Congressional Retreat 2011 - How you can Help!
Congressional Retreat 2011
How you can help!
This fall we have an extraordinary opportunity to share the practice of mindfulness with members of the United States Congress in Washington, DC. Thay will be offering a unique overnight retreat for members of congress in the House of Representatives and the US Senate. We want as many members of congress to attend as possible and you can help out in a big way by encouraging your representatives to attend.
Our goal is to recruit Members of Congress, their spouses and families, and selected Congressional staffers (both current and former) to attend an overnight retreat on Thursday and Friday, October 27th and 28th. The retreat begins at 5pm on Thursday evening and concludes after lunch on Friday. It will be held close to DC at a campus-style conference center. It is a beautiful overnight facility with superb meeting space and a picturesque campus on which to walk and enjoy a wide array of trees and flowers.
Members of congress and other invitees can register to attend by contacting:
To RSVP, or for more information
Prior to the overnight retreat Thay will give a private lecture for members of congress, their families, staff and other invited guests. On Wednesday, October 26th, Thay will deliver the Annual Walter Capps-Bill Emerson Memorial Lecture, “Path Toward Peace: Cultivating Clarity, Compassion, and Courage in Political Life”. at The Library of Congress. Contact information is the same as above. These events are co-hosted by the US Institute of Peace and the Faith and Politics Institute.
These materials offer some suggested outreach practices for both individual practitioners as well as active sangha groups. Each of us has the ability to make a big impact. Each contact we make with a congressional office, whether in person, over the phone, or via a handwritten letter, will increase the likelihood that a member of congress will receive and seriously consider our invitation to learn from and develop a mindfulness practice.
Our elected officials are lobbied extensively by their constituents, interest groups, lobbyists, and even other members. The challenge for all of these groups is how to stand out and be truly heard when there are so many others attempting to do the same. It is easy today to use the internet to send high quantities of relatively impersonal emails and petition signatures. This reality has had the consequence that more traditional methods of outreach, such as in person meetings and hand-written letters, are actually given more attention and care than an email or petition because they communicate a deeper commitment to the issue at hand. Therefore, our focus is on the quality of contacts with congress members, not the quantity of contacts.
This is an excellent opportunity for mindfulness practitioners. We know how effective mindfulness can be at improving the quality of our person-to-person communication. The practices of loving-speech and deep-listening train us to be effective communicators. The idea guiding this outreach effort is that a community of mindfulness practitioners is very well positioned to engage in the type of quality-focused congressional outreach that we know is most influential. We already have practices that help train us to communicate authentically and from the heart. It is by keeping these practices front and center that we can ensure our outreach is of the highest quality.
Politics is, like many professions, a difficult one in which to practice. The day to day pace of a congressional office is rapid. Inquiries and expressions of concern through phone email, fax, and person seem to come relentlessly and are often quite far from being loving speech. The staffers answering the phones encounter a lot of anger and despair. In such a climate, a little bit of loving speech goes a long way. We have the capacity to bring nourishment to staffers who might be suffering deeply from a lack of loving speech and deep listening. If we are able to bring our mindfulness practice into the lives of the staffers, so that they can benefit, even if only for a few moments, we will allow the practice itself to serve as the strongest possible invitation. Imagine, for example, offering the practice of listening to three sounds of the bell with a senior policy aide. A practice like this would already bring some relief. Our conversations with the congressional staffers will achieve many of the outcomes we hope to see from people actually attending the retreat. Members of congress and their staffers don’t have to wait to attend the retreat to start benefiting from the practice of mindfulness. To support this we will practice loving speech prior to communicating with the congressional office. This will support our effort to exemplify mindfulness in a way that makes it accessible and applicable, right away. As a result, our practice of loving speech will also make the most convincing case that they should in fact attend. As Thay says, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” Perhaps we could keep in mind a variation: “There is no way to the retreat. The retreat is the way.”
Our goal then is to think creatively about ways of making mindfulness alive, accessible, and applicable for those individuals with whom we will be interacting. Due to the nature of politics and the work of congress members, community members primarily communicate with congressional staff, not congress members directly. The accompanying materials are designed to help you as an individual or together as sangha, contact and connect with your congress members’ staff. There is a one-page guide to support your efforts for each of the following three methods of outreach. In order of priority, they are:
This order of priority reflects our focus on the quality of communication. Therefore the best case scenario is meeting in-person; a hand-written letter comes next, followed by a phone call and lastly an email. A well organized group office visit has a strong potential to make a lasting impression. Still, not everyone lives close enough to a congressional office to make this a practical option. It is up to you to decide which method of outreach is best for your time and energy. Whether you help organize a full-blown sangha office visit, or make a quick 3-minute phone call, your contribution is valuable, and will make a difference.
These materials are offered as a potential guide to your outreach efforts. We will practice articulating why mindfulness is important to us and why it is important to us that our members of congress learn to practice mindfulness. We use the experience of loving speech as the foundation for communicating this personal message to our representative.
The Retreat for Congress and the Capps-Emerson Lecture are a return engagement for Thay and our Plum Village Sangha. To read about the retreat held in 2003, please click here or see the Faith and Politics Newsletter that is part of this outreach Packet.
Last Updated (Saturday, 10 September 2011 20:43)