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Taking Stock with the NCDD Board of Directors

Hello, NCDDers!

The new year is always a great time to take stock of where we are and to think about how we want to move forward. The NCDD Board of Directors will be meeting next month (along with program director Courtney Breese and I) to Small NCDD logodo just that, but since we are a member-driven network, we want to make sure our conversation is firmly grounded in what is important and emerging for you – our members. To that end, we would appreciate your taking just a few minutes to give us your thoughts and observations on how things look from where you sit!

From your perspective, what is going on in the field that the NCDD Board should know about?

Use the following questions to help you think about your answer and then tell us in any format that will help us get your point. In addition to adding comments to this post, you can email me at sandy@ncdd.org with your contributions for the Board.

  • What are you focusing on in your current work?
  • What has been happening that you might want to celebrate?
  • What seem to be the key challenges in your work or in the field? Emerging opportunities? Why?
  • Given what you see on the horizon, what resources, tools, utilities, connections, etc. might we create together in the next year to help us all overcome our biggest challenges and realize our most exciting opportunities?

Thank you so much, and happy 2016!

Sandy, Courtney, and the NCDD Board of Directors

Barbara Simonetti, Board Chair
John Backman
Martín Carcasson
Susan Stuart Clark
Marla Crockett
Diane Miller

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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We always encourage a lively exchange of ideas, whether online or off. Questions? Please feel free to contact us directly.

  1. Some comments on the next NCDD national conference, from Lisa Stiller…

    With a very polarized election year coming up (and the conversations will continue beyond November) I would like to see some focus on discussions about tough issues and how to have these conversations. There were a few workshops last time, and I got a lot out of those! How to overcome polarization, how to create an environment where all feel free to so share ideas in a safe way.

    Also as someone who does have these discussions in small groups with people, but is not a paid professional, what training is available for people that is not horribly expensive, so we can get some certification and improve skills? Maybe some ‘beginner’ workshops for also covers resources for trainings?

    Along with the above two, some workshops that focus on people who work in social justice and have these conversations in so many places, with so many diverse opinions.

    Thanks Sandy!!! Lisa Stiller

    (I really have used a few of the things I got out of the last conference…successfully…so really looking forward to this! And would love to volunteer again to work with the planning committee!)

    • Barbara Simonetti says:

      Thanks Lisa. Thisis very helpful and we hear you. Training for non-professionals and focus on having productive conversations in a polarized environment. Would it be helpful to have sessions where people talk about how they actually had productive conversations across divides and to be able to ask questions?

      Barbara Simonetti
      Chair, NCDD Board of Directors

  2. From Erik Lockhart…

    I would like to explore more technologies that support:

    a. Online collaboration / consultation (I know you have done some webinars on this a couple months ago)
    b. Face to face large group sessions (>100)
    c. Innovative ways for groups to develop directional statements such as mission, vision, values

    Keep up the good work.

  3. I think a lot of people are looking for change, so please create a program to develop expert witnesses. Change seems to require multiple expert witnesses to corroborate objective evidence that change is possible and desirable. The early church was led by witnesses to the ministry of Jesus, and climate change is led by people who become witnesses by performing experiments.

    Expert witnesses fuel change because they feel a responsibility to share their special knowledge. These days, the way to become an expert witness is probably by conducting or repeating an experiment. Let’s develop a group of people who commit not merely to listen, but to risk becoming expert witnesses by repeating experiments.

    If you listen to a supposed discovery, but do not have anyone actually confirm it, so the discovery is lost, shouldn’t you feel bad? Shouldn’t you feel like all the listening and the encouragement were hollow? It would be great to be able to put the claim in some testing program where it will be tracked, and we can be confident that there will be no need to feel guilty.

  4. James Webber says:

    I have been participating in the D&D Climate Action Network and have found it very rewarding. Linda Eleanor and her robust hosting team are doing a great job with on-line Ning technology. Hats off to our technology consultants. I am dedicated to faith-based climate justice and have found some kindred souls in this network.I am part of a UU church study/action group exploring the book, Active Hope … in by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. We are organizing a Climate Justice Month in April and we plan to use Public Conversation Project methodology.

    Jim Webber

  5. From Linda Ellinor…

    I launched with a few others from NCDD the “D&D Climate Action Network” which is developing into a learning community for facilitators doing climate change work, so we can share best practices.

    I am also involved with several projects in the Tucson area including what I mentioned on the NCDD list serve, the Tucson Climate Change Committee.  

    What is working me right now is how there are so many ways we can be expediting the transition away from fossil fuels and creating more resilience within the various regions in which we find ourselves in the face of impending climate change, but there is little to no funding for comprehensive planning and implementation.  
    Another project I’m involved with in particular may be of interest.  We are calling it the “Neighborhood Resilience Program”.  It is an off-shoot of a local Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) initiative and based on solid research out of Chicago that showed neighborhood cohesion was the key determinant in lowering fatalities in the face of climate disruptions.  

    What I want to do as part of my involvement is pilot a program I’m co-developing right now that is taking the best of several carbon lowering neighborhood programs (such as Transition Streets and Carbon Conversations) and piggy back on the Resilient Neighborhood Program.   So, in effect, we will first introduce emergency preparedness into neighborhoods and then add this other aspect, which might result in an 8-week, 2-hour curriculum that would help neighborhoods support themselves in becoming more cohesive, prepared, and slowly better able to support each other in reducing carbon usage.  (It has been demonstrated, that behavioural change such as reducing carbon footprints, is vastly done more effectively in these sorts of intimate support groups).  

    I’m also involved in a grass-roots citizen-based initiative in helping to stop our local utility company increase rates which would also go against distributed solar.  Though AZ is among the top states with the most days of sunlight, we are way behind on the implementation of solar because of antiquated policies.  So, RENEW, was created as an initiative to help our Corporation Commission move our utility company in the right direction.  Again, we are unfunded except for small individual donations which do very little to cover the costs involved.  

    What has been happening that you might want to celebrate?

    I feel very good about the launch of the D&D Climate Action Network that NCDD helped us get off the ground. Our membership is up to over 40 people and growing.

    What seem to be the key challenges in your work or in the field? Emerging opportunities? Why?

    As I was saying to Valerie Lemmie from Kettering, I have several initiatives I’ve launched (see above) and co-launched, but without funding, I can’t take much to scale. That is the current challenge I am facing and I’m beginning to turn my attention now in that direction. I feel I can contribute so much to the intersection of climate change and facilitation/citizen engagement, but am not sure how to get compensated for it. I’m going to begin a job hunt in earnest, which may mean I’ll have to turn away from the projects I’ve started.

    Given what you see on the horizon, what resources, tools, utilities, connections, etc. might we create together in the next year to help us all overcome our biggest challenges and realize our most exciting opportunities?

    On the list serve today, David Campt sent this link today:

    Gerald Dillenbeck also mentioned this morning on the list serve putting together some sort of collective business proposal for funding that D&D’ers might use to put our professional experience more to work in our emerging global climate change crisis. There seems to be something crying out that the D&D field could choose to do together to bring more visibility to how we can help address problems that are happening at every level of government and community life. But we need to get funding behind what we offer and I don’t quite know how to do it personally. Would love to join with others to work on this. Would love your ideas, Sandy.

    We are such a bunch of ‘siloed’ practitioners. NCDD’s list serve is the best thing out there, but it isn’t necessarily helping with outreach to key decision-makers to know anything about what we can offer. How do we more develop our field and make it visible? It is the same with IAP2. I would love to engage with others on this topic, or will just continue to work as I can on my own ‘funding’ issues. I guess that is what we all eventually have to do…just seems like many of us together might propose something that would bring more attention to the possibility of bringing more collective cohesion around our critical issues.

    I would love to brainstorm ideas like how to actually bring about public dialogues that could be televised, for instance, in some way on critical collective topics.

    Would you ever see NCDD sponsoring public dialogues on issues? Could we actually get funding perhaps from Kettering for such a project?

    Thanks for allowing me space for my thoughts on this subject, Sandy. Not sure that this is what you were asking, but these are the things I’m wondering into this morning.

  6. Mike Huggins says:

    What are you focusing on in your current work?
    -Convening a local community poverty empowerment summit of citizens, government, and nonprofit stakeholder organizations to launch 5-6 community work groups to identify and accomplish key “trendbender” actions over the next 5-10 years.
    -Working with D & D Climate Action Network and local community groups to connect faith/spiritual values to action on climate change. Our local ad hoc group is currently exploring potential community discussion guides and question formats through a deep dive into Laudato Si.
    -Working with campus and community groups to address continuing racism and racial justice issues.
    -Trying to find a way to expand the focus of local governments on the inclusive governance provisions of the Sustainable Development Goals.

    What has been happening that you might want to celebrate?
    -I’ve generally fond that sustained involvement by everyday people in public work ties directly to the values they feel most passionate about. the surging interest in faith/spiritual values and climate action may be presenting some unique opportunities for significant action in local communities that could also be connected in broader social movement networks. That would be worth celebrating.

    What seems to be key challenges in your work or in the field? Emerging opportunities? Why?
    -The 2016 elections may overwhelm local community efforts to do effective public problem solving. A perfect storm of toxic rhetoric, incivility, and nativistic ideology may simply overwhelm local efforts to build the necessary mutual trust to build the collaboration and dialogue we need to act on wicked problems.

    Given what you see on the horizon, what resources, tools, utilities, connections, etc. might we create together in the next year to help us all overcome our biggest challenges and realize our most exciting opportunities?
    -Expanding the general awareness and use of mobile engagement apple like Talk Text Act in local community engagement and problem solving activities.

    • Mike,

      Interesting point on the election. Election semesters for me are always tough (people are so focused on the election, and obviously elections seem to bring out the worst in our political communication). On the other hand, so many are also so fed up and yearning for something different and better.

      Martin Carcasson
      Colorado State University Center for Public Deliberation
      NCDD Board

  7. From Mary Gelinas:

    What are you focusing on in your current work?

    — Developing the next generation: Started a certificate program at Humboldt State University in Leading Organizational and Community Change” that is focused on process skills. Five core courses and two optional. Five core courses are 1) Self Mastery: Who You Are Leads; 2) Communication and Leadership Skills for Productive Interactions; 3) Foundations of Meeting Mastery: A Key to Vibrant Organizations and Communities; 4) Advanced Meeting Mastery: Orchestrating and Applying Theory, Tools and Skills; 5) Designing Collaborative Processes for Communities and Organizations: Solving Tough Problems, Planning for the Future, and Creating Change. Two optional courses are Consulting Skills and Graphic Recording.

    — Improving public processes in Humboldt County: Working with County Planning Staff and League of Women Voters to influence the General Plan Update regarding public engagement standards and practices.

    What has been happening that you might want to celebrate?

    — Finished my book and it will be out next summer: “Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a Time; Solving Complex Issues with Brain Science, Mindful Awareness, and Effective Process. Pete Peterson, Davenport Institute, Pepperdine, wrote one of the Forewords. (Hoping to appeal across the political spectrum)

    — First course in Certificate Program went really well!

    — Successful launch of weekly blog: How We Talk Matters: Presence, skill, wisdom and compassion for our world

    What seem to be the key challenges in your work or in the field? Emerging opportunities? Why?

    — People adopting one model instead of learning how to design processes to fit various situations (hammer and nail syndrome); these efforts tend to not work well; result in no follow-through; and make people wary of engaging in a collaborative process in future

    — Helping electeds and governmental administrators to understand the importance of process; the difference it makes in their relationship with residents and their ability to solve complex issues and develop effective policies

    — Role modeling on the national scale of punitive and polarizing monologues

    — Opportunity: local municipality asking for help in improving their public meetings

    — Member of County Planning Commission currently attending our ten-day leadership program (Cascadia); another Cascadia graduate about to be elected member of County Board of Supervisors; will work with both to improve public processes in the county

    Given what you see on the horizon, what resources, tools, utilities connections, etc. might we create together in the next year to help us all overcome our biggest challenges and realize our most exciting opportunities?

    — Growing trends in literature (management, social sciences, psychology) and in what clients/leaders of all types of organizations (including governmental) seem to be needing:
    —— Manage complexity; use systems thinking; create sustainable futures
    —— Becoming social architects,i.e., designing and convening collaborative processes in which people learn and think together about big questions in service of a larger whole
    —— Expanding mindful awareness and knowledge of self, other, and the larger context in which they are operating
    —— Integrative/cross-boundary thinking

    — Problem solving and policy development becoming more cross sector and multi-organizational

    — Philanthropies moving towards supporting citizen-led change

    — Given these trends, I am wondering if it would helpful to create conference streams focused on specific areas next November. Possible streams might be:
    —— Designing processes for cross-sector dialogue and deliberation initiatives (how to include systems thinking when tackling complex issues)
    —— Consultant/facilitator role in partnering with leaders as they change they expand their role to social architect
    —— As you might imagine I would love to co-create a session with those interested in tapping brain science and and the impact of mindfulness on the brain for our work (self as instrument of change); probably not a stream but a session?

    I wish you all the very best at your meeting and am grateful for your work along with Courtney’s and everyone on the board.

  8. We have just completed a Kettering Fellowship establishing a Center of Public Life housed within NIU as a resource for the regional community. D&D work is relatively unknown in the rural areas of our region and we are working to connect with communities in starting public conversations that matter. Additionally, large push to establish a curriculum or certificate around D&D for our students, preparing them for professional lives and future work as concerned citizens. We are actively soliciting resources on curriculum, course work, activities, etc. from fellow colleagues in order to gather an understanding of the best practices in framing and delivering this to students. Personally, i would like to encourage this work in high school and middle schools if able.

    Continuing to work with the City of DeKalb as the work and foundation we began with them in 2014 is becoming a reality with the final approval of the new visioning plan that has been accepted by the community. This has played a large part, and the processes in having the dialogues, in forming a grant committee that submitted to America’s Best Communities where we are now one of sixteen national communities competing for several million dollars in funding for community development. Our work has influenced a community and county economic development group, continuing conversations throughout the region. An active Arts group is now discussing a possible new community space called SMARTSpace that will be an interactive, innovative, educational hub for the region.

    Sadly, our biggest need is continued dialogue on social justice issues, particularly race, safety/police, and diversity/immigration. Further resources on hosting town/gown conversations to bridge them and us perspectives would be useful.

    Keep up the good work and hope to see you in October!

  9. Jamie Rae Walker says:

    Tech Tuesdays are great. I wish I had more time to attend them all. They have been very helpful to my work. Please keep them going!

    I am doing citizen coalition work on the Texasboarder. Any resources on keeping marginalized and precautious populations engaged would be helpful.

  10. Polly Riddims says:

    How folks are organizing around the Black Lives Matter movement and police accountability dialogue? How are we working for more equity in our communities?

  11. Terry Amsler says:

    Sandy and all,

    As someone with great interest and some experience in the D & D field, and who teaches a public engagement course at Indiana University, here’s what (pretty randomly and generally)occurs to me in response to your request for ideas appropriate to the upcoming Board discussions:

    1. Any (regional) activities/gatherings in this part of the country would be helpful in terms of me actually getting there and participating.
    2. NCDD as a vehicle for field learning and knowledge building, critical review and self-assessment, and the documentation of practices and practice innovations all seem significant and worthy of ongoing NCDD attention.
    3. While I don’t follow all of them, the online conversations on various topics can often be very thought provoking and seem like an important sort of field building that NCDD can do. A question would be how to make these even better.
    4. All organizations in the “field,” it seem to me, should take a particularly hard and continuing look at the potential “dark sides” of the field’s activities. Are there practices, even unintentionally, that may actually work against the the field’s larger purposes, values and desired outcomes? How and why, and how can these be addressed?
    5. Does NCDD do what all that it might and can do to be a part of conversations across sectors (including with philanthropy) that can promote the informed use of dialogue and deliberation? What’s the learning, for NCDD, from its Kettering-related work?
    6. NCDD has so much positive history to build on, but now, what’s the (realistic) strategy for the next steps that will meet the current needs of members and their communities and keep the organization afloat? And who are the other natural and appropriate partners to work with to achieve desired goals?

    I’m not sure that anything here is so new or so helpful, but I wish you a very successful Board meeting. The other blog posts have many good comments and more specific suggestions, and perhaps the national (U.S.) election year dynamics described by Mike Huggins may prompt at least some funders to pay more attention to D&D needs and opportunities.

  12. Have a great meeting!

    Look forward to seeing everyone in Boston.

  13. I agree with Terry Amsler who, like me, has a great interest in Field Evaluation, when he suggested this (from his comment, above):

    2. NCDD as a vehicle for field learning and knowledge building, critical review and self-assessment, and the documentation of practices and practice innovations all seem significant and worthy of ongoing NCDD attention.

    MyIdea: “Citizen-observers”

    Imagine any NCDD member(or any interested citizen) attending a Public Hearing on some local issue. S/he has a clip-board with a 1-page checklist (e.g., Ground Rules: Available to public before the Hearing? Explained by Moderator at the Hearing? etc. etc.).

    When allowed to speak, s/he holds the clip-board up and tells everyone that s/he is a member of NCDD and that s/he will be evaluating the Conduct of the Public Hearing. S/he will email the evaluation to the convenor and anyone else who wishes a copy, and will be easy to find on the web at (….).

    Over the years, I’ve bounced this idea — a joint NCDD/IAP2 standard 1-page checklist, applicable for use at any meeting — to various people over the past few years and, while there is interest, I have been trying to figure how best to draft it in an open and collaborative way (initially with people from NCDD and IAP2).

    How to start that process, esp. the choice of a platform is very important, so I would appreciate the NCDD Board’s consideration and suggestions for that good first step (Hackpad? GoogleDocs? Participedia?)

    P.S. A few chapters of the League of Women Voters do something similar to this, but the “observer” acts more like a reporter, i.e. writing about Who said What at the meeting.

    • The role of an “outsider” is vital to catch what might not be recorded in official minutes.

      I attended the Citizen Oversight Panel Review for our regional transportation board. First, citizens were not allowed to speak at the meeting. Second, one of the presenters said that the light link rail in large King County would never connect with much smaller Tacoma’s light link rail as the voltages are different. Since the highways are clogged with Tacoma residents commuting to King County, that seems like an important tidbit.

      That tidbit was not in the official minutes.

  14. We are working on diverse groups of students deliberating policy with multiple perspectives in mind-in the past year we have launched youth policy summits in Florida. https://miamiyouthsummit.wordpress.com/ & https://browardrallytothetally.wordpress.com/ in addition to continuing to focus on our work with students and teachers in DC.

    Technology events are really helpful for us please keep them going.

    Also-as ever-important to be mindful that we’ve got to start the process on Dialogue and Delberation earlier than college (I love and learn a great deal from the college cohort of NCDDers) many won’t go to college so we need to embrace lots of ways to engage citizens -love everyday democracy, ask the right question, NIF models. We are a good community

  15. Linda Ellinor says:

    Hi Sandy: I’m sorry I missed your window before your board meeting. The one other thing I would have offered is to strategize how NCDD perhaps with other professional associations such as the ODN, Art of Hosting, IAF, etc. might join together in an effort to raise awareness of the entire profession of facilitation to the general public. Especially with the many complex social issues we are facing right now, our professional experience and skills should be highlighted in general. We have a lot to offer as we move towards changing our entire paradigm from (as Jeremy Rifkin from his book: “The Zero Marginal Cost Society” talks about) a society that owns things to one where the society shares things…or from an individualistically organized society to one that values mainly the common good and organizes around that.

    This also begs for how we spread our skills to the general public. There is an intersection between our skills/experience and what is before us. I would love to see our profession take a more pro-active role.

    Let me know if I can hep with this through NCDD. Maybe a sub-committee could be formed where we explore how this might happen as a collaborative effort among the various facilitative orgs out there.

  16. Marla Crockett says:

    Thanks for all of these thoughtful comments! Climate change, social justice, talking across divides, cross-sector pollination of D&D ideas, involving youth, and using tech in a smart way are all important topics on NCDD’s radar. I know that Sandy and our board appreciate your input, and we’ll keep talking as the year progresses to further as many of these interests as we can at our conference in Boston. Hope to see everyone there!

    Marla Crockett
    NCDD Board member
    Public Engagement Coach
    Chevy Chase, MD

  17. Hi Everyone! Sorry I’m really late on submitting my answers to the below questions, but the beginning of 2016 proved to be very busy for me. It seems to be a bit random and off topic now considering the direction the thread has gone in, but I hope it is well received! I’m so glad I decided to join this community, I love reading all the insightful and interesting things everyone is doing in the world of dialogue!!!

    What are you focusing on in your current work?

    My current project, Full Circle Dialogue, is primarily focused on using the practice of dialogue as a vehicle to build community, mindfulness, compassion, and a deeper sense of connection among various groups, communities, and organizations.

    What has been happening that you might want to celebrate?

    Something I’ve currently been celebrating are dialogue workshops/programs I’ve brought to Retirement Communities and the Yoga Community. Through my work and research, I’ve found that simply engaging in genuine dialogue can have profound positive health implications. This had me thinking that our local elders at retirement communities could benefit greatly cognitively, and simply overall, from a sustained practice of dialogue. I recently completed an 8-week dialogue program for a group of residents at Bayview Retirement Community in Seattle, WA. It was an incredibly enriching experience for everyone involved, and I look forward to bringing this practice to more retirement communities. The later chapter of our lives is one that isn’t nurtured and honored in ways that it could and should, I believe that dialogue is an excellent way to do this.
    My other celebration, is that of successfully bridging the gap between the practice dialogue, and the practice of yoga. Yoga and dialogue share many of the same goals as far as intrinsic qualities. I recently presented two workshops at the Northwest Yoga Conference in Seattle, WA, teaching fellow yogis how they can use dialogue as a vehicle to become more mindful, compassionate, and connected to those they interact with on a day to day basis. I also was asked to use my skills as a dialogue facilitator to moderate a panel discussion with some legendary yoga teachers in front of the conference. It proved to be a wonderful experience, and I hope to use dialogue to “stoke the fires” of conversation in more future panel discussions.

    What seem to be the key challenges in your work or in the field? Emerging opportunities? Why?

    I see the key challenges and emerging opportunities in the field to be sides of the same coin. I see a key challenge in the field being the exponential growth of technology as a means to connect with one another in society. Whether it is a TV screen, computer screen, tablet screen, or a phone screen; there continues to be more and more ways, and reasons, to look into a screen, rather than the eyes of another human being. YES, technology has offered us MANY amazing benefits socially and economically, but I do believe that there will always be a time and place to share space with one another for genuine face-to-face conversation. I look at this as an opportunity for dialogue though. People are becoming more and more conscious of the fact that we haven’t evolved past the dietary, physical, social, emotional, etc needs of our hunter gatherer ancestors. As people continue to try to model their diets after ancestors, exercise like our ancestors, etc; I think socializing like them will be the next step. Technology isn’t going anywhere, but it is isolating people in an unprecedented way, and once that reaches a tipping point, I think the practice of dialogue will emerge, and become, once again, an essential part of our day to day lives.

    Given what you see on the horizon, what resources, tools, utilities, connections, etc. might we create together in the next year to help us all overcome our biggest challenges and realize our most exciting opportunities?
    First of all, I’m honestly pretty new to NCDD, and haven’t actually had a chance to play around with a lot of the different tools and forums. I’m excited to though! From what I’ve experienced thus far, your group seems to do an amazing job, I am deeply honored and grateful to be a part of it. My apologies I don’t have anything insightful to contribute to this question.

  18. *In 2016, part of my “Full Circle Dialogue” project has been bringing the practice and teachings of dialogue into retirement communities. Many studies have been done on the wide array of positive health benefits of mindfulness, compassion, and the feeling of being part of somethings greater than yourself; and these are qualities that emerge through the practice of dialogue. The older adults and “life-long learners” that reside in retirement communities can often times be forgotten about, and this program is not only acknowledges them, but leaves them feeling invigorated.

    *Another dialogue project I’ve been working on as of late is also in the “health and wellness” arena, and can be described as a marriage of the practice of yoga and dialogue. I’ve put together a program under the “Full Circle Dialogue” umbrella called “Yoga Circles.” As yoga practitioners deepen their practice, they realize it’s so much more than the physical postures. It becomes more about bringing compassion, mindfulness, and interconnectedness into regular day-to-day interactions. The Yoga Circles program shows how this can be done via dialogue, and how dialogue can even be looked at as the “Yoga of Conversation.”

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