Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
- (Sufi Poet Rumi)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Peacemaking and Compassionate Communication

(Delegates voting at General Assembly)

This past week I have been attending the Unitarian Universalist Annual General Assembly. The body of delegates voted overwhelmingly to approve a Statement of Consciousness: Creating Peace. This document speaks of having Peace Teams within congregations that obtain training in Compassionate Communication. In addition, for peace in relationships, individuals are encouraged to learn and practice skills in compassionate communication. Then, later in the plenary meeting the executive director of the Association of Theological Schools spoke about the complex interpersonal aspects of congregational life for which current academic programs do not prepare ministers adequately. Wow. Three calls within as many days for humans to engage in peace making skills through the spiritual practice of interpersonal communication! I have such hope that we are evolving not just as an association of congregations, but as a people. Perhaps I know this best from my own growth through compassionate communication, which has allowed me to play in multiple fields of peacemaking and ministry, and surprisingly, often with joy. May it be so for you as well.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beyond Blame and Fear

(Oiled bird on beach - photo by IBRRC)

Three Prose Poems
Mary Oliver


Oh, yesterday, that one, we all cry out. Oh, that one! How rich and possible everything was! How ripe, ready, lavish, and filled with excitement-how hopeful we were on those summer days, under the clean, white racing clouds. Oh yesterday!


I was in the hold burn dump-no longer used…Here a pair of hummingbirds lived every summer, as if the only ones of their kind…I near strolled, and was almost always sure to see the male hummingbird on his favorite high perch near the top of a wild cherry tree, looking out across his kingdom with bright eye, and even brighter throat…a plane, a black triangle, flew screaming from the horizon, heavy talons clenched and lumpy on its undersides. And, lo, the hummingbird cringed, it hugged itself to the limb, it hunkered, it quivered. It was God’s gorgeous, flashing jewel: afraid. All narrative is metaphor.


After the storm the ocean returned..so there was the world: sky, water, the pale sand and, where the tide had reached the day’s destination, the snow. And this detail: the body of a duck, a golden-eye; and beside it one black-backed gull. In the body of the duck, among the breast feathers, a hole perhaps an inch across: the color within the hole a shouting red. And bend it as you might, nothing was to blame: storms must toss, and the great black-backed gawker must eat, and so on. It was merely a moment. The sun, angling out from the bunched clouds, cast one could easily imagine tenderly over the landscape its extraordinary light.

Is life just a moment, balanced between fear and tenderness? Does the tide come in and yesterday was lush and we feel expansive and open, and then the tide goes out and we constrict with fear and scarcity? It seems to be so. We are God’s precious jewels sparkling in the sand, eater and eaten, afraid. Okay, maybe I can accept this. What brings me angst and a hollow thumping of the heart though, is that I will seek to blame God, the world, the gull, the plane, you, me. And as the tide goes out and the sun sets, I will think that I am lonely, alone worthy of praise or blame, of praising of blaming. Oh be still my cognitive self and let the story rest for a while in the calm of an intertidal zone, for all stories are metaphor as Mary says. Beneath it all lies shared being – no life, no death, just sparkling amazement lying amongst the ever present grains of fear.

Where can you open to amazement and let go of blame and judging?

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Less than two weeks ago there was quite the news about an umpire, Jim Joyce, who made a "wrong" call and cost a baseball pitcher, Armando Galarrago, his perfect game (http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100602&content_id=10727590).

The following day the same umpire who had made the "bad" call came onto the field with tears in his eyes. What brings tears to my eyes is the genuine compassion and sense of fair play of the Detroit fans. They seemed to come to a collective empathetic state by knowing what Joyce must be feeling - they gave him a standing ovation. An event that could have unfolded in recriminations and blame that represent the worst in our species, turned into something that heralds the best in us.

Charles Krauthammer noted that Galarrago will now be a more memorable figure in baseball than if he'd been fairly granted his perfect game by Joyce's correct call at first base. He speculates that a new verb has been created for when one has been extraordinarily screwed: He's been Galarragoed. Maybe instead we will use this verb to mean when we have realized what's really important in life, even more important than pitching a perfect game. (thanks to Gary Schouborg for your thinking and writing on this topic). There is much grace that can come to us and the world when we connect to our needs and values, even when we don't get what we originally set out to get.

May you be Galarragoed today.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Opening the Window of the Heart

Friend, there's a window that opens from heart to heart

And there are ways of closing it - Rumi

Often when offering support for others in Compassionate Communication I find that people, including myself, can get caught up in the tools for practicing peace in communication, such as the four components of observation, feelings, needs, and requests. I am learning though that the premise of rewiring our brains and changing our habits lies with this choice: Do I want to live constricted, or with an open heart? When I get up in the morning and open the windows and doors to the misty early sunlight, do I want to love myself and the world I see, or do I want to begin withdrawing into myself by judging any moving being as the source of my discomfort or lack of fulfillment? This question always draws me back to the hope of this moment and the feeling of my body. There is a difference in my body posture when I think "I wish for more world peace," and "I love peace." This is similar to the difference when I say "I wish this person would be more loving" and "I long for love." In the later, my body opens, leans towards the "other," and a window opens in my heart.

Where do you shut the window of your heart?