How can we expect to prevent violence writ large in the world, if we don’t choose against violence writ small within ourselves?
Courage Work: A Background
As a speech pathologist I have worked with people with differing challenges in their communication skills throughout my working life. My gaze has continued, to ways in which this experience and the particular understandings it brings, can support interaction skill for all of us; for at various times we are all impacted by impoverished communication experiences.
Relationship skill and communication skill are as beautifully intertwined and woven as DNA’s double helix. And they are as fundamental to life. This is true in their development; and it is true in their use in personal, workplace and community interactions.
Honest insight into the complex ways in which our own communication affects our relationships is a starting point from which any of us can choose to make change. And such honest insight takes courage.
Courage strengthens us to perform the work and live the lives that arise from the centre of our integrity.
Valuing personal courage and other-minded leadership, in 2015 I became an accredited facilitator of the spacious, reflective work of the Center for Courage & Renewal.
The Center for Courage & Renewal has developed methods to support the expansion of individual and institutional courage. These methods are both gentle and strong. They do not violate self or others. Increased self-awareness and other-awareness assist us to honour our own identities without diminishing anybody else. Respectful openness of this type can “flow out into the world as an authentic source of personal and societal healing, and power for positive social change”1.
“If we listened to truly understand the experience of all our people, we could step through our divides with vibrant grace.”
The word ‘courage’ has come into English from the French for ‘heart’. To have courage is simultaneously as simple and as complex as following one’s heart.
Circle of Trust
Thus courage work involves intentionally attuning to one’s heart-based drivers. It is based on a collection of practices and principles called the Circle of Trust approach. Circles of Trust have been time-tested over more than 25 years by Parker J. Palmer and facilitators of the Centre for Courage & Renewal. They include deep listening, skillful questioning, reflective practice and inner work. I see these as high-end communication skills: the ultimate ends that a speech pathologist might be inspired to help develop in self and others. These skills give access to the pinnacles of spacious human communication. Parker’s writings eloquently reveal how these capacities contribute to stability of self, valuing of diversity, developing of wisdom and wise leadership; and nurture for the social fabric of our world.
The generously heart-driven qualities of our lives contain power to heal.
These understandings have led my interest in the challenges to communication experienced by the many of us whose skills are technically ‘normal’, but who still may experience difficulty regulating communication and emotion in relationships. Reduced insight into the messages we give ourselves and others can unfortunately contribute to many violent and violating challenges within our personal, work and community experiences.
In 2012 I read Parker’s flagship book, The Courage to Teach. I was drawn to the clear language which identified the human yearnings to be listened to, heard, and seen. And I was drawn to the challenge of meeting these yearnings in a busy, time-pressed world.
Drawing from old wisdoms and the careful observations which permit continual, incrementally-revised process, the freeing methods of the Center for Courage & Renewal practically support these deep human yearnings. The reflective methods are powerful for supporting healing in individuals and communities; for personal and professional growth, and for the grounded integrity which can flow on to inspire and develop others within one’s circle of influence. Parker presents wisely- and generously-subversive process which grows positive sustenance for courage and honour!
A little more of the courage back story is here.
Courage Work in Tasmania
Former offerings have included Reconnecting Who You Are With What You Do, Courageous Kindness: the bounty of listening and presence, Bay of Fires Leadership Adventure with courage colleague Kirsty McGeoch, Courage. Freedom. A Retreat. also held at spectacular larapuna Bay of Fires, Tasmania – as well as at beautiful Mossy Willow Farm on the Mornington Peninsula with the teams at Dumbo Feather, Courage to Teach in China and at home, and Courage to Create Change for young activists – and now a seasonal series of retreats for young activists: Courage to Create Change – Spring & Courage to Create Change – Summer. This is the space to watch for more of these opportunities.
Let me know if you would like your name added to the mail out list. Bespoke reflective dialogues can be designed for your organisation or group.
1. Parker J. Palmer, activist and sociologist – from The Touchstones, Center for Courage & Renewal.