Leading to Discovery in the Age of Alternate Facts

I am going to start this post with a disclaimer: I don’t have any answers — only many more questions. Okay. Now, that I’ve gotten that out of the way – let the blog post continue.

Our spring event is on the Four Priestess Arts — which were developed by our mentor, Cynthea Jones of Diana’s Grove, as tools for facilitation. The Arts fit very nicely into an elementally-based model, and provide one of the healthiest frameworks for spiritual leadership and mentoring that I have ever encountered.

The Priestess Art of Fire is called “Leading Others to their Own Discovery.” In a spiritual leadership context, this one makes a great deal of sense. When I am facilitating a trance or guided meditation — my experience isn’t nearly as important as the experience of the participants. I might ask some questions to help you understand or acknowledge a point I am making or an intention that I’m aiming for — but ultimately, it’s all about you and your own inner reality. I’m never going to tell you how to feel, what to think, or define your Truth for you. You are your own authority. Your wisdom and experience of the divine is not the same as mine, and yours is absolutely valid.

I understand this Art in the context of a ritual or a workshop on personal or spiritual growth. And intellectually, I understand and believe that all four of these Priestess Arts can and should be taken beyond that arena into practical, everyday use. I am convinced, in fact, that doing so can only change the world for the better. The Sacred Rite of Speaking and Listening? Totally down with making conversation, dialogue, and exchange a sacred act. Acting as Healer? Of course I want to develop my skills at empathy, being present, and holding space for healthy outcomes. Relentless Support of the Sacred Made Manifest? I will uphold and honor that which I value, and feel that it is my sacred duty to do so.

And then there’s this one. Leading Others to Their Own Discovery. In a world where a belief in “fake news” and “alternate facts” are held onto with a vice-like grip — a world where I am a “liberal snowflake” for wanting things like access to healthcare and income equality — a world where it’s suddenly safer and more acceptable to spew hatred and face few (if any) consequences. How the heck am I supposed to lead others to their own discoveries … to validate their own truth and wisdom … to uphold their own experience… when they’re just flat-out wrong?

So, yeah. As I mentioned before, I have zero answers here, even though I still believe that this tool can be practical, even in times such as these.

As an attempt to find a place to begin to wrap my brain around this idea, I think back to a conversation I had with my 92 year-old grandmother a year ago last fall when I visited her over the Thanksgiving holiday. Grandma is an alert, active, and intelligent woman, whom I love fiercely. She is also a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, and gets all her information from Fox News, so we definitely have more than a few political differences. This conversation took place during primary season. Trump wasn’t even close to winning the nomination, and I was going to cast my ballot for Bernie in a couple of months. At some point during the visit, Grandma asked me why I wasn’t going to vote for Trump, a candidate she was already supporting. It took me a few moments to collect my thoughts, take a few deep breaths, and figure out how to proceed without raining down a litany of all the reasons why I feel he was a terrible choice.

Instead, I asked questions. “Have you ever walked into Wal-mart knowing that someone immediately thought you were about to shoplift because of the color of your skin?” and “Have you ever been in line to get on an airplane, and everyone assumed that you were going to commit an act of terrorism because you were wearing a certain type of clothing?”

The conversation went on from there, and I doubt that I changed her mind. (In fact, I know I didn’t, because next year’s conversation at Thanksgiving ended with her saying, “Sweetheart, don’t be too hard on Mr. Trump.” My response: “I can’t promise that at all, Grandma, but I absolutely love you.”) But, what that conversation did do was open up a small crack in her experience for her to help her understand that her perspective is not the one that everyone sees. She really did answer honestly, and she did her best to try and understand, even if the shift was a very minor one.

What this tells me is that leading to discovery in these times isn’t about telling people they’re wrong. It’s about providing a space to shift perspective — to shine the light of the Fire at a different angle so that there is an opportunity to see things differently. I’m not saying that standing up in the fact of injustice, lies, and oppression and saying that is wrong is not a valid act … it absolutely is, and it’s utterly necessary. I would argue, though, that it falls under the category of Relentless Support of the Sacred Made Manifest — the Priestess Art of Earth. Stand firm with the Earth when you need to stand firm. Use the Fire to illuminate when new perspective is required.

Again — these are just thoughts. I am still trying to figure out how to make this tool that I have only used in either a ritual context or within a friendly, receptive group be practical enough to use in challenging, defensive, and even hostile situations. As I said before, I don’t have the answers. Just questions. I would love to hear your thoughts.

I will say, though – that if my 92 year-old grandmother who lives in a conservative and completely white town of less than 200 in rural Missouri can start to think about her privilege in a way that she never has before – then perhaps there is hope. Maybe this elusive Art of Fire can be a practical tool for change in the larger world, after all.

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