Vision… 01

a Moment for Wisdom…


A Moment for…


 A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.”

Denis Waitley










a Moment with Sharif…




Changing times, changing formats… for at least the rest of this month, the “Moment for Wisdom” will be focused on and dedicated to the “Occupy Together” phenomena, as it continues to grow, morph and evolve.


I’ve learned a lot about this phenomena in the past week, from participating in “Occupy Portland” to speaking at “Occupy LA”. 


Many of you have asked for my opinion on the “Occupy Together” (OT) phenomenon.  I was planning to write a fairly long article… but my friend and co-conspirator Miki Kashtan in the Bay Area beat me to it!  If you want to know MY opinion of OT, I strongly urge you to read HER article in Alternet: Bringing the Salt March to Wall Street.     (Or, copy and paste this into your browser window:   My comments here will add to hers…



In my Monday noon speech on the steps of LA City Hall, I mentioned several times the necessity for vision.  Some listeners thought I was calling for “goals” or “demands”. I was not.  Visions and goals are different – understanding this is absolutely critical to the continued existence of OT.  I am very clear that this is NOT the time for the OT forces to develop a “12 Point Platform” or anything like that. That comes much later, after a coherent vision has emerged… However, the development of vision is both timely and


In the search for vision, the vision voyagers must get out of their HEADS and into their HEARTS.Vision is a function of Spirit – it comes when the mind and heart are at rest, focused on the largest, most positive and most inclusive future.



I am encouraged by the willingness of the OT forces to release the existing forms and structures of political discourse.  (See the Lincoln quote below.)  There is one truth that the OT folks have understood very well: we have little experience in the practice of democracy in this country.  Our political institutions give us almost no experience in democracy.Pulling a level for one or another of pre-packaged candidates is the antithesis of democracy.


We’ve got to be willing to make this up as we go along, creating, modifying (and discarding, when appropriate) new systems and structures… for economics, for politics, for all of the elements that make up a society.  


And, along with releasing existing forms and structures of politics, the Occupiers must also let go of the theories of capitalism (it’s dying), communism (it’s dead) and any other theory that was formulated by men long dead and buried.  This is an essential truth:




I want to end with a second quote, this one from Abraham Lincoln.  Writing 149 years
ago, his words foreshadow the sad state of events that have led to Occupy Together:


The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.   The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion.

 As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.  We must disenthrall ourselves …

 Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.   We…  will be remembered in spite of ourselves.  We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility.  We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of Earth.








Vision Exercises:


When developing a vision, don’t start with what you don’t want.  Start with what you do.


Yes, the Declaration of Independence had a long list of grievances against King George.
That’s not why we remember it.  We remember it for one lofty idea, one big enough to stir an entire society to action.


So, your exercise:


1.  Sit in meditation for 5 minutes. Then,

2.  Write your response to this question: “What is the society that you wish to leave to our


3.  Go back for a few more minutes of meditation.


4.  Look at your statement.Cross out words like “more” “better” “increasing” “reduce” “manage”…  These terms lack the capacity to stir people to action.  John F. Kennedy didn’t say, “At some point in time or another, we’ll get closer to landing a man on the
Moon.”  Be definite about the kind of society you see – but don’t be afraid to revisit and


5.  Engage 3-5 people per day in this exercise for a week.  Ask them the question, then, after they have responded, share with them yours.


6.  Finally:  Post the responses (yours and others) here, and/or on any of the many “Occupy” media outlets on the Web.






All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.

Sharif in Los Angeles by Peg Owens








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10 Responses to Vision… 01

  1. Hi Sharif,
    With you in spirit and holding the big vision down here in New Zealand –
    about 2000 Aucklanders marched up Auckland’s main street (Queen Street) on the 15th of October at 3pm and held the first General Assembly of ‘Occupy Auckland’ at 4:30pm. It was quite exhilerating to experience the crowd’s positive, collective, passionate energy…and to be taught the consensus process modelled after the one used at ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and I imagine ALL the ‘Occupy’ movements. Everything was peaceful and nonviolent – there is a HUGE white sheet in the middle of the park which reads ‘Write Your VISION of a better world’ – and everyone is invited to write their vision in markers on the sheet – love your comment about holding the VISION first before getting into strategy…so important! Great to feel the worldwide energy of the cultural shift.

  2. Shirlene says:

    One of care, compassion and love. One where people are equal in humanity. Enough food, shelter and clean water. Peace.

  3. Starr says:

    Thank you, Sharif. Was wondering where you’d play in with all of this. I’ll use this practice & let you know what comes up! 🙂

  4. Holly Wells says:

    How do I link to your OWS Moments on my blog?

    Also, just one comment on the early Occupy process, then I’ll be doing these regularly, starting with OWS Vision 01:

    I am just glad to see PEOPLE bypassing all of our current, failed institutions. There will be anarchists camped for the duration, people like me spending occasional nights, others coming daytimes, evenings, and weekends. There will be “special events” (as they are having in NY). There will be more people showing up for the General Assemblies (GAs), taking part in the planning. There will be some wonderful, explicit expressions of needed change (I don’t like calling them demands, but some folks won’t mind). There will be people saying simply “We won’t take it anymore”–asking for, for instance, a 2-year moratorium on foreclosures and insisting that it happen–not our problem to figure out how, ours just to notice if it has happened.

    Mostly there will be people re-claiming their own power and being in civil relationship with each other at the same time–all of this giving others hope that it is possible.

    I’m going to be there and be involved as much as I can–I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. And I am spiritually intending that this will be a movement that brings us closer to a world that works for all beings.

  5. Greg says:

    I’m glad that Sharif has decided to support and aid the “Occupy Movement.” Occupy within and Occupy 365 are heart-centered support organizations.

    I plan to spend time with the Occupy folks and I need more of your input.

  6. Lane Poncy says:

    Hey Sharif…If you happen to be visiting the downtown occupied space, I’m on KBOO from 6-10pm, it would be great to have an interview with you during my reign…I’m not sure where the KBOO “remote station” will be, but if you’re available, I’m sure you’ll be able to find its location. Thanks for your insights. Lane KBOO 5th Monday
    Labor Radio.

  7. Sharif says:

    [This is a re-post of a comment that appeared on the website.]

    Dear Sharif and friends,

    I agree with and appreciate every thing you say except for one paragraph, which is “Visions and goals are different — understanding this is absolutely critical to the continued existence of OT. This is not the time for the OT forces to develop a “12-point platform.” That comes much later, after a coherent vision has emerged. However, the development of vision is both timely and important.”

    Yes, vision and goals are different and it is critical that we develop a coherent vision; however that is no reason for us to wait to begin to develop some type of a political/action platform. Some of us have been developing Vision and Values orientations for years, along with political/action orientations. Of course our goals need to be based on a vision and values; but this can develop at the same time as we discuss and share varying opinions on a political/action agenda/platform. Really the two go together and support one another.

    Please, those of you that are most interested in focusing on vision, values, and opening a generative conversation, etc recognize that others of us are primarily interested in developing an as effective a political action campaign as we can. And that this is equally important and relevant. Let us do both at the same time. Both have been lacking and are urgently and fully needed.

    Rob Wheeler

    • Sharif says:

      Rob — Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Here’s my response:

      When I was at the “Occupy Portland” march, I saw three signs: “Reform the Fed”, “End the Fed” and “Smash Capitalism”. These three sentiments were very heart-felt, very passionate, and MUTUALLY CONTRADICTORY AND CONFLICTING. You cannot do these three things.

      Let’s say that a group of 100 people divides itself into 3, each part working toward one of these goals. This means that, at any given point in time, the majority of the group is working against you. This is like putting equally powerful propellers at each end of a ship, and expecting it to get anywhere.

      This is why I say “vision comes first”. The currently painful process of consensus in the GA’s is a function of the lack of a coherent, unifying vision.

      Some time ago, I watched as a colony of ants worked to get a huge dead wasp down a really small ant hole. It took a long time. Part of the group thought it should go down head first, the other thought it should go down butt first. They spent a LOT of time spinning the wasp around and around. Some started biting off legs and antenna, taking them down, until all of them realized it wasn’t going to fit as one piece, dismembered it and took it down in stages.

      In that sloppy process, the ants were united in a single vision: “Get the wasp down the hole”. Their confusion (and trial and error) came in HOW to achieve that vision — goals, strategies and tactics. They achieved the vision, and I’ll bet they learned what to do with the next dead wasp they found.

      Now, imagine if half the ants had a different goal: “Keep dead wasps out of the colony”. Instead of the “head group” and the “butt group”, there was the “pull the wasp away from the hole” group. How frustrated would the group be without a unifying vision?

      Rob, you say that you are “…primarily interested in developing an as effective a political action campaign as we can”. Great. What does that mean? If you are talking about developing new, inclusive political tools and techniques, I’m right there with you… that will help “create a world that works for all”. If you are talking about creating “third party” activity within the existing system, I’m a lot less interested, but I’ll still listen to you. If you are talking about supporting, demanding, reforming existing legislation– I’m not hardly interested.

      Identifying vision, FIRST, determines whether our struggle is uphill or downhill…



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