In my last post “You Are Called,” I said I would share more in future posts about the elements and practices of spiritual leadership. The truth is that Hilary, Deb and I have been referring to and lifting these up all along. Sometimes, it it important, however to be explicit. So, this post is specifically about that element of spiritual leadership that is “the dream.”

The Women’s Theological Center community that named spiritual leadership as I know it described the dream as “a soul desire that propels your action and way of being in the world.”


I personally love Charles Eisenstein’s naming of that soul desire as “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.” “Beloved Community” also works for me. Whether these namings work for you or not is unimportant. What IS important is that you come to know and own your soul’s desire for a just and loving world — for we cannot align ourselves with what we cannot imagine.

“…first we imagine,” writes adrienne maree brown In Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds:

We are in an imagination battle.

Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown and Renisha McBride and so many others are dead because, in some white imagination, they were dangerous. And that imagination is so respected that those who kill, based on an imagined, racialized fear of Black people, are rarely held accountable. Imagination has people thinking they can go from being poor to a millionaire as part of a shared American dream. Imagination turns Brown bombers into terrorists and white bombers into mentally ill victims. Imagination gives us borders, gives us superiority, gives us race as an indicator of capability. I often feel I am trapped inside someone else’s imagination, and I must engage my own imagination in order to break free.

Breaking free from imaginations of domination and control requires imagining something else. Without imagining collective liberation, it cannot become a reality.

“…decolonization of the imagination is the most dangerous and subversive form there is: for it is where all other forms of decolonization are born. Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless.” ~ Walidah Imarisha, Octavia’s Brood

The dream for connection and hope and wholeness comes with every soul born into the world but we cannot remember it or live into alone. Our soul dreams are connected to each other. Tapping into your soul desire is not solitary work. We need each other for this. We need the wisdom of ancestors, elders, children. We need the inspiration of Peoples — past, present and future — whose experience is different from our own to fan the flames of our own soul’s desire. We need to remember ancient stories and to craft new stories in order to tap into and embrace the soul’s desire. We need songs and ritual that help us remember and encourage us to align with that dream. And we need stories. Lots of stories. Stories that activate our soul’s desire and keep the dream alive, joining our dreams into networks like the fungal hyphae that connect trees to one another underground.


Remembering the dream is one thing. Spiritual leadership assumes that we align with that dream through our actions. That is the practice. But “…first we imagine.”

[Next up: What’s Your Genius? on the element of gifts]

[Photo credit]