A Creative Response for America in a Chaotic Time
This is a time when familiar institutions, ways of thinking and habits no longer seem to work very well. Listen to Lam from Uganda, speaking about his disillustionment with America. In such a chaotic world, we need a creative response toward building a new future that starts with each of us and our conversations with each other.
This is where Friends of Virginia Swain: Restoring Faith in America plays a vital role.
In a safe environment informed by deep listening, we take on the important questions about our nation’s future and our role in creating that future.
Virginia Swain, the founder of America’s Soul Café, was in New York City on 9/11/01 and had a dream that evening in which a Phoenix rose out of the ashes of Ground Zero. The Phoenix identified itself as America’s soul and offered a message of hope to Americans who were being invited to heal themselves, soul by soul.
She saw the soul as our spiritual and moral essence that we had failed to cultivate and nourish. But we could initiate a spiritual renaissance to take us beyond individual and group egoism and overcome the fear and mistrust that kept us separate and isolated from each other and from the rest of the world.
After contemplating this dream for many years, Virginia created America’s Soul Café as a vehicle for people to pool their wisdom and realize the hope for regeneration, rebirth and resurrection symbolized by the Phoenix.
America’s Soul Café is a perfect place to dialogue about the “Soul” of America.
A National Conversation called America’s Soul Café
Drawing on her longtime commitment to the United Nations through Culture of Peace and The Global Movement for The Culture of Peace (GMCoP), her friendship with a Hopi Elder delivering the Hopi Prophecy, and the wisdom gained from the life of 2nd Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, Virginia uses the inspiration of a dream she had of a Phoenix as America’s Soul while in New York during the World Trade Center attack, to help build an American culture of peace that embraces a shared moral and spiritual vision for the world.
National renewal starts with us as we think and learn together and come up with the insights that will enable us to move forward. Through such conversations, we gain clarity and discover our place in this great adventure toward a sustainable, prosperous and peaceful nation. We can take comfort in knowing that on so many occasions the breakthroughs that have changed our country for the better started with just these types of conversations among small groups of people.
America’s Soul Café gives us a setting in which we can find our own unique way to bring about the future that our hearts desire.
America’s Soul Café is based on the World Café model which began over 20 years ago. We share the same goals. The main difference is that our focus is on the United States. However, we do inquire into the nature of America’s relation to the rest of the world and the ways in which it can contribute to global commons.
The America’s Soul Café Community engages people in deep dialogue, reflection and collaboration to;
- Reduce fear, blame, projection and challenge division, racism and oppression
- Increase love, inquiry, trust, respect, humility, inclusiveness and connectedness
- Foster a just and sustainable America as a partner on the world stage
The Hosting Team Pictured Above: Eileen Beckett, Kim Crowley, Robert Kauffman, Virginia Swain, Chet Warzynski, Juan Zhong.
What happens during America’s Soul Café?
Virginia Swain has been trained as a World Café facilitator at the Fielding Graduate School, and we follow the World Café methodology. In our online monthly encounters, we use the user-friendly Zoom technology. After welcoming and introducing everyone, we explain the etiquette that governs our meetings and provide a brief account of the philosophy and history of America’s Soul Cafés. Then we break out into small groups–usually with three or four participants each. In this setting, participants take up the question or questions which have been prepared by the hosting team. and our role to become part of the Phoenix and the rebirth of America. When we come back to the full group, we share our experiences and insights, and create an image or words that best expresses our understanding of what we each can offer the Phoenix.
Imaging plays a key role in our Café, because, again, we can’t reconcile a challenge unless we can see it in our mind’s eye. Through the Cafés, participants are invited to see their soul gifts to the Phoenix as an offering to show their commitment to heal America. The following image shows one offering. “Celebrating Life” to the Phoenix.
To view sample images and experience the results of previous sessions of America’s Soul Cafés from January 2017-January 2018
Eileen Beckett, member of our Hosting Team, offers these comments
“America’s Soul Café is a safe place where we can talk and listen to one another. We gain insights to carry our knowledge in order to listen better to our neighbors and colleagues. Somehow, by participating in the Café for just 2 hours a month, I feel that I am a better person working toward better solutions for the Soul of America. I hope I have the courage not to be silent.”
Lisa Stiller was at our Cafés in 2017. She wrote us:
“This was an amazing experience! I felt so connected to everyone so quickly! There was a very deep level of safety and trust built in at the start. The questions and discussion were open enough to allow for wide interpretation, and there was such genuine affirmation for our contributions. Also the teaching component and resources provided were extremely helpful. Thanks to all of you. Looking forward to the next one!”
Beginning in January-June 2017, the Institute for Global Leadership held monthly America’s Soul Cafés with the hosting team of Mary Waggoner-Moritz, Elva Castenada deHall, Gene Bellinger, Robert Kauffman and Virginia Swain.
Learn the schedule of monthly Saturdays from 12-2 Eastern time and RSVP for the next free online America’s Soul Cafes here.
Join our Facebook America’s Soul Café Community here.
America’s Soul Café is A Case Study of the Peacebuilding Process of Reconciliation to Develop Political Will and the Global Mediation and Reconciliation Service
Experience Virginia Swain’s larger vision in her book, My Soul’s Journey to Redefine Leadership: A New Phoenix Rises from the Ashes of 9/11
Learn more about our Action Research here