MizMary­land to con­nect pol­i­tics, spir­i­tu­al­ity

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIEL DIVILIO ddivilio@thekent­coun­tynews.com

— Heather Mizeur’s pod­cast stu­dio is a room with a view that lends it­self to the sort of soulsearch­ing she elic­its in con­ver­sa­tions with her guests.

Lo­cated on Apotheo­sis Farm off state Route 213, just north of Ch­ester­town, Mizeur’s stu­dio is an idyl­lic cabin built of re­claimed wood, packed with books and sit­u­ated next door to her wife Deb­o­rah’s apothe­cary. From her desk, Mizeur and her guests en­joy the view of the pool, which looks and func­tions a bit more like a nat­u­ral pond, gar­dens, the farm­house and woods lin­ing the prop­erty.

“The land here is very mag­i­cal,” Mizeur said in an in­ter­view about her new ven­ture, MizMary­land: Soul Force Pol­i­tics.

An ef­fort aimed at con­nect­ing spir­i­tu­al­ity with pol­i­tics to im­prove civic dis­course and bring pos­i­tive change to the state and be­yond, Soul Force Pol­i­tics launched this month with the pod­cast, a blog and a se­ries of em­pow­er­ment work­shops on the cal­en­dar, in­clud­ing one to be held Nov. 7 at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege.

Mizeur be­lieves our spirit con­nects us, that it is “the fire spark to our heart.”

“Our po­lit­i­cal dis­course des­per­ately needs our soul’s force for good in the world. And that’s what Soul Force Pol­i­tics is about. Com­bin­ing in­ter­nal wis­dom plus ex­ter­nal ac­tions, that equals Soul Force Pol­i­tics,” she said.

Mizeur and her wife main­tained a sec­ond home in Ch­ester­town for a number of years — they spent their honey­moon here — while they worked on the west­ern shore. Mizeur was a con­gres­sional aide — in­clud­ing time as then-Sen. John Kerry’s di­rec­tor of do­mes­tic pol­icy.

She also is a politi­cian in her own right. She was elected to the Takoma Park city coun­cil and served as a del­e­gate in the Gen­eral As­sem­bly. She made a bid for gover­nor in the 2014 race, los­ing in the Demo­cratic pri­mary.

Fol­low­ing the 2014 elec­tion, Mizeur semi-re­tired to Apotheo­sis Farm. But an­other elec­tion night — Nov. 8, 2016 — stirred in her the de­sire to get back off the side­lines.

She hoped to see the tenor of na­tional dis­course shift from the bat­tle lan­guage of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign trail to a mes­sage of unity as Don­ald Trump took the oath of of­fice and formed his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

That change has not hap­pened, and Mizeur came to a re­al­iza­tion. There was more work to be done.

Her goal now is to rein­vest a sense of spir­i­tu­al­ity into pol­i­tics.

“(I) spent a lot of time think­ing about what that was, though. Be­cause nor­mally, blend­ing pol­i­tics and spir­i­tu­al­ity comes with a

warn­ing la­bel. And what I’m en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to do is re­think that — that bring­ing our spir­i­tual wis­dom into our civic ac­tions is what cre­ates the pro­found change and shifts that we’re look­ing for,” Mizeur said.

Who bet­ter to be Mizeur’s first pod­cast guest than her spir­i­tual men­tor and long­time friend Melissa Etheridge — the Os­car- and Grammy-win­ning singer/ song­writer. The pair first came in con­tact in 2007 dur­ing an­other pres­i­den­tial race.

Mizeur was a su­perdel­e­gate not yet pre­pared to choose be­tween Demo­cratic con­tenders like Barack Obama and Hil­lary Clin­ton. Mizeur said she re­ceived calls from Obama, from the Clin­tons and from other party lead­ers like U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin who rep­re­sents Mizeur’s home state of Illi­nois.

“And I only re­turned Melissa Etheridge’s call. It was the Obama cam­paign that had her call me and we started laugh­ing. I said, ‘ Well they found the secret path to hav­ing me re­turn a call.’ And she said, ‘Yeah I read your bio and I had to laugh. They had the gay one call the gay one,’” Mizeur said.

The two had a lot in com­mon, from their Mid­west­ern up­bring­ings to both hav­ing car­ried pock­et­sized copies of the Con­sti­tu­tion when they were in school. Their friend­ship grew.

“And along the way, she started drop­ping her wis­dom about var­i­ous spir­i­tual prac­tices and tra­di­tions that she had come into con- tact with that ex­panded my own re­la­tion­ship to spirit be­yond my own Catholic up­bring­ing, which I am still ded­i­cated to. I’m just Catholic-plus,” Mizeur said.

Etheridge was thrilled to be Mizeur’s first guest.

“We have a deep friend­ship that was built on a mu­tual love of pol­i­tics that mor­phed into a beau­ti­ful spir­i­tual part­ner­ship. It makes so much sense that this is the next phase of what Heather is bring­ing into the world. We need a leader that shows us how to blend pol­i­tics and spir­i­tu­al­ity. What a gift,” Etheridge said in a state­ment an­nounc­ing the launch of Soul Force Pol­i­tics.

Next in the lineup was re­tired U.S. Sen. Bar­bara Mikul­ski.

“It’s the first pod­cast she’s ever recorded and she’s very ex­cited about it and it comes through in the pod­cast,” Mizeur said.

Mizeur and Mikul­ski dis­cuss the for­mer sen­a­tor’s spir­i­tu­al­ity and Catholic up­bring­ing, what it was to be the first woman elected to the Se­nate in her own right and even the time NASA named a su­per­nova af­ter her.

“But I also prompt her to talk in de­tail about her bi­par­ti­san re­la­tion­ships and how she got things done by co­op­er­at­ing across the aisle,” Mizeur said.

Mizeur reached across the aisle her­self for Repub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s ap­pear­ance.

“I’m very se­ri­ous about this be­ing a non­par­ti­san, non­ide­o­log­i­cally driven ap­proach to shift­ing the di­a­logue. And he and I show how you can have an hour­long con­ver­sa­tion and find more ar­eas of agree­ment than dis­agree­ment. And when we do dis­agree, we can do it without be­ing dis­agree­able,” she said.

Mizeur thinks she was able to land Ho­gan as a guest, when many oth­ers have not, be­cause he re­spected how she ran her cam­paign and how she has im­bued those sen­si­bil­i­ties into Soul Force Pol­i­tics.

“I didn’t sling mud dur­ing the pri­mary,” Mizeur said. “That’s my ap­proach to pol­i­tics. You should be for some­thing, not against some­one. And this or­ga­ni­za­tion is a re­flec­tion of that. And about bring­ing those val­ues into our ev­ery­day di­a­logue, into our con­scious­ness and try­ing to re­form and re­shape the way that we choose to en­gage in the po­lit­i­cal sphere.”

Soul Force Pol­i­tics is much more than a pod­cast. It is a spir­i­tual and po­lit­i­cal move­ment.

Mizeur is host­ing a se­ries of em­pow­er­ment pro­grams through­out the state: “Dis­cover Your In­ner Won­der Woman.”

“I don’t know any women who went to see the ‘Won­der Woman’ movie and didn’t come out of it feel­ing re­ally su­per-em­pow­ered and ex­cited. And I de­con­struct in this work­shop the archetype of the suc­cess­ful war­rior woman pre­sented in this film as a way to share guide­posts for how to live with that em­pow­er­ment in your life ev­ery day,” Mizeur said.

She and her wife plan to do­nate 8 acres of Apotheo­sis Farm to cre­ate Camp MizMary­land. Mizeur pro­poses to hold re­treats on “highly skilled lead­er­ship, non­vi­o­lent re­sis­tance, peace­ful protest, suc­cess­ful so­cial en­gage­ment and con­nec­tion to the land in the tra­di­tions of indige­nous prac­tices that honor that spirit that is mov­ing through ev­ery­thing.”

“Be­cause when we raise our aware­ness of the spirit that ex­ists around us in na­ture is when we be­come more in con­tact with our own spirit as well,” she said.

And while Mizeur’s blog in­cludes a pol­icy pro­posal for statewide com­mu­nity ser­vice, it also has an en­try list­ing her fa­vorite recipes for farm-fresh eggs.

The pod­cast is al­ready draw­ing an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence, with Mizeur say­ing she re­ceived com­ments from listeners in Europe.

“That’s the beauty of tech­nol­ogy like a pod­cast. You get up­loaded on iTunes and peo­ple can sub­scribe to you all over the world, so your mes­sage can go wher­ever it needs to go,” she said.

To learn more about MizMary­land: Soul Force Pol­i­tics, visit www.miz­mary land.com.

Mizeur’s work­shop, “Dis­cover Your In­ner Won­der Woman,” is be­ing held from 6 to 8 p.m. Mon­day, Nov. 7 in the Litrenta Lec­ture Hall at the Toll Sci­ence Cen­ter at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege. Those in­ter­ested in at­tend­ing can sign up on­line at mizmary­land. org/event/won­der-wom­an­work­shop-east­ern-shore.

COUR­TESY OF WAD­DELL CRE­ATIVE

Heather Mizeur in­ter­views Pamela White, CEO of Ch­ester River Well­ness Al­liance, for a pod­cast at Mizeur’s stu­dio on Apotheo­sis Farm. Mizeur has launched a sweep­ing new ven­ture, MizMary­land: Soul Force Pol­i­tics, that in­cludes the weekly pod­cast.

PHOTO BY LINDA WALLEM ETHERIDGE

For­mer del­e­gate and gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Heather Mizeur, right, speaks with Grammy- and Os­car-win­ning singer/song­writer Melissa Etheridge for Mizeur’s in­au­gu­ral MizMary­land: Soul Force Pol­i­tics pod­cast.

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