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Video excerpt from SAL/UER workshop on racism at the Global Climate Action Summit

Draft Program on Climate Change, for your comments (updated March 5, 2019) (short version now available)

 

Taking Steps Together to Build Our Community

Toward the end of 2008 my brother and Regional Reference Person, Karl Lam, asked me if I would like to teach a Community ongoing class. At the time, Karl was focusing his Region on reading and had asked members to e-mail each other about their experiences. I liked the idea of a group of people deciding to act against their distress together. I decided that the Community class would take on1 Goal 4 (Community growth) together and sent out a flyer that included the following paragraph:

“I invite Cambridge RCers to use this ongoing class to achieve a goal as a group (much like the reading project Karl set before the Regional workshop). The goal I have chosen is the robust growth of an increasingly well-functioning Cambridge Community. I suggest we use the class to work toward two concrete aims: First, either leading, assisting, or attending a fundamentals class in the autumn, and second, bringing someone we know and like to that class.”

The first class happened. It was exciting to see fifteen people there. Some newer people did not feel part of a Community because there had not been a Community class for a while. Also, we live in a place and culture where people tend to live isolated lives and not show their struggles. This would get in the way of2 both reaching out to people with RC and of acting together, so I decided that the most important topic to look at initially was closeness.

RESPONDING FLEXIBLY AS A TEACHER

I had taught the first class without showing myself much and had felt like nobody was really there. I shook and discharged throughout the next class, encouraging the class to applaud loudly and give loud cheers as a contradiction to our quietness. The class went better for everyone.

About that time I looked at my list of things that I was going to teach and decided to throw it away. I needed to take a look at the group each class and think about what needed to happen next. I had started out with the attitude that I could offer people some goals and that they would just get on with3 choosing one, aiming for it, and discharging as a result of their actions! I had a mechanical attitude of “just get on and do it” (I am raised working-class and of Chinese-English heritage). Karl told me that I could not set goals for people; they could only set them for themselves. I was going to have to show myself as fully as possible and talk about my goal and how I was going to achieve it.

HUMILIATION AS A TOOL OF OPPRESSION

When I asked how people were doing with reaching out to people with RC, many looked humiliated. I decided to look at the topic of humiliation. I summarized by saying “humiliation is a tool of oppression.” This phrase put something in perspective for me. My own experiences of being systematically humiliated at school and of witnessing humiliation of others suddenly no longer seemed to be my personal failing or a private source of shame. Once we know that “humiliation is a tool of oppression,” we can understand that all humans have been systematically humiliated and we all have a common cause to fight. I was not the only person who could use this phrase to break through chronic recordings of humiliation—almost everyone seemed to find this phrase useful.

REACHING FOR OUR NEXT STEP TOGETHER

From a position of showing my own goals and passions, I led the next class on “reaching for our next step in RC together.” I counselled everyone on their next steps in using the tool of RC. This gave me a picture of our group’s key distresses in terms of building our Community. People had good sessions. The closeness was building through people challenging their chronic distresses in the group.

In the following class I invited everyone to discharge in front of the group about whom they might reach out to with RC, what they might try, and what might get in the way of succeeding. Lots of people chose to work on reaching out to people close to them—family members and friends—and this led to work on key chronic recordings. Class members were starting to see each other more clearly and to notice that it was possible to continue this process and see each other even more clearly. We got to watch other people move forward and feel that this was part of our progress too.

The next class I called “reaching out to people—offering yourself and what you know about reality.” I talked about reaching out to my dad with RC. I had talked to my dad about RC in 2008. During 2009 he has had discharge time with Karl and me and talked and cried about his early life. This is a major change. He didn’t talk to me about details of his childhood or his life in China until I was in my thirties and then only very little. The main thing that I have offered my dad in offering him RC is my liking for him and his company and my caring about his life going well. I also show that I like myself. I expect him to like me, enjoy my thinking, and care about my life going well.

LIKING AND APPRECIATING OURSELVES

Making good relationships with people is the key to reaching out to people with RC, and making good relationships with people is about liking and appreciating ourselves. I said, “When you are clear that you are a good, loveable, and powerful human being, it is easy to like other people and care about them, regardless of how they feel about you.” Like the phrase “humiliation is a tool of oppression,” this sentence seemed to clarify the confusion we get to feel when reaching out to people with our thinking.

When I had expressed doubts in session about reaching out to a work colleague, Karl pointed out that the doubts were about myself and not about RC. I encouraged people in the class to work on all the ways in which they feel bad about themselves, in their time in front of the group. This enabled us to notice that the reasons other people feel bad about themselves are clearly distress, mainly accumulated through systematic oppression. Noticing this made it easier to assume that the ways we feel bad about ourselves are also just distress recordings.

Karl had written an e-mail to the RC list about growing RC by taking charge of our relationships with people and how this would require us to take a new position relative to those people. The position Karl suggested was one of knowing and deciding that we are the “biggest” and most important resource for a person. We all took a session in front of the group, picking someone we could take a new position relative to and discharging on how it feels to choose to be the “big” person in the relationship. These sessions enabled people to discharge on chronic distresses.

Toward the end of the thirteen-class series I summarised the path I had taken in teaching the class and why I had taken it. This seemed to be a useful reminder of how far we had come together in our re-emergence. People enjoyed being reminded that I had taken charge of noticing what was going on in the group and had responded to it in a flexible, intelligent fashion. I had used the discussions on the RC e-mail list, my own knowledge, and Karl’s best thinking and counselling to arrive at my best thinking. This was not just a team effort but, significantly for the topic of the class, a family team effort.

Mai Mai Lam
Burwell, Cambridge, England


1 In this context, take on means assume responsibility for.
2 Get in the way of means interfere with.
3 Get on with means get started.


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00