northern MN, we are having an open house at the new Many Kites Learning Center in Bemidji, MN from 1-4 on Sunday at 522 Beltrami Ave, Suite 17.  See more details at


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Can I be the change? — 13 Comments

  1. What patterns do you have that keep you locked into a small way of being, unable to act and dream in fresh new ways?

    Thinking in my head “I don’t care” when I really do, down deep. Thinking maybe I don’t deserve more than I already have. It appears the answer is “thinking.”

    • Sounds like a split. Maybe thinking is the problem only if we don’t know how to turn our attention to that little one who feels undeserving. What would she like? She deserves so very much!

    • Thanks. I was walking across from our new land to the house and the sun hit that grass at just the right moment. It looked like spun gold–Rapunzel style or something. Beautiful.

  2. Thanks for sharing your inspiring thoughts–and life–with us. And congratulations for the two new treasures in your life, your granddaughter and the learning center!

    • Hi Rita,

      Thanks for your well wishes. Tonight we met with some people in the new center and were talking about teachers–how to keep their spirits fresh and alive. We are thinking of putting together something to help that, and you were so on my mind. These women here want to be a part of our revolution–what should we do? Maybe you need to come here for a visit.

      Hope you are doing well–I know you must miss Dan and it is difficult to enter such a changed time of life. Be well.

  3. Hold fast to dreams,

    For if dreams die,

    Life is a broken-winged bird,

    That cannot fly.

    How do you break a pattern when someone else shattered a dream you both shared?

    and I think I am guilty of taking on some of the pain of this other person.

    Seems like my dream …got broke and I am trying to hang on to a wounded ___?___ (Eagle…I guess would be the bird I pick)

    Thanks Jamie your thoughts 🙂

    YES…Today I can see me standing tall and strong…the hard part for me is that it is a little lonely.

    • Hi Lori,

      You have gained much strength since I first met you. I can see you standing tall and strong–and sometimes we have to let go of the things that wounded us. We just take good care of the “little self” that got wounded and all is well. Hang in there. There is much for us all to do now.

  4. Oh Jamie, your posts have a way of making me want to write out all the thoughts that your words bring up in my mind… I could go on a long time about the things that you write about! We think about a lot of the same things… I have been acutely aware during this campaign cycle of how each side thinks the other side has huge blind spots which threaten the possibility of the future turning out the way we would like. Usually the blind spots observed in the “other side” are attributed to selfishness in those that have them. My struggle has been with how to talk to people in ways that don’t make them feel judged for making those judgments! I have come face to face with my own judgment of those who judge…So (one part of) becoming the change for me has to do with ALLOWING people to be judgmental, and trusting that there is a divine choreography at play, which includes people being judgmental…and being able to have conversations in a compassionate way with someone who seems uncompassionate. Because I, too, believe that it’s possible to have a peaceful and compassionate world, and uncompassionate people are a threat to that dream, so I have a deep-seated fear of judgmentalism, which I have to overcome in order to “be the change.”… That’s just one of the thought threads that started spinning when I read this post! I’ll leave it at that! Thanks, as always, for being thoughtful and thought provoking.

    • Dear Lorna,

      I really enjoy the way you let me into your meandering thoughts that are so connected to my own. Yes, there is such a paradox in disliking judgmental people and thus becoming one. Our race seems to be one of paradox, but I do like the image of divine choreography. I remember a psych teacher challenging the young me who considered herself an agnostic. He said I could accept that we are a part of a mechanistic world, nothing more than cogs in a machine but I would have to accept all that that means. Or I could accept that something larger is at work in the world even if I could not describe or define it. But I could not accept both premises. I could actually feel my mind spin out. I simply could not accept that we are just physical beings in a physical world–there had to be more.

      Have we met? My daughter’s name is Lorna so at first I thought your notes were from her, but it soon became apparent that they weren’t. Fill me in on how we have met.

      Thanks for continuing to read and comment. It pushes my thoughts even further.


      • Hi Jamie, thanks for responding to my response! How interesting that you named your daughter Lorna, just like my mother did! My mother loved the book Lorna Doone, the 19th century Scottish romance, with a dark- haired heroine… Why did you name your daughter Lorna? I’ve never gotten to ask anyone that before!

        I attended Back to Basics last January, and heard your morning presentation and was so delighted to hear someone talking about those old pieces of ourselves that we carry with us, usually unrecognized, and how those parts of ourselves often affect how we act in current situations. (I’ve become more and more acutely aware of those influences and have really come to enjoy metabolizing them out of my system so that I am more and more just ME NOW, in the present.)

        I only met you briefly at the end of the day when I bought your book on initiating our young people (another topic of great interest to me, which I would love to talk with you more about sometime, too!)

        Yes.. paradox is everywhere. Sometimes I think it’s the two halves of the story DNA that spins out my life. Both halves are necessary to make the whole what it is, and neither half is expressed all of the time. But, like you, I have never been satisfied with simply physical explanations of things. Thanks for liking my image of divine choreography. I think I thought that phrase up myself, but I’m probably not the only one who has. My mind and heart believe and trust that there are greater forces at play that “know what they are doing” but it’s my ego, the small part of me that wants to be in control, that has a hard time letting go.

        OK, I probably should get my own blog because I like to write so much, huh? 🙂

        Blessings to you

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