Workshop Number: 18
Leaders: Tom Rothschild
Who May Register?: Adults Only (high school with permission)
Worship/Worship-Sharing: 20%
Lecture: 20%
Discussion: 30%
Experiential Activities: 30%

Who May Attend?
only full time attenders (participants should attend all week)

Join our experiential workshop in conflict transformation! Grounded in worship, we will study and engage together in spiritually and somatically-based deep listening, brainstorming, forgiveness, paradox and more. We will learn skills to help Meetings and organizations find and name their unspoken truth, strengthen their unity, resolve issues and conflicts.

Workshop Description

This workshop is first of all about listening, in our Meetings and in other groups and organizations. We will sharpen skills for listening deeply to what is spoken, and then listening more and more deeply to what is unspoken. By listening, holding the space, holding those present strongly enough, what has been unspoken can be named aloud. Sometimes this is the elephant in the room that everyone knows a piece of but has been afraid to name. Sometimes the unspoken has been completely unrecognized until the words are said–and then the reality expressed is suddenly recognized by all.

But beyond hearing and recognizing what is said, such deep listening requires that everyone involved become open to understanding the intention behind the words, even when we strongly disagree with them. Gathered in this workshop, we will serve individually and collectively as a laboratory group to explore how we ourselves can transform, becoming ever more open in this way, so that each one’s Inner Light can begin to open, recognize, connect with, the Inner Light of each other. This sometimes involves forgiveness, a releasing of the past. We will also consider the concept of “listening in tongues” and other approaches and exercises. Our exploration of deep active listening will include reflecting back non-judgmentally what is said, to bring greater clarity to both the speaker and all the listeners. Our approach to forgiveness will include remembering the past – words and actions with results and consequences that are real, continuing into the present – while releasing the pain and anger which block both our own healing and that of others. As time allows, we will also consider such related concepts as repentance and remorse. What might all these concepts and practices mean in our own experience?

We will explore how such practices can often help a Meeting, organization, group resolve specific challenges. And even when particular matters cannot be resolved, such approaches can often help the organization grow stronger by maintaining a unity of collective understanding and connection.

Our study will be primarily experiential rather than by lecture. Some written materials may be included but no advance reading or special preparation will be required. In this laboratory, we ourselves will be both the practitioners and the subjects of the experiment. Since experience will be our primary approach, participants may wish to take notes or keep a journal to obtain the maximum benefit from the workshop, but we will not be recording it. And we will strive always in this workshop to undergird our work together with a spirit of deep worship.

This workshop does not presume or require any prior training or experience in conflict resolution or mediation. At the same time, this approach particularly based on Quaker practice will offer new skills and insights for people with experience in those fields.

Participants in this workshop will begin to learn how these approaches can help to build and strengthen unity of understanding, of connection–for Meetings and committees, and for other groups and organizations–whether among Friends or elsewhere in our lives, particularly in times of challenge or conflict. With adequate skill, training and experience, facilitators can use this approach to assist a Meeting, organization, group to work towards resolution of specific challenges, and to grow stronger through a unity of collective understanding and connection even when particular matters cannot be resolved.

Leader Experience

Tom Rothschild was a founding member (2003) and later Clerk of the Committee on Conflict Transformation of New York Yearly Meeting. In that capacity, he co-designed and led workshops on a Quaker approach to resolution of conflicts within Friends’ Meetings and committees, ranging from one-hour “introductions” and “interest groups” to three-day and five-day workshops. These were given at monthly and regional meetings, at Yearly Meeting summer sessions, and at Powell House, NYYM’s conference and retreat center. Tom has also designed and led workshops in this Quaker approach at the Association for Conflict Resolution of Greater NY and Lehman College of the City University of NY. Tom has used this approach and other relevant techniques to help both Quaker and non-Quaker organizations address and resolve issues confronting them.

Tom is a graduate of the School of the Spirit program On Becoming a Spiritual Nurturer. He was an active member of Brooklyn Meeting and NYYM from 2000 until moving to Northern California in the East Bay in 2017. Since then he has attended Strawberry Creek meeting in Berkeley, transferring membership there in 2020. As a mediator and conflict resolution professional, and a semi-retired attorney, Tom has over two decades of study and teaching of mediation and conflict resolution in Quaker and other community settings, as well as professional and educational venues. He has worked, often but not always among Friends, in mediation, and particularly in facilitation of groups and organizations, helping them come to a common unity of vision, direction, resolution of problems and conflicts.

Tom led this workshop (online) at the 2021 and 2022 Gatherings.

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