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Compassionate Politics Strategy Workshop

Please join us to raise issues, explore opportunities, and plan actions to cultivate compassionate political activity.
Sunday September 12, 2010 -
9:30 am – 4:30 pm
San Francisco Network Ministry
555 Ellis Street, San Francisco 94109


Compassionate Politics Strategy Workshop on Youtube

Twenty-two individuals participated in most or all of the Compassionate Politics Workshop, which focused on the question, “How can we cultivate compassionate political activity?”  We used the Open Space technology conference format. The event was lively, with lots of good energy and animated conversation. On a scale of one to five, at the conclusion participants gave the event an average rating of 4.2.  At the outset of the workshop, Roma Guy welcomed everyone, Brenda Salgado led a guided meditation, Wade Hudson explained the logistics for the day, and the participants proposed the following topics for consideration in Action Groups, which normally consisted of about six people.


Tyson Casey
Fred Cook
Lenel de Emma
Leonard Frank
Roma Guy
David Hartsough
Jan Hartsough
Wade Hudson
Annie Kane
Melyssa Jo Kelly
Stacy Kono
Mike Larsen
Joyce Lavey
Katie Loncke
Josh Mann
Sherri Maurin
Linda Post
Lenny Reiter
Edwin Rutsch
Brenda Salgado
John Testa
Marlene Winell

Eight Action Groups addressed the following topics:



1.  There are communities of color engaged in this work. How do we connect and relate authentically to these communities?

2.  Circles of Compassion. A group of Charter for Compassion supporters from Rochester, New York committed to self-development, community service, political activity and mutual support.

3.  Cultivate shared mindfulness and dialogue processes to free ourselves from Control Drama Triangle and internalized oppression.

4.  How to Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?

5. Power, privilege, oppression.

6.  Is individual and social transformation (for social justice) possible?

7.  So many people feel we live in a failed democracy and have given up hope that we can make change. How do we help people rediscover hope and a belief we can help bring about fundamental change in this country and deal with the addiction to war, policies benefiting the wealthy, etc.?

8.  Why are people mean to each other when they are working together and how can we change this?


8 Workshop Topics



1. So many people feel we live in a failed democracy and have given up hope that we can make change. How do we help people rediscover hope  and a belief we can help bring about fundamental change in this country and deal with the addiction to war, policies benefiting the wealthy, etc.?

Facilitators: David Hartsough, Jan Hartsough

      Edwin Rutsch, Lenel de Emma,  Lenny Reiter, ??

We came together to discern about the question that was posed by David Hartsough:

So many people feel we live in a failed democracy and have given up
hope we can make change. How do we help people rediscover hope and a
belief we can help bring about fundamental change in this country and
deal with the addiction to war, policies benefiting the wealthy, etc.?

Deep hope was expressed by many in the group that people all over the
world have discovered the power of nonviolence and are engaging in
large scale nonviolent actions. We have the book and the DVD: A
FORCE MORE POWERFUL which chronicles many stories of movements and
actions worldwide where nonviolence has been successfully used to
bring about major social change and challenge violence, oppression and
injustice. Those who followed this path found a community of like-
minded souls and acted together to overcome huge obstacles.

A rhetorical question was posed: How much better would the world have
been if the U.S. were not the self-appointed policeman for the world.
The person shared the thought that American is ruling the world;
would the world be better if we weren't?

We all acknowledged that the problems in the world are huge and
complex. Given that reality, how do we rekindle the hope so that
together we can help form communities of "like-minded souls," who are
committed to a nonviolent path in facing and resolving these problems.

As seen in A FORCE MORE POWERFUL, having success stories can be a
great inspiration. It was also offered that while there are lots of
bad things happening in the U.S. we still experience a better
situation than most.

One in the group believed that nonviolence is a strategy and that hope
is a dead end. It has to be the beginning of an empowerment, that
follows through with some actions. She cautioned about hope and the
messiah principle being dangerous, and prefers empowerment to make a

She expressed concern that promoting "hope" brings a massive
manipulation and ultimately a helplessness that there is nothing that
we, as individuals can do....An example was given that in Australia if
you are legally able to vote, and don't exercise that right, you are
fined; the US calls itself a democracy, and yet our voter turnout is
extremely low because many feel powerless.

Another offered an alternate belief that the percentage of people who
vote is low because they feel the system is "rigged." He believes we
are "not on a level playing field." His perspective is that people
with money decide, and that we live in a "dollar democracy."

He continued by saying that Gandhi spoke about the voluntary transfer
of power. It is not based on voluntary poverty but voluntary
equality. Everyone has a fair share; we are all one family; no one
should have excessive amount of wealth. The whole society is one
large family and in a balanced society fair shares are based on
talents and participation.

Another shared a belief in core values as an important foundation for
approaching our challenges. He indicated a belief that there are
three ways to deal with problems:
    -- leave (ie: exit)
    - -ignore the issue
    -- address the problem: talk about it, air it, and determine the next steps

One said that we have many reasons for hope: technology, creativity,
medical science, etc. These show us what is possible with hope and
vision. He mentioned Paul Hawken (see addendum to the notes for those
who do not know Paul Hawken's work), and said that probably 2 million
organizations in the world are working for change, and are united
through technology.

Paul Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, and
author. Starting at age 20, he dedicated his life to sustainability
and changing the relationship between business and the environment.
His practice has included starting and running ecological businesses,
writing and teaching about the impact of commerce on living systems,
and consulting with governments and corporations on economic
development, industrial ecology, and environmental policy.

We heard about the SNCC's 50th anniversary gathering from David. The
students of the SNCC believed they could make a difference if they
worked together and the idea spread like wildfire throughout the
South. The students were definitely able to make changes by sitting
in at lunch counters and many other nonviolent actions. Could this be
a model for change today?

One was concerned that the expression "hope for change" are words that
can be co-opted for other purposes by Bush, and even someone like
Hitler. We, as a group are focusing on making COMPASSIONATE CHANGE.

Summary of Decisions made by the group:

1) Share stories through:

  • videos ? i.e. develop groups to watch/discuss videos) (perhaps
    once a month in San Francisco Example: A Force More Powerful book and DVD.

  • Podcasts

  • SKYPE groups (for example, the METTA Center in Berkeley has a
    monthly SKYPE study group which discusses nonviolence, and is using
    Michael Nagler's book as a source for this). People all over the
    country participate.

    2) Developing more creative nonviolent actions to address injustices;
    act as a community. Examples: Flash Mobs, Yes Men

    3) Build a community of people where we live, nationally, etc, who
    share our vision of the changes we want to create and support each
    other in building these visions (empowering and supporting one
    another). (ie: Intentional communities)

    4) Use technology like SKYPE, etc. to build community, share stories,
    discuss key issues (like nonviolence), organize, support one another.

    5) Create a clearinghouse service to connect people to volunteer
    opportunities via websites and consultants (matching with
    organizations who need help). (Wealthy people who care but may not get
    involved beyond writing a check).

    6) Determine easy ways for people to get an immediate sense that they
    have made a difference; this will help build their enthusiasm and
    willingness to participate further. It also combats depression and
    hopelessness and a general sense that we cannot make a difference.

    7) Develop Circles of Compassion (this was proposed by John and will
    be addressed in detail in another discussion group.)

    Notes by Sherri Maurin and David Hartsough

2. Circles of Compassion. A group of Charter for Compassion supporters from Rochester, New York committed to self-development, community service, political activity and mutual support. Meets monthly to share experiences in these efforts and to show support for one another. Meetings have no formal agenda and no action items are issued.

Check out the Charter for Compassion (CfC) and see if you want to support it. (Yes: 4. No: 1. Abstain: 0. Commit: 4).
Explore introducing CfC to organizations. (3/1/1/3)
Explore the start of a Circle of Compassion in your region. (5/0/0/1.5)


3. Cultivate shared mindfulness and dialogue processes to free ourselves from Control Drama Triangle and internalized oppression.

  • Self-observation: fight-flight; take a breath.

  • Intuition-Take

  • Dreams

  • Meditation

  • Tonglen, Radical Acceptance

  • Connection, bonding, trust building

  • Touch, play, dance, art

  • Somatics and social justice: involve body – somatics practice

  • Forward Stance with Social Justice, Norma Wong

  • Physical practice, martial arts

  • Mindfulness woven into way of life – not labeled as separate practice

  • Personal intentions

  • Group Intentions – to get support for

  • How We Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work

  • Unlearning racism

  • Creating peaceful relationships

  • Che Gung Move

  • Art process with big paper and crayons

  • Do a Street Retreat with Faithful Fools

  • Visit East Bay Meditation Center

  • Curiosity

  • Kindred-Justice Trauma. Communities have resources to heal themselves.

  • Singing and song circles, doing art.



4. How to build a culture of empathy and compassion?

This group used reflective listening to deepen empathy for each person. People reflected what they heard the speaker say until they felt fully heard, before moving on to the next speaker.

Facilitator:  Edwin Rutsch
Lenel de Emma
Particpants: David Hartsough, Jan Hartsough,
Sherri Maurin, Lenny Reiter

  • Living in the consciousness that “we are all one family.”

  • Create connection rather than separation.

  • Respect/allow for differences, be nonjudgmental, and celebrate differences.

  • Embrace and Engage the Other

    • Visit Tea Parties, Sarah Palin, George Bush, etc.

    • Edwin told story of visiting Tea Party and Republican State convention to talk with participants about the role of empathy in their lives.

  • Find the truth in everyone, every day, all the time.

  • Use the language of connection.

5. Power, privilege, oppression.

No on Prop L Sidewalk sit (meditation) Oct 17.
(Yes: 4/ No:0/ Abstain:0/ Commit: 4)
Training on street outreach through Coalition on Homelessness
Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement.

6.  Is individual and social transformation (for social justice) possible?

Yes it is. A both/and situation. (Individual and social together, not separated).
Transformation needs to be located in resourcing people of color/women/  lgbt-led organizations and actions. People resourcing is part of it but kinship/relationship is also part of the process – transformative relationships.
Movement needs to invest in transformative people of color/women/lgbt
leaders interested in running things and creating new visionary systems/solutions.
Initial first step – landscape organizations/people already doing this work, outreach.


7. There are communities of color engaged in this work. How do we connect and relate authentically to these communities?

  • P/V Items (Important principles or values): They should be our foundation and guide any of this work, rather than "action items."

  •  Important to decide what position/role to play. Being conscious with intention.

  •  Be prepared to follow instead of leading. Self-awareness around pushing agenda, pace, action.

  • Enter into work from different experiences or perspectives, ex. Oscar Grant and actions. Awareness about privilege in relationship to police. Those inciting violence vs. communities/people with history of police abuse/profiling/incarceration.

    Decisions: (Yes/No/Abstain/Commit moving it fwd). Listed in order of number of votes

  • Building conscious relationships with communities, see what’s out there. Some examples: Solidarity AZ, immigrant work; school budget cuts, Oscar Grant. Start with learning about, meet up leader people of color-led struggle (8/0/0/9)

  •  Holding awareness that resources are not evenly distributed. Taking personal/organizational action to ameliorate this (help others with places people meet, copying literature, tech access, etc.) (8/0/0/8)

  •  Political education and learning circles around movement building. Alliance building built upon place authentic self (7/0/0/7)

  • Individual work: Choose people of color professionals, business; form/participate in movements led by people of color; immerse in people of color art, theatre, literature, cinema; in education/ counseling recognize own biases/privilege; be able to talk about racism (7/0/0/7)

  • White privilege and solidarity work. Reaching up/ listen white privilege as comes up too. (9/0/0/4)

  • Curriculum of diversity education focused around compassionate politics in different communities (rituals, customs, traditions) (4/2/0/1)

  • Develop metaculture, inclusive, multicultural. “Something to hold  onto” (4/3/0/1) 


8. Why are people mean to each other when they are working together and how can we change this?

Following is a report on the decisions made in one of the Action Groups at the 9/12/10 Compassionate Politics Workshop. Please feel free to post comments, questions, and reports on follow through actions.

Facilitator:  Melyssa Jo Kelly

Participants:   Fred Cook, Lenel de Emma, David Hartsough, Jan Hartsough, Stacy Kono,
Edwin Rutsch,  John Testa.

Some Causes:

  • Behavior driven by

    • ego,

    • the desire to be in control,

    • feeling “better than” others,

    • competition,

    • individualism,

    • sense of scarcity,

    • hierarchy,

    • the desire for power (also known as “Everybody wants to be King;”)

    • people pushing their own agendas;

  • heavy-handed inter-personal dynamics;

  • the loss of tribal histories;

  • inattention to people’s feelings;

  • lack of commitment to addressing and resolving conflicts;

  • being dualistic (seeing things as black/white, good/bad).

Some Effects:

  • a person feels disrespected, insulted, hurt, or unheard by someone;

  •  their reaction may be defensive and they may be mean to (or say mean things about) the person who hurt them, beginning an endless cycle which diminishes and may destroy a group’s ability to function.

Some Decisions:

  • Be open-hearted;

  • Use effective communication techniques, such as;

    •  Non-Violent Communication,

    • empathetic listening,

    •  reflective listening,

    •  active listening,

    •  affirming responses;

  • Create Restorative Circles in which people listen, take responsibility, and take action;

  • Ensure all voices are heard;

  • Be receptive to hearing other points of view;

  • Use empathy and compassion to remove barriers to group action;

  • Build community within a group by trusting, being thoughtful, communicating, and repairing;

  • Act on the principle that the means is as important as the end (the process is as important as the production);

  • Sustain each other for the long haul;

  • Seek, listen to, and respect everyone’s own “truth;” work with people who find common ground and share values;

  • Try to explain your point of view and try to understand another’s point of view;

  • Get a 360 degree perspective on group leaders and members by seeking input from entire group;

  • First build relationships, then take on tasks;

  • Exchange in-depth “Stories of Self” with the whole group;

  • Discuss, dialogue, and listen;

  • Do follow-up contact;

  • Agree on a group commitment to the process, even though individual behavior, perspectives and priorities may differ;

  • Commit to a shared intent, process, and project; accept people as they are, where they are;

  • Get support for yourself from people you trust to listen to you vent, show empathy and keep confidentiality;

  • Expect conflicts to arise;

  • Learn to see conflict as an opportunity for learning and growth;

  • Resolve conflicts using reflective listening to hear and be heard, and finding empathy and compassion through deepened understanding;

  • Establish group guidelines:  

    • listen,

    • no put-downs,

    • work on conflicts,

    • respect confidentiality,

    • stay accountable;

  • Make creating relationships a goal;

  • Cultivate multi-dimensionality;

  • Help everyone feel heard and have a sense of ownership;

  • Guard against process becoming more important than action; support, love and protect leaders;

  • Nurture leadership skills in everyone;

  • Consider needs and capacities;

  • Redefine leadership.


In Conclusion

At the conclusion of the workshop, a show of hands was asked for on the following questions. The results are indicated in parenthesis.

  • On a scale of 1-5, with one being poor, two being not so good, three being average, and five being excellent, how many of you would rate the event a one…, two…, three…, four…, five?  (0/0/1/10/4)

  • Would you like to participate in another, similar workshop, whether or not it’s call “Compassionate Politics”?  13(yes)/0(no)/1(abstain

  • Would you prefer that it be one, two or three days?… one: 10, two: 2, three: 1, not sure: 1

  • Would you be willing to help plan another workshop? Yes: Joyce, Edwin, Brenda, Fred, Lenel, Wade


Toward the conclusion of the Compassionate Politics Workshop, participants were invited to write on the wall recommended resources. Following is what was submitted. Feel free to add to this list with a  reply here.

Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
Kegan, How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work Unlearning Racism
Nonviolent/Compassionate Communication
Bill Moyer, Creating Peaceful Relationships: Choosing Authentic Self
Over the Drama Triangle
Alliance Building
A Force More Powerful – dvd and book.

Roma adds the following from her notes:
Film: “Weapons of Spirit” (1980s documentary about town in France during WWII that successfully practiced compassion)
Circles of Compassion,