Everywhere and Whenever Possible

I left for China in February. I'm pleased to be able to write you an update on RC in Chengdu.

My RC class is going well, with seventeen people. Everyone wants to bring friends and family, so I am planning another class. A Chinese woman, Ji Xia, whom I taught last spring, and Jon Otto are assisting. I am casting a wide net and welcoming everyone. Before each meeting I am really nervous. My assistants and I do a mini-session, and I remember that making real human contact with each other is sufficient, that the class will tell me the rest. We are going through the Fundamentals Manualsystematically and slowly. I'm grateful for the literature that is translated. This makes a difference. We spent four weeks on listening, doing many mini-sessions and a few demonstrations. I particularly love watching each person begin to understand and use RC. The young adults were quick to understand listening and paying attention. Many in the class noticed immediately how much they want someone to listen to them.

Lightness works well here for balance of attention, so we sing and use the many pillows in my house for short pillow fights. Food helps, too. Every week two people bring a snack. One woman has already applied listening and the reality that people are inherently good in her community meeting of farmers. Last week a young man got a clearer picture of RC after sweating for ten minutes. He announced that his life would change if he could sweat like that for thirty hours. They are catching on to the idea of discharge.

Issues of socializing were my first hurdle. Everyone found the no-socializing policy hard to accept. In fact, they just paid no attention to it. So I told the history of the policy and invited them to think about these issues themselves. I said that mistakes are okay (I shared several of my own). The fact that these ideas are the accumulated thinking of people all over the world who use RC seemed to be what got them to consider that not socializing might make sense.

Those in the class discuss RC often and pass on the information to their friends. They tell me of sessions they give their friends. While sticking closely to theory, I'm finding ways to be flexible and place the process in their hands. If things keep going this well, we will be ready for a workshop in the fall.

I found myself questioning my ability as a USer to teach RC effectively to my Chinese friends, so last week I decided to notice why I am doing well: I have built the class around people with whom I have long-term relationships. I have spent time in Chinese families and schools observing relationships and learning how things work. My friends are all ages. Although I cannot speak well, I know songs and games. My caring shows. As a USer I am outside of certain patterns here, for example, in the way I show affection and make contact. With a certain lightness and humor I have started hugs. We get to work on lots of embarrassment around physical contact. I like China. I love communicating the reality of who we are as human beings and sharing the basics of RC theory. It is the most hopeful theory and social change process I know of. I have confidence that every human can figure out how to use it once he or she glimpses its effectiveness. As a foreigner I am using myself as a contradiction whenever I can. (Many jokes are made about me, and I can easily use my own awkwardness to lighten up the class.)

I keep the RC literature out in my office, and visitors pick it up and start reading. I have been invited by someone in my class to be a consultant to a women's group. After debating whether this would create difficulties, I decided it was okay.

Here is a sketch of my life in Chengdu. I ride a bike to my office daily, navigating the bicycle jams. I live in a six-story walk-up in an old Chinese neighborhood. Chengdu is a lovely, 4,000-year-old city. Magnolias, willows, and other trees line the streets. In the past several years I have watched the impact of capitalism, but this is still a warm place. I am learning Chinese, but my Chinese is not good. I rarely understand exactly what is being said. I need to speak to many groups, stand up to officials for what I believe, stay calm no matter what is happening, and act decisively without stepping on toes. I have discovered strengths in myself that I did not know existed. Without my many years in RC I would never be able to stay thinking in these situations.

I'll tell you how this all came about. In July 1995 I shared with the people who are in charge of a nineteen-kilometer river renovation project-the largest in China-my ideas about creating places in this city to address environmental issues. They asked me if I could do it. I said I could, but that I would have to do some research. They asked me to design a small park. When they heard my ideas, they decided to give the largest piece of parkland available for a Living Water Garden. I muttered to myself that I had no idea how to design a six-acre park. The landscape designer whom I brought from the U.S. as a consultant said that she could do it. Working with numerous departments in the government, we designed the park. Now this water-quality, environmental-education park that I started is being built.

I decided I needed to see the project through to the end. I work with many Chinese teams. I have never been so challenged. One of my jobs is to accumulate the necessary information to ensure that it all works. I have been gathering allies who are insisting that the government do a good job of building the park. This week we got a three-month extension on construction, and I found the appropriate technology for the plant system. I am learning every detail, from cement quality to bathrooms.

Chengdu has just been chosen to become a model environmental city for China and the training center for environmental education for western China. All projects here that are successful will be models for the rest of China. This all sounds good, but as you know-we will see.

Recently they insisted that a Chinese artist and I design a sculpture for the park. Terrified, I got up one morning and told myself it was up to me. I am having a fantastic time, and I've discovered that I absolutely love and am good at sculptures. I remembered that in graduate school I wanted to carve stone. I'm learning something I have always wanted to learn and doing something I had given up expecting to do.The terror is pouring off of me, and it is great fun. Now I have a Chinese partner, and we are designing for other places. So far I am doing well.

I am getting to know the foreign businesses because I have decided that they are truly mine. I am approaching some of them to support environmental projects and education (not many takers). Being here, it is clear how destructive the global economy is and that the U.S. big businesses are like a large pattern on the loose. Any headway that I make, human being to human being, is a triumph. However, the system, as you know, needs to change.

RC is the single activity that has changed my life and my family. I use it everywhere and whenever possible, and I communicate the information. Many here will have the information-of that I am confident. How they will use it, I cannot say. If a handful really take up RC for themselves, that could be a good base on which to grow.

Betsy Damon

Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07