“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist fighting for peace by non-violent methods most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes one’s work for peace. It destroys one’s inner capacity of peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of one’s work because it kills the roots of inner wisdom which make work fruitful.”
I’ve suffered from this tendency towards frenzyness for years and can’t remember the last time I came across a person or organization in the social change field that doesn’t share this struggle. Certainly there are external pressures to blame, from funding scarcity to the sheer weight of the social problems we’re trying so hard to address. But I think that a good portion of this frenzy is internally generated. Not just individually, but organizationally.
We often create organizational rhythms that lead to perpetual burn-out. We fully recognize they are unsustainable, but either accept them as the sacrifice we make for the greater good or fail to see how we might change them. I wonder what we can do to develop our capacity for organizational mindfulness. What practices can we adopt to help maintain healthy levels of collective energy? How can we forecast energetic tipping points so that we can manage our shared workload more proactively?