Stories, roles, etc

Yesterday, Sunday, was about the exploration of stories and roles. When you have some important information, how do you share it in an ethical way? It would be easy to stand on the street corner with a sign that says, “WE ARE ALL GOD!!!” but that’s not going to work. You can’t force messages, and the messages would be meaningless anyway without the person actually experiencing something.

Sunday I spoke at Anne’s ministry in her Woodinville home. (Thank you so much, Anne!) Here are some things I learned from that:

1) It was a situation where people came together by choice, which gives permission to speak about these touchy subjects.

2) I’ll learn as much new information from the audience as I put into the speech.

3) Everyone has their own thread of a story going on right now. Some of it will make no sense to me and I’ll have to listen closely to empathize, but some of it will make perfect sense.

4) Public speaking can be a trap. If this is the way I’m choosing to help people heal, then I need to make sure I’m approaching this as a conduit for the healing and not as the source. That is, don’t get an inflated ego from helping people.

After that I went to the Occupy Seattle protests with Ben. We did an interesting role playing game where one person acts as a banker or police officer, and the other is a protestor. Ben and I were each paired with a person we didn’t know. Here’s what I took from that experience:

1) an effective way to communicate when you anticipate a confrontation is to ask, “Why do you think I’m here?” This takes the attack element out of your side, it asks the person to empathize with you, and it also shows them that you care about what they think. Brilliant little maneuver. However,

2) I discovered, to my disappointment, that most of the people there had warped views of what the upper-middle class thinks. Which isn’t to say that I know what they think exactly, but I’m pretty sure they would never say to my face, “I’M RICH AND YOU’RE POOR AND YOU CAN GO FUCK YOURSELF.” Many of the protestors seem to believe that this is the position of the rich. It’s fucking ridiculous. They are putting all people with jobs & comfortable lives into a box, not giving them space to play a role in something they might actually agree with. They assumed that $=lack of compassion, and of course that’s wrong. The upper and middle classes are playing roles in a game in the same way we are.

3) Clothes are important. So many of the protestors were dressed as the counter culture. Here’s my question: If you are presenting yourself in a way that is a statement about separation from the mainstream, then how can you expect the mainstream to identify with your movement? I have no doubt that – say – 80% of Americans think that a major change needs to happen. But if my window washing clients can’t see themselves in the protestors, they’re not going to think there’s space for them in this movement. Not a lot of people want anarchy, but many people want corporations and government to be more separate. When putting on your costume for the day, consider channeling the “no corporate government” self, not the “destroy all property” self. Then when you have a stronger movement, hijack part of it and destroy all property, if that’s what you want.

4) Overall, I was disappointed by the lack of vision at the protests. Many people have positioned themselves as the enemies of “bad people” when I know in my heart from traveling and being a window washer and coaching and spirituality that there’s no such thing as a bad person, only a sick person, and you don’t heal a sick person by attacking them. I’m disappointed that this movement isn’t taking advantage of this moment to INVITE bankers to come have a genuine dialoge without wearing costumes; to INVITE middle class people to speak and offer their insight; to INVITE the Tea Party to try to find common ground and work past all the perceived conflicts.

The word I kept coming back to was COMPASSION.

    Where’s the compassion in this movement?

It just looks selfish when all the talk is about money. This shit is about JUSTICE. We should be positioning the UNJUST and their defenders as our opponents, not just “the rich” or “the bourgeois.” This isn’t us against them. It’s all of us against a story that tells us we all have to be this way. We all – every single one of us – can benefit from shedding a story that doesn’t serve us well.

5) I learned that in a conflict, the people who are trying to impose new boundaries will inevitably fail to accumulate support, even from me, who is very very friendly to the movement. The people who are trying to dissolve boundaries, who are inclusive and have compassion for their “opponents” have a better chance at success.

Suffering = pain * resistance. If we remove the attacking dialogues that demand resistance, then the pain of a major shift will be bearable.

Finally, Ben and I were talking about humor and music. I told him that I think music is a technology that allows people to communicate spiritually with one another. He said that humor (for example, a joke) is less of a construction and more of a transmission of an emotional state. We’re saying the exact same thing.

Effective communication focuses on the transmission of an emotional state. You need to use all your tools (body language, context, clothing, props, listening skills, facial expressions, content, audience participation and words) to that end.

Comments (9)

  1. Katie M.

    Awesome post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience with the protests. I particularly agree with #s 3 and 4. It’s tough for a lot of people to get past differences in appearances- that’s just a reality of being sighted beings. Dressing slightly more mainstream if you will is a way to empathize with the average working Joe (or Juan or Jian, etc) and like you put it allows them to see themselves in the protesters. People respond to empathy. It goes both ways, from protester to bystander and from bystander to protester!

    Your last statement about effective communication focusing on the transmission of an emotional state is particularly interesting to me. I’m currently reading a book about raising children to be integrated emotionally. Have you read much about the integrated state? I’ve done some personal work with it and have benefited greatly from it (although I have a looooooong way to go…). It focuses on integrating one’s emotions with one’s logical brain to create individual well-being. Dan Siegel has written some interesting books on integration through mindfulness therapy. Anyway, I think that it all ties into your post above. The integrated/whole individual as a speaker/protester is able to approach others with empathy and compassion. The emotional state that you are transmitting from a place of wholeness is so much more effective, because of the empathy that is at the core of being able to empathize with your own emotions. Sorry- that might not make any sense. But what I’m trying to say is- this is all very exciting, because I love how so many people from so many different walks of life are beginning to focus on this kind of healing and that can only be positive for our world and for others. I definitely recommend checking out Dan Siegel’s “Mindsight” work.

  2. Mary Jo Fahey

    You have an interesting take on what’s happening downtown. I am concerned with some of your observations and I know they don’t reflect all the participants.
    Paul and I are members of a group of about 40 people who are in the 50s+ age category. We are members of the middle or upper middle class. Many of us have participated or plan to participate in this protest. Our group’s motivation is not about money or the lack of, but about what values do we want our society or govenment to display.
    I am concerned with reports that the group is a bunch of hippies or anarchists, this nullifies our message that the system is broken. Our system is immoral, there is no reason for so much proverty in a country that has so much.
    The facts are the facts, so much wealth is being held by the top 1%, the greatest amount of wealth in the history of our country.

  3. Anne Heartsong

    Thanks, Mike, for your wisdom and sharing! You did such an awesome job of relating to your audience yesterday at my service. And so many people were touched. That is the only purpose of public speaking. That people be moved to “feel” in some way. So much of what I’ve had to learn is to share my message and then let go of how people respond. Although I know exactly what you are saying about the ego wanting to strut-its-stuff. When I do that then I always tend to find something I did “wrong” to push me off my pedestal. Again, share my (your) truth and then let go of the outcome.
    I love too your description of the protest yesterday. I think this has the potential to get really big and more mainstream. Your insight to what seemed to be missing… compassion… was great. Thinking of the “hippies” of the ’60s who protested but did it with LOVE and FLOWERS! Where we focus our energy is what we create more of in our lives. So are we going to focus on what “the man” is doing to us or are we going to focus on what it is we really want… which I believe is a voice… to be heard and seen and acknowledged as valuable. Thanks for keeping the conversation and introspection going! Good stuff! I’m one of your greatest fans!

  4. Mike (Post author)

    Hi Katie – Yeah, I agree – I do think the necessary conversations are happening right now, which is very exciting.

    I love that idea about emotional integration – I’m going to check that book out. Could you point me to a good website about it?

    I’ve been thinking of that idea using words like “Alignment” and “Centering.” I think about them as having my physical, mental and emotional states aligned with my spiritual state. Years ago I heard about the concept of meditating before making any major decisions and I thought it was right on – now I’m beginning to understand the working fundamentals of that idea.

    In my life the biggest shift has been the switch from trusting my intellect to trusting my senses, emotion, heart. This might be what that book is about. I’m still practicing it, we’ll see where it goes.

    Thanks for your contribution to the convo.

  5. Mike (Post author)

    Hi Mary Jo –

    First off, it makes me really happy that you’ve visited my site! Thanks for stopping by.

    I, too, was upset to see what was going on on Sunday. There was a well-dressed couple that were down there and they looked totally out of place. I asked them what they thought of the whole thing and they said they were sympathetic, former hippies who had come down to go shopping and decided to check it out. They looked uncomfortable and didn’t stick around long.

    I know that 3 hours on a Sunday in Westlake Center aren’t going to be representative of the whole movement (how much of it is happening in spaces like Facebook or the comments of a blog?) but it’s representative of what’s happening on Sunday in Westlake Center.

    The people taking the lead were setting the tone, and divisiveness was the tone being set, I felt. I don’t mean to characterize all the protestors that way, but certainly that was the message I was receiving – Us vs Them. Yuck.

    And – not all the people were dressed in a way to separate themselves from mainstream culture. BUT – a lot of them were, and they were certainly among the most visible people. More power to them, but it’s going to make it more difficult to ID with the movement.

    A huge part of this whole thing for me is that I’m tired of being in a system that makes it easy to hurt people, and I think that’s the idea that will mobilize the “rich,” because I believe in my heart that “we” are just as compassionate as “they.” (Though I make very little money relative to people in our country, I don’t identify myself as poor. I’m not sure what I would consider myself, but clearly money has little to do with Self.)

    The idea of you going down and demonstrating with your husband and friends really, really makes me happy and inspired. I feel like there are two key demographics to this whole movement: people like you – wise, sensitive women. And people like your sons – open, mainstream men.

  6. Ninety-nine Percenter

    Mike, I must respectfully disagree with your comments regarding dress, and the clothing of most protesters. I attended the occupation Saturday, braved the cold and rain and spent the night and stayed most of Sunday. What I saw in that crowd was the same beautiful diversity that I see in our community and world at large. There were those from the counter culture and there were the typical jeans and sweatshirt crowd, of which I am a part. I have schooled myself not to judge anyone by their clothing because in my view, that’s another form of prejudicial thinking. And I have been rewarded by this open-mindedness; I’ve had the privilege of meeting some wonderful people and made some really good friends. What you don’t realize is that many of those people you are prejudging dress that way specifically to ward off narrow minded people who judge others superficially because they have no desire to interact with them. It’s like an inside joke- they dress that way for a specific purpose. You have to get beyond the expectation that everyone should dress the same. What a boring place this world would be and if that’s all it takes to scare a potential protester off, then they probably don’t have what it takes to be a part of this movement anyway.

  7. Mike (Post author)

    Hi 99%er – Yeah, I admit I was there on Sunday, not Saturday, so my sample size is pretty small.

    I don’t think you need to disagree with me – yet. I’m not trying to judge anyone by what they’re wearing. Rather, I’m saying that it might be counterproductive ward people off when this movement needs people.

    You and I have both been rewarded by open-mindedness in our lives. I’ve met awesome people all over the world and in all economic groups – including the 1%ers. In fact what I’m suggesting is that a young movement like this could benefit from explicit open-mindedness, but, as you say in your comment, their clothing is a way warding off people… because they have no desire to interact with them.

  8. Mike (Post author)

    Hi Anne – Yeah, I agree – I think it’s important to imagine the world we want and work toward that rather than get obsessed over the structures that are in place.

  9. Katie M.

    I found a few websites that discuss Dan Siegel’s Integration/Mindfulness Therapy-
    And here’s Dan Siegel’s Mindsight Institute:
    I think it’s right up the alley of the work you’ve done/are doing. The Mindsight Institute describes itself as “an educational center devoted to promoting insight, compassion, and empathy in individuals, families, organizations, and communities. With a scientific emphasis on the mind and well-being, we focus on the growth of healthy people who can nurture a kinder society.” That’s super broad obviously, but similar goals I think.


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