Supper Table, Mary Pratt, 1969
In this fourth installment of the Everyday Influence project we will hear from Jodi.
Jodi is an activist, entrepreneur, retreat facilitator, incredible question asker. Her deep insights really centre in questions of community – human community but also ecology – how every alive thing and process is connected. She also gives such beauty to the world with her art–I’ve been deeply encouraged by her.
How do you influence others right now? Who do you influence? What’s that specifically look like in your life? What is your goal? How do you do this?
Influence is a word that I struggle with. When I think about it as a word, I often think about power dynamics and the way that women in the church have often been taught that their influence is either a. not important, b. constrained only to family life, c. only for the sake of the kingdom (about influencing folks for God), or d. a thoroughly selfish endeavor. All of that to give this as a caveat: influence is something that I’m learning to embrace as a way of existing in the world.
Because of the things I’ve historically been taught in my life (and thus embodied) I haven’t often been very intentional about my own influence because I haven’t been able to acknowledge that I have influence. Regaining a sense of appropriate understanding about my impact upon my environment, community, work and family is an ongoing endeavor for me that I am learning to do in community. This means that I’m working through what it means to have a voice by placing myself in situations where I have to use my voice.
The most notable example of this for me currently is within the initiative that I started, Refugia, with a friend. Refugia is an initiative that attempts through retreats, spiritual direction, facilitation and consultation to create space for individuals to listen to, and enter into reciprocal relationship with, their ecological environments and their individual souls in community. Essentially it’s a place that invites folks to pay attention to their lives and their homes (eco-spheres) through meditation, strategic planning, guided rituals for grief and celebration and through retreats. I co-created Refugia without thinking at all about my own sense of influence but instead thinking about what I wanted to be a part of in the world, and also while thinking about what I wanted the world that I want to exist in to look like (ie. more curious, more thoughtful and reflective, more intentional, more collaborative.)
Maybe the biggest surprise in creating Refugia has been the realization that I need to embrace the fact that who I am matters and what I do has impact.
On a theoretical level, I’ve always believed this, but Refugia has been teaching me to grapple with it. Suddenly we have a community of people who are looking to us for insight and direction and trusting that we can steer a communal conversation about how we live as individuals rooted in the ecological systems that we exist in with integrity. It’s a small community, but still, it has invited me to examine the many ways that I’ve been denying my own power by hiding behind my own fears and insecurities. So these days, I’m asking a lot of questions about how to use my art, my poetry, and my voice in ways that both acknowledge their impact/influence but also in ways contribute positively towards the world that I want to see come into existence.
Who influences/influenced you? Who empowers/empowered you? What has been indispensable in making you you?
I’m influenced by aspen, spruce and pine, potentilla, wolves and butterflies, stars and the moon, grasshoppers and eagles and bears. These are a few of the “who’s” that influence me. They have taught me a lot of seasons and allowing everything to take time to emerge. They’ve also taught me how to be present and what it looks like to depend on one another. While living at King’sfold (Retreat Centre) I learned that Aspens have large underground networks – families – communities where they gain nourishment and sustenance, and I learned that they have their own voices that sing in the wind. I’ve been empowered by this realization: that I need to rely both a family community to sustain me while allowing my own individual voice to sing out.
Given this it might not come as any surprise that I’m also influenced by nature writers; Annie Dillard, Robin Wall Kimmer, Kathleen Dean Moore, Terry Tempest Williams, and eco-psychologists; Bill Plotkin and Francis Weller. They’ve taught me along with many of the more mystical writers (Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Siena, Thomas Merton, Cynthia Bourgeault, John Philip Newell, Teilhard de Chardin, Wendell Berry, Matthew Fox, Sue Monk Kidd) how to slow down, listen, pay attention, and even more than that – they’ve given me permission to do that – by blazing a trail before me.
Rebecca Solnit, Parker Palmer, Rilke, Glennon Doyle Melton, David Whyte, John O Donohue, Adrienne Maree Brown, Rob Bell, Joanna Macy, Kate Werning, David Whyte, Chani Nicolas, Octavia Butler, Gwen Benaway, Nayyirah Waheed, Scott Erickson, Kara Walker.
Also just folks (artists, poets, authors, teachers) who are asking thoughtful questions about power, privilege, oppression, race, politics, sociology, justice and living with integrity in response to these questions.
Empowerment for me has largely come through my relationship with my partner and a tight knit community of friends who continue to reflect back to me how they see me. They are teaching me how to love myself and how to be in loving, supportive, empowering relationships.
What is the outcome of your influence? How do you gauge success? When do you stumble in your influence and what does it look like to get back up?
I think for me the outcome of my influence is that I live with more integrity because I have a community that supports me, and trusts me but also expects me to show up ready to be honest, work hard and live in alignment with my beliefs. And that’s what I believe success is…living well in your place, recognizing the inter-connectivity that exists at the core of all things and working to respect that by entering into reciprocal relationships with your environment (by this I mean the plot of land you live on, the animals and trees and other living creatures that also exist there, your familial, and friend relationships, larger communities, city you live in, and scaling that up etc, etc.) while also being in conversation with and trying to change both local and larger systems of injustice. Essentially, success for me is living authentically (out of my giftings, personality type, capacity and limitations) in ways that creatively challenge our societal status quo.
I stumble in my influence when I’m disconnected from my spiritual practice, from my inner voice and from a healthy, supportive community. I think that getting back up for me, looks like being curious about what causes me to stumble (looking at root causes instead of just the exterior actions), extending grace to myself, and trusting that life and growth is a process. It looks like recognizing that I’m doing the work that I’m doing because I’m created to do it, and not because I need to be successful by anyone else’s standards. It also looks like trusting my community both to support me and hold me accountable in a non-judgmental way that trusts me enough to try again.
(Sidenote: I think communities that do this are rare, but that we can help co-create them by the way we respond to people when they stumble and also by the way we treat ourselves when we stumble.)
So much about this is so profound. Everything Jodi says pushes me to encounter our interconnectedness, our community, our place in the whole. Influence is rooted in community. And our using our voice will contribute to community’s place to shape the world and ourselves. Power to live differently is rooted in community. Jodi’s observations about the role of community to hold you accountable to your abilities and also to hold you when you inadvertently hurt or stumble….this is beautiful and I’m going to wonder about this.
The other thing that Jodi said that is staying with me is the need for spiritual practice – practices that connect us to God and to eachother. When those fall away, our influence wavers, our voice in the world tends to deplete.
It seems that all these women that responded to this have discovered this common thread –that feeding our own souls is KEY to feeding others, to building community, to planting goodness in the world. I love that in VASTLY DIFFERENT ways, this truth has been stumbled over by so many everyday women. What a gift each of us is to the world.
Stay tuned for the next post where we will hear from a Calgary small business owner and anti-influencer! (You’ll see what she means….it has to do with social media lingo….)