Remembering our sacred selves: Christopher Fleck on using music to fight climate change
A musician, spiritual teacher, environmental and social activist, Christopher Fleck is a leader focused on health, inner growth and global change. He currently leads the Flecktet jazz quintet and Aklima vocal improvisation group, who focus on strengthening the global climate justice movement through music, sound and movement.
We sat down with Christopher to talk about his unique approach to leadership through his use of music, personal transformation and creative facilitation.
How did your work with Aklima begin?
Aklima brings together my love for singing and my care for the environment, in particular my concern for climate change. I decided to start a capella vocal improvisation ensemble to perform at climate justice protests, actions and awareness-raising events. Once we started performing, the reception was really positive and unexpected doors started to open. We were invited to facilitate strategy retreats and conferences around climate justice, and saw the benefit of creating a more positive experience for the attendees. It turned out my ensemble was very effective at musical facilitation. Through engaging people’s bodies and voices, we started focusing on helping people in the climate justice movement be more ‘in their bodies’ and ‘in their hearts’. We are now exploring how best to expand that experience to actions and protests, to create a more inviting and positive experience for those present.
What do you feel is the role of music and the arts in activism? How is this a part of your leadership style?
I think the key to engaging people with an issue is to find a way to help them to emotionally connect to the matter at hand. With respect to climate change, I am drawn to help people remember the beauty and sacredness of nature, that there is something worth fighting to protect. Part of that is assisting people remember and connect with their own sacredness and purity. Engaging people’s voices in community gives them the experience of being part of something beautiful and invites them into their bodies and their hearts.
My leadership style within the ensemble is one of collaboration and encouraging a group resonance of love. When stuff comes up between us, I hold space for us to talk about it. Some would say that needs to happen outside of rehearsal, but when someone’s energy is stuck, they aren’t fully present and it keeps us from having an effective time together.
I also encourage others to contribute ideas and their own leadership skills to the group’s growth and maturation. We’re gradually learning about how each person’s skills can contribute to the success of the ensemble and people are stepping forward to support that success. I am also learning to be aware of when I am out of my depth and how to ask for help.
What was your journey to realizing your potential as a leader in this area? How do you define “Conscious Leadership?”
The idea that I could be a leader is very new to me. I grew up in an environment that didn’t encourage confidence and self-esteem, so I’ve had to face fears of failure and that I don’t have what it takes. It’s been humbling to step forward despite my own uncertainties and making mistakes along the way. And yet, as I do step into leadership more and more, I realize that I have more skills than I thought.
Conscious leadership is taking responsibility and at the same time inviting others to share in taking responsibility. It’s also holding an awareness of everyone involved and honouring each person’s gifts as they are expressed. It’s inviting people to be part of a healthy community where individuals move through their challenges in ways that are honest and caring. A leader also has to be honest with themselves when someone isn’t a supporting member of the community and has to be asked to leave.
What do you feel is essential to bring about change globally in terms of climate change?
I think the essential things are that a) people care and b) that they think they can make a difference. For people to care, they need to have an emotional connection to the issue. Different people care about different things, so I think it is essential to show people how climate change affects things they care about. It’s also possible to encourage people to care more about something like our environment. One thing that surely increases caring for the world around us is greater love for ourselves. The more we love and appreciate our own lives, the more we love and appreciate our environment; our cup of love overflows and extends out.
Find out more about Christopher and Aklima at www.christopherfleck.com