Stepping into our full selves through poetry

We hold a multitude of identities as leaders: activist, artist, office worker, child, parent, caregiver, immigrant, friend, athlete, science fiction lover, elder, and beyond. These integral identities dance within us and can show up in different ways in the various spaces we inhabit. When the systems we are a part of do not feel welcoming for the wholeness of our identities, we navigate manifestations of discomfort, tension and disease in our inner and outer worlds.

After experiencing a separation between her creative and climate justice communities, Neha Misra — an award-winning climate justice advocate, immigrant poet, and contemporary eco-folk artist —  felt that a more integrated way of being was calling. And it was largely through poetry that she was able to reclaim and embrace all the different pieces of her identity. 

In our May Leap of Leadership meetup, Neha shared her journey with us through her poetry. Listen to the 34-minute audio summary to hear passages of burnout and renewal, and of power and enoughness. Also check out the practices and resources below to support you in showing up more fully as a leader.


During our meetup, Neha and participants spoke about how the tendency of our dominant society to box us into one or two identities, like our profession or family connections, can make it difficult to show up as our full selves. Neha said,“I felt that in this reductionist world that wants to reduce you to one thing, in some ways I was also reducing myself. I felt viscerally in my body, mind and spirit what that fragmentation was doing to me… the sign was loud and clear to integrate, to refuse to be fragmented, to refuse false binaries to either being artist or activist, leading by head or heart, data being important or stories being important.”

There are a variety of approaches we can take to connect to the different pieces of ourselves. For Neha, it’s poetry. For others, it could be regularly checking in with ourselves, connecting with family, writing, or moving our bodies. Once we find our own unique medium, integrating our full selves can unleash enormous positive energy to move us and our organizations forward in the different spaces that we’re involved in.


Put it into practice

1. Integrating our whole geographies. In the poem “Where are you from?”  Neha weaves the many intergenerational immigrant geographies of her life. Read this poem here as you listen to it here. Now write your own unique version that brings together the many inner and outer geographies of your own life that you wish to integrate more in your way of being and doing things. In this exercise, you can: a) follow the pattern of Neha’s poem; b) free write associations that come to mind when reflecting on the question “Where are you from?”; or c) sketch a doodle of all the geographies that are a part of you.

2. Decolonizing our mind. In this poem, “Maslow was Wrong,”  Neha reflects on the practice of decolonizing her own mind and ways of being by reclaiming ancient wisdom traditions of her own lineage that offer vital contemporary lessons for our world. Reflect on what wisdom traditions and lived experiences from your own heritage you wish to integrate more in your work in social or climate movement spaces.

3. Acknowledging our enoughness. In this poem, “Enough,” Neha reflects on enoughness. After listening to the poem, stand or sit comfortably in front of a mirror. Take three deep belly breaths and then say out loud three qualities about yourself that are enough as self-affirmations. Example: My name is { say your name }. I am creative enough.

Recommended Resources


Leap of Leadership is Spring’s monthly online meetup for social justice changemakers around the world. Each month, we tackle cutting-edge topics through new tools, concrete practices and exchanges with peers. Learn more or sign up to join our monthly drop-in sessions and receive our monthly emails.

Post by Spring
June 2, 2023