A man with the right scruffed-up beard and breadth of chest swaggered into the S and M dungeon that was my place of business, and twenty minutes and one grand later had my chin — still soft with the downy fluff of teen-girl skin — held steady in one paw while the other one flew at my face so hard and fast that I ceased to exist as the same collection of matter I had been the previous instant.
When Sarah’s mother, Penny, got sick four years into our marriage, we decided to move back to Mississippi, considering it penance for the sins of our youth. We signed a lease on a house, a white one-story on the historical register with a wraparound porch and angels, stars, and the moon painted on the transom above the front door.
Subscribe and Save up to 55%
In our June 2020 interview, “The Power of Story,” Jared Seide discusses how listening to each other can restore our humanity. Seide, the executive director of Center for Council, often works with people in difficult settings — such as Hutus and Tutsis seeking restorative healing after the genocide in Rwanda, activists and police in California communities, and incarcerated people and correctional officers in state prisons. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he is finding ways for people to maintain meaningful connections in a time of social distancing.
For readers interested in learning more, he offers this reading list of essential books on navigating vulnerability, working with compassion, and the power of listening from the heart.
Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet
by Joan Halifax
Halifax is a brilliant teacher who has written about cultivating compassion in great depth. This insightful book invites us to sit courageously with all that confronts us, and really discern how best to serve. I’ve found this to be a powerful and foundational practice.
The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace
by John Paul Lederach
Lederach writes about the need to envision a world where the well-being of our grandchildren is profoundly connected to the well-being of our adversaries’ grandchildren. He explores the notion of “critical yeast” — how small acts of compassion by a committed few can have enormous impact.
The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
by Daniel Coyle
Coyle pinpoints the counterintuitive truth about successful organizations: that they cultivate a sense of belonging and trust from the experience of shared vulnerability. We often assume the reverse, but it really all starts with a willingness to open our hearts.
Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies
by Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer
Scharmer and Kaufer propose a model for collective wisdom in organizations and communities. Rather than overconfidence in a top-down, analytical framing, he urges leaders to release assumptions and cultivate a practice of deep listening, followed by decisive action.
Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World
by Vivek H. Murthy
In framing loneliness as a public-health concern, Murthy makes a case for the importance of practices and programs that restore a sense of community. We have lost touch with how vital it is to cultivate authentic connection, and this book is a timely and powerful reminder.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
Alexander’s book is an essential primer for understanding the historical and systemic racism that underlies mass incarceration in the U.S. It’s important to bear witness to the injustice and prejudice that has been pervasive in our criminal justice system. Improving rehabilitative programming is just one aspect of a much deeper and necessary reform.
Mindfulness on the Go: Simple Meditation Practices You Can Do Anywhere
by Jan Chozen Bays
With the author’s permission, Center for Council has used these pithy, effective, easy-to-try activities to introduce mindfulness practice to many who have no prior experience with meditation. This collection of activities is a great way to begin listening to our bodies, minds, hearts, and the world in which we live.
The Way of Council
by Jack Zimmerman and Virginia Coyle
In this seminal book, Zimmerman and Coyle codified the practice of Council, an amalgam of ancient wisdom traditions and teachings. Though this practice has evolved and expanded over the years, the essential intentions of listening and speaking from the heart are timeless.