Recently, I was asked by two of my trainers if I could help them with setting up discussion circles at their respective colleges to help students talk about the Israeli, Hamas and Palestinian conflict. I agreed and when they were finished having the discussion groups, they were exhilarated at the response from the students and faculty about how well it turned out for everyone.
So, in honor of their efforts, I would like to share what I suggested they do, in hopes that you, too, will be courageous enough to set one up at your places of worship, college, home or community centers. I have always felt that we are all a part of the problem and we are all a part of the cure.
First of all, I would like to advise against having huge audience discussions or panels. The problem with them is that not everyone gets a chance to speak or establish a relationship with someone who is different from themselves. So often, folks come to these discussions and only sit with people who they already know and feel comfortable and safe with. The problem with these types of discussions is that most of the audience never gets to meet or talk to the very individuals/groups they have been taught to fear and to hate. If we are ever to have a lasting peace, we must be willing to walk into our fears, not around them.
STEP ONE: The first step is to have everyone stand up and pair up with someone they don’t know and who is different from themselves. That difference can be from a religious or ethnic perspective. After everyone is paired up, have them sit facing each other. For privacy concerns, have all pairs an arm’s length from another pair.
STEP TWO: Pass out these The Art of Mindful Inquiry Cards and explain the importance of each question:
- One thing I heard you say was.… (reflecting back lets the person know you heard them)
- Tell me more about what you meant by…. (gathering more information)
- What angered you about…. (emotional question)
- What hurt you about…. (underneath the anger is the hurt)
- What’s familiar about…. (the past tense question)
- What do you need/want? (sharing what they personally need/want)
STEP THREE: (5 minutes with a one-minute warning before the time is up)
One person chooses to be the Speaker and will begin by answering these two questions. (see below)
- As a _______ what’s hard about the conflict between Israel, the Palestinians, and Hamas?
- As a _______ what could have been done differently so you and others would have felt seen, heard and understood and that change was possible?
The Listener is only allowed to listen and not make any statements/questions or to take any notes. Just remain present and open.
STEP FOUR: (5 minutes with a one-minute warning before the time is up) When the Speaker is finished, the Listener will ask the questions using (The Art of Mindful Inquiry). The goal is to get the Speaker to keep talking and going deeper by using The Art of Mindful Inquiries. The Listener is not to try to find a solution or share their own experiences. This time is only for the Speaker to share more.
STEP FIVE: (2 minutes) Feedback from the Speaker on how well the Listener did in asking questions and what the Listener could improve on. Listener will just listen and take in the feedback without being defensive or sharing their good intentions.
STEP SIX: (2 minutes) The Listener will share with the Speaker what moved/touched them about what the Speaker shared. The Listener will once again not try to fix or solve the situation for the Speaker or talk about how they (the Listener) would have handled it.
*When finished, they will switch roles.
STEP SEVEN: (5 minutes) After both have finished sharing, they will both answer the following questions:
- In what ways were your stories the same or different?
- What did they appreciate/learn from this process of mindfully listening and responding to each other?
STEP EIGHT: Dyad pairs get to share their experience with the whole group, what they are taking from this experience and what they appreciated about their partner.
“The cure for the pain is in the pain. Good and bad are mixed.
If you do not have both, you do not belong with us. “