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The Fierce Urgency of Now:
A Sample Two-Hour Agenda for Small Group Reflection On the Power of Creative Nonviolence in Support of the Emerging Occupy Movement
In these days when the winds of change are blowing across our nation, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service is moved by the emerging Occupy movement seeking economic equality. We invite people everywhere to continue to unleash the power of creative nonviolence in order to build a movement that is grounded, inclusive, and effective. Pace e Bene offers the following framework for small groups to reflect on the principles of nonviolent change, including transforming Us vs. Them thinking. Together we can put the power of love into action and respond to what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the fierce urgency of now.” This agenda is framed as an interfaith process, though it need not be used this way. Please feel free to adapt it as needed.
Welcome and Introductions — 10 min.
Arrange the participants’ chairs in a circle. Put a small table at the center. Place a small candle (and matches) for each person on the table. Play some appropriate instrumental music. Invite each person to come forward individually to light a candle, introduce themselves and share in a few words what brought them to this gathering. When everyone has finished, explain that we will draw wisdom from different spiritual traditions to illuminate our reflection.
Shared Agreements — 5 min.
Invite the group to make the following agreements to help create and maintain safe space during this session:
● To share and participate at whatever level I feel safe and comfortable
● To be open to voluntarily take opportunities as they arise to feel uncomfortable when that might help facilitate my growth
● To honor confidentiality in my small group and in the large group
● To use “I” statements
● To practice sensitivity to all forms of difference and recognize and respond to power dynamics
Readings — 5 min.
Prophet Micah: What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6-8
Mohandas Gandhi: “We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of nonviolence…Today I am seeing ever new miracles of nonviolence. I am certain that nonviolence is meant for all time. It is an attribute of the soul and is therefore universal since the soul belongs to all. Nonviolence is meant for everybody and for all time and at all places.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. We must move past indecision to action.”
Creative Nonviolence — 20 min.
The Stereotypes and Qualities of Nonviolence:
Ask people to list the stereotypes of nonviolence (passive, weak, utopian, naïve, unpatriotic, marginal, simplistic, and impractical, etc.). Then ask them to list the qualities or attributes of people who have tried to put nonviolence into practice (courageous, intentional, creative, mindful,powerful, giving, etc.). Contrast these two lists.
Descriptions of Nonviolence:
Share these descriptions: The love that does justice (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.); transforming power; love in action; A force for truth, justice, and the well-being of all that is neither violent nor passive.
The Two Hands of Nonviolence:
Nonviolence has “two hands” that are in creative tension: noncooperation with injustice and steadfast regard for the opponent as a human being. Ask people to first put their left hand up. Ask them to think of what they are saying “no” to: I will not cooperate with economic injustice. Then ask them to extend their right hand: But I am open to my opponents in this struggle as human beings.
Ask people to reflect on these approaches to nonviolence.
Journaling And Visualizing – 15 min.
Invite people to take some quiet time to express either in words or images what they are truly feeling or experiencing in light of the current situation, and what the Spirit may be calling them to do. This is one way of articulating their “truest selves” in this moment. Our “truest selves” includes what we are really feeling and our deepest longings for ourselves and the world. (Provide people with notebook paper and pens as well as blank paper and crayons or colored markers. People can stay where they are sitting or go to some other space in the room or nearby.) After 15 minutes, call people back for the next step.
Small Group Reflection – 10 min.
Form people into groups of three. Ask them to reflect on the economic crisis, how they may be involved in taking action in response to it.
Large Group Reflection – 10 min.
Take a moment of silence to honor what has been shared. Then ask – again at whatever level they feel comfortable – if people would share with the large group what came up for them in the small groups.
Role Play – 30 min
Ask people to form pairs. One will be (A) and one will be (B). Describe a scenario where a person from the Occupy movement (A) is in conflict with a person from a large corporation from the local area wanting authorities to shut down the occupation (B). Ask (A) to speak for two minutes while (B) listens without interrupting. When time is up ask both persons to shake off their roles. After a short silence (A) speaks for two minutes as a person from a large corporation., while (B) again listens They shake off their roles again. Then roles are switched and (B) goes through the same process: (B) is the Occupier while (A) listens, after two minutes and a short silence (B) is a person from the large corporation while (A) listens. Once this is finished ask (A) and (B) to reflect together on this experience. Finally move back into the large group and ask the group to discuss. Ask the group to share their feelings, noticings, lessons, and/or applications.
Readings - 2 min.
The Qur’an: Those who enjoin charity or justice or reconciliation among people – whoever does that, seeking the pleasure of God, will be given a great reward.
Buddhist Metta Sutra: Even as a mother at the risk of her life watches over and protects her only child, so with a boundless mind should one cherish all living things, suffusing love over the entire world, above, below, and all around, without limit; so let one cultivate an infinite good toward the whole world.
Where Are Our Next Steps? – 10 min.
Ask people to turn to their neighbor and to reflect on any new insights or awarenesses – including new ways of seeing — that might have come up for them, as well as possible next steps on their own journey in light of the current situation.
Closing Circle – 3 min.
Form a circle and ask people to share a word that comes to mind as we close our time together.
Pace e Bene is available to lead workshops and trainings, in addition we have various resources available for groups to explore more in depth the nonviolent path. Our books include: From Violence to Wholeness, Engage: Exploring Nonviolent Living, Traveling with the Turtle: A small group process in women’s spirituality and peacemaking, and others.
If you are interested in hosting a training or purchasing our books please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
or (510) 268-8765, Visit us online at paceebene.org