A Call to Soul Activism

The Role of Creativity and Imagination in Creating Change
By Aninha Esperanza Livingstone, Ph.D.
Common Ground ~ The Creativity Issue ~ May/June 2017

As the political landscape intensifies at home and abroad so to does the question, What can I do? The impulse to act likens to a healthy immune system that protects one’s life and well-being. Within this body politic, we must each navigate what activism means to us.

Activism is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.” It speaks to a much needed, active force. Soul Activism addresses the ground from which action arises, namely creativity and imagination. Additionally, it affirms that our inner and outer worlds are inextricably bound, and that creative responses fuel positive change.

Stanford instructor of creativity and leadership, Julie Daley describes the inborn human capacity to create as, “a living, breathing, dynamic expression of who and what you really are.” It involves midwifing something from the unseen world into the world of form.

Imagination is the currency that allows travel between these worlds. Typically, it is understood to be fanciful and untrue, and thus a distraction at best. One might even ask, how can we possibly make room for something so apparently frivolous, in the face of all that currently asks for our attention, from global warming to social injustice.

In truth, imagination is indispensable. In fact, it may be one of the most misunderstood and underutilized resources that we have at our disposal.

French philosopher Henry Corbin coined the term imaginal realm, affirming the very real nature of this dimension, while simultaneously acknowledging that it lies outside the objective criteria of science.

To engage this realm is to legitimize and participate with the subtle. It entails opening to a state of not knowing that fosters receptivity to experiences such as intuition, images that arise in the mind’s eye, inner whispers that are distinct from mind chatter, and felt sense or a knowing that arises in the body.

One could go as far as to say that imagination is subversive in that it arises from a place beyond social conditioning. When our actions are informed by this finer awareness, we engage possibility rather than probability, allowing a greater intelligence to lead. We put our trust in a plan larger than our minds can grasp.

Activism that incorporates practices of deep listening is not new. One need only look at how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used prayer to guide the civil rights movement, or how indigenous people fighting for the preservation of the earth and their cultures, often invoke and consult with the ancestors.

That being said, there is a growing awareness that, at this crucial juncture in time, our ability to create change is, at least in part, dependent upon our own ability to transform and evolve. This includes our capacity to reach beyond our limited perceptions of reality as well as our current definitions of what constitutes activism.

If we are uncertain about what actions to take, soul-centered activism invites us to sit with that uncertainty, rather than jump over it. It asks that we become deeply intimate with our discomfort about the way things are, as well as with our longing for what could be.

As we steep in these waters, we must tend two worlds, the unseen from which all creativity arises, and the world of form into which creative ideas are born. To court the unseen, we need a practice that connects us to our creative source. We then need a venue through which to express our gifts.

Tending a practice: Knowing how your awareness most readily shifts can inform your choices. Does the stillness of meditation call to you? Are there movement practices that connect you to something greater? Do walks in nature invite a more permeable state? Gifting yourself a regular practice can offer a foundation of guidance and sustenance, thus enhancing the ability to track creative impulses and diminishing the possibility of burnout.

Choosing a venue: Our life force supports our actions most fully when we choose an area of focus that deeply touches us. What is most difficult for you to bear? Does your heart ache thinking of the uncertain future of your grandchildren, spurring you to act on their behalf? Do the staggering rates of incarceration of African-American men evoke emotions that could be transformed into service? Are there local issues that disturb and motivate you to act?

Expressing your Gifts: When we embrace what we are good at and accept our limitations, we are of greater service and more at ease. Does your strength lie in the ability to communicate, to foster healing, to awaken fierceness and will in others, to facilitate structural change, or perhaps to use the arts to bring collective attention to important social issues.

To respond from the level of soul is to strengthen our collective immunity to the ills of our times. By allowing creativity and deep imagination to lead, we accept both the privilege and the responsibility of acting on behalf of a force greater than ourselves. We become portals of the mystery, and agents of positive change. May we each open and walk through the door of the imaginal realm, returning to the world again and again carrying gifts of unseen origins and unknown potential.

Aninha Livingstone, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer and ritualist. She will be offering Unearthing Soul Activism on May 13th at the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma. AninhaLivingstone.com