By Helene Szabados
“Out beyond ideas
of wrong doing and right doing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”
-Jelaluddin Rumi, 13th century
In our reactive society, it can be challenging to find the most appropriate ways of responding to everyday situations. Last week, Peaceful World hosted another breakfast conversation in the San Francisco Presidio’s Rx Café about the ripples our reactions can create in our communities. The topic for this morning’s gathering was intriguing and requires self-reflection. We are pleased at how this group of participants transformed our conversation table into a banquet of connection and cooperation.
I posed the ice-breaking questions; “What is your name? What do you work for and what does that mean to you?” The ice breaker revealed the inspiration and drive all the participants had in common when sharing about their work communities. Shortly after, realizing I was hosting a table of sixteen people, I was ready to begin the core conversation topic; “How do my immediate reactions to everyday situations contribute to my community?”
We all sat with the question for a few moments. One of the participants, named Rue, shared a situation in which a handful of participants had experienced on the drive over that morning. Apparently, an aggressive driver had cut off their van and swerved around an intersection. Rue said that we are sometimes quick to judge circumstances before getting the chance to understand them. A few other people brought up how our reactions set an example; when we remain positive we are setting the tone for others to bear witness to.
I raised a question and asked, “What if I am just having a bad day? I don’t feel like being positive. I don’t have it in me today. Am I still setting an example?” With a lively response, the group began sharing moments where they had observed their presence and reactions to difficult situations. A guest, Matt, illustrated his experience in a motorcycle accident, and how he could have easily responded with anger and confusion, but chose to reach out to the other person involved to ask if everyone in the car made it out all right. He explained the feeling he received from the surrounding community when he let his defenses down and realized everyone had stepped in to help in some sort of way.
I presented the idea that if we commit to a sort of emotional transparency it allows space for our surrounding communities to step up for us. Eric, a neighbor from the No Bully organization, introduced the concept of pausing before reacting. He recited an adaptation of Jelaluddin Rumi’s quote describing the power there is behind not reacting quickly and the clarity we gain in the process. His words brought everyone to a full circle on the principle that no reaction is what is needed in certain circumstances and sometimes the strength of my presence is all that is needed.
As we finished our thoughts and last sips of coffee or tea, I looked around the table with a warm, hopeful feeling. I realized I was sitting in a newly formed community, with people who had made the time to sit and talk to each other openly and freely. Some had arrived to the event earlier than Heidi and I, ready to engage with each other. I still carry the inspirational impressions each of the participants left us with that day. We, at Peaceful World Foundation would like to recognize all of the special people who shared their experiences, words and presence on Thursday morning. We want to give thanks to the unique individuals from The Holistic Underground community organization especially to Kate for making our event available to the wider community. And finally, thank you to our wise neighbors who joined from the No Bully organization, you helped make this event an exceptional one.
Join us for a breakfast conversation on Thursdays at 9:15am in the Rx Café, Presidio, San Francisco.