Illustration by Alyssa Etoile.

I’m one of scores of people who visit bestselling author and truth conjurer Danielle LaPorte’s website each day for her #truthbombs. Her messages read like inspirational love letters written just for me. As a feminist activist, a seeker, and an unapologetic Christian mystic, I have often felt alienated and gaslit by the proliferation of overly prescriptive dogma and shallow rhetoric that dominates mainstream narratives about enlightenment, personal growth, and self-improvement. Danielle’s teachings have repeatedly helped me crawl out of blackholes of agonizing paralysis brought on by toxic work environments, compiled microagressions, friend breakups, and personal heartbreak. Her lilting visualizations, meditations, and declarations have helped me reclaim my power by engaging in soulful goal-setting, self-acceptance, and joyful adventures.

I’ve studied the fiercely pragmatic spirituality of her book The Fire Starter Sessions and the no-holds-barred real talk of her audio and video talks. Her wisdom about leading a desire-driven life has informed and affirmed my approach to spiritual exploration, defining success, and building my own sense of beloved community. That’s why I’m excited that her new book, White Hot Truth: Clarity for Keeping It Real on Your Spiritual Path, will be gracing us with healing magic in the form of fierce feminist wit, tactics for creative awakenings, and blistering clarity—just in time for springtime intention-setting. 

Danielle and I recently chatted over Skype about how to deal with the rise of global authoritarianism, the limits of “faux freedoms,” and the enduring power of genuine friendship. I’ve learned so much from Danielle from afar over the years, and soaked up so much wisdom IRL during our chat. Here’s what we discussed, so she can shine her light in your direction, too.

JAMIA WILSON: People are struggling with this political moment, and with the rise of authoritarianism. A lot of people struggle to care for themselves and each other, but also want to take action. Do you have any practices or ideas about how we can hold both in balance?

DANIELLE LAPORTE: Justice is a spiritual matter. Right action and using the light to infiltrate the dark is a spiritual matter. Fighting for the most loving thing for yourself and all beings is a spiritual matter. Being justifiably enraged, and backing that up with your outspokenness, is a spiritual matter. Ultimately what I’m on about these days is what I consider to be spiritual activism: Using your sense of right and wrong, and morality, and spirituality to create positive change. I think where a lot of confusion gets created, in terms of the self-help space and the self-help ideology, is that there’s so much talk and promotion about forgiveness and harmony and tolerance that if we’re going to be unrelenting and create disharmony, disruption, and not tolerate things, we think we’re not being quote-unquote spiritual. And that’s just simply not true. Spirituality is all things, it’s whole. And to be whole you have to be feisty and fierce and opinionated. Consciousness is all about discernment. About knowing what’s right and what’s wrong. About what’s loving and what’s cruel. About what’s inclusive and about what’s divisive. So fight with all your heart.

Yes! Mmm, yes. “Fight with all your heart.”

There are resources out there, you know, to call your delegates, write the letters, be outspoken about your belief system, to donate your money on a regular basis. There are lots of very easy citizen-based things to do. And there are lots of soul-based things for us to do. Now’s the time when we can’t forget about the more esoteric practices. So, meditation is absolutely medicine right now, for these times. And giving meditation. There’s the meditation and the contemplation where we’re just looking after our own mind and our own vessel, and getting our consciousness in check. And then there’s that spiritual activism meditation, where instead of just going to yoga class to work out your stress from the day, you dedicate all your energy in that class to one particular person. Or to everybody in Syria. Or to all journalists who are fighting for the truth to get out there. Instead of going for a walk to de-stress, you go for a walk and you pray for the planet to be cleaned up. And you pray for politicians, good politicians, good-hearted politicians to get into office. You pray for solutions. Those are both sides.

What can we do to care for ourselves as we are coming into that spiritual feistiness you mentioned?

You need to have a practice of stillness, and you need to have a practice of movement. A lot of us already have a quote-unquote spiritual practice in our lives. Things that we’re doing that we haven’t really declared as a spiritual practice. It’s your walk to work. [It’s] saying your prayers, if you’re doing that. It’s reading—some of us are reading something inspirational every morning as a routine. That’s your inspirational moment. Just own that. You have to give yourself credit for what you’re already doing that’s focused and contemplative. If you’re not doing anything on a regular basis to be still and reflective, you just have to. It’s essential. It’s just like your body needs rest, your psyche needs rest and space. And maybe all you can sit still for is four minutes. Maybe you need a guided mediation, maybe you need to listen to one song that really feels angelic and calming for you, and you just lay down and for the three-and-a-half minutes of that song, you’re just there. Maybe your write a love letter to your god every day. You need something. You need something like that. And you have to move, and that can be any way you want. But it’s more than just going to Equinox and getting your sweat on to look good. You’ve got to move your body with the intention of creating sacred connection. By all means, go work out and look after your ass, but you’ve [also] got to move your body in order to move the junk out of your psyche.

I’ve also been struggling with how some folks appropriate spiritual and social justice teachings, and then, as you’ve described it, disguise it as “group-think liberation.” Do you have advice for people who are confronting this with parents, teachers, or other authority figures? How do we make sense of what is true or faux freedom?

At some point, I think everybody’s going to deal with this initiation into your own power. Dogma is everywhere, and the new age self-help personal development space is no exception. I think you need to know how hard it is—breaking free from something you’ve adored and you’re waking up to and realizing is slightly corrupt, and maybe really not good for you. Or there’s been an actual misuse of power. Or there’s some kind of fissure. There’s some kind of cognitive dissonance. It’s really difficult, because it’s spiritual heartbreak. You realize how much you want it to be saved, how much you wanted someone to give you the answer, make it easier for you, comfort you, and just love you in the most basic way. To love and adore you like we all want to be loved and adored. And when that doesn’t happen, it’s heartbreaking. But it’s how we get more mature. It’s a necessary breaking away. You’re going to feel confused, you might feel depressed. Betrayal sucks—there’s no way around how hard betrayal is.

And the worst part of it, the worst part in the journey, I would say, after you get over the heartbreak is that you have a really hard time trusting your choices moving forward. You don’t trust, you mistrust your powers of discernment. You think if you fell for it once, you could fall for it again. And just like relationship heartbreak, we don’t want to become jaded, we don’t want our hearts to be closed. We want to open up to falling in love again. We want to open up to finding someone who is quality. To finding someone who is truly luminous, who is really the real deal. Who actually does have great spiritual counsel to give us, you know? And so really you become whole again, you mature when you realize you can trust your instincts. That you’re going to know who’s creepy and who isn’t. You’re going to learn to be able to discern the real-deal teachers from the fake teachers. And when that happens, if you ever have to do it again, you will be able to stand up in a group and say, “This doesn’t work for me. This is wrong. You need to make it right.” Or you simply leave. That doesn’t get any easier either, but you become more able to do it. You have the courage to meet the challenge. And this is essential for being an activist. This is essential for being an awake person.

When you find the courage to leave a situation that’s not working for you, when you find the courage to stand in your conviction—even though you know that that will come with alienation and isolation—how do you create a sense of protection?

Two things. One is you have to know that there’s meaning to what you’re doing. That this is your soul growing. You’re bringing more light into your being-ness. That it’s good karma. There is a spiritual payoff to this, you know? So there’s that part. The other part is you absolutely cannot stand up without backup. You cannot do this alone. So you need your friends. You need whatever you consider your churches. You need community. With all of my big initiations and passages—[like] leaving my boss, leaving my husband, leaving my publisher, all of those things—I had backup. I had therapists, I had friends who were reminding me who I was. I had community to mop me up. And I could put my armor on and speak clearly, but then I needed to come home and cry with a friend. You’ve got to call on your sisters. I dedicated White Hot Truth to my girlfriends, and it was not a light dedication. I mean, friendships are religion for me.

Some folks are still building their crew. They might be in a rural community where they don’t have a lot of people who think like them. Or they may be traveling to college or going to a new high school. What are the values and the principles that help you determine who the people in your friendship-religion are?

The crew can be virtual. For some of us who just don’t have access to those in-person sisters or brothers, this is the beauty of an online community. Also, I think we need to really walk our talk in terms of friendship. It’s almost this atrophied muscle for a lot of us. You need to be the one who listens, the person who has the dinner party. Be the person who asks someone to lunch. Just be that person who invites people into their lives.

Is there any other wisdom you’d like to share with our Club Thrive crew?

The only regrets I have in life—there aren’t many—but the few regrets I have, have to do with times when I didn’t speak up. So use your voice. Use your voice, period. And kindness is a superpower. Really, just be kind. ♦