adrienne maree brown is:
– a writer
– a sci-fi/Octavia Butler scholar
– an organizational healer
– a pleasure activist
– a facilitator
– a life/love/relationship/work coach
– a network weaver
– a speaker/singer (including wedding singer) and
– a doula
living in Detroit.
adrienne maree brown wrote a book that continues to transform my thinking about so many things. It deepens connections between all of our locations and selves - it continues to help me rethink what activism and transformation looks like on the daily. Read Emergent Strategy! Read adrienne's blog! Follow her on instagram! Her work is a beautiful expression of Virgo energy - and so many more things - but it's so damn thorough, in such deep relationship with nature and life itself, so humble, smart, honoring and naming all the influences and resources from which she draws ... the principles she's collected feel essential in a million ways right now. So happy to share these words of hers below in this interview.
1. When do you experience the most joy?
When I am facilitating a room full of history-makers and we break through societal blocks to experience freedom together. When I have a new idea and room to dream it out. When I am reunited with people I love. When I am anticipating pleasure.
2. From engaging with your writing and speaking, I see the Virgo qualities of analysis and humility, awe of the natural world, fascination with and study of efficient processes and systems, etc. There’s so much practical, grounded material in your work - I wonder if you experience the typical Virgo struggles of overanalysis, self-criticalness, getting lost in the details? (It seems, in a way, that Emergent Strategy could be a self-help manual on how to manage and heal those tendencies!)
Oh for sure. Whenever something goes 'wrong' my first words/thoughts are still some variation of calling myself an idiot. I am able to catch it quickly now, or catch the perfectionist tendency, and move through to the work. But I am atypical in terms of the details - I like to work with people I trust and task out a lot of details, I give myself permission to obsess over details at the level of words and facilitation, because those are areas where I can see my unique offer most clearly. The rest I let go, sometimes to my detriment. The key is learning to trust - a lot of those traits are rooted in not trusting. Virgos who trust live fuller, less anxious lives.
3. What practices / people / places feel most alive for you right now in healing and transforming challenging patterns in your life? How have those practices / people / places evolved over time?
Meditation and therapy, especially somatic therapy, feel like necessary practices for me and for all people. It's hard for me to trust people who don't have a way to get quiet, to reflect on their lives, to take responsibility for their emotional states. That has been a big learning for me - there is the life that you get, and there is what you make of it. That second part is the space where art, beauty, grace, humor, humility, surrender, magic - all the good stuff comes in through the work you do to shape your life. I love that I am learning to listen to my body, listen to the memories there, listen to the present moment in me, listen to the future adjusting my current actions.
4. How do you relate to urgency, when it arises, in your current life? When do you act on urgency? When do you not act on it? How do you decide how to respond to it?
Sometimes I ignore it. Sometimes it really motivates me into action. I am really not interested in urgency guiding my life except at a spiritual level. I believe we are in a time that needs our spiritual attention in an urgent way, needs us to wake up in an urgent way. I have an internal process though - I don't do things out of obligation - urgent obligation makes life feel falsely important or impossible. I really tune into my own passion, whether I can actually be useful. I don't give too much attention to things that I can't see a way to impact.
5. At the end of Emergent Strategy you talk about how the whole motivation of the book is love. Does the presence of this love feel persistent? Does it ebb and flow, or are there times it feels harder to connect to it? What do you do if / when it does feel more distant? And if it doesn’t ever feel distant, why do you think that is?
Love is constant. My perspective gets shaped by my suffering and my practices. Struggle, suffering is also constant. I let my suffering be a measure of my love of life, freedom, connection. That shifting of perspective is a practice. It's one thing to know love is there. It's work to surrender into it. Life's work.
ARIES | March 21-April 19
Question - Where does your attention predominantly rest?
Meditation - mimicry.
Assignment - Look around to the natural world, the non-human species, and see what patterns and behaviors you want to integrate. What do you admire about plants and or animals? What do you notice about them that's different from us? What can you mimic of their behavior that might help your life? Slowing down to observe others a bit can change your life. So much information is available that you sometimes don't make time for. Make time for it this week.
TAURUS | April 20-May 20
Question - Where and when do you avoid going deeper because you are scared?
Meditation - rooting further down.
Assignment - Don't resist the urge to connect to roots this week, whatever that means to you. To develop and deepen your own roots. You can be used to digging your heels in as an automatic aversion to change, but what happens if you try to root deeper instead of digging deeper? Rooting deeper is intentional, it's going with a natural process instead of resisting it. It's for a purpose, to strengthen life. Take note of the opportunities to go deeper for the purposes of strengthening your life and your community's life this week.
GEMINI | May 21-June 20
Question - What does the opposite of distraction look like for you?
Meditation - this moment.
Assignment - You can be overly positive or negative depending on where your attention is. Take note of this tendency this week. Gemini loves to categorize and label and give language to everything - which serves you well, but it can be a distraction from directly experiencing what is happening. There is a difference between what is happening and naming what is happening. Play in this area this week, spend time attuning yourself to this difference and see what you notice.
CANCER | June 21-July 22
Question - Where is your spiritual party and where are your spiritual friends?
Meditation - noticing spirit.
Assignment - Give yourself permission to nourish your spiritual life this week. I don't mean do new things, although that could be part of it. I mean take notice of what is already spiritually fulfilling in your life. It could be reading an article on your phone by a writer you are inspired by. It could be eating a food with a friend, sharing the love of this food. Spirit is everywhere, it doesn't not exist. It's just our awareness of it that fades and arises. If you're too caught up in your emotional hardships you might miss the miracle of spirit offering itself to you over and over. Look for this, cultivate this.
LEO | July 23-August 22
Question - Where are you steady and where are you pliable?
Meditation - grass in wind.
Assignment - Take stock of your fixed tendencies this week, along with the places you have more agility. This balance is so important! Make sure you aren't sticking to an idea or a plan that's outdated, that you're holding onto and confusing with a piece of your identity. The relief to remember here is that ideas have nothing to do with identity, even though we get confused and think they do all the time. So with a lot of gentleness, just review - where am I rigid? Where am I fluid? What does this moment ask of me? It feels so much better to be available to the moment instead of wedded to an old tired idea.
VIRGO | August 23-September 22
Question - What do you admire about nature?
Meditation - believing in yourself like you believe in nature.
Assignment - Take note of how you judge nature, or don't judge nature. Practice applying the level of acceptance you have for trees, or ravens, or stars, and the ways that they are, to yourself. You are not separate from these beings, you are in fact made of the same materials, so why would you apply different judgments to yourself? Why would you isolate yourself in the exhaustion of self-inflicted harmful thoughts, instead of accepting that you are another facet of nature, being nature? Living this means loving yourself. It doesn't mean you have to force a particular feeling, it just means practicing a gentle acceptance. Here I am. This is enough. I am nature. I am not different from what is alive, therefore I am worthy of respect.
LIBRA | September 23-October 23
Question - What does it mean to make something more beautiful?
Meditation - balance and imbalance depend on each other.
Assignment - How often do you feel the urge or need to make something better? Different? Improved? What happens if you pause when that urge arises, what if you do nothing instead and see what happens? What new space might this open up for others to do something? What might this allow you to notice that is already improved, or beautiful, or thriving? Pause before you act on this improvement or beautifying impulse this week, and see what happens.
SCORPIO | October 23-November 21
Question - When and how do you give yourself permission to be sexual?
Meditation - sex as life.
Assignment - Experiment with your sexuality as not based on sex itself, or in relation to others this week. What sensations in your experience overlap or might feel related to sexuality on a more subtle level? What ways can you inhabit sex even if you aren't having it, or even if the sex you are having doesn't fulfill you completely. Connect to sex as aliveness, to your own body. Remember (over and over, as a practice) that your sex, your sexuality, is a vital life force that is not dependent on what sex looks like in your life.
SAGITTARIUS | November 22-December 21
Question - When do you let things be small?
Meditation - small.
Assignment - Track your ups and downs this week. Notice your tendency to make things big. Bigness is a part of your default - what happens if you let things be small. Not diminished, but just small and quiet. Your emotional experience. Your language. Your conversations. Your movements. Wherever it feels that you might not have examined this tendency, pay attention and see what happens. You can feel all the things you feel and experience life fully without the bigness, and it will only free you up to experiment with this.
CAPRICORN | December 22-January 19
Question - Are you taking enough breaks?
Meditation - rest.
Assignment - What do the breaks you take look like? Are the breaks scrolling on your phone? Are they emailing? Are they getting a friend obligation out of the way? Are they still productive in some way in your mind? What is true rest for you? When is the last time you asked yourself that? When is the last time you practiced true rest? When was the last time you let yourself feel a little uncomfortable not doing anything (especially without your phone)?
AQUARIUS | January 20 to February 18
Question - Where is your thought circular, where does it eddy out?
Meditation - the space between noises.
Assignment - Listen for silence this week. In between your thoughts, in between the noises you hear in an hour, in a few minutes. Doing this means being quiet yourself sometimes, let's say at least three times, this week. Being quiet and listening for silence includes turning off your phone during that time. Internal noise, like in your mind, and external noise. See if you can try this out, this kind of listening, without any sense of shame or that things should be different in your life, just as a way to kindly notice sound and silence. It's a different thing to listen FOR silence, instead of to sounds. Where does the silence live? What happens when you put your attention on it?
PISCES | February 19 to March 20
Question - What basics in your life are not being attended to?
Meditation - the basics.
Assignment - You are such a dreamer, it can be hard to stay tethered to the earth. Or you can find it frustrating, and tend to neglect basic needs because they feel pesky or beneath you or a waste of time. But this is part of what you are here to learn - how to be embodied, how to live on earth, be subject to earth rhythms and laws, etc. You can still do this with your signature dreamscape overlay, and it's so beautiful when you do! But fighting with or trying to override your need for the basics like food, water, connection on a daily level, will only put you more frequently into resistance and struggle. Let these needs in and nurture them like you let in your dreams.