A member of our Invite Welcome Connect (IWC) team recently shared an interesting article about the power of listening.
The article included an interview with Jared Seide, the executive director of Center for Council in Los Angeles, a non-profit organization that delivers programs and trainings that promote communication, enhance well-being, build community, and foster compassion.
In the interview, Seide gives examples of what the Center does: it provides safe opportunities for people to speak openly about their past experiences and take the first step along the road to healing. Seide has worked with people in prisons and has also lead retreats, notably with Hutus and Tutsis addressing the genocide in Rwanda.
Underlying this work is the practice of remembering, which involves listening to the stories of others. The method used is called the Council: “People sit in a circle. They set an intention to speak spontaneously and authentically, and to listen generously and without judgment. They use prompts to get the stories flowing. They pass around an object designated as the ‘talking piece’ to indicate whose turn it is to address the group. Sometimes people bring in objects that are meaningful to them and talk about those.”
Last month four members of IWC met on the lawn outside the church to try out the practice of listening in a circle. We brought our own chairs and sat apart under the oak tree, practicing “social distancing.” We were blessed with a warm and sunny day and a gentle breeze stirred the leaves above. Having been in lockdown, it was a relief at last to sit with other members of the church, sans masks, and listen to one another and then listen to the silence.
The beauty of this circle – at least as we understood it – is that it has no perceivable goals, no pressure to achieve anything, no expectations other than to be present to one another, to honor one another’s stories without comment, and to honor the silence when the talking stopped. On a personal note, I found the experience to be unexpectedly moving – I can’t say why exactly, but perhaps it was being able to relax in the middle of a pandemic, where our lives have been shaken up and poured out in different ways. One of us enjoyed the proximity of the church, even with the doors closed. Mostly we enjoyed the company of each other.
The group has decided to meet every Saturday afternoon at 3:30 pm. With summer here, we are hoping for fine weather. Please join us if you would like a time of peace and friendship beneath the oak tree. Bring a chair. All are welcome.
This coming Sunday we are celebrating the Feast Day of our Patron, St Barnabas. Please see the Friday e-news for further details.
Have a blessed week.