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Beyond Resistance

from: SpiritualProgressives.org

The Network of Spiritual Progressives and Tikkun magazine periodically offer a seven-session Spiritual Activism Training: Beyond Resistance.

The training, led by Cat Zavis, helps one “learn about the psychological and spiritual suffering that people experience living in our society and how to help people both understand and overcome it, strategies to create meaningful and lasting systemic change, and skills in empathic listening and speaking that will help you reach across the divide. Sessions will include readings, role-plays, listening to role-plays of Rabbi Lerner and Cat, as well as group practice, and discussion.”

Here’s a description of the Network of Spiritual Progressive’s seven session Training:

Session 1- Building a Beloved Community and Understanding a Spiritually Progressive Worldview

This first session focuses on building a loving and caring community and understanding a spiritually progressive worldview, one steeped in a vision of a world based on a New Bottom Line. They will also share their 3-stage strategy and the importance of putting forth “a vision of a world based on love and justice.”

Session 2- Understanding Spiritual Activism and Leadership, Personal and Systemic Psychological Trauma and Surplus Powerlessness

In this session participants gain an understanding of what it means to be a spiritual leader and activist. What are the qualities we want to foster, how do we support each other, build loving communities, steep them in spiritual and ethical principles, and engage in spiritual activism in concrete ways? How also do we use spiritual teachings, practices, and exercises to support us in this work and in our lives? Participants are provided with the NSP’s perspective on these topics.

NSP helps participants discern the ways in which they were taught throughout their lives to blame themselves for any perceived failures, lack of success, or missed opportunities, and how these teachings and messages are delivered to us not only by our parents, teachers, and other individuals, but also by society-at-large through the ethos of the capitalist marketplace and its social messengers (media, schools, workplaces, etc.) that promote the false belief that we live in a “meritocracy.”

We also share with participants the dynamic of surplus powerlessness, namely the idea that people tend to give-up power in places where they actually have more power than they realize and misdirect their frustrations on those in the movement who seem to have more social power than they do rather on challenging the systems and structures of society that truly undermine their social and political power.

Session 3 – Grieving the World that Is, Envisioning the World We Want, Understanding the Problem with Global Capitalism and Possible Solutions

Session three begins with a powerful exercise in grieving the world that is and envisioning the world we want. Through this exercise, participants see the value in allowing themselves to genuinely and deeply touch into their grief and sorrow about what is, as a foundation and launching pad for both envisioning the world they want and feeling inspired to take meaningful, long-term action to build that world. It is NSP’s belief that grieving is the foundation out of which healing, repair, and transformation grow.

NSP shares with participants a critique of global capitalism with its false message of endless production and consumption and help participants understand that imposing ethical and moral standards in our government, workplaces, professions, schools, and the like, is not only appropriate but desperately needed. They explain the shortcomings of efforts that are steeped in realistic strategies and help participants understand that promoting concrete policies and strategies that seem “unrealistic” at this time are in fact also part of what it means to engage in social and political activism from a spiritual perspective.

They share with participants our Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ESRA) and NSP’s Global Peace (Marshall) Plan, two concrete policies that are deeply infused with the ethical and spiritual values and principles articulated in the New Bottom Line.

Session 4 – Empathy – Love the Stranger as Thyself

In session 4 participants learn empathic communication skills, both how to listen and speak compassionately. They are taken on a journey that begins with self-compassion and self-empathy, learning how to gauge their own reactivity, judgments, biases, and pain by first recognizing where they hold their responses in their bodies. They are then taught how to self soothe in the moment and understand their own feelings and needs so they are better equipped to respond from a deeply self-connected and empathic place rather than from a place of reactivity.

Next they are taught how to listen empathically to others. What is the meaning articulated behind the statements, policies, positions, and approaches of others? How do we hear their deep pains and sorrows, understand their needs, and demonstrate that understanding as a path to connection? When we are able to empathically connect with others, we can begin to see our shared humanity, our common needs, our collective pain, and our deep yearnings.

From that place, we can begin to explore solutions and strategies that can help us build the world we all seek. Our differences begin to breakdown and we find we are actually more alike than we thought. We see that we all yearn for loving connections, lives of meaning and purpose, and mutual recognition and sense of belonging.

In this session, like all sessions, they break into small groups so participants have an opportunity to practice the skills we share. They also do role-plays with the whole group giving people the opportunity to raise challenges, receive coaching, and learn in community.

Session 5 – Empathic Speaking – Sharing Our Vision and Exploring Strategies

In session five NSP moves from the place of empathic listening to the place of empathic speaking. Participants learn how to engage in conversations that allow them and those with whom they are communicating to both be heard and to share their deepest truths. We emphasize the importance of empathy before education because we know that if we try to convince someone with facts or other information about the righteousness of our position and they have not been heard, seen, recognized, ‘gotten,’ connected with, or valued for who they are, that they will not hear us.

Participants learn how to make clear requests, to state (without judgment) their concerns, to reflect back their understanding of what the other person is saying, and how to find common ground and shared values.

Sessions 6 & 7 – Taking Action and Building the Movement

In these final sessions, the Training reviews what we’ve learned and discuss how to bring this work into the world through the creation of local chapters and professional and workplace groups, and by taking it to community and social change organizations, and religious and spiritual communities.

On these calls, individuals who have already completed the training and are bringing the work into their communities, share what they have done, their successes and challenges, and answer questions. This opportunity to engage with folks who are already taking this work into the world is an invaluable part of the training. People on these calls see the power of the learning and the training and its ability to deeply transform how to engage in social change efforts from a truly spiritually progressive place. The stories are inspiring and provide hope and meaning.

They also review the Chapter Starter Guide. The Starter Guide sets forth clear processes and procedures for starting a chapter, including worksheets for setting individual and group goals, sample flyers and letters inviting people to join, and sample resolutions in support of the New Bottom Line, Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the Global Marshall Plan that can be taken to social change organizations, community groups, spiritual and religious communities, as well as to school boards, city councils, state legislatures, and Congressional members.

They share letters to the editors and other written materials that provide examples of how to integrate the language and ideas in various formats. And we provide lots of time and space for people to ask questions, share their challenges and efforts, and receive feedback.

To sign-up to receive notification of the next training, please sign up online here. Please enter your name and information at the bottom of that to receive notification of the next training. Network of Spiritual Progressives is in the process of determining the dates and times for the next training.

Send me an email if you are interested in starting a Redding NSP Chapter.

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