Here we are mainly concerned with the “soul” as the shaping spirit within any vital process. These, the inner spirit and the outer form, are two distinctive ways of a single mode of being. In considering the soul of the future, I am concerned with the inner vision that we need if we are to make the intellectual, social, economic, and religious adjustments required for a viable future.
– Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way into the Future
In October of 2011, Patty Spear wrote about the weight she was feeling from the passing days of summer. Reminiscing on soaring temperatures regularly above 100 degrees, she details the impact of this immense heat that caused outbreaks of wildfires and widespread doubt which left her feeling worried and weighed down. She describes how this environmental malaise paled in comparison to the malaise in Washington, with the beginning of the 2012 Presidential Campaigns. In August of 2012, the lack of job creation and plummeting stock market left millions of Americans feeling concerned at the daunting possibility of unemployment or depletion of their savings.
Seven years and two months later much has changed, yet some concerns and doubts have only amplified. The political climate is as hectic as ever, and it is evident that many are feeling faithless in our political leaders. After watching our President and opposing part leaders spar during a recent White House meeting, it seems these leaders are lacking the same will Patty identified back in 2011; a will that could move us beyond partisanship into what Thomas Berry calls “The Great Work” and what Johanna Macy calls “The Great Turning.”
“Berry, a Catholic priest, and Macy, a Buddhist teacher, call on the wisdom of their traditions when they speak of the “Great Work” and the “Great Turning.” Jesus, of course, spoke of the coming of the Kingdom, which is both within us and around us, both already and not yet. Macy draws on the tradition of the Shambhala warriors who appear in times of great danger, chaos, and confusion. Lest you be put off by the word “warrior,” note that their “weapons” are compassion and insight or wisdom–virtues that are also needed to enter the kingdom of heaven,” Patricia writes.
Berry and Macy are keen to stray from the black-and-white nature of dualism, or the “us versus them” model. They emphasize that although we may fall victim to our problems, we often are catalysts in their causation. Both recognize that the obstacles we face are often of our own creation. Macy states, “The Shambhala warriors know that the dangers threatening life on Earth are not visited upon us by any extraterrestrial power, satanic deities, or preordained evil fate. They arise from our own decisions, our own lifestyles, and our own relationships.” Berry emphasizes, “the Great Work of a people is the work of all the people. No one is exempt. Each of us has our individual life patterns and responsibilities. Yet beyond these concerns, each person in and through their personal work assists in the Great Work . . . while the alignment is more difficult in these times it must remain an ideal to be sought.”
Patricia identifies that these teachings call for “soul-centered leadership,” which is leadership that is attune to both “the inner spirit and the outer form.” It is these teachings that lead Seton Cove to launch The Institute for Soul-Centered Leadership. Today, the Institute puts on programs like the Leadership Pilgrimage: A Program for Visionary Leaders. The Leadership Pilgrimage provides leaders with an opportunity to reflect on their personal identity and work through a year-long program that includes three retreats. In 2019, the retreats will take place on three weekends throughout the year, on February 7-9, June 6-8, and September 12-14. For more information, visit our website.
We believe that soul-centered leadership allows individuals to make counseled, guided decisions rooted in their own personal beliefs which propel them to pursue deeper relationships and the truest version of themselves. The time to incorporate this practice is now – as in the words of Thomas Berry, “The present is not a time for desperation but for hopeful activity.”