I want you to meet our new Library Network Partner Sushila Mertens. A volunteer, she has assumed responsibility for our national Living Room Conversations for Libraries. She is the perfect person to do so!
In her lifetime, Sushila has worn many hats–including professional librarian and deeply experienced Living Room Conversations host and organizer.
She is co-author of A Women’s Guide to Sacred Activism: How Do We Move Forward? Her deep commitment to bridging the divide of sexism and her Living Room Conversations experience brought her to Toronto last November to facilitate a session at the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Contributing Partner Gayle Yamauchi-Gleason interviewed Sushila for this weekly email about these experiences. They focused on Sushila’s use of Living Room Conversations, about which she says:
Living Room Conversations have been an opportunity for me to develop my ability to listen for understanding rather than defending myself, making others wrong, or demonstrating how much I know. The Conversation Agreements provide a relaxed, small group experience that gives equal time/space to each voice, strengthening people’s capacities to express themselves without fear of attack. By replacing fear and conflict with new neural patterns of positive social interaction, perhaps we will find courage to trust when we need to speak for or against something outside the safety of the Living Room Conversation.
I keep asking, “What is mine to do?” Thinking about the whole world’s brokenness can be overwhelming, demoralizing, and paralyzing. I give myself compassion and time to reflect on the words of Thomas Merton: “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to the violence of our times.”
I have an intention to notice when fight, flight or freeze reactions are activated. Are my ears and frontal cortex still functioning? Or has my sympathetic nervous system hijacked my heart and brain?
With awareness and management of internal control-based fear, I have more courage and will to make outward changes to bring equality and justice into my personal life, community, and the world. Inviting a variety of cultures/perspectives to the conversation opens up more possibilities in our thinking. It can build trust if people are treated equally and listened to with respect.
As you feel safer in an LRC and you get to express your viewpoint, you start listening to other people’s viewpoints. Actually, you’re building courage, capacity and stamina to listen to people with broader viewpoints that might be different from you. It’s a building of capacity. People tell me they are listening differently and that there are things they can be calmer about. There are little successes here and there that you hear about.
Please contact me to join our Libraries network! I’ll put you in direct touch with Sushila. Thanks for reading!
Beth G. Raps, PhD