by Steven Bonsey

Something seems to be shifting in our country.  The availability of vaccines is beginning to show grounds for hope for relief from the pandemic.  On the political level, citizens watched as the Capitol, the scene of violent insurrection, became the site for an orderly transition of power with the Inauguration.  Bruce Springsteen teamed up with an auto maker on a Super Bowl commercial calling for a “Re-United States.”

There is a shift from resistance to action; from surviving the present to creating a better future.  It seems possible that we may now be able to address the convergent crises in our political and economic life, our public health and the health of the planet.  For those of us with more than enough money, this may be a moment to move money in effective ways.  Do you feel this as I do?

I am aware of the energy rising within me; I am also aware of the danger of moving too quickly to action.  Too often when I act out of a sense of urgency and a compelling desire to make a change in the world around me, I end up falling back on the tools of my old training to make things happen.  But these methods that make for success in the dominant system do not work well when I am trying to co-create something good and true and beautiful in partnership with folks who are different from me. How can I undertake the work of this time in a way that will not simply perpetuate the patterns and systems that have brought us to these crises?

For those of us with more than enough money, this may be a moment to move money in effective ways.  Do you feel this as I do?

In a series of articles posted here over the past several months I have traced a journey I have taken by stages.  I have described what it was like for me to grow up with white skin in territory occupied by the US; how I pursued the advantages offered to me to gain an elite education and gain access to financial wealth and prestigious work; how through participation in the Boston Circle my wife Elisabeth and I have come to allow our money and influence to flow as gifts of the Spirit for the good of the world; and how through practice of the Be Present Empowerment Model™ I am learning to work in genuine and sustainable partnership across historic human divisions.

Now, through an alliance with Be Present™, Wisdom & Money will this year offer a new training that I believe will assist me in the next stage of my journey.  The practices that Wisdom & Money has been offering in its Circles to people of financial wealth or from a culture of wealth will now be offered to all people through an 18-month institute called “Be Present with Wisdom & Money: Creating and Sustaining Inner Transformation, Partnerships, and Social Justice.” Participants will have the opportunity to join in contemplative practice and open conversation about money with people from a variety of backgrounds, all held within the deep listening of the Be Present Empowerment Model™.

But these methods that make for success in the dominant system do not work well when I am trying to co-create something good and true and beautiful in partnership with folks who are different from me. How can I undertake the work of this time in a way that will not simply perpetuate the patterns and systems that have brought us to these crises?

The Institute is the product of a nineteen-year partnership between the two organizations.  This partnership brought together a young organization composed primarily of wealthy white Christians and a well-established organization founded by Black women and now open to all.

The history of that partnership includes the crucial involvement of Be Present consultants with the boards of Harvest Time and Wisdom & Money in the creation of the new organization’s transformative organizational structure.  It includes an arduous eight-year process, in which both organizations participated, to come to a Spirit-led consensus on a gift of land in Mississippi for purposes of racial reconciliation — a gift that ultimately flowed to a third organization.

It includes the integration of the Be Present Empowerment Model™ training in every aspect of Wisdom & Money’s work, from the conversation in our Retreat Circles to the conduct of our committee meetings.  It includes membership for the founders of each organization on one another’s board.  And it includes the formal resolution at a joint meeting of both boards in Atlanta in February 2019 to create the Trailblazing Alliance.  This Alliance has a single purpose:  to create and offer an 18-month “Be Present with Wisdom & Money Institute” beginning with an Introductory Retreat on March 18-21, 2021.

I have been sharing the news of this Institute with dozens of Spirit-based social activists of my acquaintance in Massachusetts and nationally.  For the past two decades I have sought out these other leaders — Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Indigenous spiritual practitioners among them — who share a sense of the importance of connecting contemplation and action.

The decisive element, as I see it, that an infusion of Be Present Empowerment Model™ has to offer to us now is the ability, not only to speak in conversation out of the truth of our own true nature, as we may come to know that through contemplation and prayer, but also so to listen to one another so that we never lose our sense of and connection to the authentic being of the other, no matter the impact of their words in the moment.

I express to them the sense of my experience that too often within the beautiful collaborations we may form across lines of race, gender, class and power, we lack the skill to have difficult conversations.  These conversations often arise when inevitably one or more of us speak or act unconsciously in a way that impacts our partners in unintended negative ways.  These are teachable moments that offer the opportunity to take our collaborations to a deeper level.  Instead, too often these moments result in division, exclusion, self-silencing or a deadening organizational numbness.

I believe that the Be Present Empowerment Model™ offers precisely this missing skill to the Spirit-based movement for social justice – the ability to transform unconscious moments into transformative conversations.  A number of the colleagues that I have spoken to have acknowledged to me their own sense of the need for a way to speak difficult truths to one another in a manner that enhances rather than threatens working partnerships.  They say that they are looking forward to participating in the Institute.

That response alone gives me a sense of the timeliness and appropriateness of the Institute for this moment.  The events of recent weeks in our nation have only added — enormously — to this sense.

In the face of violent extremism, partisan hostility, mortal pandemic, disparities of care, and the growing climate crisis, I believe that the traditional avenues for social change — community organizing, policy change, social charity, technological innovation and economic experimentation — as indispensable as they all are, will not suffice in themselves.  Neither will the addition of personal spiritual transformation — as precious as that is to me — to this mix bring us to the world that we seek.

The decisive element, as I see it, that an infusion of Be Present Empowerment Model™ has to offer to us now is the ability, not only to speak in conversation out of the truth of our own true nature, as we may come to know that through contemplation and prayer, but also so to listen to one another so that we never lose our sense of and connection to the authentic being of the other, no matter the impact of their words in the moment.

Only in this way, I believe, will we be able to forge and sustain the kinds of relationships across difference that will allow us to step into the ways being with one another and on this planet that can sustain life.  Surely this is the love that we are to show one another in these times.

I hope that you will join Wisdom & Money for the Next Stage.

For information about the Be Present with Wisdom & Money Introductory Weekend see here.

Download flyer and registration form here. 

More details about the 18 month Institute coming soon.

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