Natika … Introduces the call and explains the purpose of the call.
The purpose is … Sharing stories to plant seeds for a more compassionate society, while working on our own inner transformation and, we do this with collective conversations with people aligned likewise with ServiceSpaces service-oriented mission. Behind the scenes, is a team of SP volunteers whose invisible work allows us to hold this space. Today we have great pleasure to welcome Laurie Mulvey, our special guest speaker, someone who really embodies today’s theme of world in conversation.
We start our calls with a minute of silence to anchor ourselves, where ever you are in the world let’s just take a minute for silence …
This week’s theme is world in conversation and our guest today, Laurie Mulvey, believes growth and transformation through the simple process of talking to others and sharing stories and as, I think of the theme myself, there a number of times when, I think my perspectives would have changed and, I would have grown through conversations with people. We have the pleasure of the remarkable moderator, Aryae Coppersmith who is a long time SP volunteer. He is an author and wise elderly, who shepherds a community called One World Lights. Aryae, would you share with us, when you have had a powerful conversations and dialogues that have shaped you?
Aryae Coppersmith - Thanks for the kind introduction and thank you Laurie; I have been looking forward to our conversation. My initial reflection on all this is that, there is a convergence of many of us on this call, where all of us are engaged in doing conversation and dialogue in different ways. Though we are living in a world, where people seem to be relating to each other in a way as if, they are just screaming and at loggerheads at each other whereas, so many of us are engaged in creating spaces, where people can relate in different ways by listening to each other. Laurie it is great to have you with us here to share your work in this area. Just by way of intro to Dr Laurie Mulvey … she is Exec. Director of World in Conversation and one of the key highlights of this is that, it is a student driven center. It is not run from the top down, but is run from the bottom up by the students, and where the structure of the organization reflects the values and the goals of the organization so much. And under Laurie's leadership, it has become the largest University based cross-cultural dialogue program in the US. She runs this at Pen State University, where she is a member of the faculty in the department of Sociology and Criminology; One of the key courses in this department is about global dialogues, using the internet and various conferencing technologies, and these dialogues have attracted the interest of UN organizations of NATO and organizations from Pakistan, India, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Denmark, Israel and Palestine. One of the interesting parts of Laurie’s story is that she and her husband work together; her husband, Sam is co-founder of the world in conversation and, he is the instructor of a course at Pen State called sociology 119, which is the largest racial and ethnic course in the US. Laurie has a Masters in social work and a PHD in human development and we will find out more … this morning.
Laurie Mulvey - Thanks so much for inviting me; this is an amazing opportunity.
AC - How I would like to go about with my questioning is to start off with a little bit about the organization World in Conversation and then, I would like to explore your own personal story and how the story of your life brought towards doing what you are doing now. So my first question is, can you tell us a little about WIC and how does it work?
LM - WIC the center at PS is a center for undergrads, which is unusual as all other centers in our college for liberal arts are for graduate students and scholarly research focused, so this is unique opportunity for undergrads to have a space, where they can learn and explore; so the center is a gathering space for the students to take courses that teach them facilitation skills and have a great amount of practice doing that. Part of our mission is to teach students to read these difficult dialogues; what we also do is offer those dialogues; we have around 3000 dialogues a year and every day and night except Saturday, our students are running these difficult dialogues that focus mostly on US culture and race relations. But now we are including other topics like climate change, terrorism, also global dialogues, where our students facilitate dialogue, for example between NATO cadets and civilians in Afghanistan. The center is a place where we do all the admin and the people work to prepare students and others to be in these dialogues that allow people to create spaces to actually talk things `in a candid way’.
AC - So you know, one of the questions that occurred to me is, theses undergrads 18 to 20 year olds, how do they bring each other along to be facilitators? Doesn't being a facilitator and dealing with all the subtleties require a lot of life experience, so how do you do this with such young people.
LM - This is what is most impressive about this work; I started working with undergrads when I was 25 myself, so I had a very peer to peer relationship and as, I have grown and gotten in to my 50's, I still continue to maintain that peer to peer relationship. I feel like we are in a very humane relationship and we are all tuned to pay attention to each other often in ways we do not acknowledge, and I think this is the realm the unspoken communications and body language, and tone of voice and people are picking up on this all the time even children, but we do necessarily know how to organize our way of understanding all of that. When students have the opportunity to learn communications skills, they become mindful of what they and other people are doing. And then they just get a lot of practice doing it. Then it is really stunning what they are able to do; I think it is an inspiration for them, as they are at a point in their lives where the world is just opening for them and they have already seen what they do not like. They have already been affected and often wounded by the world, and then they see a possibility to offer this to others, mostly because of their own experience and being participants in conversations first, and then realizing what happened to them. I think the basic listening and offering compassion and build empathy to those in conversations are always a work in progress and clearly 18-21 year olds are willing to do this with the help and along with the personal transformation work that also goes along with this.
AC - I am reminded of something, many years ago I was trained as a family therapist and listening was so important for this. One of things that, I picked up on this is that, we are really all experts, ever since we are born and start communicating with our family and friends. We are all experts in reading other people and body language and what is going on in a process, but it seems to me that, what you have really done is given people a framework for tapping into the expertise that we already have and making it explicit and conscious i.e., consciously making them do, am I right?
LM- none of this happened because of any grand scheme that I had.
AC- Oh you didn't have a grand scheme? (Both laugh).
LM- I just tripped into this, it seems everything I have done in my life is because, I stumbled somewhere in a big way, and really was at a place in my life, where my husband was asking me, would you just give me an hour a week to work with some teaching assistants, because he was wanting to facilitate a very informal dialogue. I had just quit teaching because I had realized it was ridiculous for me, because I realized that I did not have anything to tell anyone about the world. I would be in these sessions where, I would be helping students run a discussion group, which I did not even think I knew how to do and that they would ask me questions, and I would say to myself I don't know the answer … so not knowing the answer, I would just ask them all well, what do you all think! And every time I said that, someone would come up with something really insightful, and so we would build on that. And then I just realized that just give it to them and ask them what they think; humans together collaborating are very imaginative and so we just started building something together like that. I did have little training running groups and so I had some knowledge of what some limitations could be and what might be effective, but fundamentally it was my not knowing, what to do was what got me seeing the students and that they could figure this out with me.
AC - That is fascinating. I am curious to dig in a little deeper. So what was the course you husband was teaching and how did you come to be involved in it and how did this actually play out when you created the work, and what eventually became World in conversation?
LM - Well my husband and I were both grad students, he was finishing his dissertation and just needed a course to teach to pay the rent. So the social department said we have this course that no one wants to teach, because it is too controversial and difficult, so they gave this race relations class.
AC - So here is a white guy and they give him the race relation’s class! (Both laugh)
LM - Exactly! So everyone hated it, but somehow he started to do something in the class, that is speaking to people and at least what it did was getting them to talk. So he would have lots of students just sitting in the rooms after the class just talking to each other, arguing with each other, but mostly just actually engaged. So he said to himself, I really need to make discussion groups, at least try it with a small group of students. So that is when he said to me, hey! do you just think you could spend 1 hour a week and just chat with these teaching assistances, and so in this process we created the groups, and I would visit the groups and it just started to grow from there. I started to actually do a concurrent class, where we were devoted to the skills of facilitating, so the class developed and is now 800 students and 50 groups every week, and it became this huge operation. In 2001 there was an uprising on campus because a black student had been getting death threats, and the students were not happy about how Pen State handled the situation. We had donors telling us they wanted to do something about race relations and came to my husband and asked whether we have any ideas. We told them about these amazing students in the groups, and maybe they can do a lot more, if we do campus wide dialogue rather than just in these classes. Now the students who had been training for the class had something else they could aspire to do by doing campus wide dialogue, and that was how it all started - though the project was originally called the race relations project.
AC - There is something else you said earlier that intrigued me, you are obviously a very academic person and yet you were saying you did not like to teach. Can you say more about that?
LM - I can remember the day when, I was standing in a class lecturing to 200 students, and it just became so clear to me; I was looking at all these faces that had just as many stories to tell and to draw upon. I think this was a class on families, the sociology of the family. We all have families; we all have experiences, who am I to tell you. So even though, we can learn patterns and look at bigger principles that we can think apply, but it just seemed crazy to me and I did not like the way it felt, so eventually I quit. So I just see faces, and I see so much behind those faces, and it just seemed crazy to not draw upon from what is there. At least for me anyway, I am very happy that, I let this go and at the time, I had no idea that I could use dialogue and conversation to help people learn. I have found that, this is a methodology that works and people still get to learn and I do not have to be in that position again.
AC - So you hold this very large space where people can learn from each other. I can totally relate to that and the story of my life. I would like to ask to get into your life story of how you got into this work. Can you please share with us, a little bit of your own personal story from your childhood, you adolescence? What was it in your life that lead you do the work that you are doing now?
LM - Well wow! … I feel much indulged by all of this, I must say that I am hoping that in sharing my story, it will resonate in some meaningful way with someone else on the call. I know from myself, I do not know the answer before I start talking, so I do not know what I am about to say (laughter). There are so many pieces of our lives that help tell the story, but the thing that just came to mind, when you asked that was, growing up in New Jersey; it is not really a place people aspire to live in. I was born in the mid 1960's and this was a time where there was a lot uprising and civil rights movements happening. So my white working class family was struggling, they were truck drivers or gas station attendants nobody went to college. We grew up in this environment of uprising, but not really understanding it in any larger way; just knowing that the family felt un-safe and they thought that black people was the reason why they were un-safe. They felt this was the reason things were going wrong, so I grew up in this environment of racism, though I hate to use this term, as it is too simple a word. But basically breathing in the idea of people being objects, my people, my community, people that looked like me being good and the others being bad and not even really seeing them as people; I know what it means to objectify people, so I grew up to be a racist, so it is miraculous and utterly surprising that, I now do the work I do in the way, that I had been doing. I do not do this work from a place of guilt, making up for something, I am in it because I totally relate with it and it feels right.
AC - Please let me make a comment, you and I had a conversation a couple of days ago. What is really striking is … just like you do not want to have the labels of prejudice and stereotype of someone from a different race or background; you also do not want to have the same sort of prejudice about the environment and the family and culture that you grew up in. You’re more about accepting people where they are and understanding them.
LM - I would put a little nuance on what you just said, I would say that I am comfortable with saying, I grew up in that racist environment and as mentioned to you the other day, everyone is trying to change the way those people think (laughs) and I am OK with that. So I am OK with people saying its racist or seeing it that way, but what I have come to and what I have been blessed to understand is that, I was also surrounded by this same people who were smart, loving and compassionate that had a serious moral compass. My family was very connected, family was so very important, so it taught me and continues to teach me because, it is so easy to be like those people, those crazy people and what are they doing, but we have to challenge ourselves to go beyond just those crazy people, because generally they are not (laughs) and that is what is so hard to understand, how good decent people (not saying everyone) live and think in ways that have devastating effect and create wars and create all the things we do not want to see. So this razor’s edge is the place where I stand, because it keeps me honest and it helps me keep others honest. It is really easy from what I have seen, and why I have gone against the diversity movement in terms of the way we address these issues is that, there is just another level of who the good are and who the bad people are. Somehow we want to change the game, but it is like we are keeping the same game, but chaining the people we objectify and I am saying this as a broad generalization but it is a critical attitude that I have which is important. Yes I am OK that, I grew up in a racist environment, but it is a lot more complicated than just that; there are many more important factors to recognize.
AC - Just to give it a contemporary aspect to this, when we had been talking, you had been saying this kind of culture and those sorts of people that surrounded you in childhood; these are the kind of people who are supporting Donald Trump.
LM - Yes, and it’s funny when I am in discussions now … I hear people, the same people doing this work, trying to create more empathy and compassion that when it comes to Donald Trump supporters, it’s like just no, no we are just not interested in the conversation! And I understand that and I understand where it comes from but, there is a lot more to understand about people who support Donald Trump. What I get from my upbringing, especially in a white working community who does not feel very privileged, and who are being told that they are privileged, that at some point there is a resistance and a reaction to this. Because I think these communities are rightfully responding to a greater income inequality and there is a lot of things going on economically and when the response to them is culture, white privilege, but the other reality is not getting addressed like economic. So I think that maybe Donald Trump is just letting people explode, even though I do not think it is, maybe the proper or the right way to what the struggles are. So there is so much more to that, which needs to be talked about.
AC - So OK … there you are growing up in that kind of culture and environment. Can you take us through a couple of AHA moments that bought you from that kind of culture to the place where you are today, where you are involved in bringing people of all backgrounds together in compassion and listening and understanding?
LM - There were some moments that were not really AHA! moments, but when I started to build relationships with people, for example when I was a volunteer at a hospital-- a candy-striper-- and I met a man who was paralyzed from the neck down and had been in hospital for 13 years; he was a black man and I got really connected with him and eventually my family had him for thanksgiving dinner, and this was his first time out of the hospital since his injury. He was a really important person in my life and my family’s life and I was not aware at the time, what it meant to have this connection and really give ourselves to him. So this was something that was really re-arranging something in me and made me feel AHA! without me being really conscious. And there were other so many AHA! moments, when I had the opportunity to be with someone who was not white and hear the things that I had never had to talk about before, like a mother talking to her children to protect themselves from the police and to hear this type of thing over and over again; it really got me thinking, people must have different experiences, as at the time, I thought we all had the same experiences (laughs). I took a trip to Mexico City once and could not speak the language and felt really ignorant and realized that I thought Mexicans were ignorant (in the US), but I was now realizing, it’s just that they do not speak language like I do. So I have had so many opportunities, that I kept being offered, and they were very personal and interpersonal, so I honestly feel like AHA moment happens to me every day, it is a life time of being shown the humanity in other people and it is AHA. But the simple life that we all have, I do not want to over simplify this or romanticize, but for me this has been the process. I have also been into lots of very difficult conversations and experiences that have challenged me in a different ways. That has made me feel the trap of these ways; we objectify one another and put me in the trap as a white person, a different type of AHA moment.
AC - Could you share an example of a difficult conversation, where you were the white person or that maybe people of color were reacting to you as the white person? And what did you learn? …
LM - I think most of this was powerful, because it was on - going and as it was involving me … I have been in the conversations with other people, who are also having the opportunity to evolve. So sometimes, I was just a witness, sometimes I was deeply in it, and I have learned a lot from just observing others going through their own process. I had the experiences speaking to graduate’s interns that were running race dialogues, and I realized every time I spoke, this one black woman would roll her eyes at whatever I was saying. There was a moment after one of the groups, I approached her and spoke about the class, as my job is to give feedback and she said well of course a blonde white woman would say something like that. So trusting me as a human being is so important and I realized in this moment, this person would never and could never trust me, so this moment was an awakening that I cannot do anything, because the fact that I am a blonde white woman is the end of the story for her. So I have to live with this, I cannot force you to see something because this, the world we are in, those kind of experiences and many, many times trying to express some really deep compassion or frustration about the way things are and having people just roll their eyes and say that’s just white bring tears. So I ask myself what you want from me (laughs); I am feeling you, so in this sense I have to live with this fact that for too many people, I am just a white person. Before I never had to live like this, I never interacted in communities that way, where as people of color have this kind of experience all the time. These experiences for me were a total baptism, because it was like you cannot escape this white girl! I cannot expect others to give me a free pass to be Laurie, when they do not get a free pass to be who they are, and this is the trap and if you want to be in this work, this is what you have to experience and there is no one that is going to applaud you for it. These are experiences that are valuable, it is nice to get to a point where I see people as people, but it sucks to realize they will not see me as a person, and this is where it gets real.
AC - Thank you for the depth of sharing of your personal experience. I would like to take, what you have just said and take it into the dialogue groups that the students are involved in. I would be interested in the observations that have multi ethnic mixes, where they started seeing each other as the stereotype African American, Latino, Asian, and White etc., but where they broke through and saw each other as just another human being. And what did it take to get from the stereotype to the human?
LM - I think it is an act of God ultimately when it happens, not that it is so rare, but there are so many things that can happen in a dialogue that can take us backwards (laughs), and so many things that one person sees but the rest of the group does not. There is no algorithm for this; often what happens is someone is able to articulate something that happens in their lives, they actually bring you to a place with them. As an example someone was sharing about her father, she became so upset, so animated, her father was explaining to the family about his struggles and she really opened up and we could just feel her. This sort of moment, that breaks people through things a lot of times. Ironically in that moment, when people in the group were so much with her turned into a backwards moment, it was so powerful what this Latino woman was sharing, that a white woman said, I really feel you and it reminds me of my brother’s experience, and the woman jumped on to try and compare her white brothers experience with this father of Latino woman. This is the nature of the dialogue and it’s so difficult to even have compassion or be moved when the legacies can be really filled with pain. I do believe though, that when people tell their story, people go with them and I have seen it many times.
AC - What I understand from listening to you is that, there is no formula and that it seems to happen through genuine shared stories and that it is very difficult and it takes time.
LM - Yes, it takes time but paradoxically it just takes a moment. It is just a single moment that opens up a new world. The crack in the cosmic egg is just momentary and you just never know when it is going to happen.
AC - Can you tell us a little about the international work you are doing?
LM - We have a few different things that we are working on. One is the social conflict class I teach, which is a semester - long engagement of two groups of students, one from Pen State and another from Israel and Palestine, as we use this conflict as a case study. We are also working with NATO, where we have a grant to explore dialogues and where we have NATO cadets from across the alliance; it is a pre-deployment training, where we facilitate dialogue with civilians in Afghanistan. It is a 3 - way virtual engagement, facilitated by the Pen State students. We also have various other groups, where the Pen State students are engaged with students from Universities in other countries such as China, Iran, Pakistan, India and others.
AC - Are you able to see change happening and if so, what does the change look like to you?
LM - I am not too conversant with all the results, but one of our former students just finished his thesis and he took a look at the NATO work. He found a significant change in empathy of the NATO cadets. We are exploring a lot more now on producing hard data, but what I see is the change first hand in the students. We do hear from the cadets, and it can be very simple moments, but the break through is when they do not just see the people as Afghan, but as humans and people like themselves. An example is on a call, the students hear the call to pray in the back ground of the call and the students in Afghanistan are not leaving, and that was a moment for a cadet, and it was really significant because he realized that he missed church sometimes, but he thought that there was no such thing as missing church in their world. I watched a dialogue, where an Iranian student was explaining a story about dating and he was funny, awkward and laughing about it and it just changes the game, when someone you have been told is your enemy, an alien are just showing up and showing themselves. So these are the sorts of things, we see that people grab on to and the idea with these virtual global dialogues is that if we can make this a part of the training of cadets and soldiers, it would be a game changer.
AC - I can imagine, do you think it is likely to happen?
LM - Well this is another place, where my mind has been blown open and my perceptions have been shifting. We have met so many people within NATO and the US military, who want this for their students. Many of them say I do not want my students, cadets, soldiers to have the same experiences I did; they say my life would be so different and what I did would be different, if I had met people on the ground before, I was deployed. So I have been really awed by the humanity, which before I had really discounted doing anything like this. Obviously it is a very large institution that is moving often in other directions, but I feel optimistic to slowly make the change, there seems to be enough support to invite this change. But then it is always a funding thing, we can say yes let’s do it for free, but it generally means people having to move budget around. But this is one reason we started to speak with Service Space to see how you can live outside of that.
AC - This is really exciting … In a few minutes we are going to be turning this over for Q & A. Just one last question from me, how does it work out to lead this community, where you have a lean staff and many students who mentor other students, how is all this organized?
LM - We do have amazingly inspired people who is working with us, every full time staff member has been a previous student. So everybody has a deep personal interest and commitment. We have the same gut level mission, we all feel committed beyond just going to work. And the folks that are still in the student role are coming through, it is amazing to watch these transformations, the person you think is going to be amazing and so committed, but it is not always the case, as they may do it for a while; but then the person you thought looked a little shaky, and then to watch them take things on is really amazing. There is just a lot of passion that rules the work and fuels a lot of hard work and problem solving. It is a huge task to bring 8000 students through this program every year and all the work around that needs to happen. In reality someone like my husband is just really good at figuring out systems and how to make them run, so people get inspired to do this work, facilitating and creating spaces to do the work. Then certain people rise up and start to think of different ways of doing things, so in some ways we are holding spaces at all levels just to let people rise up, who feel creatively drawn to X, Y or Z. It also provides challenges, for example this time of year, where we are having to make selections to recruit for next year and students want to know, what is going on and we do not always have all those answers, so sometimes this creates the problem of apparent transparency; but what is really going on, is the life forces moving through things and decisions cannot be made in a machine like way; it is very organic. So what is our creative strength also creates a lot of challenges; yet it still feels important to operate in that organic way that allows transformation.
AC - So it seems the community grows and has somewhat in common with Service Space, you cannot map out a plan and as Nipun would say you just have to follow the ripples. It seems there is a lot in common between these 2 communities.
LM - For sure, this is why I have been on a mission to try and connect with all of you because it felt like there would be synergy, but it seems there is so much more than I ever thought.
Nakita - This is a perfect time to move to questions.
Question - How is the training you provide different from standard conflict resolution training and are you planning putting the training on line so people outside the University can access the content?
LM - Our training is based on the Socratic Method and what we do is add basic communications skills to the same. What seems really important is to ask that relevant question, what or which is true/truth! If you ask one simple question and again you ask another simple question and you use the Socratic idea of just continuing to ask questions, it really takes one deeper into a concept, an idea and so what is different with conflict resolution is, we are spending a lot of time with basic communication, paying attention to basic communication skills and combining that with the Socratic method. What I often say is, what we do with teaching skills is really get the students a lot of opportunities to practice. This is what really matters. It is learning how to break the rules and when do the rules apply is the most important thing and that is what you get from practice. We give them a lot of supervision; Students give each other live feedback while a conversation is occurring and have the opportunity to give post conversation feedback and it is through this that everyone is learning more. There is always a way of reflecting on what you have done. The most important part of doing this work is doing this work.
Question - Could you imagine a next step where the story of all these dialogues, which is not really the organizations story, goes on line and is released to the planet so that it is widely available?
LM - I never have been asked questions before this moment on so many issues, and this is what is so powerful about someone asking me a question. For me it such a gift because, it opens up a new world for me, I think wow before the question, I had never really thought about it or thought it had such value. It is only relationship that I feel, I understand that has value, so I guess you are suggesting that this has some value in this, so I guess I have just had my first imagination about this (laughs).
Question - It is really important, people become the stories they hear and the story they tell, and what you are facilitating others to hear stories and what you have experienced is that people hunger to be listened to. People hunger for tools and they do not know how, and as much as you can move your process to enable to move the message out on to the planet, it will spread the message so much more quickly and cost - effectively.
LM - Thank you I mean this sincerely; I certainly have a new imagination now.
Question - How as a facilitator would you handle, if someone would not even want to get into the dialogue? I conduct dialogue groups with seniors on topics pertinent to them; I would like to understand some of your techniques.
LM - Someone who does not want to be in the dialogue is an interesting thing, because if they are in the group then it is a bit paradoxical. I guess it depends on the moment, so it is hard to say for sure; my experience of
students that are refusing to talk or to be in the dialogue sometimes, I would just say to them you are most welcome, just to be here and to listen, you choose to be here, so please feel free to take part. If it is someone that did not really choose to be there, which we have sometimes, and if they are not participating, I would ask them why they do not want to participate; a lot of times, it does just get them to talk. It can get them to engage, when previously they were thinking, this was a space for them; sometimes we just need to show people, that we really just want them to turn up as themselves. I do feel that some people just need to be in that space and listen. There are also people that become very destructive, and I would have to say to them that you are welcome to be here, but you cannot undermine the dialogue because of your own limitations or issues.
Question - Can you clarify something from your experience whether you believe a racist can be a good, decent, caring person?
LM - I would have to say yes, because I have come to understand the world of both and not either / or ... I think that, it is very difficult, controversial and upsetting to many people to think about that. Especially when one is an activist, an activist in the way, who is trying to disrupt systems and change the way they are, it seems almost counterproductive to have that idea, it is sometimes, what I am going through adversely. I am working with good people and it feels like you are letting people of the hook when you say that, and of course people need to be on the hook. So it is a really difficult realm to be in and to say this. But when I think of my own family, I am blessed to have been loved for and cared for in profound ways by the very same people that taught me to hate. I do feel blessed that my immediate family has moved through this process with me and that we have all grown, we have all had different experiences. Anyway this is true the same people that taught me what love is, also showed me how it is to objectify other people. Yes this is a hard thing to swallow, my work has shown that. This is a Socratic dialogue with the human touch, that when we see others as another human, if we can keep this in mind, then we can move beyond the label.
Question - I am very interested about the cadet - civilian dialogue, how are you measuring empathy to show that this is really making a difference?
LM - Well I wish my friend writing the thesis on this was here. I cannot satisfy this question fully but his work has used a number of different scales, one has to do with humanization, another with social anxiety and more. Measurement tools he uses are from the social sciences, but I am not fully conversant with this paper. However the work I do as a lecturer, I just look at the twinkling in people’s eyes and the way people devote themselves and what they want as a measure. For example, we have a partnership with some people in Afghanistan and we met with them 1 year ago in Dubai for the first time in person. So I had been asking myself, what the value was for the people in Afghanistan; I know the value for the cadets, because I could see it firsthand. So what is the point for you civilians that are living in this environment every day and what I heard from them was that these dialogues are really important to us and to our lives moving forward. I cannot say exactly why? But we trust them and follow them. I think they are just getting a voice and having the opportunity to tell others that they are different than what the world thinks of them. I have also seen similar things in my work with Israel and Palestine, where people have just told us, this is really important to my life.
Question - Have you seen the physical manifestations of release when either a person or the group moves past something? I believe that a lot of the feelings are held pent up in our bodies, and so I am interested to hear if you have witnessed this or work with this.
LM - Yes, no doubt that I have seen this. We do talk a lot about the body reactions; what I see is many things, but I see a lot more of better poise, standing straighter, looking healthier. Also with the facilitators you can see the opposite of this, where you see burn out.
Question - Have you personally felt clearing in your own body and do you feel like you are in the same body as when you started this work?
LM - Great question, before I answer let me share that we do work with a colleague that does REIKI and other similar practices with our facilitators and staff, so they all have the opportunities to work at the body level, we call it in - bodied (or embodied) learning. I have seen people tune in to things through that work that they would not have, if were just talking about stuff. Personally I am in a different place, but it is so multi - dimensional that it would be difficult to explain, but yes I am living in my body differently, but that is not just this thread, it is the thread of many life experiences.
Question - When you are doing work in other countries, are these people from every day walks of life or are they from specific strata in society? In campuses, there are issues that come up that involve the student body, and I wonder if your students are involved in facilitating issues, that they are involved in personally; they could be very emotionally involved and how does that affect the dialogue?
LM - The students when doing the international dialogues are primarily all English speakers. We do have the ability to translate; we have students who do that. The way participants get to us is typically through Universities and we work at Penn State University, so connections have come though other Universities. So this we decided that working with young people, who are studying at University and trying to build lives is actually a good population of people to work with, so we do not try to push outside of that too much, but obviously we have for example the work we do with NATO. Also the works we do with people in the Gaza strip are all part of a scholarship program but most certainly not from the elite.
Our students are mostly focused on Campus issues, the race - relations project where some of this started came from a student up-rising. We have done work on sexual assault, sexual abuse, on drinking on campus, climate change and terrorism, Korean and Chinese students, domestic and Middle East students, so there is a lot of dynamics and we are always working with this difficult stuff and it is difficult for them and how it affects them.
Especially on a campus the moments of conflict are such an opportunity. My prayer is that we just pause and try to dig in to them instead to try and tell them who is wrong, who is right. To me it is just the beginning of the potential of collaboration and education.
Reflections shared on line - Someone I loved held a diametrically opposite belief about a very passionate and emotionally charged issue for both of us. Sharing our beliefs enables me for the first time to walk in the shoes of "the other side". And it has enabled tolerance and peace, though not agreement around the issue. It was a transformative experience for me.
LM - That is wonderful … I would like to share that when I met Sam who later became my husband, my first thought about him was that he was a person that I did not even want to be friends with (laughs), because he represented to me ideas that were so different than mine and now, I can say that this threatened me. This reflection is really important because these issues are so personal to us; they live in our families and the closest people to us, so in my marriage I ask myself often, why I should treat a certain situation I find myself in, in any different way, than how I teach my students to facilitate. What is happening with me, that is stopping me to see the other side or that I want to make my husband feel like it is his fault, so the work has been great for me, but it is a razors edge and what is at stake is who we think we are, and I have realized that part of this work is the transformation of self. That we are not going to be the same person that we were, once we walk in another shoes. This is what is scary to us, but it is where our full life actually is. For me, it does not make it any easier, but I make it a practice.
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