By Travis Newbill
If we’d like to see a shift towards greater friendliness and empathy–in our personal lives or on a global scale–we may start by cultivating our willingness and ability to converse with one another. For most of us, this is no small feat.
Dialog can be a tricky dance, even in familiar conditions. And, of course, the myriad difficulties of interpersonal communication are compounded tremendously in cases involving people from different cultures attempting to navigate intercultural ambiguity, diverse assumptions, and in some cases, deeply rooted animosity. In these scenarios, divisions can appear vast and the task of meeting in the middle daunting.
What is needed is a bridge.
Recently, Shambhala Mountain Center had the great honor of hosting the summer portion of Building Bridges’ 2013 MEUS (Middle East, U.S.) Program. This incredible, two week program–now in its twentieth year–provides brave, young women from Israel, Palestine, and the U.S. a safe space in which to explore their relationships to one another, to begin to work through obstacles hindering empathetic communication, and to develop broader perspectives and the leadership skills needed to effect beneficial changes in the world.
According to a recent blog post from Jen Sarché, the Deputy Executive Director of Building Bridges, the group’s experience at this summer’s program at SMC was both challenging and positive:
“We slowed down the conversation. We learned to listen before we spoke. We got frustrated by the shower schedule. We struggled with the issues of power and privilege that played out in everything we did…We explored what we each have to offer in a program like this. We wondered how the work we were doing matters, and how we’ll bring home what we learn. We built a safe space in which we were free to shift – ourselves, our thoughts, our ideas.”
For having had the opportunity to support and witness this important work, we at SMC are very grateful.
Best wishes to all those involved as they go onward, and may the shift continue.
Learn more about Building Bridges by visiting buildingbridgesshift.org