The Six Steps to Sacred Citizenship
An interview with Stephen Dinan, author of Sacred America, Sacred World
Posted Jul 05, 2016
I was delighted to interview Stephen Dinan, author of Sacred America, Sacred World: Fulfilling Our Mission in Service to All. Stephen is the CEO of The Shift Network, which empowers a large global audience with transformational courses, summits, trainings, and programs. He launched the Shift in Action membership program of the Institute of Noetic Sciences as well as the Esalen Institute's Center for Theory & Research, a think tank for leading scholars, researchers and teachers to explore human potential frontiers.
Stephen is also the author of Radical Spirit: Spiritual Writings from the Voices of Tomorrow
Ken: Stephen, Sacred America, Sacred World is a guidebook for healing on political, economic, societal, personal and family levels. And it’s an invitation for each of us to participate in a journey that changes not only the world but ourselves.
Why does it matter so much that we commit to the journey of making the world a better place?
Stephen: I think it’s very hard to have a healthy individual in isolation from a healthy society. When we are committing ourselves to grow into our full potential as individuals without also making the commitment to a larger whole, we can actually undermine ourselves and undermine the health of our future generations as well. I think it’s absolutely essential that as caring human beings, we take our role as citizens very seriously.
Ken: You present a vision of sacred citizenship which is electrifying in its possibility and its challenge. Can you tell us the steps each of us can take to become sacred citizens?
The Six Steps to Sacred Citizenship
The first principle of becoming a sacred citizen is to invest in your personal growth. It is to do the inner work and to also look at the political process as an opportunity to do more of the inner work.
We can look at where we have developed, and where we need to expand our potential. So if we’ve done a lot of quiet inward things, we might choose to do more intense work within a group. That might be more of an edge for us.
Ken: So part of that inner journey is identifying the things that scare us, that we have resistance to and then engaging in them.
Stephen: Yes. Second, sacred citizenship means that it’s important to continue your education. There’s a tendency for us to get ossified opinions, and then we’re just stuck with them for our lifetime. Sacred citizenship means understanding the full breadth and depth of current problems. I find it useful to read articles from the left and the right. I’m still a strong progressive and I vote democratic and I give money to Democrats, but I like learning from the right about how they think. For example, on a daily basis I like to go to realclearpolitics.com because they tend to harvest the best of the left and the best of the right each day and you can kind of track what’s going on and what has buzz.
There’s a tendency to reinforce our biases all the time. And so the more we’re challenging our own biases and assumptions and world view, the more we’re going to have a more complete world view and a more whole internal system. And to be able to speak in language that people can hear. And that’s really important as well because we don’t always realize our own biases.
A third aspect of sacred citizenship is to practice leadership. By leadership, I mean not just being in control or making decisions, but leading the way to solutions, to innovations. For example, if you’re frustrated by the political situation, creating a trans-partisan dialogue group at your church, or a living room conversation. Or to say, “I’m going to take a stand for ending child sex trafficking in my area.” So that leadership doesn’t emerge overnight, it emerges through practice. The more we’ve demonstrated leadership in moving the ball forward, the more empowered we feel to then stretch into the next level.
Fourth, I find that it’s important to spend time in both mainstream and alternative cultures. Because, as I said, there are a lot of biases and hidden assumptions built into any culture. So I like to kind of be able to go from world to world and not just be in any one of them. That actually helps us, again, to become better change leaders because we can make connections and bridges with people. With that, we can become ambassadors between cultures.
The fifth area is mentorship. Mentorship I think is really key for leadership. Ultimately, to lead bigger and bigger initiatives you need to have other people that you are supporting in their leadership. And so in a way mentorship becomes the multiplier of your leadership; you help groom people who can then do things in different realms, or even in the same arena, so that they can then go further.
And sixth, sacred citizenship is really about walking our talk on all the different levels. Where do we spend our money? Where do we have our investments? How do we choose to eat? How do we choose to speak? We may talk the talk of trans-partisanship, but what do we indulge in at dinner conversations with people? And what do we talk about with our families? So each action really sends a little ripple out into the universe, and ultimately it’s all those actions that are the measure of how deep our commitment is to creating a sacred world.
So I see sacred citizenship as a commitment to create a more unified, whole, peaceful, sustainable culture. And that means that every action that we take is something that is either adding to that unified world, or being neutral toward it. Or detracting from it. And it just feels better to get our lives aligned. Everybody’s got kind of a passion area that really breaks their heart, and it’s important that we put good energy into that area--and then not neglect the others.
And I think it’s good not to try to feel overwhelmed by the demands of sacred citizenship, or to become too rigid. My theory is that a lot of the world’s problems could be solved with two percent of our time or effort. It doesn’t take a big chunk of our time. We don’t have to commit one hundred percent. For example, if people committed two percent of their income to just doing good for different people, that would have a huge impact in the world.
Ken: Or two percent of their time.
Stephen: Yes, two percent of your time. It’s not necessarily about huge things. I’ve got a couple dozen micro loans on Kiva.org. I just keep them circulating and go to different developing world entrepreneurs, and I know that has an impact. It could be as little as writing a note, or writing an email to somebody, or having a conversation and making people feel loved.
And then it doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming. All the big problems in the world can feel really daunting, but they’re ultimately all solvable by small steps. If you run the numbers on climate change you see that if we reduced our carbon output as a planet by two percent a year it would only take us until 2050 before we would have completely solved climate change. Climate change is only a two percent a year problem.
Ken: That is so great. I love that. Stephen, how can we expect that our lives will change by acting on these principles?
Stephen: Well, we’ll really feel at home in our world in a deeper way. Because we don’t necessarily agree with everything that’s happening, and there are things that we see that are regressive and that we don’t support, but we don’t feel like aliens that landed in a foreign land. We’re part of a country, we’re part of a community. By taking actions, taking a stand, being a unifying force, building bridges, helping to heal divides, it’s empowering. And we actually feel more at home in ourselves, we feel more welcomed in our community, we feel less frightened, we feel more hopeful for our future.
Ken: Beautiful. Thank you, Stephen. I just want to note that you are the founder and CEO of the Shift Network, which is one of the world’s largest online human transformation learning networks. And I know that your company commits huge amounts of resources, time, energy, and focus and passion to creating events for underserved populations, and helping promote world peace. It is inspiring to see your passionate and enthusiastic commitment to your own, and your company’s sacred citizenship. You inspire me to do the same! Thanks so much for this interview.
Stephen: Thank you as well, Ken.
To learn more about Stephen's work, please visit http://www.sacredamerica.net/