Restorative Resources for Community Healing

By Vicky Ness

A circle of love begins and ends with community joining hands.

“Sonoma Strong”- our county-wide response to a crisis - has been a powerful example of what happens when we join hands and face our challenges together. It will take courage, commitment and mutual respect to keep that bond vital throughout our community going forward.

And the best way to do that is to keep talking… and listening…to each other honestly and from the heart. At Restorative Resources we use the ancient practice of “circle dialogues" to offer a safe space for members of a neighborhood, workplace, organization or group to express themselves without interruptions, judgement or intimidation. As each person has the opportunity to talk, each one also has the responsibility to listen - with integrity and compassion.

Within the dialogue, bridges of common communication are formed, fear diminishes and distrust is washed away in the light of understanding. We come together to work out solutions to problems, to create new avenues for working together, and simply to discover how much we all really have in common. We begin to see each other in those with very divergent political preferences, financial means, sexual and gender identities, and cultural backgrounds. There may be no better way to alleviate feelings of fear-based distrust and isolation, and to replace them with responses of compassion and understanding,in discussions with those around us.

We’ve been holding Listening Circles for the community, including the school and justice system, for over 17 years as a Sonoma County based non-profit. Our successes grow each year; a measurement garnered from a drop in expulsion rates in schools, a decrease in recidivism among youth charged with a crime, and a strengthening of community across the county. The real measurement, of course, is in the“take away”from the process. Those who have told us they use a“listening circle”pattern to hold family discussions, to face issues within a neighborhood or workplace, and to grow in the practice of“deep listening”with everyone around them.

As they say, “talk is cheap”. Deep listening isa invaluable. If you are interested in these practices, please visit our website at restorativeresources.org or call us at 707-542-4244. We’d be happy to talk to you!

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