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5 Top Strategies To Cultivate Loving Awareness To Repair Our World

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In this particular moment, what’s missing that prevents us from healing our collective wounds?

Whatever your individual calling or organizational mission, it’s playing today against a backdrop of sobering realities. Climate crisis induced devastation. Growing income inequality. Racial, religious, and gender injustice. Raging wars. Mass shootings. Failure to care for the most vulnerable during the pandemic. Assault on democracy. And more.

The inequities in our world have been laid bare, and have been deepening. For many, distrust has become our default way of being.

Arguably, what is missing is that which Charles Darwin pointed to years ago in what was mis-attributed to him as “survival of the fittest.” Actually, that term was from Herbert Spencer. Darwin figured out something much more important. He understood species survival hinges on not just being out for oneself, but in caring for the entire community. So, his contribution – one we would do well to heed – is “survival of the most caring.”

What we are missing is the loving awareness needed to build empathy. [See also Your Top-Secret Fundraising Tool? Empathy.]

There can be no human connections or trust without empathy and the loving awareness that leads to understanding. We’ve always known this, yet we’ve lost our way. And it’s why so many are feeling abandoned by core institutions on which they once relied when they needed a steady hand.

“Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the minds true liberation”

— Lyrics from Aquarius, Hair the musical

You – all of us – need to put a new system in place to help.

Shifting towards cultivating loving awareness

What if this new system could be as simple as a shift in mindset?

What if you defined love as an open state of being that would allow you, in any situation, to answer the question: Am I relating to this (person, situation, problem) with a loving energy?

Sure, sometimes this won’t work as well as others. But it’s absolutely the best place to begin. If you do, you’re more likely to find where the other person is ready to meet you.

By taking a loving stance, you create more receptivity in the other party.

Here’s what some leaders in different disciplines have to say on this subject.

“In the English language, we use the word “mind” all the time. Yet, in Eastern thought, it is often used to mean the consciousness that pervades everything. It is also used in the field of (Western) body/mind science to explain how consciousness may exist in every cell of the human body.

Of course, we know where the physical heart is, right in the center of our chest. But what if the heart, like the mind, pervaded our entire consciousness—every thought, every cell? And what if we could harness these two perceptions and marry them within our consciousness? What if we could perceive and interact with everything and everyone with our heart-mind?

If this could happen, we’d make a quantum leap in awareness. Our inner world would shift if we were able to embrace every experience, every person we encounter, with our heart-mind. Without sounding overly dramatic, everything could become Love.”

Dr. Janice Lundy, co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute which provides education and certification in interfaith and interspiritual direction.

And also…

I talk about love and loving-awareness not as phenomena of which I purport to be an expert but rather as “North Stars,” to exemplify a way of being toward ourselves and one another that I think encapsulates what it might mean to live in a state of individual and collective wellbeing. 

— Sará King, neuroscientist, CEO of MindHeart Collective, from “Love as Social Order: How Do We Build a World Based in Love?”

5 strategies to cultivate loving awareness

1. The elevator process

ASK: How might you turn everything into love in your daily life?  Begin with considering how might you practice this with your family, friends, co-workers and people you encounter in your daily life.

Dr. Janice Lundy learned from Ram Dass how to step into the experience of love. Per his guidance, she did this with him. She reports feeling like an elevator operator, guiding her mind to shift location from top floor to ground floor — to the “ground of being” – the heart-mind.

  1. He pointed his finger at his head, saying “This is where you are.”
  2. Then, slowly and carefully, he moved his finger down, down, down… toward the middle of his chest… to his heart. “This is where you need to be.”
  3. As he moved his finger downwards, he kept repeating “I am loving awareness” – first in a normal tone, then a whisper, then silently.

CONSIDER: By setting your intention to your heart, and your modus operandi to curiosity, you begin to cultivate a practice of loving awareness. Like any other “practice,” it takes just that.

Practice shifting awareness from head to heart with everyone in your life – family, friends, colleagues and even strangers in line.

DO: Silently tell yourself “I am loving awareness.” You will begin to feel calmer, and more capable of building positive human connection.

TIP: Think about this the next time you’re tempted to deliver a standard “elevator pitch.” Rather than pontificate, what if you opened your heart and asked the other person something about themselves?

House party event attendee on the way out the door: “That was a lovely event. Can you tell me a bit more about the organization?”

You: “I would love to. Can you tell me what most intrigued you from what you know thus far?” Or perhaps “Can you tell me which values of yours you believe are honored in what is most central to our mission?”

2. Love plus everything

ASK: What if you could come from a place of love in your work with donors and volunteers? In other words, what if you could approach relationships with supporters with a deeper intention that supports meaningful connection?

CONSIDER: This only takes a small shift in your stance, and you will know you’re there immediately by the shift you feel inside. No more hunched shoulders, clenched jaw, furrowed brow or white knuckles.  No more of the negative stresses that make it virtually impossible to develop a positive, flowing connection with another human.

“We can know we’ve connected with an energy of love by the sense of softness, warmth and expansiveness that love creates within our own being.”

Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead; Creator and teacher of global Playing Big leadership program for women, and Playing Big Facilitators Training for coaches, therapists, managers, and mentors.

DO: Another way to frame this for yourself is coming from a place of generosity. I looked up the definition, and it means willingness and liberality in giving away one’s money, time, etc.; magnanimity. When you’re generous, your donor is likely to return the favor. Because another human quality – one of Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence – is reciprocity. This natural process of giving and receiving feels natural, comfortable and voluntary. It works so much better – for everyone – than a more constrained, transactional process of “twisting arms” and “hitting people up.” The end goal of love and generosity is more love and generosity. The end goal of money is a one-time transaction.

TIP:  Bend towards generosity. What if you took a page from the book of Liza Hanks, author of Every Californian’s Guide to Estate Planning, and Director of Gift Planning at Silicon Valley Community Foundation? She often says her secret job is “Generosity Consultant” because of the profound joy she feels when helping people create meaningful legacies.

3. Opening up to the power of love

ASK: The next time you’re feeling annoyed, overloaded, defensive, argumentative, heavy-hearted, or just plain closed down and done, what if you dedicated yourself to opening up some space for empathy or compassion? There really is something to the sometimes-annoying adage to “lighten up.” Because when you consciously try to release your anger, tension, or other negative feelings, and come home to yourself and your values, you’re able to shift into a completely different energy.

This new energy will help guide you towards your next steps. It may be to be more open; it may be to disengage. It may be to be fiercer; it may be to be gentler.

CONSIDER: As long as you relax, open up, and think about love – and maybe a little Golden Rule or Hippocratic Oath – you will be able to help others, while also helping yourself.

DO: Breathe. Think “I am loving awareness.” Relax. If you want to make your work a true expression of and force for love in the world, it’s imperative to begin by opening up some space to connect.

TIP: Relaxation is a too-often-underestimated prerequisite to love. Neurobiology research shows we’re not receptive to connection when stressed. Think about this the next time you’re tempted to make a call on a donor when you’re in a negative space. Take a little walk first, or even just look at a photo of a pet, child, grandchild or favorite work of art to bring a smile to your face before proceeding.

4. Tending to others

ASK: How might you forget about the money you want from your donor, and focus on growing the love? In fundraising we talk a lot about donor “cultivation.”  And that’s because, when done well, the money will generally follow as a natural (not forced or coerced) outcome.

CONSIDER: I’ve often used the metaphor of cultivating a garden. But this is more than just a process. The goal should be a transformative one, enabling donors to grow and flourish. Alas, it’s often interpreted transactionally as just getting them to give more money.

DO: Take that gardening metaphor a bit further. What, exactly, is your role in helping your donor to blossom? Author Tara Mohr likes the word “tending.” Could you apply that to philanthropy (philos, love + anthropy humankind) and your job as a philanthropy facilitator?

“What happens if you define loving as “tending” the light, the radiance, in the people you love? What kinds of different priorities, stances, and decisions does that lead you to? What happens if you see your work as a kind of tending to a garden?”

— Tara Mohr

TIP: One of the ways we grow love is by giving gifts. Both tangible and, especially, intangible. Consider what is meaningful to the donor, and how you might demonstrate your awareness of that which brings them a feeling of radiance.

5. Giving gifts

ASK: How might you give loving gifts to your supporters? You may be familiar with the paradigm of “languages of love.” There are many ways to show love: (1) acts of service; (2) receiving gifts; (3) quality time; (4) words of affirmation, and (5) physical touch. This is just one way to consider your own and your donor’s preferences so you can connect more profoundly.

CONSIDER: Think about the gifts you now give when you love your supporters well. Are they gifts of content? Are they time spent together? Are they recognition and gratitude? Are you thinking about all the gifts you can give?

DO: Remember when you want gifts you must give them. So many gifts. This is not a one-time transactional thing. It’s a generous, loving, aware way of relating to another human being.

TIP: When you shift your mindset to one of relating to others in a spirit of cherishment, you give the gift of feeling cherished. The gift of showing up without resentment or depletion. The gift of affirmation of their best qualities. The gift of tending to your supporter’s radiance to help them truly like the person they see when they look in the mirror.

Repairing the world

Those of us who work in the social benefit sector came here for a reason.

For some, it was a calling. For others, perhaps a leaning. Whatever drew you to this work, you likely grew to care deeply about fixing the societal problems contributing to your raison d’être.

We live in a time where it’s easy to feel despair, heartbreak and overwhelm. People seem increasingly divided and lost, and the scope of our problems can seem insurmountable.

Only by cultivating loving awareness, individually and as a community, do we have a hope to sustain humanity.

“Though we can never control someone else’s internal experience, we can be intentional about how we show up. We can increase the odds that our love will telegraph through and will be felt – if we grow our relationship skills, and if we engage in moment-to-moment practices that root us in an energy of love.

We can all grow in that capacity. We really can. I believe we are meant to. And I know that life gets so much richer when we do.”

Tara Mohr, Founder of Playing Big. Author, Coach, Teacher, Loving Well course

So, let’s consider what we in the social benefit sector can do to put loving awareness to work. Ask questions. Consider the answers. Then do something, anything, to move toward a state of collective healing.

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