Union Organizing toward a Meditative Energy

I touched on this topic in a post a year ago, where I explored in detail how inner beliefs (such as self-love) affected one’s subtle behavior, and how putting effort into changing one’s inner beliefs could, thereby, actually create a massive improvement to one’s organizing results. I’m quite proud of the theory I proposed in that post.

A year later, though, I want to expand on that topic, but this time, to go even further: to explain how the best union organizing requires a deep investigation of one’s emotional being and how complete presence (i.e., existing without much thought or feeling) can sometimes create the best results…

When I first started union organizing five years ago, I came to it with profound social and emotional deficits. Those who know my story well know that it was those social and emotional deficits themselves that moved me to want to be an organizer in the first place, so that I could practice — all the time — my social skills, and have that practice of social skills even be of potential benefit to others. As such, I spent the first three years of my organizing career heavily focused on the techniques of organizing: learning how to get someone’s story, how to agitate someone into anger/action, how to map a social network, how to identify/recruit a leader, how to hold leaders accountable to assignments, how to escalate a campaign, etc. And through those three years, I tried harder and harder and harder to get better and better and better at those organizing techniques.

All this technical stuff was great — and completely, totally necessary. (I’d go so far as to even say that even with technique alone, an organizer has the capacity to move a campaign forward.) But what kept striking me as odd was that I had coworkers who had far, far from the best technique, but who could still produce good numbers. Not just that, but even when I executed what I saw to be near-flawless technique, a lot of the time I would not produce close to the best numbers in a campaign.

That got me to start to think about energy — as it was becoming quite clear to me that I was carrying around a lot of negative energy that wasn’t the best for social interaction. You know what I mean… let’s say you’re at a party. Two people can come up to you at a party and say the exact same thing. “Hi, my name’s ___.” But some people, upon even a few seconds of interaction — even if it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what they’re even doing — can rub you the wrong way. You feel off and distrusting. Contrast that to a second person, who may in their words introduce themselves in the exact same way, but due to their subtle energy, you feel energized and even excited to talk with them — even within a few seconds of interaction. You get a “feeling” almost instantaneously about whether to trust someone or not.

Ultimately, I traced that back to inner beliefs. For example, I used to believe that:
* People don’t “naturally” want to improve their lives with organizing, and so I must manipulate them into doing so.
* People probably think I’m weird when I talk with them.
* That I’m Asian makes people less likely to want to listen to me.
* That I’m using organizing to heal my own trauma and I’m doing so out of desperation… and the biggest of them all:
* I need organizing to feel self-worth and self-love.

Indeed, when you talk to people with such inner beliefs, people can almost sub-consciously feel a great “taking” energy, particularly as I explained in the above-mentioned post. For example, if I need organizing to feel self-worth, the person I’m talking with can feel that I have a compulsive desperation (if even subtly) to have them build their campaign, which hurts my intent and makes it so they feel a bit of “taking” energy when I ask them to build their campaign, making it a little less likely for them to actually do so. If I truly do not care if they build their campaign, that actually frees them up to — out of inspiration, without any subtle coercion or desperation — fully commit to building their campaign, and actually helps them do so more often and more strongly. (Sometimes, because those inner beliefs CAN BE so energetically taking, those beliefs can even sometimes manifest themselves, I’ve found.)

And so I spent another year fixing my inner beliefs, which freed myself up for better, “more giving” sub-communication and energy. My results in organizing campaigns continued to improve substantially — with more and more practice training myself with each conversation and inspecting the emotions I felt with each conversation.

But eventually, about a year ago, I found myself yet at another stand-still. Now that I’d gotten my technique to a very high level and at least greatly improved my inner beliefs/emotional relationship to organizing, I felt my growth stall once again.

At least for a bit. Alas, this has been my greatest epiphany these last six months: to “be” rather than “do.”

While it is true that people can sense the emotional place from which you are organizing and your inner beliefs, it is also true that people can sense your desire even to improve the emotional place from which you are organizing and your inner beliefs in the first place. In other words: people can sense that you are overly thinking and that you are overly feeling. And if done too much, people can even begin to sense a subtle non-authenticity/manipulation. “Why is this person trying so hard at, hmmm, I can’t tell? They feel a little inauthentic.”

To start my transition to a cleaner head-space — and since technique, sub-communication, and emotional clarity had already started to become ingrained in a sort of unconscious competence for me anyway — I started to focus on only three very abstract concepts in my organizing: to be authentic, to respond to the situation at hand, and to make an effort to raise emotions. (When you break down all the techniques you learn in your first few years of union organizing, I’d even claim, they can all be traced back to these three principles at the end of the day.) And my organizing results continued to improve.

And yet, this last month or so, I’ve caught myself sometimes (even if only for a minute or two), going completely blank in my thinking and feeling; I still sense an “inspired fullness,” but I’m able to be completely, entirely present (for short periods of time), and that helps me truly feel and sense what the worker is feeling and thinking. What feels like real empathy. And as I do so, my organizing results are the best they’ve ever been.

It’s similar to meditation, but in active organizing: a complete presence. And I’m sure you’ve felt this. Think about the most charismatic people you may know: when you talk with them, you feel they are entirely present to the moment, and when they talk with you, you feel them in a “full, giving” energy where they are entirely focused on you, while also being authentic to themselves; you sense that their thinking and feeling are completely aligned to the present moment with you.

Something interesting, too, is that since I started this journey, I’ve always struggled with making good eye contact, but I’ve noticed that when I’m feeling completely present, I make laser eye-contact, and it feels effortless.

Somehow, I’ve come to “be” in my journey rather than “doing” all the time. Yes, you need to “do” in order to improve your organizing skills. But you also need to “be” at times, in order to produce the best results.

So, alas are three stages of organizing, at least that I see from my current vantage point in my organizing journey:
1) To get your technique down.
2) To examine your emotional landscape and the very emotional reason you’re organizing in the first place.
3) To drop it all, and to just “be” full and one, present to the moment, “being” a natural effective organizer in both technique and energy, without effort.

I do realize this all sounds a bit abstract and weird. But I assure you it’s coming from a genuine place.

Maybe you get something, or maybe you don’t… but hopefully I’ve been able to give you some value in this rant. Regardless, thank you for reading.

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