Here are some of the agreements we have found so far work best for us:
We agree that all human beings are inherently good, intelligent, creative, caring, with a desire to be helpful to others and to be happy.
We agree that all human beings are equally valuable and deserve to share equally in Earth’s bounty for their basic needs of survival and their well-being.
We agree that everyone has also been hurt, some much more than others, in ways that sometimes obscure and interfere with our basic human nature, in ways that add more hurting to ourselves and others. This seems to have happened because we live in a culture that isolates us and separates us from each other. This Separation Story is what holds in place the domination and oppression of human beings.
We believe that in order to be fully human again we need to live a new story, a story of re-union, of trust, deep connection, caring and closeness with one another.
To do this we come together in circles where all are valued equally and given attention, listened to, understood, accepted and celebrated.
We enhance this coming together with a tool we call Supportive Listening. For this method we agree on a period of time that will be equally shared. We get the most time to be listened to, of course, when the circle is only two people, and Supportive Listening is most often done this way. We can also benefit from having larger circles of 3, 4, 5 or more where the share of time for each is less the more people are involved. This is useful for bringing groups together and contradicting society’s isolation. In remembrance of our tribal past we call such groups ‘clans’, and use them sometimes to bring different groups together, such as men’s clans, women’s clans, elders, youth, parents – or others with common needs and interests.
In Supportive Listening the person being listened to has the choice of how to use the attention of the listener(s). There may be pressing problems, confusing thoughts or feelings she wishes to sort out. The listeners never interrupt, and do not offer analysis or advice, and of course no judgment, criticism or blame, all of which are destructive, not supportive.
We are all in a place between the old story of separation and isolation and the new story of re-union and closeness. Some of the old story keeps us clinging to us, re-stimulating us without our awareness. To blame ourselves for that is to step back into the old story.
So as I write and as you read this it is important for all of us not to get caught in that separation story again, not to blame anyone. It’s not anyone’s fault. It is the fault of the culture and its institutions that enforce our separation. We must not ever give up on each other and always support the splendid loving human soul that lies inside each one of us.
By Manitonquat (Medicine Story), elder of the Wampanoag.
Italy, Valchiusella 2016