Transactional Analysis Workshop

Today begins a five-day workshop on understanding self and others, using transactional analysis as the modality to explore this topic.

The image of the yin/yang used in the morning prayer highlights the challenge of understanding both the light and darkness in our personalities, or the animus/anima to use Jungian terminology.

The first day of the workshop focused on coming to understand the concept of Script, an unconscious life plan, based on decisions made in childhood and reinforced by parental messages.

The Script concept helps us understand how our beliefs about self, others and the future are formed in early childhood and how they impact on our lives as adults.

The final session of the day involved a check-in where the Brothers shared on their experience of the previous week.

Theological Reflection and Harvesting

Today the Brothers experienced theological reflection in small groups.  This spiritual practice involves a person taking a significant event that they experienced in the recent past.  In this case, the Brothers took various aspects of the experience of their visit to Kibera slum. Taking the experience, the Brother shared on how the experience affected them emotionally.

Then the rest of the small group offered a biblical text, or an image or an incident in the life of Edmund Rice that shed light on their sharing.  The Brother who shared noted down these contributions and then went away to reflect further on their experience with the additional material he received from the group.

Having spent some time alone, the Brothers gathered again to share the fruits of their reflection, and identified some action steps they wished to take as a result of the theological reflection.

The second session of the morning involved a process of harvesting of the learnings that the Brothers gleaned from the various inputs of the past week.

An Immersion Experience

Today the Brothers went on an immersion experience to Kibera slum where over one million live in great poverty.

The day began with a visit to Mary Rice Centre, an initiative of the Christian Brothers, which caters for children and young people with a variety of disabilities.

Then, the Brothers were accompanied by the Edmund Rice Kibera Group volunteers who took the Brothers on a walk through Kibera and invited them to visit families who live in the slum.  The level of poverty is quite evident, and yet the people are so friendly and willing to share their experiences of life.

In the afternoon, the Brothers meet with the principals of some schools in the slum as well as with people who are involved with social outreach in the area.

Welcome to Kenya

Today, Dr Aloys Otieno Ojore, from Tangaza University gave a fascinating view of Kenya from a social, political, economic and religious point of view.

The first part of his presentation provided some fascinating statistics with regard to the population and the economic situation in the country.

He highlighted especially the level of corruption that exists in the political arena as was confirmed by recent reports on the BBC of tens of billions of dollars unaccounted for that were originally designated for building projects.

He stressed the need for religious to identify with the poor and to become professionally trained so as to fulfil their role adequately.  He stressed the fact that often the Church can be more on the side of the wealthy rather than on the side of the poor.  This, he stressed, needs to change.

Multicultural Living


The day was presented by Brothers Tom Kearney and Amandi Mboya of the Community Support Team for the communities in the East Africa District.  They sought to explore how to grow in awareness of a person’s inner processes when he or she is called to live in a place or culture different from their own.

They invited the Brothers to ask the following questions:

  • What have I noticed different as I begin the programme?
  • How are people different?
  • What did I feel when I noticed this?
  • What could I not understand?
  • What kind of thoughts went through my head as I entered this new place?

They presented the iceberg model of culture where some of the differences are clearly on the surface, while most of the elements are hidden. They showed how the practice of basic communication skills can greatly facilitate the challenge of facing differences.

Brother Tom outlined various phases in the growth of multicultural living.  These can be summarised as:

  1. Cross-cultural knowledge: the importance of studying some aspects of a new culture
  2. Cross-cultural awareness: coming to understand and appreciate culture internally
  3. Cross-cultural sensitivity:  this is a by-product of the first two points
  4. Cross-cultural competence:  the result of achieving the previous three abilities

Finally, they showed a Ted Talk where the speaker stressed the danger of having a single story for any culture.  Cultures are far more complex than any one story!

Professional Boundaries

The day was devoted to the important issue of professional boundaries.  Br Amandi Mboya from the District Leadership Team of the East Africa District and a member of their Community Support Team was the presenter of the programme on the protection of children and vulnerable adults.

Amandi explored the various dimensions of this topic, stressing the impact on children and vulnerable adults of abuse. He outlined the impact of abuse, and showed how children and vulnerable adults are always at risk when adults fail to provide the proper protection or cross professional boundaries.

Brothers shared their reactions to the abuse of children and vulnerable adults, and focused on the importance of making the safety of children and vulnerable adults a priority when engaged in ministry.

A very important dimension of the workshop was the exploration of specific behaviours that will ensure the safety of those to whom we minister.  In this way, the children and vulnerable adults will be afforded the safety and protection that they deserve.

The Brothers gathered later in the afternoon to celebrate a bread and wine prayer service, organised by Donal.

Generative Conversations

The main topic for today was generative conversations.  David facilitated the group to examine helps and blocks to deep conversations as well as looking at the benefits of such interpersonal communication.  He then went on to explain the various elements involved in both speaking and. listening in a generative way.

In generative listening, he explained that there are seven principles involved:

  1. Slowing down and noticing more of what is present
  2. Listening with all my senses
  3. Listening to the words and images chosen
  4. Listening to the emotions conveyed by the person who is talking
  5. Suspending judgement
  6. Noticing what I don’t understand or what triggers questions for me.
  7. What do I feel as I listen to what is being said – and why?

He then went on to explain the four aspects of generative speaking or responding:

  1. What I understand you say, what is clearer to me now.
  2. What I don’t understand and what needs clarifying.
  3. New ideas that have been triggered in me by what you said.
  4. What to me seems crucial but I am not hearing you mention.

A series of role plays followed the explanation, and the topics of cosmology and Eucharist became the content of the conversations, leading to the Brothers practising generative listening and speaking.

In the afternoon, the Edmund Rice Kibera Group came to meet the Brothers to prepare them for an immersion experience that will take place on Friday.  This was a lively encounter and proved very helpful in orientating the Brothers for the forthcoming visit to Kibera.

Wangari Maathai and Karura Forest

Today was a moment of relaxation after an action-packed week.  The Brothers travelled to Karura Forest for a walk and picnic.  Wangari Maathai was the person who fought valiantly to preserve this natural area from land-grabbing developers.  She marshalled hundreds if not thousands of women to protest against the government in order to ensure that the forest remained.  In this she was successful, and went on to encourage people to plant hundreds of thousands of trees.  For her work in defending the rights of nature, she received the Nobel Prize.

After visiting the forest, the Brothers enjoyed a picnic in the forest and then returned to St. Joseph’s Centre.

That evening, they went to Mary Ward Centre at the invitation of the East Africa District for Mass, followed by an evening meal.

So, the Brothers enjoyed the day and felt ready to embark on a new week of workshops beginning on Monday.

Standards of Presence and Journalling

The morning prayer made reference to  International Women’s Day and Sr Lynette focused on the life and work of Wangari Maathai, the staunch environmentalist who was key in preserving Karura Forest on the outskirts of Nairobi.

The first session then continued an examination of the Standards of Presence, and this time the second five of the ten were discussed:

  1. Listen deeply and with honor

It involves respect, focusing on the others words, body language, what is said and not said….to re-see or see with fresh eyes, listening to understand the other’s point of view, seeking clarity when things are not clear, offering feedback to clarify and confirming if what was heard was what was communicated, creating a space where a person feels totally listened to.

  1. Give only authentic acknowledgment and support.

This involves genuine, honest, compassionate not counterfeit feedback and support, positive, sincere and honest feed back without exaggeration, appreciating people and taking care to notice and provide positive feedback keeping in mind the cultural nuances, involves also the sensitivity to notice and understand how much feedback to given situation.

  1. Fully receive acknowledgment and support.

This calls for genuine appreciation. It involves connecting to a sense of gratitude within and a verbal acknowledgement for support received, a willingness to err on the side of acknowledging rather than fearing being misunderstood, aware that we lose nothing for being good, a conscious practicing of becoming more and more conscious of what others are doing for us and acknowledging it both in words and deeds, taking care at the same time, not to overdo it. This will facilitate not taking people for granted and making giving positive feedback a way of life.

  1. Practice self care and self responsibility, and allow others to do the same.

Doing to others what we would like them to do to us….involves live and let live attitude, self responsibility involves responsibility and ownership  for our actions, Regular Spiritual recharging will create the space for caring for oneself and will facilitate the joy of  living life to the fullest  and the ability  to serve whole heartedly.

  1. Be fully present.

Presence is at the heart of what we are about. This involves seeing life as a whole experience, being in the flow as we  honour   life as a continuous sacred and safe place, upholding the values of  balance being fully present, awareness of  and responsibility towards what we want to do more of and less of.

The second session discussed community prayer, and Donal and Lynette facilitate a discussion on the extent to which community prayer nourishes us. This discussion is the beginning of an ongoing reflection on community prayer and on community prayer styles.

In the afternoon, Sunil introduced journalling as a way of deepening the experience of the OP, and the day concluded with some harvesting of the learnings of the week.  Overall, a very packed week!

Standards of Presence

The morning prayer, guided by Sister Lynette, focused on the care of the earth and how best we can take positive action to ensure the future of a healthy world.

Then Br Sunil chaired various panels of the Brothers to present the standards of presence (SOP).  SOP is a way of explaining healthy norms for the life of the group for the duration of the Orientation Programme (OP).  The morning dealt with five of the SOPs:

  1. Maintain confidentiality

Acknowledging that the bed rock of confidentiality is trust whatever is shared remains within the context and space it was shared. Trust built on a non-judgmental and positive energy that honours and values the magnificence of each person.

  1. Have an open and ‘innocent’ mind and heart

We are like parachutes…we work when we are open. This involves honouring values of childlike trust, humility, wonder, open eyes and heart, curiosity to learn new things, ask questions and show openness to try new things. This involves having a beginner’s mind and a readiness to engage fully in an experience that can inspire and challenge us. (not suspicious or having a know it all attitude, listening to self  and others, expressing fears from  a childlike stance )

  1. Practice a positive focus

His intention is an invitation to have a positive mindset in relation to persons, situations and learning experiences; looking out for and acknowledging  the positive, expecting positive outcomes, treating others in a positive way by consciously focusing on the strengths of the other and the positive aspects of a situation

  1. Connect at a heart level

It takes us from thinking to a feeling stance, operates from the heart, involves listening and connecting with the heart/feelings, connecting with the other centre to centre, entering into the heart of what is happening and  what is being communicated while upholding values of compassion, empathy from each other. This presupposes getting out of limiting and judgmental mind, taking and accepting persons as they are so that a space is created for persons to honestly share their heartfelt experiences.

  1. Claim my experience as my own.

Connecting with oneself and honouring ones personal experience, making choices that are for my highest good, living responsibly, taking ownership, using I statements while communicating, and making deliberate choices to enter fully in the experience, allowing for self transformation.

In the afternoon, the Brothers engaged in Lectio Divina and then concluded with a Eucharist.