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)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bounding Out on New Paths

In the Pasture
Mary Oliver

In the first day of snow, when the white curtain of winter began to stream down,
The house where I lived grew distant and at first it seemed imperative to hurry home.
But later, not much later, I began to see that soft snowbound house as I would always remember it,
And I would linger a long time in the pasture turning  circles, staring
At all the crisp, exciting, snow-filled roads that led away.

Memories are inconclusive. With each recall, our brains change the version of the previous until we cannot know for sure what happened.  We can only know how we interpret events of the past in the present moment.

Given this, it does seem as if we can change the past. For we have today to place a shroud of memory over our regrets, our misgivings, or our loss.  We can let go of the stories of disconnection or hyperindividualism and infuse our stories with the meaning of interdependence.

For instance, perhaps you recall a time when a friend said or did something that resulted in harm to you.  Each time you bring up that pain or discomfort from the past, you augment your judgment about the friend, yourself, or the human species as a whole.  You withdraw from that relationships or close your heart to them and to yourself.  It is like burrowing into a cold house where you wish for life to be different .  Looking out of the frosted windows of our heart, you spin fantasizes of how it should be. 

Today though let go of blame and instead see how you are the other person.  There is no wrongdoing or right doing from the perspective of the pasture, only a field where we see the beauty that is the world, is also each of us.  We each choose strategies to meet the same beautiful needs of love, connection, and community. Some of these strategies are more skillful and produce more benefits than harm. Other strategies are disasters.  Regardless, beauty dwells in each of us and motivates our actions.

With this in mind, we open up new possibilities of choices in our relationships. Perhaps you will choose to call your friend, or to be at peace with what happened.  We are neither victim nor evil perpetrator. We are each other and this beautiful world, and we can choose how to act from this day forward. We may take roads that  lead away from memories that bind us.

When have you seen a memory change over time?  Has this served you well?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Restorative Circles

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop on Restorative Circles.  This practice, if I could sum it up in one sentence seems to be about this; we’re going to fight anyway, so let’s make a place for conflict to happen with an intention to value the needs of all people.  The inciting incident that calls together a circle is not cause for dehumanizing another. It is a just a strategy that one person choose to meet a universal need that all humans share.  The circle gathers so that we might see what harm came from the incident, and through telling our stories, find a way to rehumanize each other – that is, to get at the value and meaning underlying the harmful strategies.  The hope is that if we can see that there is a positive motivation behind all actions, we might find the space to formulate restorative actions plans to heal wounds, and change behavior patterns. 

Though only my first exposure to Restorative Circles, I see how it is a natural “next step” for the practice of Nonviolent Communication. These circles, founded on the consciousness of peace, compassion, and justice as we see in NVC, offer a structure for changing organizations and societies.  The scope is beyond the individual level, for integrated in the restorative theory is that all humans within a society are impacted by conflict, and hence, “responsible” in that as receivers of conflict, we each have a choice on how to act.  To not act is also a choice.

I choose to act for restoration, healing, and change.  A restorative circle, however, takes place within a restorative system.  So my individual choice is not enough.  I need a community that elects to journey with me as we commit together for restorative justice.

Now the question before me and perhaps before you as well is this.  Which community?  My family?  My congregation or association of congregations (Unitarian Universalist Association)?  The town in which I live? The readers of this blog?

As Dominic Barter, the founder of this system said while in Atlanta,  "Why ruin a good question with an answer.?"  I ponder on.

Which community might you choose for restorative work?