ML Daniel on the Alchemy of Spirit in Movement Spaces

ML Daniel is a lawyer, ordained minister, and spiritual alchemist, but not necessarily in that order. She’s one of Resonance Network’s most animated voices when it comes to advocating for the importance of integrating sacred space and spirit work as we move to create a world that isn’t based on violence. In the wake of the Judiciary Committee hearings and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, which triggered re-traumatization, outrage, and despair, along with a surge of survivor solidarity and organizing, we spoke with her about how to make room for listening to our inner voices in daily life.

Resonance: Tell us about how you first got involved with advocating for the role of spirit in Resonance Network’s work?

ML: The Spirit Space work arose out of my experience participating in the Movement to End Violence program. I hosted an evening of wine and chocolate about why faith matters in movement spaces. It was a phenomenal conversation.

Spirit is foundational if we are going to do anything of substance in shaping the world. We spend so much time fine-tuning people’s leadership skills, their administrative skills, and we spend very little time nurturing their spirits, that which will allow them to be at their highest level and most creative level.

Resonance: It speaks to the issue of sustainability, wouldn’t you say?

ML: Exactly. You have a lot of talented leaders, but I also think you have talented leaders who aren’t staying. Just when they get to the place where they understand the system, they’re done because nobody has nurtured the spirit that invited them in. So the sustainability issue is real, and I think we’ve done a lot of things around self care and nurturing the spirit is much different than self care.

Resonance: As you’re speaking it just makes so much sense. How do you think we missed this?

ML: I’m not so sure that we missed it. I think we excluded it intentionally. We’ve gotten so bogged down as a society talking about tradition that we have excluded every tradition because I don’t want to be held by the standards and ethics and the norms and the dogma of your tradition. So nobody gets to bring anything to the table that remotely looks like it’s spiritual. We teach kids early on not to trust their gut and how to override it. And a lot of that is spirit whispering to us, and it shows up in somatic form. We distrust it. Religion has done its share of bastardizing spirit. As an ordained minister, from the Christian perspective, we’ve not done a really good job of representing spirit well. People have been hurt and not dealt with honestly.

Resonance: Looking at movement strategy and campaigns, what do you feel is the role of spirit in that?

ML: I don’t think we have tapped the wisdom of spirit. Can you imagine if people were really in tune with their own spiritual wisdom, what space movement space could be? That’s part of the attraction for me in how Resonance works. There’s enough spaciousness for folks to really begin to think differently about how spirit shows up in the work. That’s the challenge: can we get people to set aside time to listen to spirit?

Resonance: A lot of people come from faith traditions, but some people don’t, and I wonder if you could speak to people who are wary of any mention of spirit?

I think part of that is really taking the religious piece off of it. Last year I had the privilege to host a series of retreats with nonprofit leaders focused on reclaiming our spiritual life. There were people in that circle were not in alignment with any religious tradition. For me spirit really is about connected energy, that life force energy that’s in everything. It has nothing to do with belief systems or creed. It has everything to do with awareness that you are tethered to something bigger than yourself.

Resonance: You said as children we’re talked out of listening to spirit. Do you have any practical tips for how to recover from that and listen again to spirit?

A lot of it comes from meditation. Getting quiet and beginning to unravel some of the stuff that has blockers on it. Draw. Paint. Write poetry. Also, you can pick your favorite piece of art and just sit with it and see what opens up for you. Do a walking meditation through your neighborhood where you’re just paying attention differently than you would if you were rushing along. Get back in touch with listening and not shutting down the prana.

Learn more about ML’s work here.