Some Soul Club members gather endorsements from community leaders and activist organizations for the following proposal: A number of existing national organizations form an alliance aimed at mobilizing at least one million Americans once a month to communicate roughly the same message to their Congressperson on a timely, top-priority issue. That message might be a demand, a question, or an appreciation. The organizations encourage their members to join the Mobilization, which is also open to individuals who do not belong to any organization. All Mobilization members have the opportunity to offer input concerning the monthly message, but a representative, inclusive committee makes the final decision, following a two-hour face-to-face discussion (including video conferencing) that is streamed live. The Mobilization backs campaigns that other organizations have initiated. Those organizations continue to lead those campaigns and engage in negotiations about their proposals for action. The Mobilization defines achievable objectives, such as obtaining a certain number of co-sponsors on a bill, or holding an official hearing on the bill, that can help lead to eventual enactment of the bill. The Mobilization may or may not decide to back the same issue in consecutive months. This approach allows a wide variety of individuals to schedule a brief break from their routine activities to help shape national policy, before they return to their regular commitments. It also helps activist organizations to enhance their results by briefly supporting one another once a month. Members of such organizations are encouraged to join the organizations that guide the Mobilization. Early on, to assure people they will not be wasting their time, the organizers merely ask individuals to sign a pledge to support the Mobilization if and when a certain number of individuals have signed the pledge. It is only at that point that the organizers launch the project.
Some Soul Club members gather endorsements from community leaders and activist organizations for Congressional Community Dialogs. These are held at the same time each month, such as the second Saturday at 1 p.m., with the following format. At any time, those constituents who want to engage in dialog with the Congressperson write their name on an index card and place it in a bowl (or basket). Someone other than the Congressperson facilitates the event. The Congressperson opens with a seven-minute report on her or his recent activities. The facilitator then selects names randomly. Those constituents engage in dialogs with the Congressperson for no more than four minutes. The constituent may make a statement or ask questions, and can interrupt the Congressperson at any time. After one hundred minutes of dialogs, the Congressperson makes a closing statement of no more than seven minutes. Afterwards, constituents may stay for up to one hour to interact informally. Community-based literature is distributed at tables made available for that purpose. The Congressperson publicizes the Dialogs in her or his regular taxpayer-funded newsletter.
Persuade one or more organizations to convene an ongoing series of public Dialogs from the Heart with the following format. For arriving participants, place two bowls (or baskets) at the front of the room that are marked “Dialog with Speaker” and “Future Speaker,” as well as a stack of index cards. Participants can place a card with their name on it in either of the bowls at any time. The speaker presents an opening statement of no more than seven minutes, draws a card from the Dialog with Speaker bowl, and engages in a dialog with that participant for no more than seven minutes. The participant may make a statement or ask questions, and can interrupt the speaker at any time. After ninety minutes of dialogs, the speaker makes a closing statement of no more than seven minutes and then draws a card from the Future Speaker bowl to select the next speaker. That’s it. No pre-determined topics. Just “speaking from the heart” about whatever moves the spirit at the time. At the first event, another bowl marked Today’s Speaker could be used to select the first speaker. Participants are asked to donate money to cover expenses. No one is turned away due to a lack of funds.
If you belong to an organization such as an activist group or a religious community, engage in Steps Six and Seven with a fellow member of that organization with whom you feel an affinity. If that goes well, invite that person to invite other members of the organization to form a Soul Club. If those meetings go well, propose to the organization that they officially endorse the idea and encourage other members to conduct their own Soul Dialogs and explore organizing their own Soul Clubs. Not every member of the entire organization would necessarily be required or expected to participate. If you don’t belong to any such organization, recruit someone you know who does to get their organization to take on this project.
If the Soul Dialog proves rewarding, the two of you decide on a third person to invite to participate in a Soul Club, with the intent of eventually inviting more people to join. Open the Soul Club meeting with two or three minutes of silence, allowing participants to pray, meditate, or reflect in their own way. Then respond to the same questions posed in Step Six. Merely reporting briefly and being listened to carefully can be powerful. Consider agreeing that problem-solving will be deferred until later, and that individuals will work on problems with others they select depending on the issue. Emotional security can also be enhanced by avoiding oppressive peer pressure and by trusting group members to define their own goals for their own self-development. Such agreements can help ensure that emotional sharing takes place safely. Without that assurance, few of us are willing to risk disclosing our deepest feelings. Following the reports, club members make plans for future meetings, which may include additional activities that involve some or all of the members. Keep in mind that members of the Soul Club may or may not belong to the same organization, so expand the group carefully as with the Soul Session process outlined above in Step Four. Once a number of Soul Clubs are established, some members occasionally meet and interact with members from other clubs in regional and national gatherings.
If the interaction in Step Six proves rewarding, set aside time for both of you to exchange responses to those questions again after reflecting on the questions during the interim. At this “Soul Dialog,” share a meal, socialize informally, respond to both the personal and political questions in Step Six, and then proceed to do spontaneously whatever flows from your exchanges.
Once you’ve established the habit of asking questions and are confident about being a good listener, informally ask a close friend (perhaps your spouse or domestic partner), in so many words, “Have you been working on being a better person? If so, how?” and then follow the conversation wherever it takes you. Then ask, “Have you recently communicated with your Congressperson? If so, how?” and again go with the flow of the conversation that results.
Take turns playing a soulful CD with a friend. Listen to it without talking. Discuss it afterwards.
Invite a close friend with whom you have engaged in some or all of the steps above to decide on a third person to join the two of you in “speaking from the heart.” That’s it. No other agenda. The gatherings take place in a person’s home or at a community center. At the outset, agree on the time you will adjourn and open the floor to whoever wants to speak first. Future speakers first respond to the previous speaker. If they then want to lead the conversation in a new direction, they acknowledge that intent. Before adjourning, evaluate the session, consider inviting others, and decide together who will be invited, in order to ensure that everyone already involved with the group will be comfortable with the possible newcomers. If the group grows to include several or more individuals, consider using a “talking stick” with each speaker that allows following speakers to be recognized simply by passing the stick to them. That method makes it easier for less assertive individuals to have a voice, and the pause between speakers enables participants to better absorb what was said.
Meet with a friend, agree on how much time you will have together, and divide the time equally. Then, first one of you, and then the other, report on what has been happening in her or his life and what she or he has been thinking and feeling. Listeners interrupt only to ask a question to clarify something they did not understand. The person talking may use some of her or his time to ask for advice or information, or she or he may just report. Allow five minutes at the end of the exchanges to reflect on the experience and consider making plans for another.