The Four- Fold Way: Pay Attention to What has Heart and Meaning

In order to support climate leadership and transformative action, at the very top of our minds should be the internal and interpersonal work necessary to meaningfully confront climate change. What is the inner work needed for us to support our well-being, not just of mind and body but of heart and soul to sustain climate engagement and leadership long-term?


The Four-Fold Way: Compositional Improvisation and Climate Leadership, Part 2


In compositional improvisation, we actively practice creating dances from scratch in real-time. I firmly believe the mentality required for improvisation can be applied to our approach to climate change leadership. How, you ask? While there is no structure to improvisational dance, there are ways in which we practice listening, make choices, develop material and motifs, and find a conclusion or ending that can be relevant to reimagining our methods of leadership in the climate change movement.


Agreements that we often refer to when we make dances are the tenets of the Four-Fold Way:

1. Show up

2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning

3. Tell the truth without blame or judgment

4. Don’t be attached to the outcome

It is important to recognize that the author, Arrien, Angeles of the Four-Fold Way, was a cultural anthropologist, drawing from multiple indigenous cultures for direction, and these tenets remain a central core of leadership to create learning cultures in schools and organizations. The tenets are also followed by archetypes: the warrior, the healer, the visionary, the teacher. Today I am focusing on “pay attention to what has heart and meaning”. When engaging with uncertainty, it is easy to get lost in what isn’t working, hold on to familiar ways of doing things or become reactive. And right now, it is very easy to get lost in the fray. We are at a collective threshold between no longer and not yet, and being asked to hold an impossible amount of information. Add in the age of distraction, and well....it's a hell of a lot to navigate (!).


In the studio, when composing and building material with an ensemble, focusing attention is often a guidepost, a way to check in especially when the dance or path forward is unclear. What am I choosing to pay attention to? Am I waiting for something to happen? How do I stay engaged with not knowing and allow for possibility to emerge? Often when I take a second to check in with my own attention, the material I am building changes too.


Attention and presence are expansive and generative. When it comes to engaging with a changing climate and building a new world, what are you paying attention to? In your day to day, what has heart and meaning? Notice when you give an action, a project, a place or someone your full attention, your full presence, what happens. They change, it transforms, it gives back. That very presence creates spaciousness and is ripe with possibility. And is so easily forgotten in a world full of distraction. As Adrienne Marie Brown says, “What we place our attention on, grows”.


Rather than think about the work ahead as a "sacrifice" or an insurmountable challenge, what if the work is an opportunity to realign our lives with what we truly value and build relationships based on reciprocity with each other and the planet in the process?


So here is an invitation: take the next day or two to check in with your attention. What has heart and meaning for you? When it comes to climate leadership, what would you love to see more of in the world? Place your attention there and see what happens.

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