During our May 17th Discussion and Potluck, Rev. Jann Halloran of Prairie Unitarian Universalist, presented an exploration on racism. Prior to her exploration, Jann shared with us the following “Touchstones” adapted from Quaker Parker J. Palmer’s “Circle of Trust Touchstones” Practices and the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Building the World We Dream About.
These “Touchstones” may be useful in future CRUUC discussions…
Come to the work with all of ourselves
Attend to your own inner teacher: Whatever you call this inner place of wisdom –- our inner teacher, heart, soul, spark of the Divine, love, flow of life –- pay close attention to your own reactions and responses, to your most important teacher.
Focus on practice rather than mastery
Mastery can provide an aim or intention for where we want to move towards. Yet, this can also create a distraction from the present by always looking to the past or the future with evaluation i.e. good or not good enough, right or wrong, perfect or failure. Practice invites us to be present in this moment with our current capacity, holding our intentions. Because it can be hard to stay in the moment, practice saying, “ouch,” when something hurts, and “oops” when your words come out differently than you intended. Practice and mastery are often polarities we hold within our personal and professional life.
Set your own boundaries for personal sharing: Ask yourself, “What parts of my life story am I comfortable sharing?”
Extend and receive welcome
People learn best in hospitable spaces. Recognize that we each come with a wide array of personal and cultural experiences. Our encounters around extending and receiving welcome may have been painful or ones we celebrated. Begin with assuming positive intention on the part of fellow participants.
Believe that it’s possible to emerge refreshed, surprised, and less burdened than when we came
And know that it is possible to leave the circle with whatever it was that you needed.
There is always invitation, never invasion; always opportunity, never demand; no “share or die”!
No fixing, no advice giving, no correcting one another
Ask questions from the standpoint of curiosity, rather than arguing or debating another’s point of view.
Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions. The greatest marker of an open, honest question is that we can’t possibly anticipate the answer. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech”.
When the going gets rough, turn to wonder
Recognize that the work we do together is sometimes difficult and that our overall goal is to stay “at the table” together. This will involve taking risks.
Speak your truth in ways that respect other peoples’ truth
As a speaker, consider how your individual communication style affects others.
As a listener, be willing to sit with your discomfort with other people’s personal truths.
Consider the implications of asking People of Color and other people marginalized by race or ethnicity to speak as “experts” on their particular culture, race, or ethnicity.
Speak from personal experience; avoid generalizing your experience to include others you perceive to be similar to you.
Respect and validate other people’s experiences; it is not useful to argue that one oppression is more or less valid or important than another oppression.
Speak personal concerns directly with that person, not about them.
Trust and learn from the silence
Talking about sessions with nonmembers of the group is okay, but do not share personal content (other than your own stories) with people outside the group.