92: 5 Essential Skills for Practicing Justice


Tune in for a special update about where the podcast is headed in 2023, and to hear laura’s personal reflection around the question all future guests will explore with her: what (for them) is the most essential tool in their practice of love, justice, and courage?



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laura: How to make love. Now, is that from recipe or from scratch?

Speaker 2: This is how to make love.

Speaker 3: Wow.

Speaker 4: Oh gosh.

Speaker 5: Oh my God.

Speaker 4: Yeah. A little to the left and faster.

Speaker 2: A show that tests the edges of what love is.

Speaker 6: Worthiness.

Speaker 7: Empathy.

Speaker 8: Beauty.

Speaker 9: Sex positive.

Speaker 10: Borders, it can cross how we do integrity in all of our relationships, and its hidden costs and shadows.

Speaker 3: In a world where we inaudible other people, where we build walls and just tear down walls.

Speaker 10: Fuck finding it or falling into it. Our future depends on making it,

laura: Hey friends, welcome to a podcast, designed to provoke, inspire, and grow your love, justice, and encourage muscles. I'm Laura. I'm really glad you're here. And listen, y'all, if you love this podcast and if you find yourself craving community, particularly in this time of year, to reflect on the episodes or to dig into your practice of justice, you need to come join the Patreon community. Once a month, I hold an open space exclusively for members of Patreon. So whether you donate a dollar a month or a hundred bucks a month, everyone gets the same access, and it's the only group space I am currently holding right now. So as you consider your giving for the end of the year, and as you consider what sorts of intentional communities you want to be a part of, and as you consider how you can support me and the work that I do, and this podcast, consider joining Patreon.
The open group spaces have been honestly extraordinary and extraordinarily intimate, brave discussions between humans practicing being together, and I would love for you to join us. Now then, let me share a little Laura update. I guess there's a smidge of backdrop, and it all connects to today's conversation on and around fundamental skills of love, which is to say justice and our practice of both. So the backstory is, well, I've never really come out about who I am and what I do in the world. For the past seven years, since I became an entrepreneur and kind of went out on my own, I just sort of let people define for themselves what I do. And on the one hand, I guess that was freeing and it felt empowering not to really care how folks saw me or perceive my work. And on the other hand, it led to some wonky stuff.
It led me hiding and staying in comfort zones, and it led to a lot of misinterpretation about what I do and allowed folks to project things onto me. And I allowed and enabled all of that. So the good news, and surprise, surprise, I'm here to tell you I've kind of outgrown that safety net. And what that means is, at the end of this month, I'm trashing all my old websites and all my old projects and releasing my own and kind of new articulation of who I am and what I do in the world. Symbolically, it felt important to me to rename my company, which I did. It's called Human Bravely. And that's basically the gist. I am a human who aspires to human bravely, and I help people do the same in how they lead or how they love or how they live, and also, in how they die.
So that's the gist. For a long time, I understood the world and my practice of justice through love, and then, that morphed. And I began to understand the world and my practice of justice through a lens of grief and through death. And while neither of those things have gone away, when I boil shit down, I just believe that how we all human in this world mostly sucks, which makes sense, because no one teaches us how to be humans, and let alone good humans, or justice and liberation oriented humans. And because of systems of dominance and oppression and how they get up all inside us and fuck us all up, it just makes a mess. So at the end of the day, I teach folks how to human better. In any case, as I've been reflecting on who I am and who I am in the world and what I do really, really well, uniquely, what the work is that's suited for me and my heart, I realize that this podcast has also evolved and shifted with me. And like my website and my orientation in the world, it is also changing a little bit.
So starting in the new year, I'm shifting the focus just a smidge. We're going to go back to kind of the beginning, integrating more guests, and having those conversations revolve, expand, flow, and integrate around a single question. From that person's expertise and walk of life and unique identity markers and practice of liberation, what do they see as the most foundational skill or tool in a radical practice of justice? We'll still talk about love and how we define it and what it has to do with courage and justice. We'll still talk story, but when I think about my own growth and practice of love and courage and justice in my life, my growth is hugely, hugely, hugely due to teachers and mentors who I had the chance to train under or sit with and learn from. And I want this podcast to be a place where we can all sit at the feet of teachers and learn and apply and practice.
So in some ways, nothing new. I think the conversations are going to feel exactly like what you're used to, plus me popping in for those continued solo episodes, to kind of break down skills and follow up on previous conversations and offer my unique content, stemming from thousands of coaching conversations with brave humans doing this work. So you'll still get those discreet skills and provocative explorations just with me. And we're going to go back to the roots a bit in the new year. And you can expect teachers of many walks of life with many extraordinary insights on love and courage and justice and liberation, and really organic, raw, curious, intimate conversation between me and them. So that all of us have opportunities, regardless of our schedules, regardless of our resources, to learn how to love more bravely and practice justice more bravely and how to human more bravely in our lives. That's the little teaser update right now. I'm excited for lots more conversations to come, and we're going to dig into today's content, right after the dance break.
So for today, I'm going to share some of my own thinking to that new singular question, that new focus area. What, right now, in my life, do I see as some of the most critical tools in my personal practice of love and justice and courage, which, p.s., reminder, are largely all synonymous? Just like how I define love, my answers to this question shift, but today, if I had to definitively articulate for myself the five most essential or transformative skills or tools in practicing love and justice and liberation and courage, here's what I'd say. Number one, learning to be present. Number two, learning to deactivate or undefend myself. Three, learning to take responsibility. Four, learning to breathe and use my breath. And five, learning to make intimacy. Let me repeat them. Learning to be present, learning to deactivate and undefend myself, learning to take responsibility, learning to breathe and use my breath as a conscious tool, and learning to make intimacy.
So let's break each of those down a bit, but I am also a little curious. Did any of those surprise you? And if you had to articulate your own list right now, even just one, what would you say for you is the single most foundational or critical or essential tool in a practice of justice? It's worth considering. It's a challenging question, and it's one that I think matters so much that we all get clear on for ourselves. Okay, let's go over these. I've said this over and over and over and over again, and it sounds like platitude, until it drops into your body. But the only thing you can ever really offer in this world is your presence. And that presence can be deep and wide, still and quiet, radical and open. It can be thin and frail, easily distracted, doing tons of different things at the exact same time, judgmental and controlling.
The single biggest skill I have refined in the past 10 years of my life is, without a question, working on my presence, making it warm and open and curious, making it able to meet another human in whatever they are feeling, wherever they're at, making it deep and still and calming. If you knew me more than 10 years ago, I think you'd agree that my presence and my way of being has completely transformed, but it has taken deep, deep study, deep practice, a lot of unlearning, and I'm still mastering my presence. But it is the single most important tool in my tool belt. I can show up to every protest, every meeting, every conversation, all the important places and spaces and work to be done in the world, and if my presence isn't present, what good can I do? In fact, I think the bigger question is, what harm can I cause?
If I'm not present with myself or other people, there is harm to be caused. If I'm not present, I'm susceptible to projecting and judgment and dominance and control and extraction and ignorance and bypassing. If I could magically offer us one revolutionary skill, it would be the ability to be fucking present and make the quality of our presence radical, deep, wide, still, laser sharp. It is the only thing you can offer to your kids, to your community, to your partners, to your finances, to your family, to anything and anyone, most especially to yourself. If you can't be present with yourself, it's really, really hard to be present with others, let alone present in the work of justice. Okay, the second superpower I wish I could inaudible on everyone is learning how to deactivate ourselves. This isn't the same as becoming neutral or apathetic. Reverend Angel Kyoto Williams would sometimes talk about this as being undefended, becoming undefended.
It is a master skill. Not getting hooked by the things that hook us, not rising to reaction when we get hurt. It is possible to be honest about what we feel and potential hurt or harm that has been caused, without weaponizing ourselves against another human being. But it is an exceptionally difficult skill, and I believe it is absolutely fundamental if we are to move the work of justice and liberation ahead. We must meet people in intimacy, to have conversations that change all of us. Otherwise, we come at people with force and control and belittle their current spot in the journey, and that's never going to bend the arc of justice. Learning to be undefended means learning to put down those weapons of control, a force of superiority, of ego, of rightness, of exceptionalism, of separation, and learning instead.to pick up tools of radical vulnerability and openness and curiosity and compassion.
That's what being undefended and non-reactive means. We can't all do this all the time. It's not always safe and it, is essential. I just don't see meaningful change in transformation and liberation in the world without it. The third skill, taking responsibility. There's a lot of previous conversations about this topic on the podcast. Taking responsibility is an art, and one, most of us do really poorly. It involves taking responsibility without bringing shame and guilt and self-deprecation to the party and making something about us, when it's really about hurt or harm we've caused someone else. Taking clean responsibility is very, very, very difficult. It's honest, it's consent seeking, it's grounded, it refuses to project and has tremendous restraint. It's really hard, and it's really fucking essential. Because there's no clearer absolute path out of systems of dominance and oppression. It's just a mess. We're all going to make guesses.
We're all going to make mistakes. It's inevitable. If we can't take responsibility when we make mistakes and make that responsibility responsible and mindful, we'll end up enacting more harm. So for right now, again, I'm going to call this clean responsibility, because there's taking responsibility and bringing shame and guilt and a whole lot of problems to the party. And there's taking clean responsibility. It's mindful, it's conscious, it's direct. It centers the person or the issues that need to be centered, rather than centering ourselves. And it moves forward. Okay. The four skill. Breath, learning to breathe. It is a tool that helps me do all three of the other skills that I've mentioned so far. My breath brings me back to presence, back to connection. It helps me regulate, it helps me self soothe, it helps me connect to other humans. It carries and releases my grief. It expresses my joy, it brings me back to my body.
It's a constant reminder to take in and let go at the same time. This isn't just poetic. Breathing consciously, learning to use your breath as an essential tool in your practice of love and courage and justice, as a practice that helps you be more full of love and justice and courage. It's the same as the other tools I mentioned. It's really hard. Few people can do it, and even fewer people try. And I would implore you to be one of those people. Okay, last tool for now. Let's start where we began, four years ago. In episode one, I talked about how important it is that we all learn to make, to create the things that we value. It's one thing to value something. It's another thing to know how to make it in the world. And one thing I know for sure is that there's no justice or liberation without intimacy, without connection, without a deepening awareness, that our existence and our freedom is interconnected.
Systems of oppression have us separate from each other and our humanity. And we've got to learn to reconnect those bridges in big ways and in little ways. How do you make intimacy? You need to know the answer to that question, especially as you aspire to move the work of justice further ahead. And especially if you want to be in relationship with liberation, whether yours or the worlds. Oppression pulls us apart. We have to have tools and crafts and skills and ways of bringing us all back together, in relationship, in connection, in interdependence, and in intimacy.
What do you do coming out of this conversation? Well, I'd start with having another listen, or three, reflect on how you'd answer the question we're going to be focused on this coming year. What to you is the most important skill or tool in your tool belt for making love and justice and courage and liberation in the world? And then, have a few more listens to the five skills I shared here today and reflect on your current relationship with each one. For those of you who've been listening since August of 2018, thank you for being on this journey with me. For those of you who've recently joined the party and revolution, I'm so glad you're here.
Get ready for lots of challenging, inspiring, heart muscle building content in the months ahead and in the new year. And come hang out in Patreon in the interim. The water's warm. Send your questions my way through the SpeakPipe link in the episode description, and/or send me a DM in Patreon. And we will all together build our skills and our will and our ways of being, be better practitioners of love, justice, and courage. I'll see you next month. Bye for now, my friends.