I created INTER-CONNECTED as an invitation to leadership that aligns the self, community, systems, and the earth for the shared wellbeing of people and planet. Through program design, storytelling, ritual, healing and transformation, INTER-CONNECTED invites us to embrace collaboration to cultivate a world where we can flourish and thrive together.
As humans, we are taught to embrace and celebrate our uniqueness, to be proud of what makes us different, to not be afraid to stand out from the crowd. In the next breath, we are reminded that we are all one – that we come from the same universal consciousness and are made of the same blood, cells, DNA, and other matter. Learning how to embrace the truth of both those statements allows us to embrace our wholeness. We are unique individuals who are also part of an interconnected and unified world.
Not only are we interconnected as part of the human species, we are in fact interdependent with all life. With every inhale we breathe in alchemized oxygen from the trees. With every exhale we nourish the plants. We live in a web of overlapping ecosystems. Yet, we have created a world ruled by division and aggression, exploitation and conquest. And in doing so, we have caused enormous suffering for millions of people, countless species, and our one earth.
Ushering in a New Paradigm
What if we could usher in a new paradigm from which we choose to live with one another? What if a deep understanding and celebration of our intertwined, interconnected, interdependent selves with the entire planet was the ground from which we embraced our unique destiny? What if our family structures, our educational, economic and health policies and systems were based on our knowledge that our actions and choices affected not only ourselves but the entire planet?
While spiritual traditions and science have pointed to the interconnected nature of all things for generations, the COVID pandemic has ushered in a global consciousness of our interrelationship in unexpected ways. We now have an unprecedented opportunity to create a different way of living, one where we embrace the shared well-being of people and planet.
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.
We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
My Own Journey to Interconnectedness
My own journey to embracing interconnectedness as the paradigm from which I choose to live began almost a decade ago. As a human rights advocate for more than three decades, I have been on the frontlines of fighting for social justice across a range of issues including gender-based violence, racial justice and immigrant rights, sexual and reproductive health and environmental justice. I have founded and led small and large groups in India, the US and globally.
Law, policy, advocacy, movement building, coalitions, justice, intersectional analysis, culture change were my primary lexicon until I tumbled onto the path of healing trauma eleven years ago. My then husband left our twenty year old marriage after an affair with our then housekeeper to whom he is now married. I went into a spiral of intense shame, grief and anger.
My healing journey took me into new worlds – of energy and plant medicine, of mindfulness and Zen Buddhism, of somatic trauma healing and yoga. Through these modalities, I developed a new relationship with the earth, the elements, indeed, with all life. I discovered the importance of inner work and finding wholeness as a critical building block for justice. I slowly began to weave a new approach that was grounded in the simple yet profound understanding of my deep connection with others and our planet.
I now uphold the paradigm of interconnectedness as the ground on which I stand. My approach has four intersecting elements: self, community, systems and the earth.
The 4 Elements of INTER-CONNECTED Engagement
Self | We lead with greater impact when we heal our trauma and transform our pain into resilience and self awareness. Inner work allows us to become more effective leaders in our external spheres of influence.
Community | We are members of intersecting communities defined by place, identity and shared values. Community includes and goes far beyond our families, neighbors, and friends. As leaders, it is important to nurture our communities through interpersonal practices such as presence, connection, and deep listening.
Systems | The persistent problems of hierarchy and division are deeply embedded in our systems. These problems negatively impact our selves and our communities. They disenfranchise whole communities, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually harm and abuse people, and often lead to violence and death. With a systems thinking approach, we can identify the root causes of injustice and envision new, more just and sustainable societies.
Earth | Our planet holds and sustains us and millions of other species. When something impacts even a corner of our planet, it affects every single species. The pandemic has certainly taught us that the consequences of climate change require us to be interconnected leaders practicing reciprocity with all living beings.
Looking at each element individually, we can recognize how they influence leadership and vice versa. If you took a few steps back and adjusted your perspective you can also see how the elements are interrelated and build upon one another.
You’d notice that when you engage in difficult inner work, your capacity for compassion and empathy for yourself and for other people can increase. Greater compassion and empathy makes it easier to connect with people, to listen, to be present, and to build deeper connections for healing and transformation for the collective.
We can more easily dismantle our outdated systems and structures with our collective strength and create the space to design, envision, and support sustainable societies.
And finally, when our societies are sustainable, we are in fact living in true reciprocity with the billions and billions of species on our planet. We are ourselves nourishing and supporting Earth and she in turn nourishes and supports us.
Interconnected leadership is messy, adaptive, resilient, non-linear, creative and emergent.
Imagine what we can create when we understand that we belong together.