General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Compassionate Communication Consciousness: Congregational Spiritual Practice for Peace

LoraKim Joyner scrunches up her face during a performance.
LoraKim Joyner

General Assembly 2008 Event 4041

Presented by Rev. LoraKim Joyner, co-minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, Florida, and co-chair, Compassionate Communication Working Group, Peacemaking Core Team, Peacemaking Congregational Study/Action Issue.

Rev. LoraKim Joyner began with a reading from Annie Dillard. Peace, she pointed out, is indivisible: one cannot work on the war in Iraq without working on inner peace and interpersonal peace.

She described compassionate communication consciousness as "a principle practice" and showed on a handout how its ideas correlate with the seven Unitarian Universalist principles, which themselves move from inner to outer peace. Compassionate communication consciousness is about "being the change we want to see in the world." Joyner cautioned that it isn’t "you must be the change I want to see in the world."

She used stories offered by participants and her own experience to demonstrate that, in incidents that happen in our congregations, we often are parroting a fear of our childhood. (Saying "don’t do anything that isn’t fun," she then put on a parrot hat.) We often tell ourselves a story about blame and judgment rather than telling ourselves that everyone is doing the best they can.

Identifying our feelings and how they’re connected to basic, universal human needs—met or unmet—can help us to "unparrot" our story.

Joyner walked the group briefly through a practice that can take about an hour. She asked that participants each think of something that triggered them. Then she invited participants to put their observation into language without judgment—judgments will, she said, trigger other people. Then she asked what participants are feeling now, and then what universal need is connected to that feeling. Then she invited participants to take five minutes to mourn unmet needs. This process, she said, helps us not come back with an urgent demand. Finally, she invited participants to "enjoy the jackal show," where "jackal" represents the "should," the blaming language, the judgments that we all make.

When doing congregational work, she said, it’s important to get in touch with the feelings, the needs, the dreams. Reword "what’s wrong" to "what are the dreams," and a congregation will begin to develop a language in common.

The final step of the spiritual practice is gratitude: gratitude for what the unmet need has taught us, even if we may not have the answer to the issue with which we began.

In the last minutes of the workshop, some participants said what a powerful experience the exercise had been. Joyner added a few words about resources, including the Compassionate Communication Working Group website for resource sharing.

Reported by Jone Johnson Lewis, edited by Dana Dwinell-Yardley