Day 1: Being the change I want to see
- Gulan Kripalani (CfP) welcomes the group and Dr. Monica Sharma. Monica introduces herself.
- ‘Knowing who I am’ – distinguishing this from my social and professional profiles.
Participants were asked to think about what their life’s work really is and discuss it with their group members. They were then asked to share their ponderings with the entire group of participants.
Participants were asked to introduced themselves by saying “My name is …” rather than “I am …” Names were separated from identities – “I am” was established as the identity of choice, not of birth. So Naseer, the young student from Burhani College came up with “My name is Naseer and I wish everybody would live happily ever after” which drew a collective laugh of appreciation from the group. His fellow student had a similar aim in mind when she said, “My name is Tasneem and I’d like to see everybody smile”. Personal ambitions were merged with social commitment.
- Background Conversations and Listening
Two participants were asked to put themselves in the place of strangers who meet at a party and strike up a conversation for the benefit of the entire group. The talk (as instructed by Monica) centred round topics like the individuals’ area of residence, monetary status and other such pointers of social position. The exercise elucidated that our conversations are governed by certain hidden sets of expectations that we’re looking to meet, expectations coloured by our past experiences, socialization, etc.
To really ‘listen’, one needs to clear one’s head of these background conversations (refer to paper by Sharon Knoll) which are governed by binary oppositions like right/wrong, us/them, either/or else guided by the need to find the flaw (in what the speaker is saying); absolve ourselves of responsibility; or subscription to the notion that whatever we do, it will never be enough (to effect a tangible change).
The value of true listening is brought out by this beautiful poem by William Stringfellow that Monica shared with the group:
is a rare happening
among human beings.
You cannot listen to
the word another is speaking
if you are preoccupied with
your appearance or
with impressing the other,
or are trying to decide
what you are going to say
when the other stops talking,
or are debating about whether
what is being said is true
Such matters have their place,
but only after listening to
the word as the word
is being uttered.
is a primitive art of love in which
a person gives himself
to another’s word,
making himself accessible
and vulnerable to that word.”
- William Stringfellow
Maryam Pardawala, student, Mumbai: “Before this workshop, I never thought about the larger social context – I was limited to thoughts about my personal life and career prospects. This has helped me open up to larger issues and other people. I realize that I tend to indulge in selective listening – something I am looking to change.”
Rosemary Antony, student, Delhi: “The Listening exercise was immensely enjoyable and valuable. Thank you Monica!”
Kunal Kapadia, banker, Mumbai: “The exercise made me realize how crucial listening is.”
- The source of action in three domains : what happens, description and who I am in the matter; Driving a wedge in a vicious circle; Introduction and working in pairs
Creating the future: Recognizing how we bring in the past into our future, and breaking away from this pattern to create a future with peace and non-violence; Introduction and group work
Creating the future: Generating meaning in my life and fostering critical thinking for moving away from intolerance – to trusting differences, respecting diversity; Introduction and group work
The difference between event and interpretation was highlighted. Participants were asked to identify a current, unresolved problem with a person. They were asked to share ‘what happened’ and ‘what their story is’ with their partner. They were then asked to go back to the incident and reflect on what they stood for in life. The crucial bit was examining what was missing. ‘What would you do, consistent with your stand, if you wished to change what was happening?’
The exercise brought to the fore one’s own responsibility when it comes to resolving conflict. Participants observed that so far, they had neglected to focus on their own contribution towards change when the conflict arises from without.
Jasmine Bharatan, Counselling Psychologist, Mumbai: “What I take away from this workshop is a deep sense of essence. I thought I was functioning from my strength but the ‘what’s missing?’ exercise was an eye opener. I needed to unblock something that was limiting my inner strength. I am stunned at how liberating this realization is! I feel a surge of something that’s propelling me forward. I now see myself in a larger dimension.”
Tanveer Afaque, Aman Biradari, Delhi: “Interrogation of ‘what’s missing’ is of immense value in situations difficult to comprehend.”
- What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
They say I am …
I declare I am …
Participants were asked to reflect on what it is that their families, friends and communities are going to celebrate as their life’s work. This is to be juxtaposed with what participants declare themselves to be. It’s not enough to declare that I am a possibility for or representative of a value or ideal – you ARE that ideal: I declare I am truth. I declare I am power. I declare I am trust. I declare I am compassion.
The thrust of Day 1 was to be committed and take a stand. Well encapsulated by this quote from WH Murray.
“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative and creation there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
I am reminded of one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do or dream you can; begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
- W.H. Murray
The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
Day 2: My Leadership manifesting change; Conscious full spectrum responses
Aamir Haroon (Sayed Aamir), Burhani College, Mumbai: “The Listening exercise was very productive for me. It helped me establish trust in my partner Nandan (Maluste).”
Beth Fascitelli, Meta Culure, Bangalore: “Examining ‘what’s missing’ in a situation proved to be a real eye opener.”
Ila Hukku, CRY, Mumbai: “Conversations open windows – yesterday’s exercises amply proved that.”
Participants were asked to reflect on what they felt they were the possibility of. The group came up with answers as diverse as “I am the possibility for peace” to “I am the possibility for beauty”. Here’s the complete list of possibilities that participants embodied:
Participants were asked to fill up worksheets that required them to decide on a project related to a particular issue (Transforming identity based violence Peacewards) The issue was then examined in terms of Principles and Values; System Shifts; and Deliverables.
Personal to Planetary Transformation: 1 A
E.g. Sabina Yaesmin, Vacha, Mumbai came up with a project related to gender equality. Male domination featured high on the list of principles governing gender based discrimination. Family and media were listed under ‘System Shifts’ while the deliverables were in the realm of lack of education and lack of empowerment.
Personal to Planetary Transformation: 1 A
E.g. The transformed values in Sabina’s project were awareness and equality. The System Shifts were in the realm of greater information and education within the family and greater responsibility on the part of the media. The deliverables were equal status for the girl child and empowerment of women across society.
The exercise compelled participants to think about identity based violence in a more critical and analytical manner, and try to get to the root of the issue rather than offering limited reasons and half baked solutions.
- Screening of the film ‘The Story of Stuff’ by Annie Leonard
From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.
Irvin Pinto, BE student, Goa: “The film ‘The Story of Stuff’ showed me the bigger picture and answered a lot of questions about rampant consumerism and the market economy.”
Aamir Haroon (Sayed Aamir), Burhani College, Mumbai: “‘The story of stuff’ illustrated that the more you have, the more you lose.”
- Resolving differences, handling our differences; Forgiveness exercise in pairs: distinguish forgiveness from condoning
The major takeaway from the forgiveness exercise was that one forgives not for others but for oneself. It is when you hold a grudge or refuse to forgive that you allow the other person to control you. Monica elucidated this point with the moving example of Maria, an AIDS affected South African woman who reclaimed her life after she forgave her rapist – a brave and supremely difficult decision but one that allowed her to take charge of her own life once more.
The Nine Steps to Forgiveness by Dr. Frederick Luskin gave participants a detailed plan of action in their mission to forgive (as opposed to condone). From identifying the ‘unresolved grievance’ to ‘amending the grievance story to remind one of the heroic choice to forgive’, the steps proved to be real eye openers for the participants.
Maria Ishwaran, Mohalla Committee Movement Trust, Mumbai: “The highlight of Day 2 was the session on forgiveness. It was intense and catalyzed a lot of reflection. Forgiveness for oneself rather than for others was a major discovery. It helped me source the power within me. I must say that Dr. Monica Sharma is a really knowledgeable person.”
CS Mahesh, Asianic Psychologists Press India, Chennai: “Peacewards pointed to the need for handling a lot of issues and responses within oneself before grappling with the larger social issues. The session on forgiveness is a case in point.”
Balamurali Balaji, CIT-GPNP, Chennai: “The Forgiveness exercise was a true eye opener. I earlier looked on forgiveness as a way of escape. I now look at it as a tool of empowerment.”
At the end of the day, a screening of the film ‘Amazing Grace’ was organized. The film is based on the life of antislavery pioneer William Wilberforce, and directed by Michael Apted. Wilberforce, over the course of two decades, took on the English establishment and persuaded those in power to end the inhumane trade of slavery. The film underscores the point that with commitment and perseverance, any change is possible.
Day 3 – Leading Change
- The day began with reflections.
Dr. RK Anand, Pediatrician, Mumbai: On Forgiveness – “If the other person is 90% wrong and you are 10% wrong, it’s easier for you to begin. My boss had issues with me and that was a major stumbling block for me and my career. A few years later, this same boss was going through a bad phase I realized this and took the first step. I went to wish him on Diwali and he was truly touched. As soon as I made this effort, the control he had over me vanished. He and I became close family friends – I even medically certified the baby that his Obstetrician son wanted to adopt. After this incident, my medical career flourished and I was even invited to Chicago to speak about breast-feeding which I’ve strongly supported throughout my career. I became the president of the Gynecology and Obstetrics Society. As soon as I forgave, the bottleneck disappeared and my career and personality both blossomed.”
- Leadership Competencies; Introduction and working in pairs
Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman): The distinction between Personal Competence (how we manage ourselves) and Social Competence (how we manage our relationships)
Leadership competencies for creating sustainable change were discussed: fostering leadership; building partnerships and networks for change; speaking out and speaking up; creating systems alternatives; creating platforms for transformation; and conflict transformation.
- Leadership Distinctions for generating and sustaining inspired action
Enrollment; Accountability and Responsibility
Participants were struck by the difference between Accountability and Responsibility: you’re accountable for your job and the tasks associated with it. But responsibility is what you take on because of your own sense of commitment – it can’t be enforced. “The power to be effective without authority lies in being responsible.” (Sharon Knoll) This opened new possibilities for participants and Atin from Deutsche Bank specifically spoke about how responsibility can be applied while working within the constraints of the corporate sector.
Organizational Transformation — Likert-Emberling model: how individuals, organizations and institutions evolve through different stages; how they can change their focus, goals and operating structures to become more self-aware, principled and effective.
The keywords in this kind of partnership were co-ordination, collaboration and synergy. Participants critically examined issues.
Two inspirational quotes from George Bernard Shaw illustrated how individuals have the power to change, transform and create not just themselves but also the future.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances that they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
- Projects; a walk around the marketplace.
The afternoon of Day 3 was reserved for the creation and viewing of projects.
Participants were asked to create individual projects that examined issues related to peace or conflict. The idea was for participants to commit to creating a positive change, keeping in mind the methodology that the workshop offered over the past three days. The results were a mix of bold declarations of intent and graphics illustrating the interplay between values, systems, and deliverables.
Once participants were done with their projects (created on chart paper with bold markers), they were clubbed together in groups of seven or eight. Each group then went on to mount its projects in a corner of the conference room. This done, each group leader took charge of his/her particular corner while the rest of the participants went around the room, perusing the projects of their peers. The group leaders stationed at their respective corners offered explanations and clarifications related to their projects of group members.
- Conversations for Completion
“Human beings live in a mood of incompletion. Incompletion shows up in background conversations and keeps us from being present to what is happening now. It colors our current mood with past happenings.
Conversations for Completion allow for new work to be launched on a firm foundation and without obstruction from previous events or projects.
Conversations that generate completion include:
Feedback/coaching Expressing upsets
Sharing insights Expressing points of view
Appreciation Questions for clarity
Breakdowns in relationship - especially when people are rude or unkind to each other - is one of the warning signs that Conversations for Completion are possibly missing.” - Dr. Monica Sharma
Each participant met 3 others, and thanked them for specific insights or values they had gained from them over the last three days. Everyone in the room found people whom they had learned from, or been touched by - and sought them out to show their appreciation.
Gulan Kripalani and Rajni Bakshi of CfP thanked Dr. Monica Sharma on behalf of the group. Participants were also thanked for their involvement and co-operation. Dolly Thakore spoke about the valuable contributions the workshop had made in the realm of self-awareness and questioning prejudices.
Titoo Ahluwalia, Managing Trustee, CfP, presented Dr. Monica Sharma with a beautiful Warli paining on the theme of ‘Shanti’ and a photograph of Rabindranath Tagore at Shantiniketan at dawn, playing with stray dogs.
Monica accepted these and thanked CfP and the group for their enthusiasm and participation.
It was suggested that a follow up on this workshop be organized with Dr. Monica Sharma.