by Terry Chadsey, Executive Director
Posted September 26, 2012
How often do you hear someone say, "My vote doesn't matter" whether you are in the U.S. or another democracy elsewhere in the world? I hear this surprisingly regularly when I broach the subject of politics with people I know and people I don't and I'm a privileged white man.
This is why I found the essay "My Vote Doesn't Matter" published on InsideHigherEd.com by Paul Loeb, Alexander Astin and Parker J. Palmer to be especially thoughtful and helpful. It's not only full of ideas about how I can respond the next time I hear this, but it's a treasure trove of references and resources.
Check it out and pass it on.
By Terry Chadsey
Posted September 21, 2012
I had the privilege of seeing our democracy with new eyes this August when six teacher/facilitators from South Korea went with me to Madison, Wisconsin. While the initial premise of the trip was to visit Parker Palmer, we took a side trip to to the Wisconsin State Capitol
This core team has grown Korean Circle of Trust programs for the past five years (see last week's blog). Earlier this year one member of the team, ChanHo Kim, a professor of sociology, translated Parker's latest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, into Korean. It's now in its third printing.
South Korea has a challenged history with Democracy and members of the team shared with me their own stores and concerns every bit as timely and deeply challenging as those currently shared by U.S. citizens.
On our last day in Madison we had an unexpected opportunity in Democracy. We had a few hours before leaving so I invited the team to walk through the Wisconsin State Capitol. I have a fascination with American history and this capitol building is one of the grandest and most beautiful in the United States. Built early in the 20th century, it is full of grand public hallways, a central hall under a soaring cupola and legislative and judicial chambers adorned with huge paintings depicting the history of the state. As if this wasn't enough, there is a constant union protest going on in the rotunda and we were invited to join in singing classic labor songs in a space with great acoustics: "Which side on you on? Oh, which side are you on?"
Wandering this building and watching the union protest with my Korean colleagues had an unexpected impact on me as I saw this building and democracy through their eyes. One colleague said, "This is a cathedral to Democracy." Others were amazed that labor protests were allowed inside. I realized that this is not only a beautiful building. Like so many other public buildings in this country, it is a container for the infrastructure of Democracy--the holding of tensions--that Parker J. Palmer writes about in Healing the Heart of Democracy.
I realized that this building (and so many like it across the U.S.) would not be built today but that its presence and history has much to teach us about Democracy as we approach contentious presidential elections here and across the world.
As we entered the rotunda, one of the protesters unrolled a banner with a broken heart at the center: "We'll be here until [this broken heart] gets better."
What lessons do you find in such public buildings in this Democracy?
by Marcy Jackson and Terry Chadsey
Posted September 13, 2012
Sometimes we drop seeds and they fall on fallow ground. But other times the wind carries them great distances and they take hold in the most unexpected places.
Six years ago, Sunsook Shon, a South Korean activist, emailed the Center for Courage & Renewal to inquire if Parker Palmer might come to speak in South Korea. She and Terry began an email conversation that took hold in the most unexpected places and the most unexpected ways. In those first emails it was clear that she and her team had been moved by Parker's writing (all of which has been translated into Korean) and they were intrigued to learn more about the programs that the Center offered.
One thing led to another:
- A team of four Koreans participated in a seasonal Courage to Teach series in Hawai'i;
- Terry traveled to Korea to speak at a symposium and to lead a Courage to Teach one-day retreat through translation;
- Two Korean teachers participated in another Courage to Teach series in Oregon;
- The Korean team secured funding and began offering circles of trust in Korean under the name "Gardening People's Hearts;"
- To date, they have led five retreat series and a number of introductory events and symposia for South Korean educators, clergy and social activists;
- In February, Parker J. Palmer's latest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, was published in Korean and is now in its third printing; and
- They are forming "The Education Center for Seeds of Heart" in Seoul to nurture and grow Korean Circles of Trust programs, in Korean and allied to the Center's work.
Recently, a team of 11 Korean facilitators travelled to the United States. First, the core Korean team spent two days with Parker Palmer in Madison, Wisconsin, exploring the principles and practices that underlie our programs. Second, the whole group worked with the two of us for three days to help them further expand their understanding of these Circle of Trust® principles and practices. All communication was through a translator. Despite the gulf of language and culture, we laughed, we cried, and we enriched our understandings of facilitating a Circle of Trust.
Our approach (that is, the foundation of all of our programs) began with Parker leading a seasonal series with a circle of public school teachers in southwest Michigan twenty years ago. This led to the book, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life and to the growing of the Center and its programs. With such a beginning, it would be easy to assume that the approach was somehow deeply embedded in dominant midwest American culture and traditions. Yet again and again we’ve watched it migrate successfully from education to other sectors, from predominantly white upper-midwest circles to diverse communities and increasingly to participants from distant shores.
It’s extremely encouraging to witness the ways in which the seeds originally planted in the U.S. are finding fertile ground across the globe in different languages and cultures. This can only mean that there is something core here that touches our humanity, even though the original form was necessarily culture- and language-bound. What a joy it was to share three days with our South Korean friends who have been cultivating “seeds of heart” with persistence, dedication and courage!
by Erin Lane, Assistant Program Director, Clergy
Posted September 5, 2012
Clergy and congregational leaders are some of the most skilled humorists I know. Versed in standing in what Parker Palmer calls the tragic gap between our reality and our ideals, these men and women know how to "crack-up" without cracking apart in light of life's tensions. If used well, a good sense of humor (like Phyllis Diller's, honored last month on our blog) can create sacred space to both name our own truths and lean into a community of shared truth.
1. Humor creates space to name our own truths
In August, I had the privilege of attending a retreat with clergy and congregational leaders called A Geography of Grace, in which we were given a curriculum of the same name to take into our faith communities. We spent days being led through the curriculum, learning how to lead the curriculum ourselves, and marinating in the curriculum during solitary walks and shared meals. It wasn't until we were almost breathing the curriculum that our skilled Courage & Renewal facilitators gave us our biggest challenge: we were to parody the curriculum on the last night of the retreat. As one facilitator noted, we couldn't possibly make fun of the work until we had made sense of it for ourselves. That night we performed a handful of skits that gave each of us the space to name our fears (and the possible perils) of bringing the curriculum into our faith communities. The skits also signaled that our facilitators were allowing us to put our own "spin" on the work and that there was room to bring our unique gifts to its adaptation.
2. Humor creates space to lean into a community of shared truth
Not all of us were initially excited about performing a parody. At the end of our time together, some of us were tired, feeling fried, or flat out uncreative. But those of us with more energy pulled together those with less for a night that brought many of us to side-splitting tears and belly aches. People who had been shy and reserved for most of the week surprised us with their comedic presence while those who were boisterous blessed us with their infectious laughter. The humor may have been irreverent but its effect was to break down the remaining barriers between us as we leaned in close to watch the performances. We had come together over the week as a community of shared experience with our own collective language of truth.
Our program director, John Fenner, pointed out that using humor too soon among groups can derail depth. But when a group has grown in trust together as ours had during A Geography of Grace, humor can act like sacred glue, holding us together in celebration of each individual and our shared humanity.
I wonder, when has humor (someone else's or your own) created sacred space in your life? What practices can help us develop this "sense" wisely and winsomely? Please add your advice to the comments section below.
Posted August 20, 2012
The soul isn't just serious. It can be silly, irreverent, and laugh-out-loud funny. Grateful for the life of one of the first women comedians who gave us her authentic laughter. Phyllis Diller died today at 95.
Did you know that Phyllis Diller was also an author and a poet? Here is a poem once posted online by a fan, which now seems like a fond farewell from her soul to ours:
On this happy day
We are thankful
For our blessings
And we pray
For renewed belief
And each other
This bond of love
The entire universe.
by Shelly Francis, Marketing and Communications Director
Posted August 9, 2012
It’s almost Back to School time, almost time to launch my son off to college. Wil is my one and only, and I really like him. He’s going to Boston and I’m moving from Denver to Seattle to join the staff at the Center for Courage & Renewal.
As I launch myself into this new semester -- knowing my inner teacher enrolled me, including the when and where of it -- I deeply appreciate that my new work is about affirming the power of paradox. Empty nest & feathering new nests. Happy & sad. Exciting & daunting. Grateful & grieving. Shadow & light. Endings & beginnings.
Posted August 1, 2012
Our board meeting last week included a beautiful conversation on the Center's continued commitment to deep diversity, led by fellow board members Estrus Tucker and Bonnie Allen. Our circles got me thinking about a lot of my own experiences around privilege, power, and all the various -isms. Here are nine learnings I've had that I share in the spirit of continuing the dialogue about these issues with the larger CCR community:
Posted July 20, 2012
"We found ourselves drawn to each other's love for this country and a conviction about the importance to its future of trying to change the polarizing, attack-oriented political cultural that has become all too common in recent years and, instead, to bring civility back as the staple of American politics and life."
- Lanny Davis and Mark DeMoss, Op.Ed., The Washington Times, January 18, 2009
With this statement, on the eve of President Obama's inauguration, the Civility Project was born. Mark DeMoss, an evangelical conservative and Lanny Davis, a liberal of the Jewish faith, while agreeing on almost nothing, did agree that solutions to the most pressing problems facing our nation would be found only through a more civil exchange of ideas. Together they reached out to every sitting governor and member of Congress to sign a pledge that said:
- I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
- I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
- I will stand against incivility when I see it.
By Courage & Renewal facilitator Carol Kortsch
Posted July 15, 2012
My husband Uli and I have very international roots and are naturalized US citizens. When Parker Palmer challenged facilitators to consider facilitating Healing Democracy Action Circles, I couldn't imagine myself forging ahead into the quicksand of American political conversation until I listened carefully and read his remarkable book, Healing the Heart of Democracy. I am pleased to report that we have hosted three action circle conversations in our home here at Stonehaven. We have quickly recognized the hunger for thoughtful conversation in community around our democracy. The social networking site Meet-Up offered an extraordinary pool of new friends who jumped courageously into our action circle.
Have you added Courage in Schools to your bookmarks yet? Passing on this heart-warming blog post, Snakes are Born This Way...and Strong Students Too by Courage & Renewal Facilitator Sharlene Voogd Cochrane, to your friends and colleagues helps spread the word about the Courage in Schools Blog and Courage to Teach(R) and Courage to Lead(R) programs around the country. Thanks!
Posted July 1, 2012
Waking up in the morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment. And to look at all beings with the eyes of compassion.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
In May, the Center for Courage & Renewal moved its "headquarters" from the sleepy little town of Winslow located on Bainbridge Island, to downtown Seattle. Now instead of a ten-minute drive to work, my commute involves a 35-minute ferry ride and a 15-minute walk through the city.
By Courage & Renewal Facilitator Kathleen Glaser
Posted June 24, 2012
How do I as a citizen practice the habits of heart needed in a democracy and how do I invite fellow citizens in my community to explore those habits with me in a safe space?
I am grateful for Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker J. Palmer's latest book, and the Center's Healing Democracy Action Guide for inspiring a colleague/dialogue teacher and I to team up and experiment with local conversations about our democracy. We invited community members to join us in a series of six 2-hour evening sessions beginning with Parker's webcast last October and concluding in June.
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