Listening Circles for Healing Racism, for White People: Facilitators Guidebook

Dear OI Friends,

In June 2020, within a week of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police, I invited white practitioners on our OI list to a “Listening Circle for Healing Our White Racism” on Zoom. One hundred (100) mindfulness practitioners showed up! After some welcoming, validating of them, and offering some framing thoughts, in pairs and four-way structured listening sessions, people explored two questions: “What breaks my heart about the current racial suffering?” and “What in me needs healing around race?” Hearts opened, ears listened, tears were shed, anger arose, acceptance was experienced.

As a result of that first 90 minute session, a bare beginning, I invited them to continue for three more consecutive Wednesdays. Seventy (70) of those 100 people committed to continue their exploration of their own white racism and hopefully to become familiar enough with the format of the Listening Circle model that they might be able to offer something similar to their white friends.

At the end of this four week series, I offered to facilitate a monthly gathering for all those who agreed to facilitating a similar “listening circle” in their locality. Twenty-five for those 70 signed up for that. We’ve been meeting for six month in a 90 minute format. We divide the time between a) small equal time groups to explore some facet of our internalized white racism, b) hearing from folks about their experience of facilitating their own circles, and c) having time for coaching, Q & A, or more theory sharing. It’s been inspiring to watch folks learn to lead this work. As a result, these listening circles are sprouting up all over the country. It proves what we In RC know, that if the conditions are right, it turns out that white people are fairly eager to do this inner work.

To assist them in their facilitation, I wrote up a short guide for Listening Circle facilitators that grew out of that initial four week experience (plus decades of my own work). This guide is designed to provide facilitators with a kind of ready-made kit to help them offer an accessible, replicable, and effective experience for participants. The guide includes framing ideas, facilitation suggestions, sample schedules and facilitator notes, and lots of resources. It can be used as is, or adapted for one’s local community, or pieces excerpted for one’s own guide. Please feel free to adapt for your own use as appropriate. If I can be helpful, please contact me at jbellminder [at] gmail.com.

Guide for Listening Circles for Healing White Racism

in gratitude,
John Bell
Chan Dieu Tri/True Wonderful Wisdom
in the Boston area. traditional land of the Wampanoag people

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.