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  Empathy Cafe Newsletter
      Building a Culture of Empathy

November 8, 2009    Vol 1, Issue 1

2009-10-14 - President Obama Observes Diwali & Calls for Empathy

Let us reject the impulse to harden ourselves to others’ suffering, and instead make a habit of empathy – of recognizing ourselves in each other and extending our compassion to those in need.  Let us resist prejudice, intolerance, and indifference in whatever forms they may take.  
President Obama


Here is the first of what will be an ongoing newsletter that will follow the development of my documentary project on empathy.

My goal at the moment is to focus on creating a video of the definition of empathy and then to do a video on the Senate empathy debate.  The social psychologist
C. Daniel Batson has come up with 8 ways that the word is used in the English language. So you can see there's a lot of room for confusion. For example, see the clip here where Senator Jeff Sessions asks "What is Empathy?". Hopefully we can help address that question. What would you tell him?

2009-07-07 - Jeff Sessions - Senate Debate on Empathy (19 of 90)

I uploaded 75 video clips to YouTube with the entire Senate debate on empathy related to the Sotomayor Supreme Court nomination.  It's around 3 hour! This debate has died down now but will be sure to heat up even more intensely with the next Supreme Court nomination, which may happen as soon as 2010. 

I hope to organize a series of Empathy Cafe events. I've been so busy that I just haven't gotten to it. If you'd like to get involved in spearheading another Cafe, let me know. One idea is to have a series of speakers talking about empathy, like George Lakoff, Frans de Waal, Dev Patnaik, C. Daniel Batson,
Marco Iacoboni, NVC Trainers, etc. and then have small table discussions on the themes that come up.  This would be a great help in supporting Obama and his call for seeing the world through the eyes other others.

Send me any comments if you are interested in being interviewed for the video or would like to work on some of the projects.

Please forward this newsletter to anyone that may be interested in this topic.

Warmly,   Edwin Rutsch

The Science of Empathy

Frans de Waal professor of primate behavior at Emory University in his new book The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society  says empathy and kindness are just as innate as competition.  He bases this on his and others' animal studies. This is a 15 minute radio interview that's easy to follow. Listen to the interview on WNNY...
Empathy Documentary Project: Insights into Empathy - John Kinyon NVC Mediation with Ike Lasater & John Kinyon

A couple weeks ago I attended a Mediation Retreat with Ike Lasater & John Kinyon. In this interview I did a while back, John talks about empathy as listening until the person feels heard. For him it's all about offering presence and being heard and "gotten". He also talks about a trip to the Tribal Area of Pakistan to present his mediation process.  It's quite a story.

In the workshop we did some roll playing of meditating the argument between liberals and conservatives on the role of empathy and the law in the Supreme Court.  Coming shortly is video of the role play and as well as interviews with trainer Ike Lasater and other participants.

Restorative Circles Workshop with Dominic Barter

I'm becoming a workshop junkie!  After months of being holed up working in my home office I attended another great workshop last week with Dominic Barter who facilitates Restorative Circles in Brazil.  I learned a great deal: how to ask for being reflected, how to listen to someone until they feel completely heard, how to get more spaciousness in my own body and how to set up a restorative justice circle to reconnect people or a community who have become alienated from each other, etc, etc.

Dominic metaphorically uses a series of "Empathy Hot Tubs" to restore connection within oneself, with others and the larger community.  In this video Dominic talks about how his work restores connection. I'll have an interview online shortly with Dominic talking about his insights of empathy. He says it's like a super plant food.

Engaging the Other - Power of Compassion
Nov 12-15 , 2009 - San Mateo, CA

I will be attending this conference and presenting on a panel "Media and Images of The Other". I also hope to interview as many of the attendees as possible in the four days about their experiences, stories, insights and metaphors on empathy.  They anticipate 500 to 700 attendees, so I'm hoping to tape a lot good interviews.

Conference Description: At a time when polarization is the true culprit, a multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary conference addressing fear-based belief systems, negative stereotypes, polarization, enemy images, scapegoating, and artificial barriers of distrust that divide us.  More....


Speaking Peace 2009 Event
Nov 15 , 2009 - Oakland, CA

Bay Area Nonviolent Communications (BayNVC.org) is organization that has developed and refined a process for deepening empathy. It's based on the work of Carl Rodgers and Marshall Rosenberg.  They will be holding a community gathering to celebrate and collectively re-connect with the inspiring possibility of a world where everyone’s needs matter. Last year there were around 300 attendees. You are invited to attend this free event November 15th, 2009.  More....

Judith Katz, who is the main organizer of the Speaking Peace 2009 event, and I were mentioned
in a Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune and San Jose Mercury article called "On the Empathy Front". You can download the article as a jpeg file (300k) to view the complete article with photos.
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