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Discussion Guide No. 1

from our first meeting in January 2021

YFM Winter 2021 Anti-racism Discussion Group

Session No. 1: Holding Space for Transformation

I. Quotes from Say the Wrong Thing: Introduction and Holding Space for Transformation

  • “When we let the fear of saying the wrong thing rule us, we may get a semblance of safety but we do not experience deep love or connection. What’s especially deadly is that regular withholding from others actually compromises our connection to and love of ourselves. We become habitually inauthentic and unmoored from our center. We wage war on ourselves which gets projected out to other people and groups.”

  • “...your vision of a just, compassionate world is only possible if you take a risk.”

  • (quoting Verna Myers) “We don’t need good people; we need real people.”

  • “When I’m feeling grateful and safe, this paradigm of Oneness seems obvious and superior to Separation. However, when I’m angry and feeling abandoned, Alicia’s invitation (“We are here for all of us”) doesn’t even occur to me. I’m automatically in Separation.”

  • “Yet, I’ve got this thread, an unbreakable thin line connected to my heart that says: We can’t win this game. If the solution is only more Separation, then we keep losing. As Brother Martin famously said “an eye for an eye leaves us all blind.” What then can we do?”

  • “...when we engage is a choice. If your heart needs comfort, then you may not have the space to meet someone where they are. Don’t sacrifice yourself. Instead, nurture yourself. Meditate. Take a bath. Get a hug from a trusted someone -- like your dog. You will get another chance to engage someone who makes that kind of comment -- sooner or later.”

II. Quotes from Dr. Kemp’s TED talk: “How to Have a Voice and Lean Into Conversations About Race” / link here →

  • “...holding space for transformation shifts a conversation from being a debate with winners and losers to being more of a journey, a discovery of blind spots, assumptions, connections and compassion.”

  • “What I that most people don’t change based on facts. They change based on feelings, stories and human connection.”

  • “We need more than an open mind. We need a whole new context: the context of unconditional love and unconditional acceptance.”

  • “History shows us that when we fall into us versus them thinking, we’re laying the groundwork for spirals of violence.”

  • “Holding space for transformation is more like reminding yourself to allow unconditional love and acceptance to flow through you.”

  • “Holding space for transformation is simple, but it’s not easy.”

  • “It’s not enough to be right. We’ve got to connect with people who don’t already agree with us. Holding space for transformation is a powerful choice...that gives us a way to take care of ourselves emotionally and to connect with other people and to our higher, deeper source.”

III. Quotes from NYYM’s Committee on Conflict Transformation video: “What is conflict transformation?” link here →

  • “The reason I’m here is because I’m frightened of conflict. It always makes me feel ill. And that’s fear...It’s hard for me to imagine (conflict) being resolved, let alone transformed, when I’m fearful.”

  • Analogy for conflict resolution: the train is on a circular track and keeps running into the same bump each time it goes around the circuit.

  • Analogy for conflict transformation: the train goes “through the bumpy point and finds itself off in an unexpected place...a place that maybe it couldn’t see before.”

  • “If avoiding conflict separates us from God, from our experience of the Divine, what could embracing conflict do?”

  • “There is no key to making sure everything comes out okay.”

IV. Queries

  • How does holding space for transformation help to overcome “us versus them” thinking?

  • In Dr. Kemp’s conversation with her white colleague (from the TED talk), she exercises a radical form of hospitality. Can we, in maybe a smaller sense, exercise that kind of unconditional acceptance with folks we disagree with?

  • Do you allow yourself the dignity to acknowledge that you are not always in a space to offer unconditional love?

  • Are we quick to forgive ourselves when we say the wrong thing? Are we quick to forgive others in the same situation?

  • The nonviolence teacher and activist Kazu Haga says that “we don’t rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” How can we support one another in creating practices that allow us to hold space for transformation so that we can exercise them when necessary?

  • What does a space where it’s okay to take a risk look like?

  • What practices do you have that ground you in unconditional love and acceptance when they seem in short supply?

  • Do you make time to care for yourself when things get rough?

  • How does fear inform your engagement with conflict in your personal life? Professional life? Community life?

  • Did any of the Friends’ experiences in the NYYM video resonate with you? How?


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