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What We’re Reading: April Leadership, Culture, and Community Edition

Thursday, April 23, 2020

by Caitlin Brune, MPH, Senior Fellow, Northern California Grantmakers

Caitlin Brune

As the weeks wear on and the scale of pandemic devastation broadens and deepens, it’s ever more essential to practice good mental hygiene. Without it, how can we expect to work with clarity and compassion when constant news can leave us feeling uneasy about things we can’t control?

As a part of our Leadership, Culture and Community work, I have compiled this first edition of What We’re Reading to encourage attention to personal resilience and cultivate strength for principled leadership in this time. Taking a break from media and turning towards things we enjoy – time in nature, immersing in beauty, sleeping, and doses of stillness – gives our stress response a vital rest. On a macro scale, attending to good mental hygiene helps reduce what’s projected to be an epidemic of mental health crises as we flatten the pandemic’s curve. I invite you to take a break, watch, listen, and read.

1. Constructed Poetry in Motion

Refresh your mind with a brief pause, inspired by nature. Travel to the atrium of an office building in Boston (wave hi to Ellen LaPointe!) and take in Diffusion Choir kinetic sculpture. (2 min) Watch > 

2. Nature, Beauty, Gratitude

Miracles ever-unfold at every scale. From the opening of brilliant purple irises to the sweep of weather across the Tibetan Plateau, Louie Schwarzberg’s Nature Beauty Gratitude video evokes joy with stunning time-elapsed images from our shared extraordinary planet, culminating with an invocation to gratitude. (8 min) Watch > 

3. Don’t Take on Others’ Stress

Emotional contagion is real, and we’re all susceptible to it. In this guided meditation, Jeff Warren suggests how to maintain a healthy mind and exercise compassion for ourselves and each other when in the grip of toxic emotions. (10 min) Listen > 

For a curated compilation of mindfulness resources from ABC news anchor Dan Harris’ 10% Happier collection, go here for a Coronavirus Sanity Guide.

4. Leadership Skills in an Uncertain World

Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity define our times. How can we meet these with clarity, empathy, and informed judgement? This article from the Center for Creative Leadership suggests 10 skills for surviving, leading, and creating the future. (10 min read) Read More > 

5. Collective Care is Our Best Weapon Against COVID-19

Cindy Milstein invites us to harness our greatest assets – our interdependence and inclination to be of service – and plug into or launch new mutual aid networks. Read More > 

6. Sunstorm

Featuring Ai-Jen Poo and Alicia Garza of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, this podcast uplifts stories of workers in the care economy (Episode 12 - 27 min). If you’re inspired by their vibe, check out Episode 11, where they share their own tips for staying healthy during a pandemic (44 min). Listen > 

7. Unlocking Us

Brené Brown, acclaimed researcher on shame and vulnerability, names the big emotions we are experiencing in pandemic time – anxiety, grief, loneliness, shame – and offers humor, grace with practical strategies for dealing with them in a healthy way. Listen > 

For a joy-inducing bonus . . .

Your Life in Focus: Oprah sits down with racial equity activist, Golden Globe winner, Emmy-nominated actress and fashion icon Tracee Ellis Ross for a wide-ranging, hilarious, wise conversation about Ross’ philosophy for maintaining health, living a good life, and leading with joy and authenticity. (44 min) Listen > 

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