Connecting the Intra/Inter/Structural Week: An Invitation to Explore the Universal Current of Life by Libby Smith

Libby Smith
Libby Smith

Hi, I’m Libby Smith (they/them). I’m an educator, evaluator, and organizational healing consultant. I’m a white, queer person who has spent a lot of time reflecting on their gender this past year. Currently I live and work on Anishinaabe land known as Menomonie, WI. I’ve spent the better part of my nearly 50 years living in this part of the world. My spiritual beliefs trend towards animism and non-dualism; I celebrate the Wheel of the Year. I have a regular tarot practice and I often check the phases of the moon to plan my work. In short, I’m actively examining and expanding my life away from capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. All that to explain how I’ve arrived at a week of posts about what Paulo Coelho called the “universal current of life”. 

"Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it's all written there." -Paulo Coehlo

I originally set out to coordinate a week of posts about interpersonal skills. A lot of my work revolves around teaching interpersonal practices that support our ability to be more present and more fully human in our work. This spring, I felt called to go a little deeper and explore with people I haven’t worked with before. This came after Dr. Vidhya Shanker shared a story on social media about a premonition, a knowing. It’s her story to share, so I will leave it there, but it got us talking about intuition and the thread that connects the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and the structural (more on that later in this week of posts!). Such was the invitation I offered this week’s authors – posts that explore this thread and how it all connects to our work as evaluators. 

In presenting this week of posts I think it is also important to tell you about the hesitancy that I feel (and the hesitancy that Vidhya expressed in her social media post) in sharing the ways in which my intuition and spiritual practice inform my work. In many ways, it feels like coming out again (although I barely remember what that feels like since it was more than 30 years ago). I have spent time in many academic and professional spaces where conversations about intuition and spirituality are, at best, frowned upon. We make no space for our connection to the sacred or the divine. 

Patriarchy and white supremacy would have us believe that the mind, body, and spirit are distinct entities. Western philosophy has grappled with this supposed division since Descartes first introduced the “mind/body problem” in the 17th century. This division keeps us separate from the divine, from nature, from each other, and ultimately from ourselves. Modern day somatics and embodiment practices seek to rectify this division, but none of them would be needed if not for the harms of colonialism and “western thought”. 

It’s only been about five years ago now that I realized that these parts of myself do not and cannot exist separately. This work to integrate and shed white supremacy culture will be lifelong. Nearly all of my “professional development” is geared towards reclaiming my inner wisdom and making space for different ways of knowing. What if we all devoted more time to this inner transformation? What if we could rely on our intuition to guide our inquiry? What if we began to recognize that the social change we seek happens through alchemical transformation?

"A revolution involves making an evolutionary/revolutionary leap toward becoming more socially responsible and more self-critical human beings. In order to transform the world, we must transform ourselves. Thus, unlike rebellions, which are here today and gone tomorrow, revolutions require a patient and protracted process that transforms and empower us as individuals as we struggle to change the world around us. Going beyond rejections to projections, revolutions advance our continuing evolution as human beings because we are practicing new more socially responsible and loving relationship to one another and to the earth." - Grace Lee Boggs

I know I’m not alone in our field in asking these questions and I am so grateful to each of the authors who agreed to write for this week. I hope these posts spark wonder and curiosity for you. I’m looking forward to more conversations about what is possible when we bring our full human selves to our work. 

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Connecting the Intra/Inter/Structural Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from authors who are exploring intuition and the thread that connects the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and the structural in evaluation.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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