April 14, 2021 – April 28, 2021 Project Update

“The kind of conversation I am interested in is one which we start with a willingness to emerge a slightly different person.”  – Theodore Zeldin
April 30, 2021

Dear Kundalini Yoga and Sikh Dharma Communities,

We are happy to provide this biweekly update on our work with the Compassionate Reconciliation Project. Our team is preparing to welcome all Compassionate Reconciliation Commission Advisory Teams, in a special online Summit early next month. Meanwhile, we had the privilege of facilitating group dialogue sessions over the past two weeks – one with a group of National Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association Leaders (April 15), and the other during the Spring Khalsa Council Meeting this past weekend (April 23 & 24). Courageous participants in both meetings shared and listened with honesty and compassion about their experiences with painful tensions being felt across the community.

There is a tremendous strength apparent within the community. Many members have spent years cultivating personal characteristics that can contribute to the success of this work: strong emotional grounding; self-discipline; an orientation toward growth and conscious evolution; a willingness and eagerness to serve the greater good; attitudes of faith/surrender toward circumstances that are outside of personal control; persistence to address and overcome personal tragic or traumatic experiences; and the ability to dwell in paradox and uncertainty. We have been struck by the aptitude and willingness of community members for genuine dialogue when given appropriate structure.

Dialogue is very different from debate. It involves deep listening, a degree of vulnerability, and a willingness to be affected by what we learn from others. It is focused not on winning, but on building understanding for mutual gain. Dialogue is a tool, and like any tool it is not appropriate for every situation, such as when significant trauma is present. But the choice for dialogue is always available to us in our relationships. Entering dialogue in any setting requires personal preparation. Here are a few simple principles we have found useful in preparing for dialogue around issues of conflict:[1]

5 Principles of Engaged Listening in Conflict

  1. Listening and understanding is about respect, not about agreement.
  2. Listen loosely to the words and tightly to the meaning.
  3. Stay curious and open, rather than assuming and judging.
  4. The other person will usually listen to you after (but only after) being heard and understood by you.
  5. Listening is more an act of will than an act of skill.

A question to consider: what if the real choice in conflict were not about which side of an issue to argue for, but instead a choice about whether or not to ‘side’ with the path of dialogue?

Yours in kindness, compassion, and gratitude,
Catherine Bargen, Matthew Hartman, Cara Walsh, Aaron Lyons, and our extended Just Outcomes team

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[1] Credit: Carolyn Schrock-Shenk