The Importance of “Process” and an inter-Spiritual Mode of Communicating
Intuitively, and from my experience, I seems prudent that we should begin be outlining a process for the creation of an association rather than making up principles, rules or results. To meaningfully engage others — and for this association to be sustainable — its initial vision, mission, purpose and program will need to emerge from those at the conference in September.
If the potential members think that it is being guided by a few, they will be reticent to engage and commit. If it is built on the charism of individuals, it will dissolve with the inevitable human shadows, death and disenchantment with those individuals. In my experience as a community organizer and political moderator, producer of television programs and founder of schools, businesses, and nonprofit organizations I have seen the good bad and ugly when it comes to organizing.
So I pray that we can formulate a process that can be guided lightly with skill, patience, love and perseverance. It seems that we need to define and refine an “inter-spiritual process” that learns from the governance styles of hierarchical and religious organizations.
Diane and I have discussed Parker Palmers “Circles of Trust” as a process for communicating. We might also look at other processes like “Appreciative Inquiry.” And, we can learn from collaborative design processes found in such fields as architecture, software design and engineering. Over the years, I have learned that “how we communicate” is perhaps more important the the content of the communication.
Following are some of the guidelness for inter-spiritual discussions I have learned over the years. These are by no means comprehensive. But it might be helpful to review these as we craft an “inter-spiritual” mode of communicating.
Guidelines Developed in Our Spiritual Paths Programs
• Embrace silence as a common language and the elixir of shared experience and expand your exclusive identity to one that is porous, inclusive and universal.
• Genuinely celebrate and honor the diversity of all spiritual traditions.
• Soften the personal boundaries of fixed identity of your own religion and belief system and open your heart for sincere sharing and learning from the experiences of others.
• Do not respond to a statement by another person with disagreement, agreement, or affirmation. Simply listen compassionately, allowing the statement of another to rest in contemplative reflection and silence.
• Refrain from imposing or projecting your views on others’ traditions, beliefs or practices.
• Refrain from imposing a single universal truth on all religions and spiritual traditions that might not be shared by the traditions themselves.
• If you belong to a specific tradition, speak “from” it rather than “for” it.
• Be careful not to misappropriate, or lift out of context, a specific practice from one tradition and graft it onto another tradition or your practice without knowing its indigenous meaning.
• Engage in contemplative, compassionate listening to draw out wisdom within each participant. Meditatively observe and release your inner judgments and impulses to react to their words.
• Avoid 3rd person declarations and generalizations that provoke debate. Rather speak in the first person from one’s personal experience.
• Remember that one of our primary goals is to help each participant to uncover their own potential for inner wisdom and spiritual transformation. Therefore, avoid teaching, preaching, fixing or advising in a way that will cause another to withdraw and feel vulnerable.