THE COMPASSIONATE JOURNEY
A PATH OF RECONCILIATION
by Brian and Lisa Berman
(The Compassionate Listening Project Newsletter Fall 2007)
“The horrors and atrocities cannot be erased. The big question is, do I want to go to my grave carrying all these emotions?” stated one participant in our Compassionate Journey to Berlin May 2007. This was the big question for each of us. Members of the delegation came from the USA, Great Britain, and from Germany and brought with them their fears, denial, hate, trauma, guilt, shame, and most importantly their willingness to heal.
In our opening circle everyone shared why they were here and what they hoped and dreamed would come from our time together. Our eldest participant was 80 years old and born in Berlin. This was her first return to her homeland since leaving in the late 1930’s. One of her intentions was to learn Compassionate Listening so that she could be a better listener to her children and grand-children. She was also seeking to recover memories. With the help of another participant living in Berlin, she found the location where her father’s studio had been. When we visited the memorial site where the deportation to the concentration camps took place, she expressed, with deep emotion, how easily this could have been her family’s fate.
An American participant carried a deep hatred for what the Germans had done to the Jewish people and he had been carrying this hatred for over 60 years. On our third day together, he expressed that his hatred had diminished and that a strong skepticism had emerged. On the fourth day he informed our group that even the skepticism had diminished and his curiosity was emerging. On the fifth day he shared that the person he had known his entire life was no longer his operating identity. His demeanor was free and light-hearted.
We listened to survivors of the Holocaust, and former Nazi party members. We were struck by their commitment to educate the youth of today, in hopes that it will never happen again. We felt blessed that they are still alive and sharing their experiences. One day this generation will be gone and who will carry this message forward to our impressionable youth?
We are so grateful for all those who participated in the Compassionate Journey as well as all those who helped pioneer this work in our Jewish German Reconciliation Project. May reconciliation and healing blossom in all of our hearts.
After the program ended three participants wrote this to us, which captures the great spirit of the Compassionate Journey.
“Bless this state of grace! I’m deeply touched at the end of these seven days. Life after this will be a new adventure. I feel like I just got off a ladder ten stories up the shaft of awareness. I am exhausted, but exhilarated. This practice of compassion and Compassionate Listening is very humbling; I feel challenged in a way I’ve never felt before, with a strong sense of connectedness with every one of the participants after what we shared as a group and exchanged as individuals. And by curious extension, I feel a new kind of connectedness with all beings around me.
Wherever I go, I meet strangers whose lives appear tenderly fragile, whose faces hold the potential for injury or enlightenment. I release judgment, the inner quarrels, the treadmill of mental acrobatics. To be present with heartfelt intent and show my light that’s what’s on now.” —Alexa Dvorson, participant of the Compassionate Journey
“Now the Jewish Holocaust survivor and the once fanatic Hitler Youth leader, are standing face to face, shaking their hands – a moment which nobody in the group will ever forget.” –Eve Renebarth
“…I experienced a richly supportive backdrop to retrace my steps from fear and revulsion toward openness and co-existence, while loosening a few knots of apprehension along the way. I learned and practiced Compassionate Listening as a way of opening new heart-space for others’ narratives as well; no matter how many I’ve heard in the past, it is only a matter of time before my perceived saturation gives way to a longing to hear more, each story a springboard to deeper understanding.”
SUPPORT OUR WORK
We appreciate your support for our ongoing reconciliation work. If you would like to make a donation of any size, it will help continue these efforts.
Please send your check to:
Lisa and Brian Berman, Peace Builders
PO Box 1673, Ojai, CA 93024