3 Minute Storyteller Sits Down with Center for Council Director Jared Seide to Discuss the Need for Compassion in Today’s World
“We have a responsibility to step up to the enormous suffering that is caused by buying into this illusion that we are not profoundly interconnected and interdependent.”
– Jared Seide, Center for Council, in an interview with 3 Minute Storyteller.
Click below to view video:
Shannon Mannon, founder of 3 Minute Storyteller, sat down with Center for Council director Jared Seide to discuss the critical need for Council practice in our challenging and increasingly-polarized world. Shannon relates her own introduction to the power of empathy-based practices like Council and how the simple act of listening attentively and sharing authentically can transform a community and foster compassion and alliance:
I was first introduced to Council one June afternoon at the Spirit, Mind, Body Institute at Columbia University and it impacted the trajectory of my life in ways it’s taken years to understand. This summer, I found myself back in that same city with JARED SEIDE, Director of Center for Council, an L.A.-based nonprofit that trains individuals and communities in the practice of Council, an age-old practice that involves bringing people together in a circle for candid and heartfelt conversations. It was an extraordinary opportunity to not only explore this age-old practice with a visionary leader, but to finally get a handle on this elusive, transformative experience.
That June day, I took my seat in the Council circle with no prior knowledge and no expectations. Looking around, I was part of a motley crew of about 50 strangers. Folks of different colors, ages, faiths, nationalities, sexual and gender orientations, criminal histories, education and income levels—a Benetton commercial of diversity only possible in New York City—sat side by side. We were given basic instructions, and encouraged to offer everyone in the circle our full presence by not rehearsing our answers while others spoke. Nervously squirming in my seat, I wondered, could I trust that when it was my turn to speak to a big room full of strangers, the right and perfect story would just come?
We shared simple stories: meaningful gifts given and received, favorite childhood toys.
Relaxing into the practice, the stories flowed naturally. A surprising alchemy was at play. Being so present and engaged in the stories being shared allowed me to access to deeper truths. These truths were unconscious and unknown even to me until the exact moment that I opened my mouth to speak, and my story tumbled out.
On it went: listen to someone’s story, share yours. Hear and be heard. See and be seen.
As we wrapped up, I stood and realized I was shaking. Leveled. Blown wide open. Listen, I’m no novice to stories. And I’ve had more than my fair share of personally transcendent experiences, momentary glimpses of the oneness of creation. In my more pretentious moments, I even fancy myself a professional listener.
But this was totally new to me.
What in the hell had just happened?
Through our conversation, beloved Jared, equal parts statesman, teacher, and healer, held space for me to find clarity.
Inside that circle years ago, 50 willing strangers wholeheartedly turned ourselves over to this experience. We tried our best to be present, to listen, and to share our stories. That pure, collective intention ignited an indescribable, intangible but unmistakable electric current. You could feel the thread of our interconnection activated. It coursed and pulsed between us transforming 50 distinct me’s into one we. Jolting us into a new state of awareness, the current itself grew stronger, enlivening each of us as it flowed.
That current? It’s ALWAYS there. Accessible to us at any moment. To You. Me. Your boss. That loud mouth on social media, and kid that bullies your kid on the bus. It’s our birthright. Every last one of us has the potential to sit in the circle and plug into the current.
We just have to create the spaces to do it.
Jared and his mighty band of Council trainers are leading the charge in our public institutions to plug into that current.
But Jared will be the first to tell you, Council isn’t the only answer. Dr. Joan Halifax was at Ojai Foundation when she sensed a common thread in wisdom traditions throughout the world spanning thousands of years. Pulling together strands of these ancient practices, she wove Council to be a modern interpretation. Council is but one of many generators of the current.
There is no time to lose creating new spaces where, as Jared says, our illusion of separation can be challenged. What we’re seeing in America today, is the rampant polarization when our reptilian brains go unchecked. Our default software is an “other-making” machine—constantly scanning for trouble, judging quickly, and dividing each situation into “us vs. them.”
As Jared laments in this video, he knows the dark side of the human potential well, having worked in witnessing and reconciliation in Auschwitz with Zen Peacemakers, in Rwanda, and in Bosnia. He minces no words: the othering that created the conditions for genocides and holocausts is here. The soil that allowed for that hate to take root is here. In our United States. Today.
At the end of our intimate, hour-long, meandering conversation, Jared said he felt the intensity of my longing for the connection that containers like Council bring. Feeling momentarily exposed, I shrugged it off. But he’s exactly right. I’ll own it: I have an unquenchable longing to plug into this current with you. It breaks my heart that more of us don’t remember what the current feels like...
(Click the link above to watch the edited interview.)
We are so pleased to announce the launch of the third round of our Social Justice Council Project! Designed to serve and strengthen those on the front lines of social justice work in Southern California, this year’s project will engage with 15 organizations from across the region.
Program participants include: Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network, Brotherhood Crusade, Community Health Councils, Los Angeles Department on Disability, The Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), My Friend's Place, Para Los Niños, Project ALOFA, Proyecto Pastoral, Rosemary Children's Services, Social Justice Learning Institute, Safe Place for Youth, and Youth Action Project.
For the first time, two law enforcement agencies will also participate in the program, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. We are eager to include officers in this round of the project, acknowledging their critical place in the social justice continuum, as well as the enormous challenges they confront managing stressful situations and cultivating positive community relationships. Council can be a powerful new resource in this environment.
Through the Social Justice Council Project, Center for Council provides customized Council training for each organization’s staff members. Learning and practicing mindful listening, and authentic, non-judgemental dialogue, helps support both internal cohesion, as well as engagement with communities served.
“Organizations working to promote social justice play such a critical role in our world today. Yet, their staff is so often over-stressed and under-resourced,” said Jared Seide, Center for Council’s Director. “We are so excited to ally with these 15 dynamic organizations to help integrate Council into their professional culture. Council creates an opportunity for staff to find common ground, to celebrate shared values, and to develop tools together for improved emotional health and well-being. It provides a generative space for healing and a tool for developing compassion and resilience. We’re thrilled to be adding to our growing network of partners and allies in this work!”
Center for Council welcomes these dynamic organizations into the Social Justice Council Project. We are eager to begin to work with their diverse staffs to integrate the practices of attentive listening and heartfelt dialogue into their very critical work.
The current round of the Social Justice Council Project is made possible through the generous support of The Angell Foundation.