Get Lit: A Q&A with Cristy Chung

Luminare Group is passionate about serving as a platform to elevate diverse forces in our field. In 2019, Luminare Group has selected 10 guest editors for our monthly Be Lumin-Us newsletter, and will also be featuring their work or Q&A’s with them on this blog.

Cristy Chung


Cristy has spent 27 years as a passionate community-based change leader skilled in program design, building leadership and catalyzing change in service to equity and liberation.

To learn more about Cristy, please visit her LinkedIn page.

A Q&A with Cristy Chung

What idea/practice are you most in love with currently? Why?

I am in love with growing love—radical, transformational love.

In one of my favorite books, Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown wonders out loud about love, “If love were the central practice of a new generation of organizers and spiritual leaders, it would have a massive impact on what was considered organizing. If the goal was to increase the love, rather than winning or dominating a constant oppression, I think we could actually imagine liberation from constant oppression. We would suddenly be seeing everything we do, everyone we meet, not through the tactical eyes of war, but through the eyes of love.”  

This last year I’ve been focusing on a practice of putting love at the center of everything I do. It feels especially important to call on this practice, to cultivate love and to create the conditions we need to manifest the world we want to live in. Personally I’m finding it particularly important, much harder and so inspiring when I am faced with challenges, tension and conflict or things that push my growing edge. And if I’m completely honest…putting love at the center all the time. Including love for myself -  even when I fuck up and maybe particularly when I do because perfection and performance can really get in the way of me bringing my whole self to my work, my family and my community. I find that when I get into one of those moments that I’m struggling with someone, something or myself and feeling the need to have all the answers or I want to control, fix and be the expert, I have to stop and ask myself: What if you put love at the center of this thing? It shifts the energy, opens up the possibilities and invites me to ask different questions and listen for solutions that might lead me in a whole new direction. It also invites me to find, listen and act on the YES (and NO) that I feel inside – which for me is also a practice connected to love.

I’ve always been someone who leads with my heart and feels my way through to the answers. This can sometimes deplete me or make me react and jump to assumptions. Pausing to ask myself what it would look, feel and taste like to put love at the center changes everything. This is a small example…Once recently I was getting really frustrated with a clerk behind the pharmacy counter. I was trying to get my Aunty’s medications and I felt I was getting the run around about them being sent to a different location and that some of them she couldn’t have until a certain date. I didn’t understand why and the clerk was ready to brush me off. I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “Girl! Slow it down. Put some love at the center of this.” Immediately, I began to share a bit of my situation, got curious and asked for her help. Instantly her attitude changed and she moved to help in ways she hadn’t wanted to before. She offered to help move all the prescriptions to this location closer to my Aunty’s home and printed out the list that included when each medication could be ordered and refilled based on the Medicare requirements.

For me, putting love at the center makes hard conversations become loving and courageous, focused more on learning, growing and connecting rather than being right; I’m inviting connection and relationship over transactional interactions. Centering love in my relationships helps me prioritize people in my life in a way that allows me to see their perspective and helps me build awareness around my impact on others. It creates the conditions for me to show up whole and see other people as whole.  

If you could do one thing for a day (and be good at it), what would it be?

Surfing – OMG I love the ocean and being near and in water. It is where I go when I need to clear my head and feel grounded. I would love to be able to surf. I did try once or twice. I love body surfing so it seems like a natural next step and I grew up spending long days at the beach in the ocean in Southern California and Hawaii. But I’m so in my head and that old self-doubt jumps in and undermines my intuitive knowing in my body. Given several of my ancestors were surfers I think I must know how on some cellular level. My maternal grandfather was a complete surfer dude – maybe to the extreme. He often lost jobs because he went surfing instead of going to work. If I could surf for a day and be really good at it I might actually reconnect on a cellular level with my ancestors, find balance and trust my internal knowing. It could be a powerful physical practice for me.

What makes you smile...every time?

Puppies! There is just something about them. They are goofy wiggly snuggly little beings. They make me smile deep down inside my whole self. I just have to hold a puppy and all the hard stuff disappears. When they fall asleep on me the rest of the world melts away and they cause puppy paralysis! I have to just stop what I’m doing and surrender to the present. I think they have healing abilities for real. I’ve been volunteering with dog rescues and primarily fostering puppies for about 7 years. Most shelters won’t take puppies or they pass them onto rescues because they are so much work so they always need fosters. This adventure all started when one of our daughters began having intense anxiety and depression. She loves animals and so my wife and I thought being around and caring for puppies would be good and healing. There are many young people in our life who have really benefited from being with them.

What’s something you love and wish people would talk more about?

This is going to sound really geeky – building neural pathways. The first time I heard about the possibility of neural pathways being rebuilt was when my mom was really sick and her body was having physical seizures in response to highly emotional situations and stress. It was really difficult to find someone to help us understand what was happening. We were going to all kinds of traditional and alternative care practitioners (acupuncture, kinesiology, massage…) and then we finally found a neuropsychology specialist who explained what was happening with my mom’s neural pathways and that she could rebuild old pathways and generate new ones. It took both mind and body work for her to overcome the seizures. It’s a fascinating process and our bodies’ healing capabilities truly amaze me.

My interest was re-ignited while working with an amazing work/life coach, Farhana Huq of Surf Life Coaching, who incorporated right brain and left brain work during our session. Most of my breakthrough work happened when we were integrating mind, body, spirit approaches. I would physically stand up and step to the right to answer a question and to left to answer another one. I would draw during our sessions, and she encouraged answering from other places in my body. Through our work together I began to explore some of my own practices for building my neural pathways to intuition and internal knowing. It includes listening for, knowing and trusting my internal YES and NO. Many of us have been disconnected from our internal knowing or we have learned not to trust ourselves. I’ve dealt with self-doubt my entire life and because of this I try to practice every day  - even the small things like what ice cream flavor to get or which direction to drive. The more I practice the easier it gets to hear and trust my Yes and my No.

At the end of 2017 my Aunty had a series of strokes and because of my own work I had a much better understanding about what was going on in her body. As her primary care person I have been able to support her healing process with this in mind and continue to find ways to help her neural pathways rebuild and grow. I believe our bodies are amazingly powerful and have the ability to heal themselves. I would love to explore how our own everyday neural pathway work could be part of our healing process that many of us in our social justice movements are focused on. It is an area of interest for me that I plan to spend more time on this year.

What do you want to do more of this year? Less of?

Cultivating my own projects and less of responding to other people’s needs.

Do you have a passion project? If so, what is it?

So many!! Solidarity economies, creating liberated workspaces that support Free Radicals to thrive, Emergent Strategy, social enterprise, racial justice…

What song can you not stay still to when you hear it?

Beyoncé – Love On Top

Janelle Monáe – Make Me Feel

If people knew this about you, they might be surprised to know…

I LOVE rollercoasters. They are like therapy! I get to scream in public and it releases stress. When I was in college at UC Santa Cruz and things got overwhelming, a small group of us would head to the Boardwalk to ride the Big Dipper, one of the oldest wood frame roller coasters.

What is an animal you most identify with?

One of my animal guides is Hummingbirds. They are fierce guides and show up in my life all the time. The first time I realized the hummingbird was a being I was very connected to was during a guided visualization and I was afraid to go into a cave. I was asked to find an animal guide to go with me and I’m looking around for a lion, a tiger or something big and ferocious. All of a sudden this little hummingbird shows up and I think to myself, “No way!” I laughingly share this out loud and my guide tells me, “That’s great! Hummingbirds are powerful guides. They are small, fast and can fly ahead and let you know of any dangers.” Since then I’ve been much more aware of where and how they show up in my life.


By: Robin Wall Kimmerer  

This is another one of my favorite books of all time and feeds my heart, soul and spirit in ways that I never could have imagined.

“Transformation is not accomplished by tentative wading at the edge.”

She gave me permission to fully dive into growing and centering love with my whole being. She also helped me understand more fully the power of mutuality: “Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.”


By: Kristen Zimmerman and Julie Quiroz, Movement Strategy Center

This piece invites us to understand the power of centering love and growing love with power. Several stories from current social justice movements are highlighted as examples, including Black Lives Matter and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

It offers us a set of habits we need to interrupt: isolation, defensive and narrow stance, marginalization, competition and control. It names practices to interrupt our habits: lead with bold vision; build a bigger we; hold broad awareness; ground in people, community and history; trust and innovate. It reinforces the need for a collective transformative practice to create the future we are seeking.



By: adrienne maree brown 

Her whole book inspires me to practice emergence, believe in the wisdom of nature and find a way to increase love. I want to embody a “default position of wonder” and I believe in the possibility of “co-creating our future.” It was while I was reading this book that I began to wonder what it would be like to center love in everything I do.


By: Laura Brewer 

In this episode, Norma Wong shares her thoughts on aloha and activism. She is Native Hawaiian, a Zen Master, teacher of Mu-i Tai Ji Zen and a former Hawai’i state legislator. Norma’s vision for activism is both playful and full of love. She invites us into a different way of being as we create belonging, community and seek to transform our world. (BONUS: She quotes Rose Tico from Star Wars: The Last Jedi!)