“They’re still here,” said the evidently conservative (by other things he said and his dress) and cynical young man sitting on the seat in front of me on the bus, as we drove past the “Occupy DC” group. The bus moved forward, and the running commentary on what was outside the window moved to derogatory statements about the homeless. I thought about the discussion a group of us had after meeting for worship this morning about seeking to live witnessing and honoring the sacred in every being. This includes, of course, recognizing the universal spirit worthy of love in those who proudly do not do so nor feel the need to try. Easier said than done, but that is true of most of the profoundly deep practices.
Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.
Last week I attended a work-place training entitled “Conflict Management–Dealing with Difficult Conversations in the Workplace.” I do not do much training at work; the several hours a week I spend doing professional reading generally satisfies the needs of my position. When the offer for this two-day training came into my inbox, I decided that it might be useful. I am responsible for a project that involves several different offices in multiple government agencies all of which have perceived differences in agendas and jurisdiction and real differences in expertise and personality. I am also about to get another new supervisor, and people in my division have been edgy.
The training, which had about 15 attendees even though it was the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving started simply enough. We all identified ourselves by name and job function and where in the agency we worked and then took the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, which helps give a broad general idea of how one typically reacts in situations that involve conflict. All pretty straightforward workplace training stuff. Then the facilitator suggested that most conflict between people (and within ourselves) arises when our feelings of worthiness are or are perceived to be threatened. My ears perked up. “Anavamala,” I thought. It’s just like what the tantric philosophers teach us, that the unreal cloak of unworthiness is what leads to suffering and discord.
The workshop continued. We did some roleplaying and engaged in discussion to consider how we can better lead the best out of each other and ourselves, whatever type of negotiator we are. It was interesting to see how this fairly diverse group of workers — young, old, experienced, brand new workers of varying levels of seniority in the agency — were able to be engaged and brought together in exploring these issues, but nothing was particularly surprising. It was almost time to break for lunch on the first day, when the facilitator asked, and then let drop the question, without discussion or seeking a response, “what about love?”
“What about love, indeed?” I thought. That’s a word we do not hear in the workplace unless it is in an interview and someone claims to love their work, or it’s idle conversation and someone declares that he or she loves a sports team or a restaurant. The next morning I commented privately to the facilitator that I thought it a great question, but was not surprised, given the context, that he had not discussed it further. He said that he would bring it up more, and he did. He suggested that when we love, we are more willing to allow, respect, and listen to differences of opinion; when we love, we are also more motivated to resolve conflict in a way that serves best those with whom we are in conflict. This teaching made sense for most of the participants with regard to conflicts with friends and family, but it was harder for them to see in the context of the workplace because they did not think of love (as this society has come to classify it) as something that is part of the workplace.
How can we bring love into our non-intimate relationships (although I would argue that in some ways, the workplace is very much an intimate relationship as it so deeply relates both to our sense of purpose and to our survival)? The tantric teachings suggest that there is a universal ground to all being, one aspect of which is, in essence, love (prem). When we recognize that we are all made of the same stuff and that an aspect of the universal is love itself, then we are invited to see the unity in diversity and to respond in the highest in the face of difficulty or challenge. (Quakers similarly teach us to recognize the light or good in every being and to treat all as divine). Truly loving universally does not necessarily come naturally and can be a challenging and advanced practice , but it has been my experience that it is a practice that is worthy of all our relationships, including those in the workplace. It may be too much to ask us to like our co-workers, but seeking to recognize that they are worthy of love can go a long way to making our work day a brighter, more productive, more effective, and more compassionate place.
This morning, as I read this poem by Janet Hoffman, which is collected in Plain Living–A Quaker Path to Simplicity by Catherine Whitmire, I thought of friends and family and students and colleagues who are living with loss and illness and other struggles.
I wish sometimes that I could heal or make happy everyone I know. Knowing that is not possible or even right, I wish for myself and those in need to know strength and courage and joy even when faced with causes for deep suffering.
Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.
This just in from William Penn House’s Executive Director:
You are invited to attend a potluck and Quaker dialogue at 6:30 PM on Sunday November 6, 2011
Our Program this First Day is presented by Ann Wilcox & Micah Bales
The outcry against the political influence of financial institutions that has swept the country in recent weeks has crossed many boundaries, including class, gender and age. “Occupy” events are growing in cities and towns throughout the world. Here in DC, there are two groups occupying different parks. The movement has energy, and is gaining attention. But how much do we know about what is driving this? Are there certain issues and an agenda? Is this a culmination of many issues of our society coming together, or is it something completely different? Is ignoring the movement a good idea? Is presuming to know what is going on too presumptive? These are among the questions we will be exploring and discussing.
Ann Wilcox will be leading the discussion. She is an attorney in Washington, DC, practicing for more than 20 years. She is active with the National Lawyers Guild, which provides legal representation and works on issues of social justice and economic equality. She provides Demonstration Support for many activists who come to DC to advocate for peace, the environment and other issues. She is currently providing legal support for the October 2011/Stop the Machine andOccupy DC groups, and can speak about issues related to the occupations. Ann has attended Friends Meeting of Washington and is currently active at Foundry United Methodist Church.Micah Bales is coordinator of Young Adult Engagement for Earlham School of Religion and lives in Washington, DC.
Micah has been an active presence with Occupy DC since its inception. Micah, a graduate of ESR, is a member of Rockingham Friends Meeting of Ohio Yearly Meeting Conservative.
Bring a dish to share; family members, neighbors and friends are always welcome. Note: William Penn House is an alcohol and tobacco free facility.
For more information, see www.WilliamPennHouse.org
I just received this letter and wanted to pass it on to those who have senators and members of Congress (those of us in DC still do not):
Dear Elizabeth Goodman,One of our lobbyists just reported to me that some members of the supercommittee are telling us they are open to cutting Pentagon spending. “We need to hear what the folks back home in our state have to say about this,” we heard.The most important voice in this budget debate is your voices as constituents. As they make their decision, your members of Congress need to hear your side of this story. They need to hear about the consequences in your communities when money isn’t invested in schools, roads, jobs, and other local priorities.Today, will you write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper? Refer to your members of Congress by name and point out the needs in your local community.Communities around the country are being squeezed. More people are relying on food banks; local governments are copying with both the neighborhood and family stress of foreclosure; schools are increasing class sizes and shortening the school year; and critical maintenance on bridges and roadways. Police and firefighters are losing their jobs. Yet, the Pentagon budget continues to grow.Congress will take action to reduce the deficit, which means budget cuts. But if Congress doesn’t act to cut at Pentagon spending by a significant amount — FCNL and others believe that number is $1 trillion over the next ten years — then the cuts to other programs will be much deeper. Cutting the Pentagon budget and potentially making more funds available to meet the needs of state and local communities. There is an opportunity to make this change.Thank you for your action.Sincerely,Diane RandallExecutive Secretary P.S. If you want to know more about how much Pentagon spending is slated to rise, or more on FCNL’s views on the debt, deficit and supercommittee, visit our website.
Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.
Much of the reason that I began attending Friends meeting again several years ago after a long hiatus was to help me find peace within myself as I witnessed and sought to change, in my own way with my own skills, this country’s impulse to war following the attacks on 9/11. As quiet and unlistened to as voices for peace might have been, I still needed to be among a community of people speaking about peace.
One of the questions Friends Meeting of Washington invites attenders to consider, which has become a core contemplation for me, is “what do you do personally to eliminate the causes of war?” For me, this extends not just to how I vote, what work I do, and what charities I support, but what I eat, what energy I consume, what media I read and support, what I wear, and how I interrelate in this complicated global web of consumption and interchange.
Here is a letter from the American Friends Service Committee that I wanted to share with all of you.
On the Friends Meeting of Washington list serve this week, there has been a fair amount of email exchanged about an upcoming “meeting for discernment for peace.” Very roughly described, a meeting for discernment begins with a period of silent worship in which those present settle into the silence and surrender thought to allow the light of spirit to illuminate a specific subject of contemplation. The subject of the meeting serves to enlighten both the individuals participating and to further both the business and spiritual state of the meeting as a whole.
As I read the emails and invited myself to contemplate the questions offered for the meeting (I will not be able to attend because I had previously committed to volunteer work), it led me to think not only about the topic under discernment, but about how similar it seems to me to the yoga practice of bhavana and how bhavana supports the Anusara teaching method of “heart-oriented posturing language.”
When we practice bhavana ,we invite the fullness of consciousness to illuminate ever deeper levels of understanding of particular teachings from the yoga texts or similar ideas. It is similar to meditation in that we don’t try to think our way through the concept, but rest with it. Bhavana differs from meditation exactly because it is focused on the deepening of a particular concept rather than simply going into the space of meditation as an end in itself.
Although a meeting for discernment is practiced as a form of collective worship rather than an individual practice, it is much like bhavana, and I brought the Quaker method of resting in the light to reveal deeper insight regarding a concept when I first starting teaching Anusara yoga with its emphasis on having a class theme and using heart-oriented language to invite myself and students to experience a heart quality through asana practice.
The queries for contemplation at the meeting for discernment for peace, include the following:
I got out of the house by 7:30 this morning because I knew the dusting of snow would not last long, and I wanted to enjoy the combination of blossoms and snow making every thing vibrate with beauty. I was not disappointed. The sun started to come out just after I had fully circumnavigated the Capitol. By the time I got to Lafayette Square, the snow was all melted, but the blossoms sparkled even more. It was such a glorious walk through the neighborhood, I was quite ecstatic, and at one point, I thought perhaps I was hallucinating when I first crested the Capitol grounds around 8am; from loudspeakers on the Mall (presumably there for Cherry Blossom Festival events), someone was blaring the Clash, singing “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”
Could I really have been hearing the Clash being broadcast on the National Mall at 8am on a Sunday morning? I remembered thinking we were making a statement when we blared the Sex Pistols as we drove across the 14th Street bridge towards the Capitol on July 4rh in the mid-80s. I remembered how disappointed my friends and I were when Joey Strummer disappeared the year I was living in London, and we didn’t get to see the Clash in Brixton. I allowed the flood of memories to rush in and then fade with the music. I thought of all the years I have been walking around this city, and how many times it has snowed while the blossoms are in bloom–more frequent than one might think.
I watched the melting snow start to glitter in the sun and the blossoms vibrating with their ephemeral beauty. And then I walked on through downtown, past the White House, and up to Dupont Circle, stopping to buy apples and mushrooms at the Dupont Fresh Farm Market before attending meeting for worship at Friends Meeting of Washington.