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Indie Groundbreaking Book: Moonrise

Celebrating the Power of Women Leading from the Heart
One of the hot topics around world the today is leadership. Where is it, amid the widespread political corruption, ecological devastation, and strife among people of different colors and creeds? Many people feel we need a new kind of leadership, in both business and government, to assure we leave this Earth a better place for our children and grandchildren.

One answer about how we can move forward in a better way comes from the new book, Moonrise: The Power of Women Leading from the Heart, from Park Street Press/Inner Traditions International.

The book’s release this October coincides with the 2010 Bioneers conference, held with the motto, “Revolution from the Heart of Nature." The national nonprofit describes itself as a group that “identifies, gathers, and disseminates breakthrough solutions to environmental and social challenges.”

Nina Simons, co-CEO and co-founder of Bioneers, is also the co-editor of Moonrise. Throughout her career, Nina has pioneered innovative and successful ventures that have worked to advance social and environmental change. A speaker and teacher on the environment, restoring the sacred feminine, and the call to engaged action, she gives workshops on cultivating women’s leadership. Since beginning Bioneers in 1990, she and partner and husband Kenny Ausubel have collaborated to grow the organization and its influence, which now reaches many millions through its annual conferences, satellite conference partners, award-winning radio series, broadcast and print media, interactive website and book series.

With Moonrise, more than 30 essays from successful women leaders, including writers Alice Walker and Eve Ensler, psychiatrist Jean Shinoda Bolen, holistic doctor Rachel Naomi Remen, hip-hop performer Rha Goddess, and famous tree-sitter Julia Butterfly Hill, explore the flourishing, passionate forms of leadership emerging from women on behalf of the earth and community.

Those heeding this call have embraced the qualities previously relegated to the “feminine” -- inner awareness, collaboration, relational intelligence, respect for the sacred and generosity -- and married them to the best of their “masculine” attributes to create a new form of leadership more inspiring, inviting, and effective for transforming how we live on Earth and with each other.

Kari O'Driscoll, of the Feminist Review, says the book “celebrates the unique gifts that women bring to the world in the form of their vision and perspective as caring, compassionate individuals, who have found ways to rise above feelings of powerlessness and living in the minority to honor their communities, societies, and indeed, the entire planet."

Here’s an excerpt, from Chapter 1, “To Walk in Beauty,” by Sarah Crowell:

I have to tell you a story. I did a theater exercise where I asked a group of young people to get into a circle. It’s called the emotion game in which we play with or create emotions in increasing intensity, from one to ten, ten being huge. So the first emotion I gave them was fear. I said let’s experience fear. I said, picture something that you’re really afraid of in the middle of the circle. I counted from one to ten and by the time I got to ten they were trembling and contorting their bodies in terror. It was palpable. Then we did anger. Again, their bodies were really into it. One, two, three . . . I slowly counted all the way to ten and their faces and bodies were gripped and clenched in anger.

Then I said, okay, let’s try bliss. Who knows what that is? Somebody defined it as extreme happiness. I said, that’s good enough. I started the counting, one, two, three -- and nothing happened. They just stood there giggling, and telling me it was stupid. They couldn’t do it. I said: Okay, wait. You mean to tell me that you can feel and express fear and anger but not bliss? What are we here for then? Do you want to change the world? Start right here. Experience bliss. I dare you.

I admit it, this was a dare to myself. I was praying at the same time. Lord, they already think I’m crazy. And now I’m taking them to bliss? Then I prayed, and I centered myself. I recognized that I had recently been in this space of noticing how terrifying it is to want something and then ask and expect to get it. It’s subtle, this releasing the fear of scarcity, which is a story so safe it’s habitual. My task is to allow the fear to exist but to step past it, and choose something different from fear in each interaction.

I want my students to be removed from the terror of wanting something different, to know that they belong on the planet, that they belong in their bodies, that they’re here as precious beings for a purpose, to connect with other beings and to remove the illusion of separation between us all. I want them to know that it requires incredible discipline and perseverance and imagination to create change.

So here I was in a circle of teenagers daring them to experience, just for a few moments, something other than the fear, anger, and disempowerment they feel over and over again in their lives. I was asking them to be bold, to be true revolutionaries. I said to them: Let us be willing to be in bliss, because if we can’t do that, what are we creating? What are we dreaming up for this world? It takes courage to be in this place of joy and bliss together -- maybe more than fear or anger. I could feel the group resonate with what I was saying.

We all held hands and we looked at each other, and I asked: Are you with me? Can you make the commitment to be in bliss with me right now? Everybody was nodding. Their expressions were determined. So I counted, one, two, three, four . . . Their bodies softened. Their expressions sweetened. Their defenses dropped. By the time I got to ten, every single kid in that circle was weeping with pure joy and amazement. They were weeping because they saw each other’s beauty and felt their own.

Afterward, we sat and we debriefed. One girl, choking through her tears, asked: If we could just see each other from this place all the time, who would we be, what would this world be like?

What happens when we create this space for young people? What happens when we witness and testify to their fear, anger, and hopelessness and then model for them complete recognition that we can also choose bliss, that we have the ability to see beauty in one another? Giving them that opportunity lights up their hidden spaces and lets them make bold strokes on life’s paper.

Terry Tempest Williams, writing in the book’s forward, answers the question, "Why women as leaders?" in graphic terms:

“Milk and blood. Why these two words?

“Because what every woman knows is that we are remade each time we make love, each time we give birth; each time we feel the blood making its way through our body into our cupped hands, we remember it is our destiny to make change.

“We are Fire. We are Water. We are Earth. We are Air. We are all things elemental.

“Milk and blood. We can no longer afford to distance ourselves from what is real and true and life-affirming.”

“In this century, if we fail, it is because we are too timid. May we be brave. May we be bold. May we be brave and bold together. May we read these words, may we hold these words, may we embody these stories, as locate our own and break them as bread for the birds, for our children, as sacrament.”

* * * * *

Moonrise: The Power of Women Leading from the Heart

Edited by Nina Simons with Anneke Campbell
Foreword by Terry Tempest Williams

ISBN-13: 978-1-59477-352-5

320 page paperback; $18.95